Northbridge Brewing Co. Beer Club – Saison

“Hops are not the hero here, what is the real hero of this style is the yeast.” – Ken Arrowsmith brewer Northbridge Brewing Co. introducing the Saison tasting. 8 saisons including NBCs own limited release Saison

Every two months Northbridge Brewing Co. hold their Beer Club on a Wednesday night up on their skydeck, the top floor of the venue overlooking Northbridge Piazza. $25 gets you a seat at the tasting session which is hosted by the head brewer, Ken Arrowsmith, and features up to 8 beers.

Skydeck Northbridge Brewing Co

The first Beer Club was held in February to officially launch their limited release American IPA. Ken guided the audience through a range hop driven beers like Stone & Wood Pacific Ale and Mash Copy Cat alongside his own American IPA. Last week’s edition of Beer Club focused on farmhouse ales to coincide with their limited release Saison.

“Hops are not the hero here,” Ken said in his introduction, “what is the real hero of this style is the yeast.”


So, Saisons … what are they all about?!

Saison, meaning “season” in French, originated in Hainaut which is in the south west of Belgium (French speaking). As far as styles go, compared to others, defining the exact characteristics of a Saison is not easy.

Read: Tis the Saison – Draft Magazine

Saisons fall under the category of farmhouse ales, together with biére de garde, and are so called because they were brewed, you guessed it, on farmhouses. They were brewed in winter because a) there isn’t much to do on a farm in winter and b) with refrigeration but a distant future, brewing was only really possible in the winter cold. Brewed in winter to keep farm workers employed and enjoyed in summer to keep farmer workers refreshed. Not a bad employee retention plan if you can get it.

“The style is doubly elusive: examples are not always easy to find; not can a Saison be defined with precision.”

Michael Jackson’s Great Beers of Belgium, 6th Edition

The reason for the elusively that respected beer writer Michael Jackson refers to is that each Saison would have differed from farmhouse to farmhouse depending on location and what ingredients were available at the time. The fact they were being brewed by farmers, not professional brewers, also accounts for the lack of knowledge on this style.

“In other words, these farmer-brewers made their Saisons with whatever was at hand. This legacy lives on in the variations – on a rather loose theme – that define modern Saison”

The Oxford Companion to Beer


Our night with Ken and saisons kicked off with the one we were all there for – Northbridge Brewing Co. Saison.

“Is the first beer out yet?” Ken asked the crowd

“Yep!” we replied happily.

“Well, where is mine?!” and once Ken had a beer in hand we were ready to go …

Ken Arrowsmith - Northbridge Brewing Co.Brewer Ken Arrowsmith hosting the Northbridge Brewing Co Saison Tasting for Beer Club

I really enjoyed the Northbridge Saison, it was clean and bright with an aroma that reminded me of freshly baked banana bread. It was herbal, grassy and straw-like with a dry citrus finish.

Next up we had New Zealand’s 8 Wired Saison Sauvin, an interpretation that mixes the tradition of a French Saison yeast with a new world approach of more malt, more booze and a lot more hops. The smell was lemon sorbet and the taste smacked you in the face at first with pineapple and citrus and showing its 7% ABV. This was one of my favourites from the night.

8 Wired Saison Sauvin

8 Wired Saison Sauvin | New Zealand | 7% ABV

Third on the list was the Stockade Saison that I believe comes out of Dandenong, Victoria but other than that I don’t seem to be able to find much more information. The nose on this one was banana and lemon dominant and the flavour light and well rounded with spice, grass and bready notes.

The Jenlain Blonde from Belgium was unfortunately in poor condition and was not drinking well so we moved swiftly on to the Silly Saison brewed by Belgian brewery Brasserie de Silly.

“It’s a small town or a large village,” Ken described Silly, Belgium. The Silly Saison’s appearance was much darker than many other saisons and it was sweeter than the other beers in the tasting. “This beer characterises the contradictions of this style,” Ken remarked and he was right. The citrus, grassy and spicy flavours in the previous beers made way instead for sweet toffee, nuttiness, brown sugar and tropical fruit.

Next we came back a little closer to home with the Bridge Road Brewers Elderflower Chevalier from Melbourne. This was another stand out for me. Elderflower, apricot, lemon and a soft funky sourness buried in a light but dank body.

The second last beer took us back to Belgium or more precisely to the Brasserie du Bocq – Saison 1858. This one was a little too lemony for my liking, bursting with lemon and sherbet to the point of tingling. The finish was spicy and dry.

The final beer was Saison Dupont, the gold standard of saisons and it wouldn’t be a saison tasting without it. Brewed at the Brasserie Dupont in Belgium, the brewery has been in the Dupont family since 1920.

“By itself, this beer is obscene; with food, it is a miracle,”

Garrett Oliver, The Brewmaster’s Table

The nose reminded me of bread dough, something I don’t remember thinking when I’ve had this in the past. The flavour is spicy upfront, grassy and citrus with a beautiful lemon finish. I’ve never had a Saison Dupont and not loved it. Ken put it perfectly: “This is the benchmark. This is Saison Dupont.”

Saison Dupont

Thank you to Northbridge Brewing Co for inviting me along to this event

Pirate Life in WA

Pirate Life Brewing, newly opened in Adelaide, are launching their beers around WA over the next few days and last night I got to try their beers. (Spoiler: I freakin’ loved them!)

If you’re expecting a step-by-step guide on how to be a pirate in WA, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong blog. If you are curious about who Pirate Life Brewing are and what beers they have then hopefully I can be of some assistance.

Who are Pirate Life? Brewers – Jack Cameron, Jared “Red” Proudfoot and CEO Michael Cameron

Last night I was amongst 60ish people invited to The Standard in Northbridge to enjoy Pirate Life beers. The brewery opened a few months ago in Adelaide and are now launching their beers into WA and they’re doing a thorough job of it with not one, not two but a handful of launch events scheduled around the state of the coming days.

Pirate Life was started by a couple of ex-WA brewers Jared, aka “Red”, and Jack who have career paths that would make many beer geeks drool; alongside them is Jack’s father Michael who is Pirate Life’s CEO. The beers are being distributed by Palais Imports and their WA rep, Brad Moss, told me that the reception to these beers has far exceeded expectations with bars like Mechanics Institute and Lucky Chan’s, which doesn’t open until next week, already snapping them up.

Read: The Year of the Pirate – Crafty Pint

Last night’s launch at The Standard was the first of a run of launch events. Thursday night they will be at Distribution Lane in Fremantle and Friday night at Mrs Browns and Old Bridge Cellars in North Fremantle. On Saturday they’ll be doing a tasting at the Cellarbrations Super Store in Hamilton Hill. For those in the south west, they will also have a launch at The Firestation in Busselton on Wednesday 15 April – see their Facebook page for more information. Back in Perth they will be doing a bar shout at The Mechanic’s Institute (Perth, CBD) on Thursday 16 April with one beer on tap and the other two available in all their tinned glory.

Read: A Pirate’s Life for Red – my interview with brewer/co-founder Jared “Red” Proudfoot

On show were the breweries first three beers – Throwback IPA, Pale Ale and IIPA.

The Throwback IPA, a session IPA at a mere 3.5% ABV, is striking in it’s 70s design can. A funny mix of beige and faded orange that screams grandma’s house and yet is freaking fantastic. This look is no accident either as I got to find out from Michael who, along with Jack, were at the launch. The 70s style pattern and the beer’s name, “throwback”, were very much deliberate, a salute to an old brand that I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with and I appear to have forgotten the name. But back to the beer itself, I got fresh peach and citrus from the nose of the Throwback IPA and the follow through with bright tropical fruit, citrus and a full body to make this one of my favourite lower ABV beers kicking around.

Pirate Life Throwback IPA

The Pale Ale comes in a blue can that understates the fact it’s a pale ale, leaving the brand of Pirate Life to carry the torch for this beer. Again, a very purposeful move by the guys that Michael said was something Red was pretty keen for, putting more emphasis on the brewery than the style. Sticking my nose in I got a huge waft of passionfruit, it’s all about passionfruit and lime and grapefruit citrus notes on this one. Super fresh and super great, it’s another home run.

Then there’s the IIPA, the beer that seemed to get the most people talking, not because it was so super-dooper extreme or because it pushed any kind of boundaries in terms of how it was brewed or what ingredients they used. The talk was all around the simple agreed opinion that this is a sensational beer. Gentle chewy caramel supports the huge grapefruit and resiny hops that combine wonderfully, the balance is dead on, the hops shine and malt takes a bow behind them. The IIPA comes in a 500ml can and when Jack was asked why he simply replied, “it’s a big beer, it’s needs a big can” and quite frankly I can’t think of any better reason. Bring on the IIPA big cans!

Pirate Life launch at The Standard

One word on the design of all the cans themselves – exceptional. The design puts Pirate Life front and centre of the can, clutter free and you can see this will quickly become one of the more easily recognisable logos in the beer fridge. The top of the can, just under the rim, has the beer recipe on it from malt bill to hops used to when its boiled and when you recycle the empty can. Rather than tell you what you’re going to taste, they tell you how they made it and take transparency to a whole new level. Michael talks about transparency as one of the qualities of a genuine craft brewery and I think he’s right.

wpid-img_20150408_1812132.jpg.jpg

I could rattle on all night about what a great time I had at the launch, much like a giggle school girl who has just been asked on a date by the most popular boy in school, I’m head over heels for Pirate Life. So far, for me, they’ve ticked all the boxes – gorgeous beers, genuine people, spot on branding and packaging and a passion for being a part of the industry and brewing great beer. I really can’t wait to see more of these guys around.

Thank you to Palais Imports (distributing Pirate Life) and Pirate Life for inviting me along and it was great to meet Jack and Michael!

Weekend Reading #33

I love lounging in bed on weekends and catching up on all my favourite beery reading. From blogs to articles from the American craft beer scene, local beer news and anything else that tickles my beery fancy. There is a lot of excellent reading material out there so every week I’m posting a list of the articles and blogs that have excited me.

I love lounging in bed on weekends and catching up on all my favourite beery reading. From blogs to articles from the American craft beer scene, local beer news and anything else that tickles my beery fancy. There is a lot of excellent reading material out there so every week I’m posting a list of the articles and blogs that have excited me.

Boston Magazine | The Wit and Wisdom of Shaun Hill

Shaun Hill is the co-founder of Hill Farmstead which is, according to Rate Beer, the top brewery in the world (link to this in the article intro or here) and after reading this article I thought that Shaun sounded very genuine and interesting and it would be fantastic to sit down over a beer with him and just talk about whatever comes up. His thoughts on pressure, quality of his beers and the growth of the craft beer scene in the US are thoughtful and well said.

“Whatever happened to idealist principles like integrity and respect, thoughtfulness, and maybe not trying to destroy ourselves as a civilization? Where did those ideals go?”

Shaun Hill on capitalism and limited release beers

Vox | How a Redefinition Made Yuengling the Biggest Craft Brewery in America

An interesting look at how the Brewers Association updated their definition of craft beer and what this could mean for the power for craft brewers.

“So by bringing Yuengling on board as a “craft brewery,” the Brewers Association isn’t just expanding the definition of craft beer. It’s also expanding its own power, by getting the fourth-biggest brewery in the US on its side.”

Mint Press News | Craft Beer Industry Boldly Brews with Sustainability in Mind

It’s great hearing about breweries striving to be more sustainable and whilst it’s certainly not a new concept, many breweries here in WA have long been conscious of the impact they have on the environment, I think this Brewery Climate Declaration is a great call to action and also spread the word on great things the industry is doing.

Wired | My Quest to Reengineer a Legendary Beer in a Dirty Kitchen

A witty and informative look at sour beers, a little history and a little home brewing too (as the article title suggests)

“The more masochistic the tasting notes, the higher the price tag.”