Saison Liaison: Southampton Cuvee des Fleurs
Enjoyed on 12/31/2011
Brewery: Southampton Publick House
Location: Southampton, NY
Presentation: 750 ml brown bottle, corked and caged.
Adjuncts: Lavender, Chamomile, Calendula, Rose Hips
From the Web:
Cuvèe des Fleurs roughly translates to “batch of the flowers”. This most distinctive ale is flavored with a variety of edible flowers. Aromatic and medicinal flowers such as Lavender, Chamomile, Calendula, Rose Hips and Hops (they’re flowers too!) are added to this special brew to impart a distinct aroma and flavor.
Beer Advocate: 91 (4.2)
Rate Beer: 99 (3.8)
Music Accompaniment: Pulse Emitter – Meditative Music
When I lived back East I always had a deep respect for the ales of Southampton. I think their saison was one of the very first that I deeply enjoyed. When I started this column and planned to ask my sister to send me some East Coast saisons, Southampton’s was the first one I thought of. Apparently I wasn’t specific enough with my request and this is what I received. I didn’t even know this existed. From what I gather, this “mistake” is going to be even better than that which I was seeking.
It also seems worth noting that I have felt stricken with a case of writers block lately. Not necessarily in the traditional sense that I couldn’t find word but just that I haven’t been happy with those I’ve found. One thing that I have always know about myself is that I have above average social chameleon abilities. One such example is that when surrounded by stimulating, inspirational conversation/writings, I seem to adapt accordingly and, suddenly, I find myself not only speaking but thinking with greater intelligence. Of course, that’s subjective, but my own judgement is often all I have. With this in mind, I began to reread a book that is most inspirational to me. I’ve quickly felt its effects. May you be the judge.
After some muscle went into popping the cork I feared my jostling could spawn a gusher but there was little signs of life in the bottle once the air was introduced. On the pour, again, the liveliness was minimal, but a pure white head did present itself on a medium pour. The hue below the froth holds a most pleasant, soothing, hazy yellow-orange. It gains a bit of clarity in direct light but looks most cloudy on the table, like a clairvoyant image of a hazed sunrise through a crystal ball.
Bubbles rise at a rate that seems disjointed given the head’s subtleties, but it makes the sight all the more magical and life filled. Lacing is most minimal, and even a heavy swirling leaves only a splotch or two on the glass.
You think the odor of this beer is relevant? Flowers added? Good gracious! I don’t even know where to begin. Maybe at flowers – there’s some here to be wafted. A mighty zephyr of petaled perfume has virtually punched me with Spring rites. I’ve gained entrance to the secret garden and the winds seem to be bellowed from the blossoms themselves. I’m a slow-motion humming bird with beak probing this glassen tulip I hold…yeah, it sprouts poetry from me. I’m almost brought to tears.
To speak in beer review adjectives seems daunting. What do I sense other than fantasy? Mundane “floral” description withdrawn, we really must get creative. Bubble gum is present, which is familiar enough to pose as yeast derivative. Herbal tea thoughts spin me to jasmine, chamomile, rose hips…but only as association. I can’t specifically place any of them. I get a note of honeydew, maybe even honeysuckle, and no stretch to honeymoon with flower strewn upon bed spread.
There’s an underlying spiciness that is likely an agent of the most common flower within, that of lupulin. From those holy cones does too come some earth and citrus. Every new inhale wields its own initiation of wonderment. There’s some sweet malt in there too. I sense Pilsner, possibly Aromatic. A bread like permeation, twisted up with garden gifts, peaks this radiating meditation to rosemary loaf or sage leaf sourdough. And…incense, like aura of used record store peddling Marley posters and Joplin t-shirts.
Cuvee is surprisingly sweet. It’s a nice change of pace, and who knows, maybe the brewer’s determined that the floral elements became too overwhelming in arid climates, dried to a more concentrated version of themselves. That which blooms in the nose is not so easily tasted, and thus the yeast and hops regain primary dominance. It’s decidedly spicy with a lot of white pepper present. Still, herbal tea is not out of the mind by any stretch, which is also reassured with bearing on the near stillness of the fluid, or, lack of carbonation. Despite a deficiency in tongue prickle, the fluid’s body remains bold with sugar density.
Booze is not a silent attribute but it’s easily over-looked with the cacophony of flavor/aroma elements. I’m feeling it and flavor inspiration is surely striking attrition to writing sense. Be it the ultimate downfall of combining my loves.
Post swallow, the coating sweetness tends to linger and satisfy. Only the intensely unique flavors beg for another sip. There is a faint bitterness present, but it’s mostly smooth malts and soft florals. It’s almost like what the lasting aftertaste of a traditional British tea time with Earl Grey and lemon scones may be. Wow, yeah that kind of strikes a chord. You’ve got the citrus, herbs and earth that the tea brings coupled with the sweet, doughy maltiness and added citrus element of the lemon accent. It’s distinguished. A treat meant for royalty.
I feel strongly that this beer is going to end up changing my life in some small but significant way. The farmhouse ale brewed with farmhouse flowers. I now know how beautifully it works. My future brewery will make a unique version of this beer. It’ll be estate grown. It’ll be of the earth about the brewery. It’ll be delicious, distinguished, and fit for royalty.
I raise my glass to 2012!