I’m well aware that my last beer and food article involved risotto, but I just like making it so much that I’m going to have to bore you again with another one. In my defense, the previous review was mostly written several months ago and I just posted last week, because I’m just that slow. I’ve been holding on to this bottle of Saison for a while; arguably a little too long. I think I got it in late summer, and just cracked it open now. It was a special purchase for me, so I wanted to make sure that it got the proper write up it deserved – presuming that it wasn’t garbage. This bottle is a collaboration between almost all the major craft brew players in Quebec – 13 to be exact – and was put together with Ca Va Brasser!, a Quebec based television show about the Quebec microbew scene. This beer was specifically brewed by Microbrasserie Charlevoix – who also happen to be one of my favorite breweries. It was made from locally grown ingredients, spanning all over Quebec. This beer was also verging on being “overpriced” at 16$ for a 750ML champagne sized bottle. Now, compared to purchasing wine, this is hardly expensive, and I constantly use this as a argument for spending too much money on beer.
As I was mentioning, I do love making risotto and I just recently wrote an article on a beer/risotto paring. I won’t get into too much detail on the technical aspects in order to avoid too much overlap. For a more details on making risotto: click here. So this time around I’m making one of my staple risotto dishes, which consists of asparagus, shallots, garlic, tarragon, and lemon zest. I also sometimes use leeks, which adds a lighter onion flavor, while also giving the dish slightly more texture. But I didn’t have any at the time, so french shallots did the trick.
Using a large pot, I started by simmering the shallots in some butter and olive oil, then went in the garlic and some lightly blanched asparagus pieces. I let that go for a bit, tossing in some chopped tarragon as well. After a few minutes I added the rice, letting it toast slightly. Then came the white wine, and some lemon zest, which threw up some great aromatics. From there it was just a matter of adding simmering broth, about a half a cup at a time, for about 20 minutes until the dish was complete. And of course, risotto is always finished with some butter and a heap of freshly grated Parmesan. I decided to roast some yellow peppers as well to use as a bowls for the rice. It helps balance the rich creaminess of the dish, while also adding some interesting esthetics.
So lets talk about the beer. As I said, I was pretty excited for this one – Saisons (Belgian farmhouse ales) are among my favorite beer styles, and the idea of almost all the Quebec craft brewers getting together to produce something like this is pretty amazing. I grabbed my Orval chalice, popped the cap and pour it out. The head was massive! I’m really glad I used this glass because anything too tall or skinny would have been a big foamy mess. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a head so thick and sticky – it’s almost comparable to freshly whipped meringue. The aromas on this are also huge. It’s Incredibly fruity with loads of tart and sweet apple cider, strawberries, and peaches. There is a big, zesty and funky saison yeast smell that also dominates; not surprising given the mammoth head.
At this point I was quite excited to taste it, given the crazy nose. At first my palate was hit with a big bunch of of citrus tang, which led into a subtle but substantial sourness. A good amount of yeast funk in there too, with some heavy earthy characters and some barnyard wheat. Also, just like the nose, there are loads of sweet apples and strawberries, which is very reminiscent of a good cider. I’m also getting a big, zesty bubblegum-like flavor from the yeast esters, and also some cloves, cardamon and black peppercorns. This is all cut down perfectly by a gentle, but efficient hop bitterness, which lives you with some residual lingering spiciness. This beer is not only complex, but extremely “flavorful,” which is a word I normally hate using, but it’s the only fitting descriptor here. This really was a fantastic beer; a well balanced sensory explosion.
Once the risotto was ready, I threw in some butter and a bunch of Parmesan cheese. I removed the roasted yellow peppers from the oven, plated them, and spooned the rice into the peppers. The final touch was a bit of black pepper and some more grated cheese. I wasn’t sure how well these two would pair, but in the end I was quite happy with the turn out. The beer complimented the risotto and the risotto also complimented the beer. The richness of the rice brings out the beer’s earthy yeast qualities, while the beer helps emphasize and enhance the Parmesan flavor in the risotto. The fruity character of this Saison, mixed with the well hopped bitterness, helps cut the heaviness of this dish quite well, leaving me wanting another bite. Overall, I was quite happy with how the dish turned out, and was pretty much blown away by this collaborative Saison. I’m not sure if there are any more out there on the shelves, but this bottle is well worth the price tag if you do come across one.