Following up on our Orval post, today we’re looking at a couple of wine-bottle saisons using brett. Locally we have the Tamamura Honten saison brett, and the modern classic Saison Rue from The Bruery.
Tamamura Honten Yama-Bushi saison brett (山伏 四)
Package: 750mL bottle
Pour – Very foamy but settles quickly, grapefruit orange amber
Aroma – Some funk and yeast, dirt and earth
Flavor – Initially a lot of brett, finish is a bit tart, very smooth and creamy, not much hop bitterness, a bit plain as it warms up
The Tamamura Honten saison brett is the fourth (and currently last) in the Yama-Bushi series that Tamamura Honten produces (there’s some more background on that series in our saison one review). Like the other beers in the series it is bottle-conditioned, uses homegrown ingredients, and is packaged in wine bottles. If I’m not mistaken, it’s also their first and only beer so far that uses brett.
And oh does it uses brett! From the start it’s very brett-y, and it dominates the beer at first. There is some nice tartness on the finish, but the flavor of the beer begins to dissipate a bit as it warms up. Overall it’s pretty enjoyable, but also a little bit crude with the over-the-top brett. I happen to really like brett so I like this beer, but I can see how if you wanted a bit more balance you may not particularly like this one, and it would benefit from more of a hop presence.
The saison brett is pretty rare on tap, and also not so common in bottle form – you can find it reliably at Deguchiya, which is where I purchased this one, and I’ve also seen it periodically at Shinanoya, although they usually don’t stock it. Despite it’s rarity it is a year-round beer, so you should be able to find it somewhere – they do also sell it on their website here, so if all fails there you go.
The Bruery Saison Rue
Package: 750mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 28
Pour – Foamy, settles, pale bright golden amber
Aroma – Plum, sugar, brett, plum and brett become stronger as it warms up, faint hops as well
Flavor – Brett is noticeable but not too strong, orange peel, sugar, tart finish, lemon, spice and pepper on finish
We love The Bruery here, and although I don’t think this is one of their best beers I do think that it is still a very good one. Of course, many would take exception with this – it’s a well-loved beer and one of the workhorses of The Bruery lineup. Incidentally, as a brett (i.e. wild yeast) beer it has been moved from the old The Bruery to the new Bruery Terreaux wild/sour beer arm of the brewery.
The Saison Rue that we are trying here is the previous version still labeled as The Bruery rather than the new Bruery Terreaux label. Styled as a saison with rye and brett, you do get the brett, but it’s actually not very strong. The citrus notes are great, with lots of orange peel and lemon coming in and creating a nicely tart finish. The rye adds a good amount of spiciness to it. The brett gets a bit stronger as it warms up, and overall it’s just a very well-balanced beer with lots of interesting things happening.
Although pricey The Bruery products are not so hard to find in Tokyo, and I’ve seen the Saison Rue at a number of places, including Deguchiya, Tanakaya, Tokyo Liquorland, and Aeon Liquors in Naka-meguro (they had one close to the expiration date at half price – still kicking myself for not picking it up). Definitely an interesting beer worth checking out.
Interestingly, Tamamura Honten had a blog post where they mentioned that they did a comparison test between their saison one and the Saison Rue while they were finalizing their saison one! So while the saison one has no brett, they decided to take the plunge with their saison brett, and while it doesn’t compare favorably to the Saison Rue it’s still a quality beer. Especially given that brett beers really haven’t taken off yet in Japan, I’m appreciative that Tamamura Honten have made a good one and keep it on the shelves regularly, and it should also serve as a good benchmark for future Japanese brett beers to come.