Nebraska Brewing Company - Barrel Aged Reserve Series: Apricot au Poivre Saison
- ABV: 7.5%
- Serving Temperature: 48–55° F
- Suggested Glassware: Tulip, Nonic or Chardonnay Glass
What better beer to start off with from Nebraska Brewing than their special-edition saison.
In addition to being the only of these four selections under 10% ABV, it’s the only one with an addition of fruit. Here, pepper and apricots are added to Nebraska’s Belgian-style saison base, before being aged for six snoozy months in Chardonnay barrels, awaiting future glory.
This is a beautifully executed beer, the pepper balancing the chewy sweetness of the apricots, while the lingering presence of creamy Chardonnay and toasty oak bridges that gap between. Plus, the toasty, Belgian-style saison underneath seems like it would be delicious all by itself.
Apricot au Poivre Saison is gorgeous. Let’s start there. Put this near any sort of light, and the hazy golden core of this beer shines through bright orange. The head’s both long-lasting and rejuvenative, glistening at the edges and returning a bit as a result of each sip. The foam kind of sparkles. The liquid itself kind of sparkles. It looks like something we want to drink now.
The bright apricot character in the nose is arguably the best part of the beginning: clean and peachy, a hint of lemony tartness around its edges. The pepper addition comes across with a clove and cedary edge. Never too much of either. And one starts, in the aroma, to get at least a sense of what’s ahead—with at least light degrees of oaky Chardonnay showing through.
The degree to which those Chardonnay barrels come through in the final product, though, is not something to underestimate. The aroma offers some toast and vanilla, but wide vantages show up in the flavor: almond, herbal Chardonnay, sweet-butter, caramelized sugar, and lots of apricot and peppery elements alongside them. We liked the fact that one could almost see the edges of a full Chardonnay played out in this saison: there seemed to be everything from the herbaceousness and oaky barrel notes to the streamlined feel and soft, welcome acidity.
There’s a whole lot to like about this barrel-aged saison.
Beyond the core contributions of those six months in Chardonnay barrels: The apricot adds are especially plump in the mid-palate, coming across juicy and fresh throughout. And those peppery elements seem to head out in even more diverse directions than the aroma suggests, with grains of paradise and hay-like toastiness appearing. It’s a densely structured beer, but it achieves a sense of balance while properly showing off the breadth of the special ingredients.
Apricot Au Poivre Saison should stand up to some additional years in the cellar, though keep an eye on things. For pairings, consider using those rich Chardonnay notes to good use with flaky white fish or steamed shellfish. Its apricot notes hint at possibilities with grilled pork.
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