May 14th was a highly anticipated day for me and 4:00 couldn’t come soon enough. It was the earliest date and time to get a taste of Saison Du Humboldt and the only place to get it was Humboldt Brews.
I staked my real estate claim at the bar just before 4PM and asked for a pint of Saison Du Humboldt. I was expecting to be told no because it wasn’t time yet. But the bartender happily obliged and the gentleman next to me, who I quickly named “Stranger #1” in my head, followed suit. Both were delivered at the same time and Stranger #1 asked, “Are you waiting until four?” I replied, “Hell no!” then we clinked glasses and drank.
The keg had just arrived and didn’t have time to settle. So the pour was from a pitcher because it was too foamy. It was cloudy, and Saisons should be cloudy, but this was really cloudy, again due to the recent transport. The aroma I got was estery orange, some clove and a little banana. That’s all typical and it was what I was hoping for. There was a lot to think about in the taste. It was bright and lemony and a spice I couldn’t quite put my finger on but I learned later what that was.
Saison, or farmhouse ale, has its origins in French Belgium and is meant to be brewed in such a way that it could last the warm summer months. This is all before common refrigeration and there was nothing special about it that “made it last” through the summer months –there were no more preservative ingredients than any other beer– but the typical ingredients found in a Saison gave some abilities in covering up some of the funk and twang that can come with an old beer that has been stored too warm for too long. (funny, we aim for that now with many styles!) Common Saison can have spices, acid malt, be phenolic and estery and are hopped a little bit more than usual in a Belgian beer. And all that varied based on the farmhouse. Each could bring not only their own recipe, but their own regional funk and method. So if all that geek speak goes over your head, just remember in the end its meant to be a refreshing quaff on a hot day and that’s all you need to know!
Curious about the ABV, I asked the bartender if she could tell me anything about it. (this episode, and others like it are a continuing inquiry of mine and will be a later blog post) She couldn’t, but I don’t blame her for not being informed because it probably wasn’t shared. Her answer to my question was to pull off a piece of paper from the wall and hand it to me. “This is a write up”, she said and I was looking at my blog post that originally announced Saison Du Humboldt. And in all fairness, that was just a press release so I cheated on that one.
Your intrepid reporter did his homework however, and tracked down these stats:
- O.G. 1.070
- F.G. 1.012
- ABV 7.68%
- IBU 32.5
- SRM 4
In geek speak translation, the first two numbers you have to know to get the third, which tells us the alcohol content for the beer. The IBU is about what you would find in a pale ale and the last is a measurement on the color, which is very light. Your lesson is now over, go drink it.
Continuing with an experiment I’ve been doing lately, I struck up a conversation with a total stranger. I’ve been getting amazing results and this was no different. Stranger #1 turned out to be Dan, who was the original artist for the Humboldt Brewery logo and artwork. “You see that?”, he asked, pointing at the artwork on the wall, “The hummingbirds shadow on the rock is in the shape of an eagle.” There was my first payoff in my conversation with Dan. That was new to me.
Eel River Brewing’s head brewer, Matt Vivatson arrived and began chatting with who I think was his girlfriend (Stranger #2) and after a while, I rudely butted in to ask him some questions about the beer. Matt happily obliged to answer some questions.
I began by asking him, “How did you decide on a saison?”
“That was between ‘Los (Carlos Sanchez) and Dylan (Schatz) and Meredith (Ripley), and I think it might have been Meredith who threw out the idea of a saison. I wasn’t here personally for the meeting that they chose it on.”
“You were there for the brewing, right?”
“How was it with five of you, it was more like nine really….”
“We took two shifts….the morning shift was myself and the Six Rivers guys and Dylan and the night shift, Lost Coast and Redwood Curtain.”
“So there wasn’t a problem with too many cooks in the kitchen, no disagreements on recipe?”
“No it was fun. We talked that stuff through at the beginning. Everybody that was there we’ve known each other for years. It was more just like hanging out doing the brew.”
“So would you do it again?”
“Collaboration? Totally, it was fun.”
“Annual for Craft Beer Week?”
“Possibly. That’s up to everybody. It was an enjoyable experience.”
The next day I caught up with Dylan Schatz, head brewer at Mad River Brewing Company. He took a few minutes out of his brew day to sit down and talk with me.
“So how did this all come about? You and ‘Los did the thing about four or five months ago with the wee heavy and I know that was the impedes of that….”
“That kind of started it. We did that and it went over well and we were at GABF last fall and we all sat around talking about that and figured we should try and get everybody to do a collaboration.”
“And everybody was really cool with that?”
“Yeah, I mean, we kind of forgot about it for a while (laughs), and actually Meredith was the one who got us all together finally. It was a couple months ago when we actually sat down.”
“So when did you do the brew?”
“It was about a month ago. It was four weeks in the tank.”
“How did you guys decide on a saison?”
“When we first got together we just started figuring out what we wanted to do and Redwood Curtain already had that thought in their mind, so did Six Rivers and I said ‘Sure, lets go for it’….that one was easy for us.”
“So can you share the recipe at all?”
“Yeah, it was….pilsner, the rest made up with two row… rye….wheat, Styrian Goldings….. US Goldings….. and Sterling….. We also threw some spices at it…grains of paradise and curacao orange.”
I asked Dylan if he minded if the recipe went public. He declined, citing that he was really just one of the collaborators so it wasn’t up to him. I honored his request and intentionally left out some key information in repeating the recipe here.
“So would you do it again?”
“I would, yeah.”
“Annual Craft Beer Week brew?”
“We were talking about it last night maybe more specifically for Humboldt Beer Week. It seemed more appropriate.”
So the history making collaborative brew has hit the rough and tumble streets of Humboldt County. Every participating brewery is serving it, as well as The Local Beer Bar and Blondies Food and Drink. (as reported by the press release) It has also been learned since then its at Big Petes Pizzeria and they now have $2 pint nights on Wednesday. Get it while it lasts and start dreaming of the next collaborative brew of the Six Mad Lost Red Eels.