The Cretan Craft. Part 2.

Now with the Cretan Craft safely back in Devon, I will attempt to recreate a little bit of Crete in my front room.  With the heating turned up to the max and some sea shells sprawled about the place, it’s time I retrieve the beers from the fridge.  

With bold and simple labels the beers stand out.  Don’t worry if you don’t understand Greek either, you are given the style of each beer in English, along with abv, IBU and other instructions. 

Solo labels

One thing I had noticed is that these beers are not among the freshest of the fresh.  The Greek appear to seem happier that their hoppy beers are carrying a little age as opposed to the super fresh juice we seem to crave.  Kjetil Jikiun, Solos head brewer, also tells me that the Latvians seem to prefer their hoppy beers to be presented in the same way too.  

When Solo started brewing, and their current beers are contract brewed, although this will change in the near future as Solo are intending on setting up their own brewery, they were met with some resistance, as apparently their beers weren’t what the market required.  Although Solo appear to have had the last laugh as the Saison is one of their best selling beers.

Solo were responsible for bringing the first true IPA to the Greek market, which is also selling well.  As is their Imperial IPA, which again, they were told that nobody in Greece would want a 10% beer.  However, they seem to have proved their doubters wrong yet again.

Ok, so there are no shells, I just have the branded glass I was awarded in Heraklion, but it is time to crack them open. 

Horiatiki Saison. 

  • 90% pilsner malt & 10% wheat malt. 
  • East Kent Golding, Cascade and Saaz.
  • Danstar Belle Saison yeast.

Solo Saison

If ever there was a time that a banana could be a tart, this is it.  Its rich and sharp, and its voluptuous head dominates the pour, with notes of banana billowing out.  Delve in through an almost wooded area, it’s incredibly dry, and you’re dropped right off in the middle of a cereal field.  It ends as a dry, and beautiful, classic saison.

Americana Pale ale.

  • 80% pale ale malt, 10% wheat malt & 10% caramalt 30.
  • Chinook and Centennial.
  • WLP007.

Solo Pale

Straight away you can tell the hops have faded somewhat and the overwhelming maltiness is just beginning to creep in. Nevertheless, the Chinook still stands proud and the malts begin to level out into some breaded glory.  It is a straight up, no nonsense US style pale, with a body as smooth as freshly laid tarmacadam.  It’s not overly bitter and it still retains its balance.  I really like it.

Psaki IPA.

  • 80% pale ale malt, 10% wheat malt & 10% light Munich malt.
  • Chinook, Cascade, Simcoe and Centennial.
  • WLP007.

Solo IPA

Slightly hop faded, the IPA approaches.  Apart from the step up in abv, taste wise, not a huge amount separates this from the pale.  Personally I don’t think its bitter enough; it claims to hold 50 IBU, whereas the Pale stands at 30, but it just doesn’t appear to come across with an increased bitterness.  It finishes fairly sweet too, and the Cascade lingers as a fruity fizzy sherbet.  It also has something savoury going on, not quite in the same way that Mosaic does, but pleasing.  Unfortunately though, I do feel it’s somewhat past its best; it had been in the bottle for about twelve months and I would have loved to have been able to try a slightly fresher one.  But then, this is exactly how the Greeks prefer their hoppy beers to be, so who am I to complain?

Fouriaris Imperial IPA.

  • 80% pilsner malt & 20% wheat malt.
  • Chinook, Magnum, Columbus, Centennial, Cascade and Vic Secret.
  • WLP007

Solo Imp IPA

Boy does this thing have presence, it’s in your face, but not boorish.  It’s complete and balanced.  The lack of freshness really isn’t a problem either and you remain tucked in.  The faded hops have been overtaken by the malts and it offers just a tickle of booze.  The sweet malts are at the forefront, but going deeper there is an overwhelming orangey pithy bitterness, and you get that same sherbet feeling from the Cascade as you do with the IPA.  I love this, it’s bone dry, smooth as silk and incredibly bitter.  I’d almost forgotten what it was like to taste an intensely bitter beer, and this has brought it all home again.  I don’t actually care that its hops have faded, the bitterness of this thing is incredible.  I want more.


Trying to remain true to style, these Solo beers come across well and do meet all the requirements.  But I have to admit, I was looking for a bit of a Greek twist.  I did find it too, and it is that they are intended to be consumed after they have aged a little.  Although I do wonder whether this is due to a lack of understanding or just flavour preference.  

Either way, this goes completely against everything we have become used to in the last couple of years, with the whole drink it within a week or die procedure.  But if this is what it takes to get the Greek into craft, then go for it.

 

 

Advertisements

The Cretan Craft. Part 1.

#allthesaisons Burning Sky

Knowledge, understanding and skill are three words that you don’t usually see on beer labels.  However, all three are required when it comes to making the stuff and Burning Sky’s Saisons are no exception.  With a mix of ingredients, from the typical to the foraged, these complex Saisons show off these requirements beautifully.

You mustn’t forget time either, with each of the barrel aged batches the beers evolve and have subtle differences in each iteration.  You may revisit these beer in twelve months time and discover different nuances of flavour or some other characteristic that just wasn’t there previously.

But for now, we’ll enjoy them as they stand.  So pull up a chair, grab a glass, and enjoy, all the saisons.

Saison l’Automne.

Is it really breakfast time already?  Slightly sour cornflakes overwhelm your nose.  They’re drenched in spicy saison with a rose hip topping, so it’s cool to take them now.  The beautiful cereal maltiness resists diminishment and holds up well against the spice, but the spice doesn’t let go either, lick your lips, can you feel it?

saison-automne

Saison yeast, hops, rose hips, cereal killer malts, what more do you want?  Who me?  Another bottle perhaps.  For now I’ll keep going with this though; a certain grape element is making itself known, not massively, but it lingers in your nose, your throat and on your tongue.  It softens, and becomes more cereal.  Breakfast indeed.

Saison Le Printemps.

Spicy, gingery, becoming saison funky, hoppy aroma hits you.  Not too heavy on the pepper but it gives a little warning of its presence.  Bready malts ensue, carrying along with them the fruits of the hops.  The beer’s fresh and the malts end up giving a satisfying, sweet, sugary, almost Loveheart tinge.

saison-printemps

It remains hoppy, with some lashings of citrus thrown in.  But wait, the pepper is back, it’s clinging on for dear life as the beer ends, but that warm, spicy, dry finish is so good.  And five minutes later, your lips are still peppered.

Saison à la Provision.

Bit of a tart in your hands now.  It’s still saison, but with a massive tart sourness that makes you brush your teeth with your tongue.  What else do you find in there?  Gorgeous saison yeast, beautiful bready malts, a warming spice.  White wine musk too, or is that just showing off?  The malts dominate, but don’t overpower.  The extra abv also makes itself known.  Not in a bad way, but it adds a hugging warmth that the others here don’t have.

saison-provision

The finish is still incredibly tart, and the brett is there too, but it’s right at the back.  You all know it’s there, but it’s under complete control.  Just like the naughty kid who’s been sent to the back of the class.  Still mouthy and wants to make his presence known, but if he steps out of line, you know he’s gonna get it.  And get it he does from the glorious malts.  They keep him in check alright.

Saison l Été.

Who knew you could have such a thing as a gooseberry sandwich.  Well you can, and yours is served with a fresh elderflower pressé on the side.  It’s a tart awakening that’s sweet and smooth.  The beautiful malts fall neatly in line behind that gooseberry sharpness presented at the start.

saison-l-ete

It’s luscious as it makes its way through your teeth.  But the sharpness keeps prickling away; jaws clench like a thirst quenched snare as a shoal of gooseberries meander through.  Some sour malts finish the bite as it beckons you in for more.  And as your glass becomes empty, the elderflower makes itself known.  It adds a mild floral finish to the malty saison funk.

Saison Anniversaire.

Funky, bready, white wine grape aroma.  Light herb notes with a savoury spice. Let it breathe, without forgetting to give yourself time to breathe.  Put some on your tongue.  Feel it glide around, leaving little hints of its contents behind.  Spices tickle, bubbles tickle, that wine dryness doesn’t tickle, but it mops up well leaving a nice tart bite and slightly sweet grain behind.

saison-anniversaire

Sit back, admire, but feel sorry for your empty glass.  Do it a favour and put it out of its misery.  The warmer the saison, the grainier it becomes, not in texture though.  The wine side is relaxed, becoming lemony, but retains that Chardonnay musk.  Three glasses in and things are getting a little funky.  Concentrate.  A previously hidden hoppiness is now evident, subtle, but delightful.  It does well to inhibit the musk, making this beer end just like a funky saison should.

Cuvée Reserve 2015-2016.

A relatively calm collection of earthy oak, sour grapes and apples, and bready malts sit before you.  Relaxed carbonation requires a little encouragement prior to their nasal journey.  Entry is confirmed, but due only to the funk they bring.

cuvee-reserve1

Take a sip.  Lip smack like a face plant, this sour tart unleashed.  Musk, perfumes its way around, leaving trinkets, dotted of sweet malts and the sour blend.  It’s aged, grown up perhaps, but still full of the vigour of Provision.  A late spice, hearing of the funk wants in, could it be too late?  The party is drying, but the spice takes a hold.  Delicate malts are left in the wake.  Persistent are the fruits, slightly fermented perhaps, but sweet and inviting.  And the bread is there to catch you on the way down, softening the sour blow.

sky-2

So the next time you find yourself sat in a field waiting for the sun to rise, don’t think, look at that burning sky.  Think, I need some Burning Sky.