Side Project Roundup: Balaton, Oude Ble, BA Vermillion, Pinot Fermier, Riedel Glass

I try to keep myself abreast with what’s going on in the saison game, ubiquitously.  That means perpetually white washing a shit stained fence with neighborhood traders who are always tryna destroy DDB’s curb appeal with mudslinging and endlessly hunting down bottles that cost hundreds of dollars.  Perpetual tantalus, thirst ever unsated. Let’s look at four beers today while I try my fucking best to lock down a Maman or a Tete sometime before they are vials of Honduran breakdancer cardboard.  A man can dream.



These 375s from Side Project run the full gamut from intense enamel strippers, to delicate nuanced lil juicers. This cherry poppin daddy falls somewhere in the middle of the realm.  It feels like something that would result if New Glarus did a collabo with Cascade.  It isn’t as extremely jammy as the Wisconsin Reds, but it also isn’t a GERD-triggering lactic acid bomb.  The serving size was perfect and the tannins from the cherries open up amiably to offset the acidity present at colder temps.
There is a splash of grenadine and shirley temple tones buttressing the sour patch kid distillate.  Being one of the most accessible offerings in the Side Project canon, it’s tough to nod give it a resounding nod that shatters my c1.  However, the issue with all these krieky contenders is that there are so many cherry wild ales in the game, there’s probably some analogue locally that could come moderately close.
Saison du Fermier Pinot Cask
When this beer dropped, areolas began to chafe at an amazing speed.  Everyone immediately assumed upon seeing the name, that SdF was being AGED ON ANOTHER FRUIT OH MY GOD SOMEONE FIRE UP THE PAPA JOHNS APP. The reality was that this beer falls much closer to the regular old, exceptional, Saison du Fermier.  I speculate that there was some difficulty sourcing the usual casks and so they used Pinot casks and A NEW BEER WAS BORN.  I almost feel bad for any beer that has to don the mantle of the already bullet-proof lineage within the SdF family, which regularly outshines that “raererer” fruited variants.
So what is the discerning difference? If you’re expecting some radiant fuschia jammy tannins exploding forth, I will direct you to the first paragraph: this isn’t a pinot noir grape addition, this is all motor oaky wheels to the ground.  The bad news is that the 8 months of conditioning didn’t really create a wildly different profile from the usual SdF, the good news of course is the Saison du Fermier is already fucking delicious, why are you such a complainer.  It has more acidity, less grist, a thinner mouthfeel, more tangerine and clementine in lieu of melon and apple, but you can easily kill the entire bottle.  I feel like that is a binary limus test, (no pun intended) of Side Project offerings and the wider realm of these AWA/”saison” blurring charlatans.  Most brewers make excellent beers that sure are remarkable in 3oz shares, everyone gets an Untappd millennial participation badge, feeling special and alive.  The issue is, can that balance sustain for 25+ ounces? What if you life a life of abject decadence where you need to sip kumquat and pluot and loquot and hybrid fruit profiles replete with oak NONSTOP? Well fear not because the lovely oak profile of the SdFPC hits all those strides like Ginger Rogers, matching the Fred Astaire steps that other brewers pound out BUT DOING IT BACKWARDS IN MUSKY HEELS.
It is offerings like these that make me believe that the sails of the SP ship seem to be embracing a type of Casey/Oxbow gentleness, bit still maintaining their outstanding radiance and depth, and the horizon has never looked so golden.  However, high tide floats all boats and it seems like everyone is upping their game, locals to MBC-favorites.  That is the ultimate “knock” against beers like this that start tearing up the trade boards, it isn’t soooo exceptional that you must try it, if only because these other saison-oil salesmen are poking out from every cranny.  It is difficult to legitimately pan an experience merely because it can be obtained elsewhere.  No one is saying dont visit Fiji because Oahu exists for cheaper. I cant scale your cellar, drink dank shit and dont trip on it.
Oude Du Ble
While we are on the subject of items capable of imitation, let’s talk about this vial of ambrosial delight: Oude Du Ble.  There are no clear parallels to this and let’s be frank, you should absolutely seek this out.  My degree of surprise cannot be expressed as a rational number because regular ass Du Ble was already amazing.  I had that base beer pegged for amazing things like when you see a 6th grade linebacker just reking some pre-teen shit in Pop Warner.
It is still creamy decadent du ble, you still get the cream of wheat, the grist is there with tangelo and cantaloupe, there’s jazz apple and ripe strawberry notes, pithy white flesh all around.  The acidity never hampers the experience in any way and actually works with this sort of Comte cheese rind to give it a waxy minerality to the swallow that makes it hilariously crushable, like your daughter’s bike after you told her dont leave it in the driveway like so many times come on.
I could keep lauding superlatives onto this, Ctrl+T some obscure farmer’s market offerings, do a little stonefruit free association, and hit up the classic DDB thesaurus that is brimming with Persephone references, but you already get it.  It’s better than BA Dorothy, but grips wantingly at the hem of Art’s regal imperial robe.  I strongly urge you to seek this one out, there is no Shasta version of this saison and your Boost Mobile store picks doesn’t have this Verizon coverage, no matter what the kid with plugs at the mall kiosk tells you.
All thems was hot in the streets, but this is some pure unstepped on malts here, this shit right here ticker, this shit right heeere ticker, this shit is called DEAF.
Alright so some background on this baby Anabasis for all my basis bishes. We can all agree regular Vermillion was forgettable AF.  Hoppy, malty, resinous, black and milds with a touch of Skoal french pressed with arugula.  So 18 months ago when people told me to chase this I gave them a
and kept on hittin. Here’s the thing though: when you put barleywines into barrels, shit changes, those malts have that 8th grade summer magic and come back with a stacked C cup of development.  Suddenly they are receiving piles of attention and deference.
This beer was a 348 bottle run made exclusively for SCHNUCKS. yes, the midwest continues to have ridiculously named grcoery stores, all day.  “WE ARE GONNA GET BARLEYWINES FROM GRANPA TIPPYS AND THEN STOP BY THE SAVE AND SKEDOODLE BEFORE TEH CARDINALS GAME!” shit like that
If Anabasis is the massive 15% monster, that Umbrella Corp titan with a grafted on American Barleywine arm, this is the 11% BB4d of the bunch.  Sweeter, softer, more approachable, creme brulee, sugar daddies, SKOR bar, mallow foam and silky barrel oak like working out in the yard pushing that sweet earthy silt. You will drain this faster than a tub with a toddler turd in it.  It will disappear like wooden spectacles at a Lumineers concert.
It isn’t the sweetness that makes this exceptional gem so remarkable its the soft soft integration that takes everything I love about that Natalie Portman thin Central Waters body, but adds this sinewy musculature of oak and booze underneathe.  The core is solid, but the body fat is low, that V with the sweat running all down his
wait what. barleywines.
Simply put, it is antagonistic to be like “YOU GOTTA GET THIS” I get it, I know. I made it my business to obsess over barleywines, especially ones no one will care about.  But the flawless balance of this and the depth of execution, the long lingering lacquer drinks like some of the Orphan Barrel offerings, so effete to alcoholic burn, mature but sweet, the lingering 40 something coffee shop waitress with impeccable bone structure.
GLASSWARE NOTE: someone asked me about this relatively non-descript glass and I would be remiss not to talk about it.  Riedel sent me one of these in their lineup of ultra luxury Sommelier crossover items.  It is hand made and comes with a price tag of $70 for the pair.  I will allow you to clean the cream from your jeans and the rage from your machine after hearing that.
So can a beer glass really demand that type of a premium? Well the beer consumer is usually more enamored with shitty glasses with some kind of novel screen printing on it, like a whale, or dickbutt, or a ghost.  So getting them sold on something expensive for the quality of the actual glass is like trying to sell life insurance policies to South Chicago drill rappers. They don’t see the benefits.
The Riedel glass feels as delicate as Cinderella’s slipper and I will sure break this thing in a drunken rage while making Totino’s pizza rolls, for sure.  Usually when you add the superlative “hand blown by an Austrian” you pay well over $35, so this is a deal. The rim is razor thin and pleasing to sip from but feels almost TOO decadent to validate a DIPA or a brash 2 row malt offering.  It’s like when you finally get a GF who doesn’t step on your cubes and you feel like you dont deserve her.
Verdict: if you have Birdman money to blow, absolutely pick one up, it drinks heavenly for high abv beers and the streak is pretty fulfilling, but make sure you never tell anyone how nice the glass is, the ridicule will be endless.  Unless you are one of those $$$$ Yelp fucks who brings a DSLR to dinner, then by all means, your friends have left you long ago.
I dont know why I even bother with this reader base, most of my readers are driving PT Cruisers, slamming Lagunitas and saying shit like “-well if I pay all this money for support, then why wont she let me at least SEE THEM.”

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