First thing’s first, happy Barrel Aged Beer Day, bump this in your lonely cubicle:
So after the shockwaves of Fundamental Observation continue to reverberate. the sweatjoweled world continues to await the sophomore release from these young OC upstarts. You might remember when I went to the Bruery anniversary and called Passionate Dragon the best beer of the entire festival, even better than Fundamental Observation. So I went into this already knowing what type of dragon fist lay in store. Does this hold up in bottled format? Is there logic attendant to the bottle? From zero to R. Kelly, how much passion are we talking about in International Passion Units (IPUs)?
ALL QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED.
“Passion and dragon fruit saison aged in wine barrels. In collaboration with Arizone Wilderness Brewing, this saison is brewed with passion fruit, dragon fruit, Centennial kumquats, Rosemary, fresh bay leaves, and White Sonora Wheat. It’s a mouthful, we know, but this beer showcases our shared passion to push craft beer forward.”
Alright at the outset you may be thinking:
“DDB you give other breweries a raft full of shit for using adjuncts in a saison, suddenly your homer instincts kick in and these guys get a fukn pass?”
Well, allow me to temper those objections by stating: this beer is fucking amazing. If you want to add pink peppercorns each lovingly rubbed on the urethral tip of a BJCP master, then go for it, so long as the beer is amazing. I read the description and was like “oh god damn it” but then knew the incredible pedigree of Arizona Wilderness and the calm set in. Those comforting chest pets to relieve anxiety.
First and foremost, the bottled version of this wasn’t as trubby and jammy in its tannic turbidity as the draft version. It turns out, the bottled version is way fucking better. If you wanted a slurry fruit mess, call Pizza Boy. The brewers elected to blend and allow the final version to ferment longer, giving it more of a nuanced barrel characater, less smuckers, more tannins, more structure, and this inimitable lingering bay leaf menthol added to the fruit that lasts and lasts underscoring the oak saturation. For this reason, you don’t get the cliche MAGENTA OMFG that newmoney kids lose their shit over, tasting with their eyes pell mell.
Another note is that this beer is a full 1% abv over the draft version and much much drier as a result. The alcohol is seamlessly integrated into the fruit and barrel presence in a scary way. Usually this dryness is accompanied with some sausage fingered acetic aeration, intense tartness. That is not the case here, this beer bangs like Rockford Fosgate subs in a bandpass box but never gets too intense or acidic. It is without comparison of recent memory, a single foot planted hard in the saison realm without letting monoculture emphasis denature the experience.
The taste never jumps completely to rely upon fruits like a crutch, nor does it expect the spices to bail them outta county either. As a result you have a hardened saison criminal, who is a bit fruity from the time in captivity but in that hard way that you just have to respect. In terms of analogues, this is less a saison and more of a Biere de Garde. The whole affair drinks like a fruited, less acidic, cleaner Biere de Norma. Yes, I realize the implications of stating that something with this many ingredients is better than a Hill Farmstead beer, I stand by it. The shit is like 2 tabs of Demerol that starts out normal enough and suddenly your face is being attacked by the sidewalk. You be gripping parking meters tripping not an insubstantial number of balls, tryna make it out of this fruited farmhouse alive.
If you went to the Stone Anniversary/Sourfest and had the immeasurably shittier “YOUNG DRAGON” rest assured, this is a completely different beer that stomps out that squad until they turn the lights on. The nose is a phrenetic Hungry Hungry Hippos match wherein kumquat and tropical fruits compete with oak and lingering saison esters to gobble up your white BALs with their wanting maws.
The mouthfeel initially has a Welch’s Passionfruit juice that serves as an opening band to warm things up for the main event when the dry tannic skins spit hot bars over a kumquat instrumental. Bay leaf is in the back providing bitter structure with sick beatboxing.
This sold out immediately online and there was some degree of chaos from a unilaterally reschedule sale, switched to a Sunday morning. I can foresee the degree of butthurt being noteworthy once the reviews for the bottled version start pouring in. The sweet punishment of success, an ambrosial delight endemic to the beer industry.
All said, I enjoyed this more than Fundamental Observation and this beer brings something I seldom encounter in items with this much taking place concurrently: pirouettes of vinous balance. If this isn’t in the DDB top 10 of 2015 I would be surprised, you would be remiss to skip this one as I can’t identify a clear analogue in recent memory.
We shall see.