Porter & Stout Tasting at Northbridge Brewing Co.

On Wednesday 15 July Northbridge Brewing Co will have their next beer club, in preparation I look back at the last one …

Every two months Northbridge Brewing Co hold their Beer Club, a beer tasting around a particular style/s hosted by head brewer Ken Arrowsmith. It’s held on the rooftop Sky Deck bar, perfect for a cool Northbridge evening.

I have been lucky to have been invited to these tasting where Ken guides the group through up to eight generous samples and the Northbridge Brewing Co kitchen sends out an assortment of picky food.

Stout and Porter Beer Club at Northbridge Brewing Co

The next Beer Club is an extra special one – a Trappist Beer Tasting – with a line up of beers that includes the ‘best beer in the world’ – Westvleteren  12. Other beers listed for tasting are Westvleteren 8, Westvleteren Blonde, Rochefort 10, Orval and La Trappe Triple.

Trappist Beers – beers brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery by their monks, beers are produced not for profit but for the maintenance of the monastery with any extra funds going to charity

[Beer Reading] Business Insider: How a tiny brewery run by monks came to make the best beer in the world

Northbridge’s Trappist Beer Tasting is on Wednesday night, tickets and more information found here.

In the mean time, just to get your taste buds tingling, here’s the beers we tasted at the last Beer Club – Porters & Stouts … Hope to see you Wednesday for Trappists!

Samuel Smith Teddy’s Porter | 5.0% ABV | North Yorkshire

I enjoyed this one, a lot going on but the body was much lighter than I was expecting.

Billabong Porter | 5.0% ABV | Perth

Fuller’s London Porter | 5.4% ABV | London

Northbridge Brewing Co Japanese Porter | 5.0% ABV | Perth

Beer Club usually coincides with the breweries own limited release beer. Their Japanese Porter, which there may still be one keg left if you hurry, was brewed with the Japanese Sorachi Ace hop variety which added a citrus lemon.

Northbridge Brewing Co Japanese Porter

Feral Smoked Porter | 4.7% ABV | Perth

Gotta love a beer that promotes itself as having “bacony undertones”

Nail Oatmeal Stout | 6.0% ABV | Perth

I had only just started my job with Nail Brewing at the time of this event so I was keen to hear what Ken had to say, “it’s a bit of a legend and rightly so in my opinion”. Thanks Ken!

Coopers Best Extra Stout | 6.3% ABV | Adelaide

This was a really great and interesting inclusion because I’ve had this beer on many an occasion but rarely break it down like I would a beer I’ve not tried before. Comparing it with the other beers reinforced my love for this beer; I found it really interesting that I got bigger roasty flavour and fruitiness than in the previous beers.

Heretic Shallow Grave Porter | 7.0% ABV | California

I think Ken’s description said it all – “delicious, luscious and rich”. This is one of the first beers I had from this US brewery and I was mighty impressed when it had it then and still like it very much now. The nose, to me, just smells like fresh chocolate cake.

Stouts and Porter Beer Club at Northbridge Brewing Co

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