When I first heard of Napoleone Brewers my impression was they were a cider company, probably contract brewing a beer somewhere else, so I won’t pay too much attention. I’m a cynic at heart.
To be honest I don’t think I’d given them much, or any thought, after that.
Recently I wrote this lengthy post about what constitutes a “saison” and soon after saw a mention of this beer on social media. I suggested “Saison Duval” was a name that brings many connotations with it. While not the same spelling as the famous Duvel, I’m sure most beer lovers would be instantly reminded of it (in this case, Duval means “of the valley” and not “devil” like the well known one).
They approached me via social media and asked if I was interested in giving it a spin, and as a result they were kind enough to send me some samples of their range. Appreciated of course and it gives me a chance to crap on about saisons a bit more, which is always nice.
Outside of the saison, of the samples they sent I’ve tried the ESB, Rauchbier and the Pale Ale. As a result of tasting them my cynicism has changed to enthusiasm and each one has been well made and very tasty. The ESB has an almost vinous character with full malt and earthy marmalade hops, the Rauch not dominant with smoke flavors and executed with finesse, and the Pale was a fine version of the style.
What of the Saison Duval?
Brewed in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, Napoleone are primarily known for cider, but also own the well regarded Punt Road Wine brand. The addition of the brewery is fairly recent.
Visitors can sample the beer and cider at their recently opened Napoleone Brewery & Ciderhouse. I haven’t visited, but friends have told me how much they enjoyed their visit and the beers.
This particular one, Saison Duval, is a 5.7% saison available on draught (possibly brewery only?) and in 330ml bottles.
Like their other bottles, it has a bottled on date on the back (29/05/15 in this case) which gets a massive tick from me. They also give plenty of information about each beer over on their site. Again, another massive tick from me.
How does it look?
Their labeling and branding is consistent across the beers, with a clear format and minimal changes between each bottle. I’m always a fan of that approach and their use of texture on the label (with embossed type for their name and logo on rough paper label) is a nice touch.
The beer itself is translucently vibrant yellow. Really great to look at and reflective of the label colour choice. It comes lively out of the bottle however the head didn’t stick around.
Their are the classic Belgian yeast aromas and in this case they use the “Belle Saison” strain which is known to bring a well rounded spice and phenols to the finished beer. From it, I get wet hay, green banana, lemon curd.
While the head didn’t last, there was an almost pop-rock like mouth feel, as the carbonation prickled over the palate. With the taste lively but smooth it has flavours of dried apricot, green banana and white bread. A low bitterness (20 IBU from Magnum hops) with a clean malt profile really helps the yeast stretch its legs and as it warms in the glass it brings a gentle lemon tartness.
The finish is soda-water-dry and moreish.
With a number of breweries right now bringing out fruited or spiced saisons without doing a basic version it is really great to see a single malt, low hopped, clean version executed so well. It shows what can be done when the yeast is left to do its thing and in this case the yeast brings a range of flavours while it breathes in the glass.
Should the brewery want to stretch their legs into a fruited version this would be the perfect base. With their orchard proximity to a number of wine barrels there is endless potential for experiments with a beer such as this. Following trends in the US, they could fruit it and put it in a barrel and us beer geeks will be lining up for days.
In the meantime it’s definitely one that stands as a well made, vibrant and interesting beer.