Smuttlabs Biere de ‘Shire (Smuttynose Brewing Company)

Smuttlabs Biere de ‘Shire (Smuttynose Brewing Company)

Style: Mixed Fermentation Saison (French Saison and Brettanomyces Drei)

9.1% ABV

Bottled: May 2015

From: Portsmouth, NH

Brewery’s Note: “Part of the Farmhouse Series – brewed with french saison yeast and Brettanomyces.”

The cork pops with the best hiss I’ve heard from a Smuttlabs beer, and pours into the glass as a color somewhere between nuclear yellow and the color of aged straw. The beer pours with a fat and aggressive head of smooth, frothy, eggshell white bubbles. That head lasts a little too long (I wanted to drink the beer!), but gives the beer a gorgeous cap, and leave some fluffy pillow-strands on the sides of the glass when it finally recedes. In body, the beer is hazy, with a definite cloudy/smokiness that makes the beer nearly opaque, yet still clean of particles. On the first sniff, the beer smells more in line with classic Smutty farmhouse yeast, but with a spicy twist. As I sniff more, there is heavy banana flesh, pureed into a creamy smoothie, but there’s fresh cracked peppercorn and spicy jalapeno pepper flesh. There is a touch of raw cereal grains, and it blends wonderfully with the spice, expressing some serious phenolic turns in among some rich esters. The banana is a little too sweet for my tastes, but that is in the background of it all and the profile on top is rich and layered, as is only proper in a saison.

On the tongue, the beer is surprisingly spicy, bouncing into sweet esters which smooth over the spice in the finish, but never fully blankets them. Bitterness is subtle and restrained, but accents the finish with light grassy and herbal notes that give the spice a touch of mintiness. Beneath all else, the beer displays spicy, boozy heat from its surprisingly high ABV. While it does feel a little heavy, it sips far below what it truly is. The banana flavor is there throughout, and is still a little too present for my personal tastes, but it superbly balances the rich and spicy ester and phenol profile that the beer and tends more towards a green banana flavor, allowing for plenty of other flavors to play off of it. The spice is just as rich as the nose, giving a touch of booze along with layers of pepper flesh, seeds, and more. The grainy sweetness touches on the finish blending the banana profile with light, cereal bread in a rich finish that slowly descends to something close to a funked/skunked character that I love getting in old world saisons (though I’ve always associated that with green bottles and skunking?). In the mouth, the beer feels fuller than I expected, and is peppered with a fiercer carbonation that constantly scrubs at the tongue in a struggle to keep the beer light. The mouthfeel comes across a touch sharp, but crisp and with a touch of smoothness. Though the carb is a little high, I honestly think it works best with this beer, keeping flavor lighter despite the beer’s heavy nature. I could drink a couple glasses of this, honestly, which is dangerous at 9.1%. Overall, this is a complex, expressive, and lovely Mixed Fermentation Saison. Interestingly, I purchased the bottle while I was visiting Smutty, but before I sampled the beer, and after I sampled it on draft I was a little upset with the bottle purchase. On release (and from a keg) the beer was hugely ester-forward, but mostly with sticky banana. In the several months since its bottling, the beer has developed a rich profile as the brett has slowly nibbled at the complex sugars, and that is really for the best. Given the fat ABV of this beer, I would honestly love to set a few down and see where they go in a few years. So far, aging is bringing out a rich plethora of complex flavors, and I am left surprised. I was expecting not to like this one, and thus am left with my foot in my mouth. Great beer, let it age.image


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