- Mike Riedel
Words can occasionally have more than one meaning. For example, "bark" can be a tree's outer layer, or the sound a dog makes. Beer can sometimes fit into this mold as well. Stylistically, you might know your lager or ale in one way, but when you order something called a "lager" or "ale," you might get something else entirely. This week's beers are classified as one thing, but turn out to be surprising in what they actually are.
SaltFire Brewing Co. Saison De Trahision (black currant, black cherry): This is easily the most vibrant and genuine use of this fruit I have ever seen in a saison. The color is quite vibrant—beet purple in hue, maybe just a shade lighter toward pink, with a head that's lively and it holds its foam really well. It smells like tart fruit and candy, without much saison yeast. The fruit is amazing, like a handful of almost ripe black currants. It's both sweet and tart, and has some good acidity. The cherry makes itself known with that classic stone fruit nuttiness, and while it takes a bit of a backseat to the currants, it's nonetheless noticeable. At this point, the saison yeast becomes more prominent, yet still fairly subtle, with mild spicy clove and some additional pepperiness. The whole package ends up coming off more tart than sweet, while capturing the essence of the fruits very well. The finish is somewhat dry, allowing the mostly fermented-out fruit to carry a wine-like dryness.
Overall: This is a rather nice take on a fruity saison. The tangy and earthy saison profile is almost coated by its sweet, fruity qualities, which don't kill the dryness but remain lingering in the background. It works well whether or not you're a fan of saisons.
Fisher Brewing Co. Old Growth: This rye pale ale is unfiltered, which gives a hazy appearance (not murky or turbid) to its peachy-tawny hue with gold highlights. After some delay, I got around to smelling this beer, and got whiffs of citrus and pine aromas. It's lovely, but not potent; the rye is noticeable as well, along with hints of grain, followed by some fruitiness like peaches and oranges. It's not a talkative nose, but I understand what it is saying.
The palate is charming, but I am a sucker for rye and West Coast hops, which make for a phenomenal mix. The rye influence is not huge, but it's easily noticeable and quite tasty. I really like the spice it adds. The hopping is solid as well; there is a good amount of citrusy flavor and a trace of spruce. This is the focal point of the beer, and it lasts until the end. At the finish, the malt came forward, imparting caramel sweetness. The aftertaste is heavy on the rye and hops, pleasantly dry and bitter. As I got to the end of the beer, I notice that it tasted much sweeter at room temperature—almost like a peach nectar. I kind of like this new characteristic.
Overall: This isn't an over the top rye beer. It's fairly subtle, yet undeniably rye-forward, which makes it a winner in my book. If you're expecting a hop bomb with an intense rye hit, this one isn't it. It's subtler, more nuanced and incredibly delicious.
One of the nice things about SaltFire is that even though they are transitioning to 16-ounce cans from 16-ounce bottles, they still provide smaller beer pours, and don't require you to buy the whole can upon your stay at the brewery's pub. One of the nice things about Fisher Brewing is you always know where their beer can be found: only at the brewery. As always, cheers!