Westbrook Brewing Co.
Mt. Pleasant, SC
Bearded Farmer: Hughey Saison
As they approach their second birthday, Westbrook has seemingly perfected their three-pronged approach to their products. For starter’s, there are their great year-round beers – White Thai and their IPA – to keep folks happy every day. Secondly, there are their excellent seasonal beers – currently Dark Helmet and Vanilla Tree Dubbel (reviews forthcoming) – to throw something new into the mix.
And thirdly, there are the new, innovative and increasingly experimental – and excellent – beers they pump out on the regular. That started this year with their Single Hop series, which in 2012 has focused on Pacific Jade, Amarillo, Nelson Sauvin and Citra. And recently, a new series was given life: the Bearded Farmer series of saisons.
Much like the Single Hop series, which take a rye pale ale and accentuates it with a certain hop, the Bearded Farmer series will take the saison style and tweak it. Hughey, the first entry – named for one of the farmers who picks up the brewery’s spent grain – is “brewed with a blend of rustic grains including oats, rye and spelt, the fermented with a combination of Belgian and French yeast strains, including three types of Brettanomyces,” according to the label.
Damn. Just … damn. Let’s get to it.
Hughey is an absolutely gorgeous beer. It pours a crystal clear deep orange color. There’s a massive four fingers of a pillowy cloud-like head with tons of bubbles coming up from the bottom of the glass. The lacing will not let go of the sides of the glass, but there aren’t really any alcohol legs.
The nose is a great mix of light funkiness and estery sweetness. I expected it to be a Brett bomb from the different strains they put in it, but you get just a slight hint of that barnyard/horse blanket funk. The other yeast strains do an incredible job of keeping everything balanced. There’s a great white wine note, some bananas and cloves, maybe a slight bubble gum note and a sort of cinnamon roll sweetness. Not a lot of hoppiness to it, though. Very yeasty, but very good.
There’s a lot going on as far as the taste goes. At first you’re hit with this big pop of carbonation that sizzles across the palate. Middle of the mouth, there’s a lot of pear flavor, a bit of banana and spice and some graininess. On the back, the first big burst of flavor comes from the Brett, with that barnyard funk. But as it settles, it leave behind this dry white wine flavor with a touch of oak to it from the French yeast. There’s a good bite from the rye as well. It’s got a surprisingly dry finish, but a really unique one.
Hughey gives a lot of promise to the Bearded Farmer series. By no means is it a classic saison, but with Westbrook, nothing’s standard. Everything is unique and individualized. What’s really surprising is that with everything that goes into this beer – the grains, the yeast, the hops – you can pick out traces of everything, and everything adds a little something special.