Beer Review 0213: Victory Saison du Buff
Back in late March, I reviewed Dogfish Head’s Saison du Buff, a beer that is a collaboration between three different breweries. I gave the beer 84 points, and was expecting to be able to review the other two beers in the groupthink (from Victory and Stone) in short order — little did I know, it would take me another four months to collect the other two bottles. Thanks, distribution!
The idea behind Saison du Buff, a Belgian-style farmhouse ale, came about in 2003 when the founders of Dogfish Head (Milton, Delaware), Victory Brewing Company (Downington, Pennsylvania), and Stone Brewing Co. (Escondido, California) all came together to form B.U.F.F. — Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor. They quickly took a hiatus, but in 2010, things became very active and the first batch of Saison du Buff was produced.
Now, we’re in 2012 and the wheels are moving again. This beer is brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary, and lemon thyme, all fresh from Stone Farms — Stone’s organic gardening arm. Each brewery produced a version of the beer, and the three heads of company (Sam Calagione, Bill Covaleski, and Greg Koch) all gathered at Stone earlier this year to brew the pilot batch.
Victory’s version, like Dogfish’s, comes in at 6.8% ABV (alcohol by volume) and is a limited, one-time release. According to Bill Covaleski of Victory, on his first sips of Saison du Buff: “My mind and stomach screamed ‘must get roast chicken’ as the savory broth of herbs and malty delight conjured up real desires.”
The appearance of this beer didn’t differ much from the Dogfish version; it was bright golden in color and poured a small and quickly fading head. The body was clear of particles and sediment, and the lacing was sparse, producing a few thin wisps.
The differences came out on the aromatics; the Victory version is much more of a traditional Saison Belgian-style than the Dogfish. There’s a big note of orange, front and center, with supporting roles of banana, clove, and a subtle hint of bubble gum. The herbs are there, especially the rosemary, but the more classic beer-like aromas tend to overshadow what is supposed to be the star. There were also some sweet bread-like malts, and a doughy yeast. I did notice as I sampled that the herbs were more distinguishable as you drank and were forced to put your nose much closer to the beer.
On the taste, it takes a few sips to get the herb bouquet warmed up, but it’s there. There’s orange peel up front, and not much else; then a sweet malty middle that hints at bananas and clove, then a quite bitter finish that opens to earthy herbs. For such a bitter end, this beer doesn’t dry the mouth out and is actually refreshing. The herb taste reminded me much of working in a garden or checking out the garden section at your local hardware store. This beer tastes alive, which is a good thing; unfortunately, the supporting flavors for the herbs just don’t seem to work here.
Victory’s Saison du Buff is not quite as good as Dogfish’s, which is more herb-forward. But this is an interesting beer, and I found it gone from my glass really quick because it was so refreshing and thirst quenching. However, with the exception of the herbs, the rest of the taste is sort of boring, and I’m going to say this one is really only worth a try if you have one or both of the other versions to do a comparison with.
Victory Saison du Buff, 83 points. Price: $2.95 US for one twelve ounce bottle.