On Monday, Black Raven Brewing released UNABRIDGED, an eagerly anticipated collaboration brew with Stone Brewing. The Unabridged is a wine barrel aged Saison with sumo mandarin oranges and acacia.
The above is an accurate description of this Washington beer but it doesn’t do this delicious saison any justice. Light golden in color, this is a dry and refreshing beer. Traditionally saison were the original “after work” beer given to farm workers coming from the fields. As such it was designed to be low alcohol and ultra refreshing. Black Raven and Stone hold true to the tenets, keeping the alcohol level about 5% while adding their own creative flair.
I talked to Black Raven owner, Beaux Bowman about this delicious saison, Unabridged, on Monday. Small batch manager, Steve Gonzales, of Stone Brewing and Beaux decided back in April to collaborate on an oak aged saison. Beaux was like a proud papa talking about his baby. If he had been wearing buttons, they would have burst. :-p Beaux and Steve brewed Unabridged in Washington and used Washington wine barrels from EFESTE winery, a trusted source for barrel aging their beers.
The barrels are an important element in this tasty brew. You might be used to the hops providing the bitterness to your brew and tannin due the job for your wine but when you age beer in barrels… Beer aged in wine barrels pick up tannin, especially red wine barrels, that provide additional complexity to the bitter finish of your brew. Balance is the name of the game at Black Raven and Beaux doesn’t disappoint here. The IBUs from the hops is only about 20 but I swear the finish of Unabridged lasted a solid 15 minutes in all the best ways possible. It didn’t hold my palate hostage but I was still going yum on the way home,after I enjoyed my taste from the taps. The hops and tannin are partners in balancing the sweetness of the malt and oranges. It is a four way balance balance but Beaux and Steve did the thinking for you. This isn’t a big complex brew. This is a kick back, put your feet up and relax kind of beer.
The fruit behaves itself in this beer, it introduces itself on the nose and then makes itself known mid-palate but never takes over the beer. This is a dry beer, not a sweet fruit cocktail of a beer, making it very refreshing on an 85+ Seattle afternoon! A lot of people may not have heard of acacia, which is a type of wood. Washington wine makers have been experimenting with using acacia barrels and chips to age their white wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier, primarily to give them body and to add floral notes to the nose
Brewed, bottled and distributed only in Washington, Unabridged is a rare bird in deed. Only 134 cases were bottled so if you are lucky enough to see a bottle, buy that bottle. You won’t get a second chance! Your best bet is to get your hands on a bottle of your own will be at one of of the special release events this week, but check out your favorite bottle shop and specialty grocery stores they may have been able to purchase a very limited supply.