Funkwerks - Saison d’Brett
Serving Temperature:46–53° F
Suggested Glassware:Tulip, Goblet or Nonic Glass
We don’t come across too many foudre-aged saisons, though we certainly try to. Funkwerks has taken their award-winning flagship Saison and allowed that delightful core beer to do its aging thing in Funkwerks’ 800-gallon oak foudre. As the label notes, “AGED IN A HUGE OAK BARREL.” We wanted to give our members the chance to try a beer aged in a foudre (which is the French spelling, also written as “foeder”, which is Dutch), a tradition of larger-batch sour-beer brewing that ties back to Rodenbach (among other key Belgian producers!) and their breathtaking cellaring space of oak foudres. Funkwerks’ Saison d’Brett is a beautifully built beer packed with tropical fruitiness, toasty spice and careful oak.
We had to take multiple repours of this one, as Saison d’Brett kept mysteriously disappearing from our tasting glasses. This saison pours a vibrant golden-orange color with a good bit of haze, capped by crisp white foam that leaves delicate lacing behind it. There’s a juicier feel to this saison that we really dug, and at certain angles in the light it seems to glow. While one of the recurrent themes here is pretty much guaranteed to be how dry and perfectly crisp this is, there’s also a lot of plush tropical fruit in the nose. We found lime, passion fruit, apricots, all sorts of spice and peppery angles, and an undercurrent of toasty malts and candied oranges.
And, let’s just get this out of the way—this beer’s super dry and crisp. But the reason that it succeeds so well is the fact that it balances those carefully placed edges with some brilliantly presented fruity sweetness, plus mellowing oak and vanilla notes. The oak aging on this beer is especially well handled, with the foudre’s contributions coming through with notes nearing almond, soft vanilla and a welcome edge of tannins from the extended oak contact. As we’ve become accustomed to from previous Funkwerks releases, this is deftly built and combines the various elements of ripe fruit layers, spice and oak to make one of the best saisons we’ve tasted in a long while. In addition to the aforementioned notes, we noticed ginger, mango (at times), white pepper, candied Meyer lemon and some pretty robust doughiness in the middle of everything, fusing this megasaison together. Hugely complex—this beer still disappears.
While this beer’s already enjoyed a bit of slumber time inside of oak, there aren’t any overt signs of age at this point, and it could certainly stand up to a bit of cellaring time. This one’s 7% ABV and feeling very on point; we’d just be inclined to keep an eye on avoiding a major addition of caramelized notes, as it seems like this might get bogged down. YMMV. As far as food goes, this is saison—so you can pretty much pair it well with everything from parsley to pig. (Like, parsley with other things; went for alliteration.) But seriously, this saison’s nimble.
Funkwerks, depending on your point of perspective, can seem to have come out of nowhere in recent years. Nine years ago (this September), Funkwerks’ founders were just meeting for the first time—in professional brewing school. Gordon Schuck and Brad Lincoln were both attending Siebel Institute in Chicago. They were quickly working to get a new venture called Funkwerks aloft, working out test batches of their Saison and White in Gordon’s backyard.
The prototype batch of Saison was finally completed in June of the following year, a journey that had started with homebrewing almost a decade earlier and (even then) still remained at a very modest production scale. They had transitioned from backyard test batches to a single-barrel warehouse operation, and then to a 15-barrel system shortly before officially opening the Funkwerks taproom in December 2010.
The following year, Funkwerks Saison was awarded a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival. In 2012, both Saison and Deceit (a Belgian-style Golden Ale) took home gold at GABF. For good measure, Funkwerks was named Small Brewing Company of the Year, and their Saison has picked up another two GABF medals since—including gold last year.
None of this, from other points of perspective, should come as much surprise. Colorado has been ground zero for a vibrant outgrowth of craft-beer culture, and every trip we take out to that state for GABF seems to bring along at least a dozen new nearby breweries. The world-class quality of brewing resulting from many of these relatively new entrants tends to happen when up-and-coming artists do so en masse. (It’s a model we should be pursuing elsewhere.)
Funkwerks has much of their focus dedicated to producing saisons in Belgium’s traditional Wallonian vein. Make no mistake, saisons were historically a rather motley crew of artisanal beverages to start off with, adhering to seasonal cycles and the local harvest allowances, but that doesn’t mean they should be purple, sweet, and like a nose of banana, just because they started with a reasonably wide berth. We tend to very much go towards Funkwerks’ take on saisons: “What defines these beers as a style are an extremely high attenuation [dryness] and a spicy flavor profile due to the unique yeast strain.” Not overly constraining, it hits our top two archetype points for what we expect from any sort of beer labeled saison. (It’s not a lot to ask.) The results from Funkwerks’ philosophy on the topic tend to speak for themselves.
We’ve readily found ourselves impressed by other offerings from Funkwerks, including the Tropic King (an Imperial Saison brewed with New Zealand Rakau hops) and their GABF-gold Deceit. But their core Saison captures everything perfectly. The crackle of crisp malt, a spicy accompaniment of pepper, plus firm bitterness throughout. It’s a stellar release, and we’re pleased to offer our Rare Beer Club members the foeder-aged version this month.
We expect even more success and growth for this brewery in the years ahead, and we’re very glad to be able to bring them to our members’ glasses now. Mark our words: the future will be blissfully full of saison—and tasty, dry, spicy saisons if we have anything to say about it.
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