Item 1: Lip Stinger Saison
Thanks to Bulls and Brew, I was alerted to a recently-released MacTarnahan saison. Yes, shocking as that sounds, a MacTarnahan saison. (Foyston mentioned it, too, but I missed that. I've been missing a lot lately. Inadequate, didn't I tell you?) You have to go back to the era when Brett Porter was manning the kettle to find a bold release from the then-Portland Brewing. (It was just Portland/Norwester/Saxer, the uncomplicated days before Pyramid/McTarnahan's.) Says Cidermaster of Bulls and Brew:
It is a farmhouse style ale brewed with peppercorns. The taste, and interest, was far beyond the 4.8% ABV that the label suggests. It is funky enough to stand proudly in line with other farmhouse style ales, even (gasp) the most excellent Upright Brewing.Says MacTarnahan's, which styles the beer a "farmhouse ale"( the one thing it's not):
Malts: 2 Row, Pilsen, WheatThis is a brewery famous for filtering every beer to within a molecule of pure water, so the idea that it's now producing "farmhouse ales" is a bit rich. But at 4.8% and 32 IBU, I will buy "saison," and one not wholly dissimilar from the one I am in the process of brewing. Says I: intriguing.
Hops: Mt. Hood, Saaz
Spice: Malaysian and Indian 4 pepper blend
Bitterness: 32 IBU
Alcohol By Volume: 4.8%
Item Two, World Beer Awards
Via Stan, results from the World Beer Awards. The World Beer Awards, you say? Yes, and Stan explains:
This is the competition organized by Beers of The World, the UK publication that recently ceased its print edition. Obviously a well conceived way to judge the beers with excellent judges (Roger Protz headed it up), but of course the winners are really “World’s Best [Fill In The Category] That Paid To Enter Our Contest.”The judging took place over five months and three separate tasting rounds, and the organizers were not slavish to style. ("No letters, please, about ale yeasts being used in cold fermentation, or about why this standard pale ale is stronger than this strong pale ale.") They just wanted to identify this year's best beers ("they're constantly changing" and "it's like trying to catch smoke in a net.") And the results? Well, have a look for yourself. Mostly this British-held competition admired British-brewed beers. But not always.
The "World's Best Pale" is Rogue Dry-Hopped Red. (I've never had it fresh, but I've heard it spoken of in hushed tones from visitors returning from Newport.) It's also the world's best red. The Dissident (Deschutes) is the world's best Oud Bruin. Rogue Smoke is the best smoked ale. It appears that only Rogue and Deschutes entered beers, but they were cited a number of times for beers that were "highly recommended" (and beat out some amazing world standards).
There are some who yawn at our old standards, hyperactively hoping for something novel. Not, apparently, these judges. It's a good reminder; we should periodically loop back and remind ourselves of just how good some of our standards are.