I love to review beer. It’s something about opening up a bottle I’ve never had before and trying to figure out the different flavors the creator wanted to achieve when they set out to make the beer. Of course, I’m not quite ready to try to pat myself on the back by reviewing my own beer. So, I get someone else to do that for me. Once again I’m having my guest reviewer, John, take a shot at telling you all what you’re missing by not getting one of these ultra rare homebrew releases. He’s a little too nice on this being a big sophomore hit. I’ll have to remind him that there are quite a few bottles of a seemingly failed imperial IPA sitting around. Regardless, I really do like my latest beer.
There is a lot of pressure on successful artists follow up on their sophomore releases. Metallica’s second album was Ride the Lightening, Radiohead’s was The Bends, and Baha Men’s was 2 Zero 0-0. Even the most talentless people can get a hit once, but it’s the people that show up again and again that make waves. Vigilante did a great job with its initial release, Anniversary Amber Ale, but the second brew is going to determine if Vigilante is here to stay or if they are the Baha Men.
Seppuku Saison is the second release from Vigilante Brewing Company. In a bold move, Vigilante decided to take a primarily French and Belgian style and throw in a little Asian spice. This is not a complete surprise from Vigilante head brewer, Gary, who is a fan of all things Asian. He is also a fan of beers with unusual personalities. By adding ginger, coriander, and orange peel, he tried to take a style with a lot of bright, fruity flavors and add another level of complexity. He added Japanese Sorachi Ace hops, known for their lemon quality, to give the beer another level of aroma and Asian. This beer was thought out and planned, now let’s see if he executed it – Seppuku style.
Appearance – The first thing you’ll notice when you pour the beer is that there is no beer. We’ll talk about this later, but for now, let’s just say that there is no lack of head. After the head dissipates, the beer is a golden amber hue that I like when I pour a Saison. Yellow beers are missing some of the caramelized malts that give beer complexity and depth. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of too many ‘yellow’ beers I like. Go ahead and fill up the comments section proving me wrong.
Aroma – There is a great deal of complexity in the nose on this beer. The late fresh ginger and orange additions add a noticeable character, and the Sorachi Ace hops add the lemon, but the yeast is star here. The Wyeast Belgian Farmhouse 3724 is a self described complex yeast strain. It adds clove, cinnamon, orange, powdered sugar, and, when you mix all those things together there is bubble gum. I thought I was a little crazy when I smelled the bubble gum, but that is a common smell with a lot of German and Belgian style yeast strains. The beer smells perfect for summer drinking on a back porch.
Mouthfeel – As a home brewer myself, I recognize the importance of honest and sincere criticism of my beers. I take this seriously and so does Gary. We’re also both very new to this and we are going to make mistakes, and here is where I need to be honest – the beer is over carbonated. Out of all the mistakes that can be made, over carbonation is probably the least of a home brewer’s worries. If you drink the beer right out of the bottle, the beer will foam when it hits the saliva on your tongue. However, to fix this problem I came up with a solution: Do nothing. I poured the beer, put it in the fridge, waited 10ish minutes, and drank it. After it calmed down the beer was extremely light and crisp. There was still enough carbonation to give it a bite on the tongue and accentuate some of the syrupy qualities in the feel.
Taste – The beer has three distinct dimensions. First, it leads with tart fruit from the mixture of lemon, orange, ginger, and grapefruit flavors. It’s big, bright, and sweet right off the bat, but then the beer’s second side shows up: spice. There is clove and black pepper that creates a really pleasant sting and emphasizes the lemon and orange flavors in the beer. The third flavor from the beer is in the tart, dry finish. Describing a beer as “tart” is typically an insult, but for Saisons or Flanders Red Ales, it’s a compliment. This beer ends with a little sting that leaves you wanting another sip. The journey from glass to gullet is mostly a bright, citrus, treble clef kind of flavor, perfect for a summer day.
Overall – Vigilante stepped it up with their sophomore release, and it’s a good thing they did. The thought that Gary put into the beer pays off with a complex beer that still falls within the lines of the style guidelines. If you drank it, you’d know it was a Saison, but you’d wonder where some of those flavors came from. You’d also wonder why other breweries haven’t added these flavors. The beer is a fantastic follow up to their initial release and supports the notion that Vigilante Brewing Company will be a Radiohead, and not a Baha Men.