Day 1 of Advent and here we go. Rip the flap open and there’s something nestled nicely inside. Out it comes. And it’s … a bottle of Two Roads, Workers Comp Saison (4.8%).
Mmm? Not had one of their beers before. The brown bottle looks neat though. An attractive label in a sort of almost traditional, yet post modernist nineteenth century European style. The bottle is nice and clean, no dirt, no dust, or debris of any sort and it goes straight into the fridge, the Advent Calendar box having taken up residence in a corner on the first floor landing. I know it should have gone in the pantry-cum-cellar, with the bottles stood on the cool stone floor, but there’s no room for it. Nothing an hour in the door of the fridge won’t sort out though. There’s a whole debate on where we ought to be storing our beer for the optimum results, versus modern homes, but I’m not going there today.
So, what’s it like? Initially it’s quite lively as it pours from the 335ml brown bottle and forms a light but tall head, more bubbles than creamy froth, and they quickly dissipate leaving just a hint of a head and evidence of carbonation under the surface.
There’s an obvious sour aroma and citrus notes. In appearance it could be a real cider? It’s pale yellow/golden and very hazy. In fact almost cloudy. Doesn’t worry me, it says on the bottle that a natural harmless sediment may appear, and I expect it with this stye of beer anyway. What else does it say on the bottle? Brewed in August 2016 and best before May 2017.
At first it all feels a bit thin in the mouth. As you let things develop it gets a bit smoother and the initial sour, almost vinegar, hit calms down a bit letting other things through, whilst retaining the acidity.
The flavours I got were predominantly citrus, almost sherbet lemon at times, a hint of retsina like taste, and a brown coloured spice note underlying it. Not cloves, and a bit hard to put my finger on, almost black cardamon. In the background there was a touch of the bass notes you get in balsamic vinegar and caramel, salted caramel, because the finish was dry and salty.
I’m never going to go on a session drinking this style of beer, and I know that sour beers aren’t to everyone’s taste. Me? I quite like them, and there’s definitely a time and a place for this style. In terms of sourness, Two Roads saison is not too sour. It’s nice sour, interesting sour.
That’s my take on it. But, what do others think? The Stratford Connecticut brewers tell me, on their web site, the beer is a, ‘complex, refreshing and distinctive example of this esoteric style. Intensely fruity (passion fruit, pineapple, mango, lychee), slightly spicy (clove, white pepper).’ Similar, but different to me, and different isn’t wrong.
Bottom line – Did I like it? Yes!
Did I enjoy it? Yes!
Sorted then, because that’s what matters. I don’t know where I stand on tasting notes? I will always respect other views, yet we all have different tastes and libraries of flavours. I mean, what if you’ve never tasted Lychees? What if you’ve set yourself up as a beer expert but your taste is a bit flat, like a dodgy piano, a bit out of tune? It’s an interesting debate, and I know a lot of people roll their eyes when someone publicly starts going all Jilly Goolden and Oz Clark with a glass of beer.
What about Two Roads ? Started in 2012, four friends who have developed a unique twist on classic beer styles. Six standards and a plethora of seasonal, small batch and experimental one offs. They’re self styled as a craft brewery. No problem with that, it’s an American brewery and it’s an American term. It’s just that Saison is a Belgian brewing tradition going back donkey’s years. On that basis I would contend that my first beer is not a Craft beer! It is however, brewed in a traditional style by an American craft brewer who have done a very good job with this ‘Dry, Refreshing, Farmhouse style ale’, their words not mine.
If you go on the Beer Hawk web site you will see they have a short video for every beer published every day. I’ve promised myself not to look at them before I write my own thoughts down. First criticism is the comment, ‘Happy December’ and references to shopping days. I’m not a big church goer or anything like that, but for pity’s sake, it’s an Advent Calendar and it’s Christmas. It’s not a dirty word!
Surprisingly, the brief notes from the sommelier, who had lip gloss stuck to her glass, were similar to mine.
Overall, on balance, I am very pleased with the first day of Advent.