Sunday, August 28, 2011

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the hardworking folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who have the deep roots to help you harvest a rich crop of wine, whiskey, and beer.

More often than not, the weekly Fraters Libertas Beer of the Week post appears on Friday. However, that was not possible this past week as I spent some time “up North” in the Brainerd lakes area (which seems to be broadly defined as anything north of St. Cloud, south of Bemidji, east of Alexandria, and west of Duluth). Part of this time was for a off-site work meeting and part for a family “vacation.” I use the scare quotes since this “vacation” consisted of spending the weekend in a hotel water park. Restful it was not and were it not for the prospect of enjoying beer whenever possible, it is doubtful if I would have survived the weekend with my sanity intact.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover a few beers not readily available in the Twin Cities on the trip. This included two offerings from Brainerd Lakes Brewing: One-Eyed Pike Wheat and First Pull IPA. Their IPA was tasty while the wheat was rather bland. I also came across a nice little farmhouse ale from Brau Brothers called Forgotten Flem.

On the way up, I noticed a number of billboards along the way celebrating Summit Brewing’s 25th anniversary. It was another reminder of how important a role the St. Paul brewery has played in the rise of craft beer in the state. From a humble beginning in neighborhood bars in the city, it’s now become an institution statewide and is widely available throughout Minnesota and the Midwest. It’s also helped bring other local craft brewers along with it and we were quite pleased to find Surly Furious on tap at the restaurant on Gull Lake where we dined on Saturday night.

This week’s featured beer is the seventh offering in Summit’s Unchained Series Honeymoon Saison:

To celebrate his upcoming nuptials, Summit brewer Sam Doniach created Honeymoon Saison—Batch 07 in the Summit Unchained Series. It’s inspired by French saison styles which were traditional farmhouse ales brewed to quench workers on long, hot days. Sam’s creation has a refreshing citrus and floral character with hints of apple, pear and spicy, peppery notes. It’s brewed with a touch of Minnesota honey as a kettle addition and unfiltered for a smooth, clean finish.

The Summit Unchained Series gives our brewers free rein to create any beer style they want. To reinvent obscure traditional brews. To choose the finest, rarest and (gulp) spendiest ingredients. The result? Small batches. Huge flavor.

Typical Summit 12oz brown bottle with the industrial design common to the Unchained Series.

STYLE: Saison

Alcohol by Volume: 5.3%

COLOR (0-2): Orange-brown and slightly cloudy. 2

AROMA (0-2): Pepper, malt, with a hint of honey. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white color, decent volume, and good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Flavors of yeast, dry hops, lots of pepper, and sour fruit. Picked up just a hint of sweet honey. Medium-bodied with a thin mouthfeel. Moderately drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Bitter and somewhat sour with more spice. 1

OVERALL (0-6): There’s a lot going on with Summit’s Honeymoon Saison. Unfortunately, while the flavors are prominent and complex they just don’t work particularly well together. There’s too much on the spice side with the pepper and not enough on the sweet with the honey. It’s not a bad beer by any means, but given the expectations raised by the previous beers in Summit’s Unchained Series I was disappointed by Honeymoon Saison. Fans of the style would do better with other local options including Liftbridge’s Farm Girl and the aforementioned Brau Brother’s Forgotten Flem. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 13