By: @Bc_Beer_Dude (Rory)
Steamworks latest release comes just in time for the warmer months. It's a farmhouse style ale simply titled “Saison.” Utilizing an authentic Belgian yeast strain and left unfiltered; were given the inaugural offering by newly acquired brewmaster extraordinaire Caolan Vaughan. Caolan, (pronounced kee-lan) grew up in Australia where he worked as a brewer for Little Creatures Brewing. From there he held a senior position as production manager at Thornbridge Brewing of the UK. He was first introduced to Steamworks president Walter Cosman and Owner Eli Gershkovitch while judging in the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado. To make a long story short, Steamworks was looking for a talented brewer with brewery production experience and for pun sake we shall say the cap just fit Caolan.
Speaking with Caolan over the phone you can tell he's excited to be such an essential part of Steamworks recent revamping and building process. Apart from the Steamworks brew pub located at 375 Water St. in Gastown, They have recently obtained a second brewery in Burnaby for large scale production allowing them to accommodate the new bottling line for their signature beers and seasonals. For now, Steamworks has contracted Dead Frog Brewing of Aldergrove, BC to produce and bottle the Steamworks brand until their new facility is operational. It is scheduled to open early July, 2013 and be equipped with an ample tasting room. Following suit with the brewery expansion and bottling line, the Steamworks team has opted to refit themselves with a fresh new visage in terms of branding, imaging and marketing strategies. The most noticeable changes has been their updated visual persona and liquor store presence.
Just as the brew pub is a unique steam powered brewery - the only one in Canada- they've adopted the unique and mechanical look of the steampunk fashion movement. Most notably where these appearances are eminent is their tap handles, website, and their artistic bottles. Each one of their brews fashions its own original painted bottle design that captivates its beholders. The entire circumference of the bottle is artistically pleasing with scenes that pay tribute to Vancouver in one way, shape or form. The Saison bottle has a steam powered bicycle giving ride to the Burrard Bridge. A cheeky reference to the tension that exists between hasty motorists and economical bicyclists; who inevitably won some of the bridges realty in favour of a dedicated bike lane.
The company responsible for the design of the bottles is a Vancouver based firm called Brandever. They're a company with an extensive portfolio designing wine bottle labels for vineyards and other various clientele. Presented with the challenge of creating an iconic look for Steamworks, Brandever has succeeded in two ways: 1) They've created an engaging, fun and identifiable style in the vein Steamworks sought. And 2) They did one heck of a great job doing it. Steamworks has embraced the works of Brandever and the impressive designs have received praise from the beer community. I myself collect and display crafty bottles as such on my mantle as art and conversation pieces. Lets take the Saison for a taste ride!
First off, you can tell by looking through the dark sepia toned bottle that the beer has a cloudy complexion. As with beers in this style they're left unfiltered and often with active yeast suspended in the bottle which lends to the hazy opacity. It's a pale golden coloured ale described by Steamworks as “hazy straw.” A large pluming head is also typical of this beer style. Here we see just that. Pour this one carefully as you will notice a sizeable head develop quite quickly. There is a generous amount of carbonation that consistently bubbles in the glass. Don't be alarmed if you see some “floaties” swirling about, this is just the yeast particles left suspended in the brew.
It has a punchy aroma with a lively citrus zest. Lemon/lime tart and freshly peeled orange scents radiate vividly. I can also detect light offerings of banana and pinapple. Much of the aromas are likely due to the Belgian yeast that's imparted in the traditional recipe. It's a crucial aspect of the saison style as is the generous use of malted wheat. Although hops are not a significant part of the saison aroma, a light jab of it was traceable.
Mmm. Right off the bat you can feel the refreshing zing of the citrus notes on your palate. It has an orange pith foundation and a light peppery suggestion. There is subtle hints of clove which contributes cinnamon, orange, and spicy textures. Again, many of the fruity esters are a product of the Belgian yeast. What I found rather interesting and noteworthy was the nice job the hops did fusing all these wonderful flavours harmoniously. It balanced the vibrant fruit notes with an earthy, slightly bitterness perfectly. Along with the drier flavours, I think it helped restrain the esters from beaming to prominently. My palate was left tantalized by a nice flare of spiciness in the finish.
It's apparent the Caolan truly enjoys this style of beer by the success and authenticity of this endeavour. As I tried to get him to spill the beans over his next seasonal release, I got an open ended reply. The mention of Russian imperial stouts, India pale ales, and other “big” barrel aged beers was dropped. Despite having a background at a UK brewery, where brewing traditions are almost sacred, he is keen on exercising his imagination and challenging boundaries. Hopefully he can keep up with the innovative demand of an insatiable B.C. Craft beer market. I look forward to the arrival of their new facility and the possibilities it holds. Until then, you can find the seasonally fitting Saison and other Steamworks staples readily at BCL liquor stores at very modest prices.