Saison Reviews

I had recently grabbed a couple of bottles of beer at local bottle shops and realized I was collecting Saisons, which is a style I really enjoy.  I ended up drinking them on consecutive nights, so this is what I think about them.

Saison d’Etra – Mazama Brewing (Corvallis, OR) – 6.3% ABV, 25 IBU

This beer pours a nice golden color with a nice thick white head.  As I drank it it had a great characteristic Belgian lace in the glass.  The aroma of this beer just jumps out at you, especially the peppercorns.  The flavor has the nice saison yeast characteristics, as well as a nice floral/herbal note from coriander and a caramel/cotton candy like sweetness.  This beer has a LOT going on.  Really, really enjoyable. With the addition of the orange peel, coriander and peppercorns it really straddles the line between a saison and a Belgian wit, but very well made.

Rank – 4.5 (of 5) stars: Really incredible, one of the best Saisons I’ve had.

Three Eyed Raven (GoT) – Ommegang Brewing (NY) – 7.2% ABV, IBU Not Listed

This beer bills itself as a “Dark Saison” and it pours a deep brown with a nice reddish tone to it.  This beer was extremely foamy with a thick off-white head.  It’s in a cork finished bottle, and likely bottle fermented, so be careful to not pour it too vigorously. The beer as a nice spicy aroma as would be expected for a saison.  The flavor is nice and clean, with the good Belgian characteristic.   Not sweet like the Mazama but still enjoyable.  I’ll be honest that I bought this beer mostly for the bottle and the label, but it’s actually quite good.  A nice well made saison.

Rank – 4.0 (of 5) stars: Good and drinkable.  Great bottle is a bonus.

Organic Belgian-Style Saison – Hopworks Urban Brewing (Portland) – 6.6% ABV, 18 IBU

This beer pours a light straw yellow with a thick white head.  The aroma has a little bit of spice, and a little bit of Brett-like farmyard.  The flavor has a good spice to it and a little bit of sourness.  The mouthfeel is a little thin, and while the beer is not “bad” it just seems to be missing something.  Not a lot going on in the flavor department, which I would expect for a Belgian.  It does say “Belgian-style” so perhaps it’s not intended to be perfectly “to style”.  Enjoyable but just not world changing.

Rank – 3.0 (of 5) stars: Good, just not great.  Missing some intangibles.

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Hopworks Urban Brewery

I’ve been to Hopworks many times with my wife and friends.  The beer is great, the food is top notch and it’s just a neat place to hang out.  This last Sunday, Hopworks hosted an AHA rally at their brewery which I attended and I learned some really cool new things about Hopworks that I didn’t know and that makes them just even that more impressive.

Owner/Brewmaster Christian Ettinger talked at the beginning of the rally and then later Head Brewmaster Trevor Bass gave the brewery tour that I was on and this is where these tidbits came from.

  • Hopworks is solely owned (and locally owned) by Ettinger and his wife.  They have been careful not to expand too quickly and not have to allow an outside equity firm to come in and prop them up.
  • Hopworks is expanding.  They’ve taken control of the building that adjoins the brewery and the building behind them (which I always assumed was already part of their property).  The distant building is housing the experimental beers such as sours and lacto beers to prevent infecting the main brewhouse.  The side building is going to become the new brewhouse, and Hopworks is also going to begin making ciders. While still being careful not to overstretch their bounds, they feel they can begin to expand their presence in the neighborhood.
  • Hopworks gives away it’s yeast to homebrewers.  After they’ve used it as many times as they are going to, but when it still has usefulness left, HUB will give it’s yeast to homebrewers who come in with a clean sanitized jar.  The two strains they use are Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager and (I believe) 1332 Northwest Ale.  Christian also acknowledged if one of the neighborhood brewers such as Laurelwood came to them in dire straits they would give them yeast as well, highlighting the  “work together” mentality of Northwest brewers.
  • Hopworks has a single dairy farmer that they sell their spent grain to, and in Christian’s words he pays “a little bit of money”.  They are committed to processes further down the chain, and offer the grain to him as organic food so he can get his dairy products certified as organic.
  • Hopworks used to get organic two row pale malt trucked in from Canada, but now, whether from market pressure or insistence from Hopworks, they can get organic malt locally from Great Western Malting, which lowers their transportation burden and carbon footprint, and supports a local company.
  • Hopworks is constantly upgrading their brewery and restuarant to reduce time, electricity and water usage.  They recently installed a centrifuge which reduced water usage compare to previous filtering and also means they can stop using diatomaceous earth, which while not harmful to skin or the environment, can be harmful if inhaled.

I already had a lot of respect for Hopworks, but this new insight into their inner workings just gave me even more things to like about them.  Big thanks to Christian and his crew for hosting the AHA rally and really making us feel welcome with pizza, beer and unprecedented access behind the scenes.

Hopwork IPX Series – Mt Hood, Hopworks Urban Brewery

I am in love with single hop IPAs at the moment.  As a homebrewer I want to learn what each individual hop contributes to flavor and aroma so that I know which hop to use when I’m trying to target a certain flavor.  I just brewed my own single hop IPA with Mosaic hops that I’m really excited about.

Hopworks IPX Mt Hood – 6.0% ABV, 60 IBU

This beer pours a nice golden color with a white head.  The label describes the hop variety as “mild” and it certainly is.  Nothing over powering in the flavor or aroma.  The aroma is grassy and earthy and a little floral.  The flavor starts with some malt sweetness and then a nice floral hop flavor.  Nothing strong, but nice and smooth.  Extremely drinkable.  The bitterness lingers in the finish, but it’s not strong or unpleasant.  Beyond that the finish is very clean.

Rating: 4 (of 5) stars – Pleasant and refreshing.  Well done IPA.

The other two in this series I’ve tried were the Ahtanum and US Fuggle, but I didn’t take detailed notes for those.  I didn’t rate the Ahtanum, but I gave the Fuggle IPA 4 stars also and noted it was “Some floral, some citrus”.