Name: French Oak Saison
Brewing Company: New Belgium Brewing Company
Location: Fort Collins, CO
Style: Sour – Farmhouse IPA (untappd) / Barrel Aged Sour Farmhouse Ale (Bottle)
The beer’s description on New Belgium’s Landing Page for the beer:
To understand “Belgian-style beer” is to understand Belgium’s nuanced regions and historical past. To the north, we have Flanders, a region invaded and occupied by many foreign powers over hundreds of years, known for everything from white beer to oak-aged sour brown ales.
To the south, we have Wallonia, a region known for its rich farmland, industrial coalfields, French culture and farmhouse ales like Biere de Garde and saison. Our French Oak Saison pulls inspiration from both regions by marrying a dry, hop-forward Wallonia-style saison with a golden ale soured in French oak foeders for 15 to 18 months — a method derived from Flanders. The rye and spelt grains in the saison contribute to a medium-light body while the Huell Melon and Tettnang hops give aromas of honeydew and white pepper.
The result is a rustic, goldenrod yellow saison offering pleasant lemon and white grape aromas and a bright, mouthwatering sourness with a clean, dry finish.
New Belgium, is of course, one of the largest (4th largest), most widely distributed, and longest standing (established in 1991) American craft breweries. As the name would imply, the brewery focuses on Belgian style ales. Along with their popular Fat Tire Amber Ale, Dubbel and Trippel, New Belgium has an extensive barrel aging line of beers with one of the largest cellars for barrels in the U.S. Which leads to this beer, an ale in French-Oak barrels for about a year and half. The style classification is a seeming mish-mash of styles that may not seem complementary to each other and a couple of styles that aren’t exactly in my favored styles. I expected something overly bitter and hoppy.
That couldn’t be farther from the what this beer turned out to be. There’s a citrusy aroma floating out as the beer pours from the 22oz bottle into the glass. The first hit is very much citrusy, with strong hints of lemon that was hinted at in the aroma. The sour/sweet is prominent and makes the beer very, very drinkable.
The barrel aging, I think cuts some of the hop-bite as well as the peaty-earthiness that some Farmhouse Ales can impart on the palette. This is a bright, crisp beer that shines in both flavor and color, my photo above does not do justice to just how inviting the beer is. As my brief comment on untappd suggests, this is a lovely beer that would do well for a spring day. As it was, the beer was a nice change of pace from the stouts, porters, and darker ales I usually enjoy during cold months.
This beer is so refreshing and sweetly balanced it practically screams at you to keep drinking, but the complexities of the flavor urge you to take your time. The 7.5% ABV isn’t too high, sort of a middle of the road beer in that respect, but a tad higher than many Saisons/Farmhouse Ales which are typically slightly lower in alcohol (closer to 5%). As this one stands, the barrel aging likely drew out more of the alcohol presence making for a very smooth, tasty and drinkable beer.
This is the third beer I’ve had from New Belgium’s barrel-aged portfolio (the others being Lips of Faith – Flowering Citrus Ale and Lips of Faith – Clutch) and while those other two were good, the pure drinkability – complex taste & sweetness making me not want to put the beer down – elevate this beer to another level for me. I’m not sure how many of these are still on shelves, but if you want an interesting take on a Farmhouse Ale, this is a great beer to fit that taste craving.
Further, if you only know of New Belgium through Fat Tire, Trippel, and Abby, explore beers like this one. Those popular beers you see everywhere on draught and in 12oz bottles help to make beers like this experimental ale possible.
Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.