We’ve been coming across of Daisen G beers lately, but we like them so we’re not complaining. Today we’ve got the Daisen G Grand Saison and representing the United States, the Firestone Walker Opal.
Daisen G Grand Saison (大山Gビール・グランセゾン)
Package: 330mL bottle
Pour – Pale cloudy gold, lots of creamy foam
Aroma – Very spicy and peppery, grassy, lemon
Flavor – Yeasty, lots of pepper and wheat in the middle, slightly tart lemon citrus finish, creamy texture, very refreshing
Daisen G are a bit all over the map stylistically, but their focus is definitely on American-style beers, with the usual weizen and pilsner exceptions. However, they do also go off-script and make a couple of local rice beers, such as the Yago, and even release an aged version of the Yago. They don’t, however, really get too much into Belgian-style beers, but they do have this Belgian-style Grand Saison, and also just released a Belgian IPA.
There isn’t a whole lot of information on this beer out there, but the product page does tell us a few things. First, as expected, it is a Belgian-style saison made with Belgian yeast, but they’ve also added a bit of wheat to it. They use Nelson Sauvin hope for that fruit white wine effect, but it doesn’t mention what other hops are used in the beer.
The Daisen G Grand Saison is a very nice and refreshing saison, and a good example of the kind of beer that we don’t see too much here but would be nice to see more of. The yeast and grass are classic Belgian saison characteristics, but the wheat touch adds a good amount of spice and creaminess to it. I don’t know if it’s solely down to their choice of hops, but the lemon citrus notes are also quite effective.
This is probably near the top of the pile in Japan in terms of best Belgian-style saison in a bottle. It’s not such a common style to begin with here, so it would really come down to either this one or the Tamamura Honten Yamabushi saison one, although if you’re talking about tap beers Kyoto Brewing are making some really nice saisons. In terms of purchasing, Tanakaya is the only place in Tokyo that reliably carries Daisen G seasonals, so that’s the place to go – it’s a little bit pricey at 648 yen, but definitely worth checking out as a nicely-executed refreshing summer saison.
Firestone Walker Opal
Package: 12 fl oz bottle
Misc: IBU – 35; hops – Styrian Golding, Amarillo, Hallertau Blanc (Dry Hop)
Pour – Straw gold, moderate foam, relatively clear
Aroma – Lots of lemony zest, also citrus hops
Flavor – Fizzy texture, spicy and grainy in the middle, finish is tropical fruit hops and then bitter and dry
Firestone Walker Brewing Company is a highly-regarded brewery located in wine country in Paso Robles out in San Luis Obispo, CA. What is a brewery doing out there, you might ask? Actually, it’s not really a coincidence. It’s a family-owned shop founded by Adam Firestone (and his brother-in-law David Walker), who happens to be the scion of the Firestone family of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company fame. Adam Firestone’s father Brooks Firestone was not only a California State Assemblyman, but also happened to found a winery called Firestone Vineyard (which was the first in Santa Barbara). An offshoot of that winery was created in Paso Robles called Firestone Vineyard Paso Robles, and it was on those premises that Firestone Walker Brewing Company was born.
Of course, even with that nice heartwarming tale of lots of old money producing a new and successful craft brewery, it still has the cold corporate ending – they were bought out by Duvel Moortgat in 2015. In addition to producing Duvel, Duvel Moortgat also owns Ommegang and Boulevard Brewing, so they’re certainly doing what they can to keep up with the big boys in terms of craft beer market share. They do have a reputation for leaving the brewers alone, though, and just letting them do their thing while Duvel Moortgat does the heavy lifting in terms of sales and distribution. In fact, this deal with Firestone Walker is also mostly talked about as a “partnership”, and as both companies are privately held there was no disclosure of the terms.
A quick brewing note – they’ve used a relatively new hop called Hallertau Blanc in this beer. This hop, released in 2012, is essentially a new German equivalent to those West Coast IPA C-hops, like Cascade and Citra. It’s got some white wine qualities (the “Blanc” part of the name is supposed to evoke Sauvignon Blanc), and has a lot of tropical fruit characteristics. Let’s see how it behaves here.
The Firestone Walker Opal is also a pretty high-quality saison but with, as their product page states, more of focus on “merging Belgian tradition with West Coast style.” That means less grass and yeast, and more hops. That’s not to say that the Belgian aspects don’t exist; there’s certainly a lot of spice and graininess happening, and the spice carries over into the finish as well. However, the standout feature here really is the way that those aspects lead into the finish where the hops can shine, with the classic West Coast citrus burst along with a dry hop bitterness at the end.
Overall it’s a very good beer, and basically accomplishes what it set out to do. A good blending of the styles, and very flavorful. Comparing it to the Daisen G, it’s actually a pretty interesting comparison. The Daisen G Grand Saison, with the Nelson Sauvin hops, is also aiming a bit for that sweet spot of having some citrus hop bit to it, and they get a good lemon zest and tartness out of it. However, the beer is still much more focused on the yeast and grass and is more of a straight-up Belgian saison. The Firestone Walker Opal takes it the other way and really brings out the hops more, and that works just as well. In the end, I think both of these beers basically are quite successful, both in terms of approach and how they execute it, and I would rate them pretty much equally. The only slight caveat with that decision is that the Opal does better as it warms up, with the hop bitterness kicking in further, whereas the Grand Saison struggled to maintain its edge as time passed. I don’t think there’s a big gap there though, and I still rate the outcome a tie.
Purchasing-wise, Firestone Walker have recently seen a big import push in Japan (thanks, Duvel!), and you can find their beers at Deguchiya and Tanakaya, at the very least. I haven’t personally seen them but I’d be surprised if Tokyo Liquor Land and Liquors Hasegawa didn’t also carry them. I paid 675 yen for my Opal bottle at Tanakaya, so it’s not cheap but a fair price to pay to try it. A very good beer, and as it’s available year-round you should be able to find it now and again in Tokyo.