Victory Helios

January 26th, 2010 beckel

Victory Brewing Company out of Downingtown, PA is unquestionably one of my favorite breweries. Making delicious hoppy ales such as HopDevil, Hop Wallop and even their Prima Pils (an assertively hopped Pilsner). Earlier last year they decided to bottle some unique ales including WildDevil, their HopDevil wort fermented with Brettanomyces and to re-bottle what was originally called V-Saison under the new name Helios and make it more widely available in 22oz bottles. I never got around to sampling their Saison when it was available in 750ml bottles so I can’t wait to see their interpretation of this complex Belgian inspired style. This bottle has been sitting in my fridge for many months, but I’m sure it will still be lovely. Upon opening this bottle I was hit with a release of carbonation. I almost expected the bottle to overflow, but it only went about half way up the neck. Once I started pouring it was clear that this beer would produce as much head as you allow. Even after pouring very slowly into the side of my tulip over four fingers of bright white head was quickly produced and just as quickly opens up into larger and larger bubbles settling with in less than two minutes leaving a very small amount of head on the surface of the brew and a tiny bit of lacing. A massive flow of small bubbles through the center of the glass shows that this is surely one carbonated ale. Color is a completely translucent golden hue with no notable sediment, but that is because it is still sitting at the bottom of the bottle (the 2nd pour from the bottle was quite hazy and had solid chunks of sediment making it barely translucent and giving it more of an apricot hue). Smells of lemony citrus, earthy esters and a gentle yeasty funkiness. Flavor is full of a tangy lemon grass like citrus, soft malty sweetness and a variety of earthy esters followed by additional tartness and and a gentle funkiness. Mouthfeel is nicely dry and smooth and the body is appropriately full but not overly heavy. The 7.5% ABV of this ale is plenty subtle with the contrasting sour and sweet notes yet provides a nice compliment to this easy drinking Saison. Upon my 2nd pour (full of sediment) I had left the bottle in the fridge for a while as the first pour was consumed very warm. At a colder temperature and full of sediment the flavors are still very similar but (obviously) contain many more earthy yeast esters which are pleasant though less funky than when consumed at closer to room temperature and a bit less distinct. I suppose I really should have gently swirled the bottle to make it more even, oh well I still find the differences in flavor profile intriguing. Definitely a tasty beverage but not particularly astounding for the style. If you not a fan of bitter beers this should be right up your alley. A nice smooth American interpenetration of a Belgian (some will argue French) inspired style. Those into citrus forward somewhat yeasty beers will likely dig this one. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Victory Helios Ale

Goose Island Sofie

October 29th, 2009 beckel

It’s been many weeks since I purchased this bottle from The Four Firkins but it has patiently waited in my fridge for this day of consumption. I haven’t been able to post lately as my Hard Drive decided to stop receiving power leaving me shit out of luck. Of course my < 1 year old drive was easily under it’s manufactures warranty so I was able to RMA it and finally the other day it arrived.  All I have to say is back up your data boys and girls. But lets move on to something positive. A number of exciting events occurred this month including Surly Brewing hosting an American Homebrewers Association Rally and providing around 500 homebrewers 5 Gallons of delicious sweet brown wort as well as the ever popular Darkness Day. I’ll post more about that later, let’s talk about Sofie. Sofie is one of many brews in Goose Island’s Belgian Style Series and is said to be brewed in the style of a Farmhouse Ale, also known as Saison. The ale is fermented with wild yeasts and 20% is aged in wine barrels with orange peel which is blended back with unaged ale and is sure to be an interesting Belgian inspired brew. The 2009 bottles consist of a clean white label with classy green & gold print allowing for a very elegant presentation. Bottle dated July 17,  2009.  The beer pours an incredibly pale yellow hue that is very cloudy, so much so I can’t see my fingers on the other side of the glass. Head is crisp and white initially creating about three fingers of tight bubbles that quickly expand and dissipate leaving only a slim white ring around the surface of the brew within a minute or two. Smells strongly of yeasty notes that are expected of the style, slightly tart, very dry, gently fruity and spicy. Flavor is equally delicious and dry, consisting of gently tart citrus as well as softer orange, banana and even peach like notes, soft bready notes from the wheat and a decent amount of sweetness. A slight vanilla character is present creating a very smooth finish. The malt profile of the ale is clean and simple allowing the yeast strains to shine through with a very gentle Amarillo hop character contributing to the citrus and very little bitterness. Mouthfeel is very carbonated but not overly sharp, body is very light. Though this ale is full flavored it is quite easy to drink and at 6.5% ABV it won’t be a problem. Unquestionably one delicious and quality craft brewed Belgian inspired Saison. If you enjoy the style or even golden Belgian ales in general I would highly recommend this ale, particularly as it is selling for quite a bit less than most of Goose Island’s specialty ales. Though I can’t say I notice any drastic flavors from the wild yeasts used in this ale aside from those you typically expect from the style, I would be curious to see how it may change over time. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Goose Island Sofie

Avery Sixteen

August 31st, 2009 beckel

This brew has been sitting in my fridge for many months and I figured it was high time I got around to consuming it. Every year the crafty brewers at Avery brew a single batch beer to commemorate their anniversary, this year it is a Saison that is brewed with jasmine flowers, peaches, honey and some pale malted wheat. Pours an incredibly pale golden straw hue that is about as translucent as possible. About two fingers of crisp white head are produced and fade very quickly leaving only a small ring around the surface of the brew. Smells strongly of sweet malt with a crisp tart hint that emphasizes the distinct Belgian yeast used in this brew. Many herbal and spice notes, light fruits, particularly peach and a bit of wheat is present as well. A rich and very appropriate aroma for the style. Flavor is very interesting; peach is very forward and nicely balances the malt sweetness with gentle tartness. Flavor is quite a bit less herbal than the aroma but plenty of yeasty flavors are still pleasant and very enjoyable. The 7.69% ABV is a bit heavier than some brews of the style but works perfectly with the flavors present and is not dominate at all. Mouthfeel is plenty carbonated but enjoyably dry yet smooth and slightly creamy, particularly with the light body. A solid take on a Saison that shows what sixteen years of experience can produce. If you enjoy quality Belgian styled ales you will likely dig this brew. If you can still find a bottle. Give it a shot and ride your bike.

Avery Sixteen Saison

Ommegang Hennepin

November 14th, 2008 beckel

Here we have another ale from Ommegang, the Belgian influenced and owned brewery from Cooperstown, New York. Hennepin is brewed in the old Saison style and is a wonderful choice any time of the year. I first and last consumed this beer last Christmas, time to see how my palate may have changed. This beer pours a nice golden orange color that is slightly transparent but also hazy depending on how much yeast you let in your glass, I was reminded of this in my two pours that you will see below. Producing many inches of pure white head depending on how heavy handed you are, most of which will subside after a few minutes and you are left with a small amount of lacing on the glass and a few floating patches of head. Aroma is pleasant with simple slightly tart citrus and gentle spices coming through, smelling much like a Belgian ale. The citrus flavors from the hops in the beer provide a nice sour kick to this simple and refreshing ale. Malts are smooth and give this beer a slightly spicy slightly caramel taste showing its Belgian influence. It is rather impressive how the flavors of this beer wonderfully cover its 7.7% ABV with little difficulty. This is a very nice simple and drinkable, yet flavorful example of a Saison that I believe many people will enjoy even if they have little experience with craft beer. The mouthfeel is reasonably light but hearty with a light body. This Ale would be delicious with light meats or wonderful to relax with after a good days work. Definitely a good choice for anyone who appreciates lighter but still flavorful brews and doesn’t mind a bit of Belgian influence. Give it a shot and ride your bike.
Ommegang Hennepin Pour One
Pour one: little to no yeast, very transparent and golden, less orange in color.

Ommegang Hennepin Pour Two
Pour two: much yeast, only slightly transparent, much more orange and hazy in color.