Earlier this summer, while my brother and his girlfriend were visiting from NYC, I arranged an impromptu tasting session. There was no master plan or theme, I just grabbed a handful of bottles I knew and loved, or which seemed interesting. It worked out pretty well, with an accidental theme of sours and saison.
One of the bottles that really grabbed my attention was this Sorachi Ace from Brooklyn Brewery. My brother wanted to save that one for last, complaining that I can buy Brooklyn beers here cheaper than he can in Manhattan. I told him I'd be happy to send him home with some, in exchange for a suitcase full of beers TABC won't allow into Texas, next time he's down. We'll see if he pulls through.
I liked the Sorachi Ace so well that I've pulled it into semi-regular rotation, and enjoyed a glass with dinner this week. It paired well with a sort-of-Brandade fashioned from leftover grilled flounder, its bright citrus flavors, slight funk, and tingle of acidity cutting through the richness of the dish. Interestingly, it paired equally well with the Stauffer's iced animal cookies I enjoyed for dessert.
Sorachi Ace pours a cloudy, viscous gold. The thick, foamy head sticks around for a ridiculously long time, ultimately settling into a luxuriously rich and creamy head more befitting a stout. I poured a bit too exuberantly into a wine glass, and the head grew out of the mouth of the glass like one of those dinosaurs-in-a-pill, expanding when hit with water. It was all misshapen and puffed looking, mushrooming out in odd directions.
Sorachi Ace is so named because of its use of rare Sorachi Ace hops, a hybrid variety developed in Japan, and known for its strong, lemony character. This bottle did not disappoint. Along with the bright punch of lemon, and the spicier undercurrent of its zest, a host of other aromas wafted through the thick head. Green, herbaceous hops florals, a bit of celery, and some slight phenols were right behind. With all those bright, vibrant smells going on, I almost missed the subtle insinuation of funk that proclaims this as a saison.
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The funk is much more apparent on the palate, coming on strong after the initial tart, spicy volley. It took me a few minutes to place it (it snapped as soon as my brother's girlfriend mentioned it), but the initial impression is a sharp, mustardy twinge. That zing (and the following funk) is cleaned away by a strident bitterness, leaving room for a subtle stone-fruit flavor, buoyed by slight and rounded malt. There's also a lactic quality that hangs around in the background, recalling that mustardy bite, but in slightly different form. The beer finishes long and clean, somehow managing to be both crisp and rich. It's as dry as my front lawn, and crackles similarly, yet creates both a mouth-watering and mouth-filling sensation.
Temper this by my relative newness to the world of saison, but I think this version is easily one of the best I've had. Everything about it makes me want to drink it again, and frequently. If you haven't tried it yet, I suggest you get a bottle soon. I'm heading back to Spec's for more, myself.