Since River North Brewery in Denver opened their doors in 2012 they have prided themselves in serving great Belgian style ales. Whether it was a traditional saison, white ale, stout, or IPA a great Belgian influence went into each beer designed. Shortly after that quickly evolved into a brewery that featured their already great beers being aged into various style of barrels. From various styles aged in white wine barrels to whiskey barrels, and including a great barrel reserve beer that combines all their whiskey beers into one great offering. However in January 2014 this small brewery took their next step in their barrel aged program with a red wine barrel aged beer, fermented with Brett yeast. This could only be the J Marie Saison Barrel and Bretted.
Now of course for a beer so unique and limited proper glassware was a major necessity and for a beer like this we went with a traditional goblet style glass. The beer poured a rich dark golden color that showed all its effervescence, and this was capped off with a bright white head to top it off. A slightly heavy pour left a good inch of head on top this beer. The aroma was very unique combing the qualities of Belgian style ales and sours together into one beer. This beer brought a very complex aroma which has great qualities of yeast from the Brett, a subtle hint of citrus was visible in the nose, plus the red wine and oak were prominent from the barrel. With such a complex aroma how would this beer taste?
The body was very light and exactly what a saison/farmhouse ale should be. A light and effervescent body is the first thing you notice as the beer hits your tongue to awaken your pallet. A subtle malt flavor with low hop bitterness is the main base of this beer which creates a mellow flavor profile. Like with any farmhouse ale the yeast plays a prominent role in the flavor, and that is where this version of J Marie becomes bold, and unique. The reason behind such a bold flavor profile is that popular wild yeast strain Brett. This gave the beer a very unique and earthy flavor profile. This added a very subtle tartness to the beer but did not overpower the rest of the beer. Instead it worked in balance with the barrel aging this beer went through as well.
The barrel flavor came through strongly with a bold red wine flavor followed by a more subtle oak flavor. This added tartness to compliment the Brett yeast. To finish this beer had a slightly lingering aftertaste, but not one so powerful it makes you not want to drink it. It was just strong enough to make you intrigued to keep sipping, and the before you know it the bottle is gone.
Overall this was a great beer that was full flavored, and a great addition to an already great lineup of barrel aged beers that River North produces. Not only is the first use of red wine barrels but also the first beer they bottle conditioned, used a wild yeast train on, and a great version of one of their flagship ales. This simplistic ale was elevated with so many flavors, and yet the integrity of the saison was kept intact. With only 360 bottles produced not only could this be one of the best rare beers in Denver this year, but also one worth aging to see how this beer evolves and matures with time. Over all this beer is easily a 4 out of 5 and a great way to kick off a new year of craft beer.
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