One of the good things about Songbird is that they brew styles that aren’t so common in Japan, so that gives us a good opportunity to try them out against some imports. Today’s Songbird beer is the Myrtille Noir dark saison with blueberries, so we’ll taste it along with the Stillwater Artisanal Existent dark saison.
Songbird Myrtille Noir (ソングバード・ミルティーユノワール)
(No Ratebeer entry yet!)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Almost no carbonation, a very deep purple
Aroma – Some sugar, but also almost a cough syrup smell, a bit like cranberry juice, also a bit of yeast
Flavor – Very flat, initially not much flavor but a bit tart, then tartness increases in strength, followed by wood before moving on to strong blueberry on the finish; a bit bland overall though
We reviewed the Songbird Peaty Oyster Stout last time out, which didn’t really work but still intrigued us as far as Songbird being an adventurous brewer. Today’s beer, which is the Myrtille Noir, is an even more adventurous one. There aren’t many blueberry dark saisons that I’m aware of, so definitely Songbird are not allowing style definitions limit what they brew.
This beer is made using fresh blueberries picked from a small farm in Yotsukaido in Chiba. Although not listed in the ingredients on the bottle they also used a bit of homegrown mint as well. Upon tasting Songbird thought it tasted a bit like red wine, and decided to name it Myrtille Noir (myrtille means blueberry in French) to evoke pinot noir.
It is definitely a bit red wine-like, even starting with the color if red wine were deep purple instead of deep red. There’s not much carbonation, and it has a tannin woodiness that you sometimes get in red wine. However, while I find this beer to be an interesting and creative effort, it just doesn’t quite get anywhere in terms of having a strong flavor profile you can hang on to. Ultimately it’s a bit bland, and the woodiness is distracting. As I say in every Songbird review, they’re still very new, and there’s time for them to develop. These early beers are essentially prototypes, and I’m looking forward to seeing how their beers come together in the future.
Stillwater Artisanal Existent
Package: 12 fl oz bottle
Pour – Cola black with some purplish tint, very little carbonation
Aroma – Subtle aroma, slight licorice but also funk, caramel, yeast
Flavor – Caramel and currant and plum flavor that develops slowly, brett-like funk, finish is dry and funky
One of Stillwater’s guiding principals is that everything is a saison. On one hand, that gives them a fair amount of leeway to make whatever beers they want to without worrying about how it’s going to get categorized. With this beer, which they label as a “dark farmhouse ale”, you wonder if they could have just labeled it a Belgian dark ale, which is probably a pretty good descriptor of what it is.
Anyway, that’s nit-picking – the Stillwater Existent is a great beer. While the caramel/plum/licorice aspects of it are very Belgian, I find the most interesting aspect of this beer to be the brett in the aroma and flavor, especially because as far as I am aware they don’t use brett in this beer! The fruit aspects of it are a bit mild on the initial taste but they get there quickly enough, and the dry funk in the finish is great.
Of course, we haven’t discussed the absolute best part of this beer yet – not only does the ad copy have a quote from Nietzsche (“If you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you”), the label also has a picture of him! I’m not sure what Nietzsche or that quote has to do with the beer (although it should be noted that the founder of Stillwater used to be a musician – and IT guy – and is into philosophy), but we’ll leave you with the full quote from Nietzsche:
“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche