Athene Saison- A Taste of Europe by Way of Florida [Bombers Away #4]

St. Somewhere Athene Saison (7.5% ABV bottle)- Saison- St. Somewhere Brewery, FL

Grade: A- BREW OF THE BLOG!

Athene initially pours a bright crystal clear yellow with a nice but unremarkable head; the classic beer look. As you bring the glass to your nose you get a big bouquet of white pepper with an undercurrent that’s almost champagne-like. It’s intriguing to say the least. With the first sip that white pepper makes itself known right away and gradually gives way to the lively zest of coriander and delicate floral notes. Hints of grape and even bubblegum sneak in before everything disappears into the dry finish. There’s a bit of hop to it, but the bitterness of Athene is more herbal and spicy. The mouthfeel is crisp and lively with its sharp carbonation heightening the overall zing of the flavors. The alcohol is generally well hidden which isn’t a bad thing, though you will notice it if you put away a whole 750ml bottle by yourself.

Since this is a bottle conditioned brew there’s a fair amount of yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle and with saisons it’s down to personal preference if you want to decant it carefully or if you want to agitate things. I went half & half pouring the first glass off clear and careful, but I gave the bottle a big old swirl before pouring the remaining glasses. The addition of the sediment gave Athene a fuller mouthfeel, helped to mute the sharp edges of the peppery/herbal bitterness, and generally imbued it with a nice richness. Next time I get my hands on a bottle I’ll probably go with the agitation straight from the start.

Athene is almost exactly the taste I prefer from a saison: crisp, floral, with a slight bite. Those who swear by the grassy hop tang of European saisons like Du Pont might find such a suggestion to be heresy, but for me while I’m a big fan of Du Pont the flavor can sometimes remind me too much of far less enjoyable Euros like Pilsner Urquell, Grolsch, or Heineken. Athene is delicate, but punchy. Well worth the searching it might take to find it and the extra couple of bucks to buy it.

Pop the cork! -John

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Quick Hits: Summer ‘08.1

Just some quick notes on beverages that I have come across during this early part of summer.

Mirassou Pinot Noir
I know this is for the most part a beer blog and I don’t know much about wine, but I had to make note of it. Me and my fiancé split a bottle of this with some grilled steak and summer squash. Nice and velvety body with lots of dark fruit sweetness, but it still managed to finish on the dry side of things. Not very acidic at all, so it’s a very approachable noir. I suppose if you prefer a more biting and peppery red this won’t be for you. If, however, you are looking for an affordable red that’s bright with fruit seek out the Mirassou. Neither of us remember buying it so it must have been a leftover from one of our gatherings. Regardless of origins it was a great pinot noir we’ll be seeking out again.

Nøgne Ø Saison
Late one night whilst playing some Ratchet & Clank on PS2 I needed something to take the edge of and keep me from yelling at the TV so I broke this out. Nice rich body with plenty of Belgian yeast tang. It had big floral notes that made me think of jasmine tea. Good stuff, but seemed a bit robust and citrusy for a saison. Maybe I was just wanting something a bit more subtle. Nonetheless, I did like it and will be picking up another bottle at some point to do a proper review. This is the second brew I’ve had from Nøgne Ø and I’m glad I stumbled upon this Norwegian upstart brewery.

Sebago Boathouse Brown
I haven’t had Sebago since last summer’s BeerAdvocate American Beer Fest and we’ll just my memory of it is hazy non-existent beyond really liking their stylized logo. I was up in Maine for a birthday shindig at a little place called Holly’s Own Deli & Wine Bar and they happened to have Boathouse Brown on tap. Good medium body, slightly cloudy brown color. It was a bit sweeter brown than one might be used to if you are a Newcastle drinker, but it’s still balanced with a little bit of bitterness. There were some notes of what I could only call graham crackers in there that had me back for seconds. I enjoyed it a lot and so it looks like I’ll be forced to find some here in Boston. You should look for some near you if you are in New England. And if you find yourself in Auburn, ME head over to Holly’s; the food is tasty and the staff is very friendly.

Weyerbacher Alpha and Muse
Had these from growlers at a Jack-n-Jill baby shower back in my hometown in Jersey and I’m not sure what to make of either of these. Maybe it was the 2 or 3 cans of Yuengling I’d already knocked back during two embarrassing quoit (for the uninitiated it’s pronounced: kw-ATE) matches, but neither Alpha nor Muse struck me as being as appealing as I’ve found most Weyerbacher brews. Alpha is a one time only release that’s a Belgian Pale Ale hopped with with Amarillo and Cascade. It just tasted odd. The aggressive American hops and the richness of Belgian yeast was a taste combination that I just couldn’t get my mind around. I kept wanting to seperate them so that I could have an IPA or a Belgian Ale, not both at the same time. Muse is Weyerbacher’s farmhouse ale and I definitely thought it was more enjoyable than the Alpha. Still, like the Nøgne Ø Saison, it seemed a bit on the citrusy side. Maybe I’m wrong on what to expect from the style. [I’ve got some other saisons sitting at home wait for an appropriate time to crack them open and do some side by side comparing.] In the end neither beer was bad, but I was glad there was 4 of us splitting the growlers. Meh. It won’t keep me from going back to Weyerbacher.