Sud Savant: Dogfish Head Saison du Buff – This is a Complex Beer

Howdy everybody! First off, allow me to apologize for writing so sporadically as of late. Not only am I currently working retail during the holiday season, but I also went on vacation, attended 3 weddings, had an offer accepted on a house, and am a new uncle! Needless to say, I’ve been kept a bit busy.

Today’s beer is Dogfish Head’s Saison du Buff. Well, it’s kinda Dogfish Head’s. This brew is actually a collaboration between Victory, Stone, and DFH. It was brewed once before in 2010 and we’re definitely glad to see it back. It is brewed in each of the three breweries using the exact same recipe and then released in stages throughout the year. Besides the collaboration of three powerhouse names in the craft beer world, the most notable attribute of this beer is its ingredients. It’s an ale, a saison to be specific, that is brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. And yes, for those of you wondering, it probably sells very well at Scarborough Fair. You can find the full story behind this beer by clicking this link to Dogfish Head’s website. I’ve had Victory’s version on tap before and look to have a repeat of that great experience in a Dogfish Head bottle. Let’s pour!

Aroma 11/12: Not surprisingly, the beer starts out with strong herbal notes. However somewhat surprisingly, you’d almost swear there was some mint added to their already long list of herbs. Floral notes come forward and continues to waft from the glass. In another twist, I’m finding more cloves in the aroma and not so much of the pepper for which saisons are known. Overall, this aroma is fantastic and you’d be hard pressed to find another beer that smells like it. Think of a flowery golden ale and now add a dash of Belgian spice and a hearty handful of herbs. It’s wonderful.

Appearance 3/3: The glass is filled with a hazy, pale straw color and topped with an off-white head. The head shows good retention and is constantly being rejuvenated by pillars of bubbles that can be seen ascending from the bottom of the glass. Not a ton of shades present, but its on the mark for the style.

Flavor 19/20: Whoa! This beer went through about 4 major flavor changes in the first 3 seconds of tasting. Let’s see if we can nail those down. Initially, it’s a dark sweetness that quickly morphs into what appears to be a citrus, but is really just some of the saison’s sour coming to the forefront. The herbs also make their presence known as do some dry, bitter notes. Which of these flavors stick around when held in the mouth? Actually, the light sour assumes the throne as the beer’s primary flavor, but it is not without assistance from the floral notes giving the beer a very light, sweet taste. This lighter, sweeter flavor makes it easier to see the hints of pepper in the brew as they clash well with the sweetness and keep the beer true to its style. The finish is given some brief foreshadowing when held in the mouth, but still remains quite a surprise when it finally reveals its full bitter. The finish may have some lingerings of the floral sour that preceded it, but it is largely dry and with a long-lasting bitter.

Mouthfeel 4/5: This beer exhibits a medium mouthfeel that feels lighter thanks to the delicate sweetnesses within it. Its sour never comes close to taking over the beer as a whole and while the carbonation isn’t as aggressive as the style usually demands, that’s OK by me. It’s abundant in its muted state and still allows the beer to feel like something more substantial and full-bodied. Almost any prickly sensations could be initially considered carbonation, but upon holding the beer in the mouth it can be quickly determined to be the spices.

Overall Impression 9/10: This tastes like a saison should, but includes some of its own twists. Saison lovers should definitely seek this out, but might be out of luck as the most recent batch (as of this writing) was released by Stone in late May 2012. The herbs go remarkably well with the style, yet are far from overwhelming. The sour/floral taste was impressive as was the incorporation of Belgian yeast’s spicy flavors in a more subdued manner. This is a complex beer with varied flavors coming at you from every angle and with a finish bitter enough to keep you coming back for more.

Total 46/50: Even though I emphasize talking about the sour/sweet/floral primary note of this brew, please do not categorize this with the genre of beers that one might generally avoid for being “too sweet.” There is so much going on here! The herbs, the sour, the floral, the spices, the bitter… it all comes together for a remarkably balanced and well-assembled beer. This is one of the best versions of the style that I’ve had thus far. Granted, my familiarity with the style is less than others, but I stand by that statement. This is one collaboration that we can all hope is reconvened very soon.

Joel R. Kolander is the Cheif Blogger for Sud Savant, a beer-savoring blog for the rest of us. We’re not here to get plowed. We’re not here because we are world-famous beer critics. We’re here because we enjoy savoring a great beer with even better friends. Sharing great beer is just as amazing as finding it in the first place. Lets share!