We believe that beer, like any art form, is a subjective product. That's why we took great care to provide an honest and straight-forward descriptions of each beer presented to the panel. All reviews are performed through blind tasting to remove impartiality. Numbered scores are calculated using recognized professional style-rating guides and the individual impressions of those on the panel. Each panelist's numbered scores will be displayed below the in-depth review and should serve only as one piece of the beer's review. This month we reviewed saison and pilsner - and, fantastic ones at that! We hope you find these reviews helpful!
Scores: 95-100: Classic - a great beer; 90-94: Outstanding - superior character and style; 85-89: very good - a beer with above-average qualities; 80-84: Good - well made beer; 75-79: Mediocre; 50-74: Not recommended
M.I.A. Brewing - Fuzzy Wuzzy New-Zealand Pilsner
What: A New Zealand hopped (Motueka & Nelson Sauvin) pilsner [6% ABV].
How we had it: Out of a growler (filled on prior day) into a craft commander wine taster glass.
What we saw: Beautiful gold/bright yellow color with a two finger width pure white head. Head fades slowly into a ring around the glass. Crystal clear.
What we smelled: A nice earthy yeast presence noted up front followed by malt sweetness and a presence of stone fruit (think: peaches) and sweet white grape. Very pleasant and inviting. [Other impressions included: "tropical" and "rain"].
What we tasted: This is a clean, crisp, refreshing medium-bodied beer. A beautiful hop presence coats your tongue and fades as the beer passes through your palate which adds to the crispness of the beer. No off-flavors present and a beautiful sweetness from the malts is balanced by the hop bitterness that is just right in this beer. An incredibly purposeful and straightforward beer; yet, the layering of malts and hops provides a complexity which added to the experience of the tasting.
What we thought: This beer was a beautiful interpretation of the style. The beer pushed the boundaries in a manner which showed restraint and in-turn, respect for the style. The flavors experienced were not necessarily consistent with the nose, which was a pleasant surprise and played to the complexity exhibited by the beer. The malt profile was soft and purposeful. The hops were prevalent but just right in bitterness. The light, clean, crisp nature of this representation of the style made the beer incredibly refreshing and left us wanting more. What a great pilsner! 94 of 100
Panel Scores: JT: 91; AF: 92; CF: 93; LJ: 92
Losdon Farmhouse Ales - Seizoen Bretta
What: An unfiltered brett fermented saison. Bottle conditioned with pear juice for a natural carbonation. [8% abv; 35 IBU]
How we had it: Poured from a 750ml bottle into Craft Commander wine taster.
What we saw: Hazy gold/straw/yellow. Lots of cream colored head present and great head retention. Great lacing present throughout the tasting. Yeast floaters present in the glass.
What we smelled: A wonderful tart, earthy, fruity nose. Pear, white grape, light citrus (mandarin orange, lemon) is present. Lots of funk present, horse blanket, wet rag. Yeast character is prevalent.
What we tasted: This is a wonderfully rustic, yeast forward, and tart saison. Earth, fresh cracked pepper, hay, are complimented by notes of ripe tropical fruit. Hints of orange peel and lemon zest were present mid-palate. For being an 8% beer, little to no alcohol was detected. Medium body provides a great vessel for the complexity and multiple layers of flavors presented by the malts, yeast, and pear juice (only a slight note of latter). A flavorful and complex beer that finishes very dry, as expected from a brett fermentation. Incredibly balanced, with tart funk at the forefront.
What we thought: The hype is matched by the quality of this saison. It's no wonder this beer took the gold at the 2012 GABF in the American Brett Ale category. There is so much going on in every sense when taking in this beer; yet, it is approachable and easy to drink. Refreshingly tart and funky, the yeast presence is beautiful. If you close your eyes, this beer puts you on a farm in the sunshine. Wonderfully funky but balanced with a ripe fruit character. Dry. Sharp. Great. 96 of 100
Panel Scores: JT: 95; AF: 94; CF: 95; LJ: 96
Sierra Nevada - Nooner Pilsner
What: A German-style pilsner [5.2% abv; 38 IBU]
How we had it: Poured from a 12-ounce bottle into a Craft Commander wine tasting glass.
What we saw: yellow with a semi-clear appearance and pure white head. Nice amount of head retention and lacing present.
What we smelled: beautiful sweet malt and strong yeast presence. Earthy notes up front, followed by stone fruit, basil, white wine grape, and a sense of dryness present.
What we tasted: A fantastically crisp and refreshing pilsner. Effervescent and light/medium bodied beer with a balance between hops and body. Significant malt presence up front is followed by a slight hop bitterness giving the beer a great crisp finish. Hops will coat your tongue and fade quickly, leaving little to no residual bitterness. Spices, black pepper, and garlic present on front of palate. Ends clean and dry.
What we thought: A great representation of the style, but what else would you expect from Sierra Nevada? Matches up with a traditional German pilsner - exhibiting balance between a wonderful malt presence and hop flavor and bitterness. This is a perfect summer beer - work/boat/beach days - in that it is complex enough to satisfy the craft drinker, yet, approachable and refreshingly easy to drink. We were really impressed with the hop presence that presented itself in the front of the palate and faded - providing a crisp and clean finish to the beer. Another fantastic beer from this stalwart brewery. 90 of 100.
Panel Scores: JT: 90; AF: 91; CF: 90; LJ: 94
Grassroots Brewing - Brother Soigné [1/2015 batch]
What: Saison brewed with lime, hibiscus, and blood orange in mixed fermentation [5% ABV]
How we had it: Poured from a 750ml bottle into wine taster.
What we saw: As you'd expect from a saison a very hazy gold/straw colored appearance gives a rustic feel to the beer. A quickly fading white head that remains as a ring around the glass throughout the experience.
What we smelled: Funk and earth contribute to the rustic feel of this beer. Grapefruit, citrus, orange zest, and white pepper all mesh together to provide a light, tart, crisp freshness that balances the wonderful funk.
What we tasted: Juice! Citrus! The juiciness of the beer hits first, and is a pleasant contradiction to the nose and appearance of the beer. While after the initial sweetness from the juices, the beer delivers the traditional mixed-fermentation saison funk, earthiness, and dryness. Yet, all these strong flavors are all subdued into perfect balance. A refreshing, crisp, tartness coats your teeth and tongue making your mouth water, while ending dry and light. There's a great deal of complexity that comes from the combination of the yeast character and the lime, hibiscus, and blood orange that beautifully compliment each other. Pineapple is noted as well. A subtle malt sweetness presents itself as well to round the taste, mid palate. Fantastic representation of the style.
What we thought: This beer is simply phenomenal. Believe the hype. Beautiful example of what Hill Farmstead/Grassroots is capable of. The overly dry nature of a mixed fermentation saison is perfectly balanced between the combination of flavors, juiciness, and mouthfeel. The citrus and hibiscus is at the forefront but the earth and funk add level after level of complexity. There is a true sense of purpose behind the beer and the execution and artistry is simply phenomenal. Refreshingly crisp, tart, and acidic. The rustic feel of this beer persists through each and every sensory experience and just makes this a wonderful beer worth seeking out. One of the best beers, especially saison, I've had in a long time. 99 of 100.
Panel Scores: JT: 95; AF: 95; CF: 97; LJ: 93
Thank you to Alex Fernandez (AF), Chris Fischer (CF), Jonas Thompson(JT), and Lazaro Juarez(LJ) for contributing.