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Monday, May 6, 2013

Pipeworks Brewing Company's Poivre Noir

  • Style: Dark Saison
  • ABV: 7.50%
  • Season: Limited (although my batch was #30, I've seen this particular brew on the shelf at my local Binny's for a while)
  • Ease to locate: Here's a link to the Chicago area stores that carry Pipeworks.  Call first to find out what they have in stock
  • Color: Dark brown with red tints
  • Head: 2 finger head with light lacing
  • Aroma: Citrus (lemon predominately) with back pepper and a boozy, almost wine like, scent
  • Mouthfeel: Medium with a good amount of carbonation
  • Finish: Shortish and dry
  • Food friendly: Yes.  Lighter food that still have a bit of heft.  Poultry and shellfish come to mind.  Serve it with a wide variety of cheeses: nutty (Colby), earthy (Fontina) and pungent (Gorgonzola)

Dark Saisons are new to me.  I'll be honest, I wasn't even aware that there was such a thing until I picked up a bottle of Pipeworks Poivre Noir.  And before I opened it, I couldn't understand WHY there was such a thing.  I'm used to my Saison pouring a slightly hazy, lemony yellow liquid. If a Saison is like a fresh spring day in the country, then a Dark Saison would be it's rainy, dank counterpart (not bad day through as long as you have a warm barn or four star inn to stay in I suppose.)  A Dark Saison can be colored any where from a light reddish brown to a deep brownish purple color.  As far ar as I can tell, Dark Saisons usually achieve this hue by either brewing with chocolate malts or a unusual (for a Saison) wheat, such as Midnight wheat.  They often have a nutty and roasted flavor profile (again, two notes not usually associated with a Saison.)     And the result?  Well, it is a bit disconcerting to pour out a dark brown liquid from a Farmhouse ale bottle.   Like dogs and cats living together sort of disconcerting. 

                                                                                                       Evil spirits in your beer cellar?  Who you  gonna call? 

One of the best qualities about Saison as a style is it's ability to play well with others.  Pipeworks did a series of three brews, experimenting with the idea of what a Saison/Farmhouse ale could be.   The common element in the miniseries was the use of various peppercorns in the basic Saison recipe.   Of course, cleverly connecting them was also the use of the word "Poivre" in the name of the beer ("Poivre" means "pepper" in French, so chicken or the egg to you Pipeworks.)  Most Saisons have an element of spice in them, but balance it out with an earthy set of notes.  Pipeworks upped the spice/pepper element to the foreground and downplayed the earthy quality. Poivre Noir is the only bottle from the series that I was able to try. It would have made for an interesting experiment to do a tasting of a proven exceptional Sasion (like DuPoint) along with the three Pipeworks in the Poivre series.  If you get a chance to try this, don't tell me and rub it in.  Salt in the wounds and all. 

Yeah, it's the Anikin Skywalker of Saisons

My Pipeworks Brewing Co's Poivre Noir Dark Saison poured a dark, cola brown with hints of maroon and purpley red.  A light beige, two finger head rose quickly and slowly settled to a filmy, shallow layer for the rest of the drink.  The beer had decent lacing, not spectacular, but moderately good retention with lovely bits here and there sticking to the sides of the pint.  I could smell the citrus immediately, strong freshly squeezed lemon notes reassured me that even though the beer in my glass didn't look like a Sasion, it was essentially still a Saison.  The next note that hit me was that of ground peppercorns, spicy and culinary mouthwatering.  Ordinarily the aroma of a Saisons is light and refreshing, this one just smelled heavy and substantial.  There was a boozy, almost wine-like, aroma just under the citrus and spice.  This dark, wine-like quality manifested itself in the taste as a dark fruit note, but not overwhelmingly so.  I found that it balanced the lemon and pepper characteristics very well and added an interesting twist.  Many Dark Saisons have a nuttiness to them that I didn't find in this beer, but I think that this dark fruit note worked just as well with the overall flavor profile.  Pipeworks lists Sorachi Hops on their label as an indigent and again, another interesting choice for this beer.  Sorachi hops are a relatively new variety of hops (unless you're under 25 and then they are considered ancient like land line phones and postage stamps.)  They are heavy with lemon flavors, yet still have slight notes of dill, cilantro and coconut.  Rather Asian inspired, right? (Note: I later discovered that they were first bred in Japan, so take that, Mr. Roboto.)  The mouthfeel was medium with a welcomed amount of pallet cleaning carbonation.  The finish,, while it was short, was also dry and crisp. 

Not much lacing action, but still a nice head on it's shoulders
Ignore the Guinness logo.  At least it's not a red solo cup
Saisons are one of the most food friendly craft beers available.  There was a time, often referred to as the "Dark Ages", when it was nearly impossible to find a decent Saison in your local craft beer section.  It was also the disconsolate period when boy bands reigned supreme and cargo pants covered the landscape.   Anyway...Now, we have choices upon choices (insert heavenly chorus here.)  I'd serve Pipeworks Brewing Co.'s Poivre Noir Dark Saison with chicken in lemon sauce, easy and breezy, rounding it out with some garlic green beans and crusty bread.  I think that it could also work well with shellfish.  Try pouring this Dark Saison with steamed mussels and clams with two sauces.   Don't be afraid to experiment with pairings.  Tap into your inner Pipeworks and try something unexpected.

And come over to the dark side.  We have beer.