One Big Bottle: Stillwater Chardonnay Barrel-Aged Stateside Saison
Editor's Note: So many beers, so little time. One Big Bottle spotlights the brews we're sipping, one by one.
I've been a fan of Brian Strumke's beers since the first time I tried Cellar Door, his white sage-laced Saison. Never beholden to the DuPont gold standard that many stylists cling to as the only true expression of a Saison, his beers are playful, creative, and often remarkable. So when I saw he was releasing a small portion of his flagship Stateside Saison that had been aged in Chardonnay barrels along with multiple strains of Brettanomyces, even the price tag (about $13 for 11.2 oz was the cheapest I was able to find it) wasn't enough to calm my curiosity.
In the glass, the beer is a slightly hazy yellow gold with two fingers of dense, rocky head. Oak hits first in the aroma, along with moderately wild Bretty funk. The lemon peel and grapefruit I noticed in the regular version is there as well, but they no longer shine quite as bright.
The first drink is eye-opening. The beer's dryness and high carbonation have made it razor sharp on the tongue. The wild yeast has eaten away at the base beer's underlying sticky malt sweetness during its time in the barrel. What's left behind is a mix of orange, apricot, and a Chardonnay grape character that is prominent throughout. The finish is black pepper and lingering oak tannins. Overall, it's slightly tart, more than a little bitter, and deeply satisfying. Considering that this is one of Stillwater's first commercial cracks at a barrel-aged beer makes the complexity of the end result all the more impressive.