Tamamura Honten “Barrel-Aged Yama-Bushi Saison Noir #002 (木樽熟成 山伏)” Red Wine Barrel-Aged Dark Sour Saison

Name: Barrel-Aged Yama-Bushi Saison Noir #002
Brewer: Tamamura Honten Co./ Shiga Kogen (Japan)
Style: Wild Specialty Beer (Base Style: Saison)
ABV: 8.5%
Review Year: 2020

The Barrel-Aged Yama-Bushi Saison Noir #002 by Tamamura Honten (Nagano) was brewed with sake rice, aged in Obuse red wine barrels for three years, and then fermented in the bottle for another year. Unlike the first Saison Noir, this second batch was fermented and aged for an extended period using wild yeast and multiple microorganisms in the area.

STYLE GUIDELINES

This beer is being evaluated as a Wild Specialty Beer (28C) with the Saison (25B) as the base style in the context of the 2015 Beer Style Guidelines of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). The most current version of the guidelines can be found on the BJCP website.

TASTING NOTES

Opaque deep brown; brown head. The nose is primarily red wine-like, supported by hints of fermented plum and oak. Medium body and carbonation level. The flavor mirrored the aroma with the red wine and plum-like tartness at the forefront against a backdrop of supportive roasty malt and cacao nibs. Faint peppery heat and licorice were noted; finished like a dry red wine. Light alcohol impression; no buttery (diacetyl), solvent-like, and wet cardboard (oxidation) qualities.

THE VERDICT

Wild ales are idiosyncratic and the addition of barrel aging increases the complexity these beers bring to the table. The Barrel-Aged Yama-Bushi Saison Noir presented itself as a dry, red wine-like beer with dark fruit and slight roasty malt qualities. The oak character noted was appropriately supportive and not dominant. The red wine characteristics harmonized with the sourness associated with wild ales. The dryness– a hallmark of a classic Saison– was also evident.

Despite being spontaneously fermented, Saison Noir, as the name suggests, is a dark Saison at its core. These darker variants are uncommon relative to the pale-hued ones, but the guidelines do recognize them. Dark Saisons are expected to have more malt character, with a range of flavors derived from darker malts (e.g., toasty, bready, biscuity, chocolate, etc.) that support the fruity-spicy character of these beers. However, roasted flavors are not typical for classic Saisons (dark variants included) and are not mentioned explicitly in the guidelines of a Wild Specialty Beer. For Saison Noir, the roasty flavor did not clash with the sourness but actually contributed more depth to the overall flavor presentation.

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