|Image courtesy of Dogfish Head.|
Calagione and Covaleski got together with Greg Koch at Stone's San Diego headquarters early in 2010 to brew together. What they came up with was "Saison du Buff," a Saison-style ale kicked up the "freedom of flavor" scale via the addition of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme in the brewing process. The plan, as eventually executed, was for each brewery to make its own version using the same recipe and ingredients but of course utilizing its own equipment and brewers.
Stone was the first to release their version, in March 2010, with both Dogfish Head and Victory following suit late in the summer of 2010. All were relatively limited-edition releases and, so far as I know, are not intended for repeat brewing and release in the future, although one never can tell. Such brews sometime take on lives of their own.
Were I a more thorough beer geek (and a much more advance planning shopper), I'd have gone out of my way to procure all three versions in order to do a side-by-side tasting and comparison. For now, though, I hope you can make do with my thoughts on just one of my local versions.
|Image courtesy of yours truly.|
6.8% abv. 12 oz. bottles.
The Dogfish Head iteration of Saison du Buff pours to a slightly hazy, burnished lemon yellow color in the glass. Highly charged, it yields a more than generous, slightly chunky head, kept alive by quite active, steady carbonation. Its lemony, intensely herbal aromas are dominated by the pininess of rosemary, then backed up by the faintly musky scent of sage. Rosemary and sage's other herbal brewing companions are less apparent on the nose but do come through on the palate, where the faint bitterness of parsley and subtly sweet woodsiness of thyme make themselves known. Would I be saying all this if I didn't know the four herbs used in the brew? Perhaps not, but knowing, it certainly makes sense in the tasting. All of the above is wrapped up with a reasonably fruity mid-palate of grapefruit and pineapple, and a very crisp, refreshing drive.
Not surprisingly, given the fairly full throttle style of the overall beer programs at Victory and, especially, Stone and Dogfish Head, Saison du Buff is considerably hoppier than the a traditional European Saison. To me, it actually drinks more like a Saison crossed with a fresh style of IPA. While its alcohol level (6.8% abv) isn't much if at all higher than the classic Saison, it seems to pack more of a wallop than I usually associate with, say, Dupont Saison (at a quite similar 6.5%), pushing it out of session beer territory and toward the table. Grilled, white fleshed fish or roast chicken would be nice pairings, methinks.
As appealing as all of the above may sound, it doesn't come without a caveat. So highly perfumed as to border on scented soap territory, Dogfish Head's version of Saison du Buff beckons to my mind more than my gut—more intellectually compelling than downright delicious. That said, you won't find me trying to pawn off what remains of my half-case.
I wonder if the Victory version is still kicking around somewhere nearby....