Boulevard Collaboration #4: Saison

A lot of brewery collaborations seem pointless. They give the sense that the brewers simply cobbled together a recipe over a couple of emails. There is no convincing reason for the collaboration – at least none that is apparent. There is no sense that some piece of each brewery has come together in some way in the finished beer. Marketing gimmick? Perhaps, but I’ve never been able to get a brewer to admit to that.

They don’t all seem pointless, though. In some cases the joint project really does tie the two breweries together. Avery/Russian River’s Collaboration Not Litigation is a good example. Two brewers selling beer of the same name in the same markets decided to blend their beers rather than engage in sticky trademark litigation.

In another example the brewers from Avery, Russian River, Allagash, and Lost Abbey decided to brew a lambic after traveling together to Belgium. The beer was brewed at Russian River and barrel-fermented with the house lambic bugs from each brewery. The four beers were then blended into the final product; a true coming together of the breweries.

Boulevard Brewing Company’s collaboration with Brewery Ommegang is one of those that seems genuine. Having started as independent companies, both are now owned by Belgian brewing conglomerate Duvel-Moortgat. They are sister breweries so to speak. Ommegang brews only Belgian inspired ales. While it was built on other brews, Boulevard has made a splash with its Belgian styles such as the delicious Tank 7 Saison. And Boulevard’s brewmaster Steven Pauwels comes from Belgium.

The collaborative process involved brewing separate batches of a saison recipe that used pale malt, oats, rye, corn and wheat and was spiced with coriander, grains of paradise and lemon peel. Each batch was fermented with the house yeast from the respective brewery and then the beers were blended. To me, that’s a collaborative beer.

Here’s my notes:

Boulevard Collaboration #4Boulevard Collaboration #4: Saison
Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, Missouri with Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, New York
Style: Saison
Serving Style: 750 ml bottle
ABV: 7.3%
IBU: 28

Aroma: High fruity esters – orange, mango, lemons, banana. High peppery phenols. Medium-high noble hop character – lemon and spice. Low biscuity malt.

Appearance: Full, rocky, ivory head with excellent retention. Medium-light amber and very hazy.

Flavor: Banana, clove, and zesty black pepper with high notes of lemon citrus. Bitterness is high, accentuated by very high attenuation. As it warms other fruits come through – blood orange, mango. Low malt sweetness gets a boost from the banana esters, but gives up past mid-palate. Some biscuity malt character. Alcohol adds some floral notes. Finish is extra dry with emphasis on peppery phenols, lingering bitterness, and alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Medium to medium-full body. Mouthfilling in a hefeweizen kind of way. High carbonation – effervescent. Moderate alcohol warming.

Overall Impression: A full-throttle saison. Big and filling, yet high attenuation leaves it refreshing. Zippy and spicy. A good saison for the fall season.

Leuven from Funkwerks Brewery

Fort Collins, Colorado is one heck of a beer town. The official population as of 2011 is just 146,762. Yet there are currently something like 12 breweries in the city. There are breweries of all shapes and sizes; Anhueser-Busch and New Belgium on the big end, Odell and Fort Collins Brewery in the middle, and places like Funkwerks on the small side. And to top it all off, in addition to being beer heaven Fort Collins is just a great place to be.

If you ever find yourself in Fort Collins, Funkwerks Brewery is a must-visit. This tiny operation took over the space once occupied by Fort Collins Brewery when that beer-maker expanded. Funkwerks specializes in saison. That’s all you will find there. They make several varieties of saison, from straight-up, old-fashioned DuPont-like versions to ones made with green tea or Brettanomyces. Tasting your way through the rather generous sampler flight is an adventurous treat.

On my last visit there after the 2012 GABF in October, they had two “experimental” beers on tap that proved to be the best of the bunch. Nit Wit was a cross-style mashup of Belgian witbier and saison. Lueven fell somewhere between saison and Berliner Weiss. Both were good enough to convince me to shell out $25 a bottle and check my bag for another $20. Nit wit I just drank. I do that sometimes. I took notes on Leuven.

Here’s my notes:

Funkwerks Brewery, Fort Collins, Colorado
Style: Saison/Berliner Weiss
Serving Style: 750 ml bottle

Aroma: Wheaty sharpness and lightly sweet. Hints of cotton-candy Belgian yeast phenolics and esters. Herbs. Apple cider.

Appearance: Light straw colored with a slight haze. Great big, fluffy, long-lasting, white head.

Flavor: Cracker wheat with a touch of sweetness. A bit of lactic tartness that brings a pucker in the finish. Green apples. Herbs – oregano and thyme. White pepper. Finishes dry and crisp.

Mouthfeel: Light body. Thin but with a wheaty fullness. Spritzy carbonation.

Overall Impression: So pleasant. So refreshing. Just the right balance of everything – sweetness, acidity, yeasty phenolics, herbal notes. Perfect for a summer afternoon. But then it was pretty perfect on a snowy winter night in Minnesota, as well.