Aesthetics made me do it. That, and the intriguing description of the beer on the back of this attractively packaged embossed bottle crowned with gold foil and unconventional of size and shape.
Adapted from the bottle notes:
A blend of complex earthy, fruity, and light tannic flavors with a crisp and refreshing finish. Brewed with barley, wheat, rye, and oats for a golden color and lightly spiced malt flavor. Earthy hay and wild yeast aromas mingle with light notes of Washington wine grapes. Aged in French oak white wine barrels with the addition of Brettanomyces.
How could I go wrong? Let’s see if the content is up to the form.
Cue sound of cap opening. Pan room (that’s me waving at the camera), and then zoom in for a close-up of this hazy lemon-honey gold beverage with pearly foam cap. Cut faux cinematic nonsence. Correct spelling. Commence descriptive nonsense. (Bear with me.)
If Brett could be characterized through emotive descriptors (brooding, somber, cheerful), the Brett in this Saison is like happy birdsong. From one tree, freshly-zested lemon accents ring forth. From a bush nearby, Band-aid Brett and dry horse-blanket Brett answer with short arias, their performance tempered by a sweet oak-aged white wine aroma and tropical fruit. A soprano named Jasmine sings a few lime-floral high notes that harmonize with the earthy, musky white pepper baritone Wagnerian voices to round out the ensemble. And that’s just the aromatic chorus.
Dry, Brett-like, and with a nutty-almond white wine grape character reminiscent of Italian varietals like Greco di Tufo, this crisp and piquant Saison delivers pear-like fruitiness, a fennel earthiness (bulb and seed of the plant, no less), and a citrus-like acidity. The appetizingly tannic bitterness reminiscent of the drying character of walnuts, together with the lingering spicy marzipan and white raisin aftertaste, will make any beer-skeptical wine lover a convert to these complex beverages.
In a word, more a Brett beer than a straight-up Saison, but still firmly within the farmhouse family. Where some breweries seem to impart only the acidity of the wine, Black Raven manages to incorporate the complexity of toasty oak, citrus, pear, and almond with the fruity/phenolic complexity of a Brett-laced beer.
What’s in the bottle exceeds the elegant packaging and in-depth description. Take my advice. This beer is not merely for the birds. If you can find it, buy more than one. Three Tankards.
Purchased May 2014 near Seattle; drunk October 2014 far from Seattle. Tempest’s fearless prediction: Though stellar when relatively young, this beer can stand up to at least a year of aging.
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