Beer Review 0198: Olde Hickory Saison Gee

Today’s beer comes from the Olde Hickory Brewery, located in Hickory, North Carolina, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Anyone who reads this website with any regularity will know this is a local brewery for me. Founded in 1994 by Steven Lyerly and Jason Yates, production started on a seven barrel system and quickly outgrew, forcing upgrades.

Olde Hickory isn’t a giant mega brewery, instead choosing to make beer in small batches, 800 gallons or less at a time. (Just to show how “small batch” Olde Hickory are, my bottle of Saison Gee has a hand marked “enjoy by…” date.) Distribution for their beers seems to be limited to Tennessee and North Carolina, so this one might be hard for most of my readers to find.

Saison Gee is a limited release beer from Olde Hickory, bottled in the big 750 ml bottles. This is a classic Belgian-style Saison aged in chardonnay barrels, and features a higher than normal (for the style) ABV (alcohol by volume) — 9%.

Before pouring, I noticed a statement on the label saying to “pour carefully to avoid rousing the yeast.” So I gave this one a gentle release, which produced a small soapy head that quickly diminished. The beer was a golden orange color, very nice for a Saison, and was hazy from the yeast. Keep in mind that I had not yet poured all the yeast that was at the bottom of the bottle. The body was filled with a light sediment, and there were nice alcohol legs given this was above average in ABV for this style. Lacing was minimal.

The aromatics featured a classic Saison scent, with a heavy white wine twist. The chardonnay barrel treatment is right up front, mixing with a musty and bready yeast that combines with orange rind and clove. There’s a malted backend of grain and hay, and this one verges on cookie dough territory, but doesn’t quite make it. Very nice and pleasant. And the higher than normal alcohol is present, but it doesn’t detract from the overall scent picture.

Tasting Saison Gee, the palate is treated to orange and white wine up front, crisp and tart. There’s a soft carbonation to this beer, and the middle of the taste transitions to a bit of sweet caramel and a spicy note. Then, on the finish, it’s more of the orange rind with a slight sweetness, leading to a dry finish with a tiny bitter edge. There’s a bit of alcohol warmth at the end of the taste, and the finish is quite long in duration, presenting flavor after flavor like a good fireworks show.

I’m very proud to call this a wonderfully made local Saison — with the higher alcohol, this completely works and I would love to purchase another bottle of this for aging. This is refreshing and easily drinkable, and I would have no problem relaxing to this and polishing off an entire bottle. Compare this to Ommegang Hennepin, which I rated 96 points. This isn’t quite as rounded out, but it’s pretty damn tasty.

Olde Hickory Saison Gee, 93 points. Price: $7.99 US for one 750 ml bottle.

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