Fluxus 2016 (Allagash Brewing Company)

Style: Saison Ale Brewed with Ginger and Aged in Oak Gin Barrels

8.5% ABV

Grains: Allagash 2-row Malted Barley Blend, Malted Rye, Malted Wheat

Hops: Northern Brewer, Tettnang, and Perle

Spices/Other: Ginger

Brewery’s Note: “We brew Fluxus every year to commemorate the anniversary of our first beer sold in July 1995. The name Fluxus is Latin for continuous change. Every year, Fluxus is brewed with a different recipe./ This year’s Fluxus is brewed with our base malt, malted rye, and malted wheat, then hopped with noble hops before fresh ginger root is added in the whirlpool. Following fermentation, the beer is partially aged in oak gin barrels previously used for Barr Hill Tom Cat Gin. The result is a highly aromatic saison with overtones of ginger and botanicals, a hint of vanilla in the flavor, and a vibrant finish.”

The beer pours into the glass a clear and crystalline yellow, settling into a more turgid-looking, greenish-yellow. It sits with a full and frothy head of creamy, white bubbles that slowly dwindle to a small head, leaving a root-work and ant colony of lacing spattered in thicker, dry tufts across the glass. The beer is nearly entirely opaque in body, despite its light coloring. It takes to a golden, cereal color in the light, with nothing floating in the body, but only the faintest murk of the other side escaping through. It’s a pretty glass of saison for sure, in keeping with Allagash’s repertoire of pretty beers. On the nose, the beer smells lightly of floral and minty botanicals, yet it is the classic esters and phenols of the Allagash Saison that seem to most dominantly greet the nose. It’s spicy, perhaps bringing a little ginger tinge into play, though I sense this more as a light mint coming from the barrels. The nose is delicate, spicy and floral, but not “highly aromatic” as the description says. It seems more like a subtle variant of Allagash’s superb saison, and less so a unique aroma. As it warms, some variation grows in the nose, drawing subtle mallow similar to what I found in Beer’d Brewing’s Gin Barrel Double IPA. It is pepper spicy, subtly fruity with pear and a touch of apricot, rounded by faint oak vanilla, and nuanced by a faint touch of floral herbs, but it is still strongly reminiscent of their classic saison’s nose.  On the tongue, the beer tastes markedly different. Where the nose was subtle with nuance, the taste is up-front with a burst of fresh and spicy ginger that is balanced by the creamy, wheaty-malt sweetness. This takes on fruity undertones and is then spiced by interwoven booze and followed by a succulent finish of nectar, under-ripe peach, and sweet ginger. The taste’s sweetness is restrained and well rounded, but certainly fuller than in the Allagash Saison, while the fruity nature of the ginger and esters are wonderfully tempered by rich, spicy alcohol with perhaps a touch of noble hops. Bitterness smacks the back end alongside sweet peach and ginger; the hops and booze dry the palate despite the fruity finish, while the subtle oak tannin grips onto the tongue like green tea and lingers in the mouth beside slightly baked bread and vanilla mallow. In the mouthfeel, the oak seems more present, providing a smoothed structure to the beer and holding in the fiercer flavors so that they meld into something quite lovely. The body is nearly full, yet the drinkability remains higher due to a carb that manages to lighten the palate while still allowing a slight syrupy smoothness to the beverage. When the beer leaves, my mouth is left wet, slightly sticky, and faintly scratchy from the booze/bitter burn. All in all, however, the mouth feels thoroughly ready for another sip. Overall, while the nose was faint and subtle, and not quite as advertised (though still delicate and nice), the taste was a beautiful balance of the different ingredients. This is another gorgeous beer from Allagash. I truly love their non-mixed fermentation approach to farmhouse ales. These beers are crisp, delicate, delicious, perfect for pairing, and a pleasure to sip. This beer could age for another half a year to a year to mellow some of the hotter spice from the booze, but it’s delicious as is, and is begging for some richer foods to balance out its flavors. This is delicious.

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