Category Archives: Saison/Farmhouse Ale

Dogfish Head–Oak-Aged Noble Rot

Honestly, I’m not much of a Dogfish Head fan.  They’re one of the most well-known and respected brewers in the world.  I find them highly expensive and highly overrated.  Hopefully this beer will change my mind.

We’re not off to a great start.  This looks more like wine than beer.  Initially, there’s a wonderful, bright white head, but it lacks legs and is gone in no time.  A ginger ale colored beer is what sits in the glass.  Very clear, almost completely translucent.  Kind of like white wine.  It should be noted here that this beer is full of grapes and grape must, so in a sense, it looks like it should.  That said, I’m not a wine drinker and it looks much clearer than this picture shows.

Oak Aged Noble Rot

The nose is overwhelmingly grapy.  It smells like wine and has a Belgian Lambic-ness to it (i.e. SOUR).  I can almost smell how tart this is going to be.  Vinegar comes to mind.  On the positive side, the musty scents are quite nice.  One website calls this a fruit beer, Dogfish Head refers to it as a sorta-saison.  Saisons are farmhouse ales from the Belgian landscape where the yeast strains were whatever happened to be in the area at the time.  Each part of Belgian had a slightly different tasting saison due to the various strains of yeast flying around in the air.  Because of this, saisons are called farmhouse ales and generally have a funky smell and taste.  You easily pick up the funky tartness in this beer.

It tastes better than I expected.  While everything up to this point went down the wine avenue, the taste borders on a hybrid of wine and beer and I can work with that.  Obviously, it’s full of white wine (green grape) flavors and the wonky yeast comes through.  It starts off like a Lambic, but before the vinegar taste and feel takes over, there is an abrupt stop and the beer changes direction with the hops and the alcohol balancing the wine-like characteristic.  While the head doesn’t last long, you can taste the carbonation sharpening the edges of the different flavors involved in this ale.

It’s plenty complex, running the gamut from sweet to tart to sour to bitter to crisp…there’s a lot going on and that’s a good thing.  I could probably drink wine if it tasted and felt more like this.  Being a saison, inspired by Belgian farmhouses of old, the yeast lends itself to a spicy, white pepper feel.  It’s all part of that complexity with the sweet and tart from the grape must to the bitter and warmth from the 9% alcohol to the spice from the yeast to the crisp of the carbonation.  It’s all fairly pleasant.  Typical of the style, it’s medium bodied and while not smooth at all, the crisp finish scrapes the palate clean, readying it for the next sip.

Despite my initial displeasure, this ended up being a pretty good beer.  Not great, but pretty good.  It steps up to the plate at 9% ABV and I want to say it only registered 18 IBUs, though it felt more bitter than that.  Also, I can’t remember where that number of IBUs came from, so it’s possible I’ve made it up though I clearly remember it not being very much.

It’s still an expensive beer–>$14.99 for a large European bottle (750 ml/25.4 oz).  Fortunately, the beer store offers discounts for guys like me who drop a c-note every time they visit so I think it ended up costing $12.74 before tax.  Not all that bad for Dogfish Head, but still a bit more than I think it should cost.

Also, due to the complexity of the beer, I find the snack factor to be fairly low for this beer.  Probably a half can of Pringles to get through the entire bottle.  Your scale will thank you for this.