In the small world of online beer message boards there are a few breweries that have been vaulted to mythical status due to the hype surrounding their beers. Hill Farmstead on the east coast and Cantillon in Belgium are the first two that come to mind. There is another brewery located in the Pacific Northwest that is quickly gaining the momentum to be on that list. de Garde Brewing in Tillamook Ore.
In less than three years this small town brewery has gone from a small unknown start-up to a staple on the wish lists of beer nerds across the country.
de Garde is unique in its approach and focuses solely on spontaneously fermented1 beers that are then aged in oak barrels. While this practice is not as rare as it used to be in this country it is still rare to see a brewery solely focus on such beers. They have a couple of beers that see limited local distribution but most de Garde bottles are only available at the brewery. During a recent trip to Portland I had a friend that was nice enough to make the two-hour drive from Portland to the small brewery just to pick up bottles to share with the group.2
One of the bottles that made its way back to my beer fridge was Saison Cinquieme. A wild farmhouse style ale that was fermented and aged in chardonnay barrels then dry-hopped with Amarillo hops. I am generally a sucker for any dry-hopped sour beer so I am excited for this one.
The beer pours a hazy light orange with a puffy white head. The head lingers for a few minutes then slowly fades to a halo of bubbles that linger in the glass. I take a few quick sniffs of the glass and the beer does not have an overpowering aroma. The hop presence is light and not nearly as pronounced as I had expected. It has a noticeably tart aroma with hints of oak and grass with and slight orange like citrus character I would assume is from the hops. Overall, the nose is very subtle and lacks any dominant character.
The first sip of the beer brings a wave of tartness that is much higher than one would expect from a saison. The tartness is very noticeable but quite enjoyable, not quite what I would consider a mouth puckering sour but close. I get a bit of stone fruit, citrus and some white grape skin. A very enjoyable mix of flavors that come together with the tartness to remind me of a sour sweet tart. The fruit and white wine flavors linger into the finish which combine with a big juicy finish leaves me wanting to take another sip immediately.