The weekend has sadly slipped into the doldrums of Monday, but we are going to keep the spirit of Saison Sunday alive just a bit longer with a segment of Tasting Notes on the Saison du BUFF collaboration from Stone Brewing Co. (Escondido, California), Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (Milton, Delaware) and Victory Brewing Company (Downingtown, Pennsylvania).
This week’s Tasting Notes brew is covering Stone Brewing’s take on Saison du BUFF, a special collaboration beer that was first brewed back in 2010 at Stone’s facility by Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head, founder), Bill Covaleski (Victory Brewing, co-founder) and Greg Koch (Stone Brewing, co-founder), and “then ever-so-slightly tweaked versions were replicated at each of the other two breweries that same year.” This beer was originally created to pay homage to Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor (BUFF), an ad hoc coalition created by these three in 2003 with the goal of driving awareness within mainstream media for quality, flavorful craft beer. Stone Brewing revisited Saison du BUFF in 2012 for the Craft Brewers Conference, and it was then decided that each year each brewery would take turns brewing its own batch in rotating years as to never “deprive the world of this special release” again. Their turn to brew has come back around to Stone Brewing once more, and this year’s release follows the original recipe for inspiration by still using locally harvested sage, lemon thyme, rosemary and parsley. A Belgian yeast strain was then employed to lend subtle notes of clove and fruity esters to complement those herbs and a hop bill comprised of Centennial and Citra varieties. The finished beer comes together as a 6.8% ABV Saison with 52 IBUs. Saison du BUFF is available now on draft and in six-packs of 12 oz. bottles, and you can track this one down in Alabama and in other select markets within Stone Brewing’s US distribution area. That pretty much covers all of the background info on Saison du BUFF, so let’s pour this beauty up and get to some Tasting Notes!
Tasting Notes on Saison du BUFF collaboration from Stone Brewing Co./Dogfish Head Craft Brewery/Victory Brewing Company
Appearance: Saison du BUFF fills the glass as a pale gold in color, and puts out some brighter, sunburst yellow hues when held to direct light. The initial pour yielded a mostly clear body, but finishing off the bottle provides a slight cloudiness. A somewhat vigorous pour produced only a finger of bright white foam, and that is surprisingly small for a Saison. Retention is very good though, and the amount of lace is spot on and just mesmerizing as it casts thick webs all over the glass throughout the drinking experience. A very lazy carbonation activity bubbles up through the center of the body to feed the head.
Aroma: Considering the large list of herbs used as ingredients here, I am a little surprised to find that this beer leads off with a very soft and incredibly pleasant citrus hop presence of lemon, lime and a touch of various tropical fruits. This shifts into some gorgeous lemon thyme that melds seamlessly into those citrus hop notes, and that is then backed by some suggestions of rosemary and sage. Light clove is nestled into the background to provide the reminder that this is indeed a Saison. The herbs are simply lovely here, and completely avoid being overbearing. Frankly, all of the aromatic notes are wonderfully soft. Fantastic things happening here.
Taste: The herbs definitely show up front and center for this part of the show. That lemon thyme is so nicely utilized to lead the way, and the typically more pungent herbs of sage, rosemary and parsley play supporting roles by being oh so subtle. Behind this bounty of herbal goodness lies the Citra and Centennial hops producing notes of Meyer lemon, orange zest, pineapple and papaya. All of this rests on a foundation of light, biscuity malt sweetness and just a touch of yeasty clove and banana. Although all of these flavors being present may sound like it will make the beer incredibly busy, Saison du BUFF is insanely well crafted in this department to keep all of these notes clean and pleasant. You will be hard pressed to find a flavor profile this complex so well composed. Beautiful.
Mouthfeel: Medium in body with a moderate to low carbonation level. The ABV is completely nonexistent with no sign of heat to be found anywhere. Due to the low carb, this beer is a touch creamy on the palate but it dries out slowly to clean up almost completely. The aftertaste is a touch of that herbal bouquet lingering and beckoning you to greedily enjoy another sip.
Final Thoughts: When you initially hear the lengthy list of ingredients used in Saison du BUFF, it is difficult not to fear that this beer might end up being a full-on assault on the palate. Fortunately, you could not be more wrong about this Saison. Expert craftsmanship was clearly employed here to keep almost all of the notes in every descriptive department soft, gentle and excellently composed. Do not get me wrong . . . this beer is quite complex, but it achieves its level of complexity without being aggressive or extreme. Seriously, if you enjoy Saisons, pick up a sixer of Saison du BUFF and experience this fine beer for yourself. To make that experience even more enjoyable, pair it up with some good goat cheese and rosemary-infused crackers/bread, and just let the magic happen. Prost!