So until recently, Hopfenstark was kind of a mysterious brewery to me, only having tried their products at Beer festivals, and never seeing their bottles for sale. During the last festival I attended, I made sure to try as much as I could, given that I’ve heard so many good reviews for fellow beer folk. Saison’s are becoming one of my favorite styles of beer and Hopfenstark makes more of them then any other brewery that I’m aware of. I got to sample much of their offerings, and I was sold. I trekked out to a beer store a little out of the way in hopes that I could find their stuff along with “Le Trou du Diable’s” offerings, which are even harder to find. Well there was no TTD, but I was certainly able to stock up on the Hopfenstark which made me a happy boy.
The Beer I’m reviewing today is a hybrid, and probably one of the more interesting hybrid beers that I’ve come across. It is is actually three beer styles in one; a Saison, a Rauchbier and a Berliner Weissbier. It’s named “Boson de Higgs;” A Boson in physics is a type of particle that allows multiple identical particles to exist in the same place in the same quantum state. So I’m only presuming that this beer is aptly named so because it is three different types of beer existing in one space, and today’s space happens to be my glass! I’d like to take a moment to describe and give some background on the three styles in question.
Saison Beer: originates in Belgium, it is also often referred to a Farmhouse Ale. It was originally brewed in the Spring months in order to feed the farm workers during the summer, as high temperatures can mess with the yeast – lucky farmers… In my experience, they are spicy, fruity and carry a slight sourness, which makes them refreshing as well as robust and flavorful. The yeast used is also quite particular and once you have had a few, you can single it out pretty well.
Rauchbier: originates in Germany, and specifically from town called Bamberg, in the district of Franconia. It is often rather dark, but I have certainly had lighter colored versions of the style. What makes this style of beer so interesting is the way the malted grains are dried, which is done over an open fire of beechwood – essentially being smoked. This gives the beer a tremendously strong smokey taste which often resembles things like bacon, or smoked meat. It’s not for everyone, but when done well, they can be quite delicious.
Berliner Weissbier: is a style that originates in Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg. It is a wheat beer (Wheat=Weiss) that has Lactobacillus bacteria added in order to make it particularly sour. This type of bacteria is often the culprit in ruining beer, but in certain styles (like this one), it is a flavor that is wanted. traditionally it can be drank on its own, or with the accompaniment of fruit flavored syrups that help balance the rather intense sourness. They can also brewed with fruit ahead of time – Dieu du Ciel makes a fantastic raspberry infused version.
So now to the task at hand. This one pours out a bright yellow color, with minimal carbonation and what looks like a pretty light body. At first the aroma that hits my nose is rather fruity, with an emphasis on tropical fruits, like pineapple. I’m also getting some spicy Saison style yeast in there, with sour smells too – tart cherries. Getting virtually no smokiness on the nose here which I find quite surprising, I presumed it would be the star of the show here.
After the first sip I’m pretty much sold – what an interesting balance. Oh, and where the smoke is missing on the nose, it strongly makes up in taste. There is a lot of back and forth going on here with the flavor. The smoke is apparent immediately, bold but not too overpowering. Mixed in there are some fruity esters, like cherries, strawberries and just general yeastiness all around. All this is then quickly cut by a pretty intense sourness, hitting the back of my tongue and causing that weird tingling sensation you get when you eat something particularly sour. The sourness dies down quick though, leaving a long smokey finish that stays with you until the next sip. Imagine being in front of a campfire, shoveling sour cherry blaster candies into your mouth – kind of like that, but in a good way! More fruit emerges as it warms, with lots of peaches and strawberries mixed into the tart smokey goodness.
The body on this is light, with pretty mild carbonation. There was virtually no head when I poured it out, and what head there was dissipated quickly. I guess that would be my only qualm with this otherwise delicious and inventive brew. I would have liked it to be just a tab more effervescent. Being only 3.8%, it goes down incredibly well, but is by no means a sipper, although you certainly can considering it’s complexity. Carrying a roller-coaster of flavors, I highly recommend this to anyone willing to venture into otherworldly beer territory.