Although it has only been open for a little over two years, Reno-based Brasserie St. James has already made a name for itself, having won Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.1 In addition, Brasserie St. James brewers Josh Watterson and Matt Watterson were named Mid-Size Brewers of the Year and three of its beers received medals: Daily Wages (gold), The Third Man (gold) and Bamberg Rauchbier (silver.)
Released last year and coming in at 6.7 percent ABV and 34 IBUs, Brasserie St. James Daily Wages is a Belgian-style farmhand saison that is meant to emulate the beer that is traditionally served to farmhands in Wallonia, Belgium. According to the label, the beer takes three months to finish, and uses a “complex process involving 3 different yeast strains added as specific times, temperatures, and gravities.” In addition, both green peppercorns and whole cone hops from Europe are also added to the brewing process.
Daily Wages pours a light, translucent yellow with a finger of puffy white head that quickly dissipates, leaving a thin lacing remaining. Aroma from the glass is seemingly at odds with itself: there is a strong malty sweetness reminding me of bananas that is dominant, while I detect some slight bitterness lingering as well, along with other scents of strong citrus, grains and pepper.
The first sip of the Daily Wages brings tart lemons, slight hops, tangy oranges and creamy oak, along with earth and grass. There is some obvious pepper on the finish, along with some bitterness from the hops that comes and goes. The pepper is overwhelming at points, driving back the other flavors with zeal, but for some reason I am enjoying that fact in this beer as I have been with others that have been similar. The carbonation is excellent for the style, and remains fairly constant for the entirety of the time I am drinking.
As it warms, the Daily Wages becomes noticeably sweeter on the palate, with the pepper taking a back seat, although it is still quite noticeable in the profile. The carbonation remains higher than I expected, but any sense of balance is lost.