In the first-ever installment of GaBI, I reviewed some of the selections available from Brooklyn's Sixpoint Brewing. This time around, I'm sharing a tale of an indulgent brew I encountered in, where else, Sin City. Las Vegas has long been viewed as a bit of a desert by craft beer lovers, but that reputation is quickly being erased as the city embraces this growing market.
There are times when a wannabe aficionado, even one looking to step out on a limb, is taken by surprise. Such was the case when I sat down at Public House in The Venetian and selected a beer from their cask section. Truth be told, there was only one option, Epic's Utah Sage Saison, so it wasn't like a game of Russian Brew-lette or anything.
Saison, French for "season", doesn't really have a firm stylistic definition, but is a pale ale that favors fruity and/or spicy notes and is often highly carbonated. The style originated in the French-speaking region of Belgium (home of JCVD) as a farmhouse beer, brewed in the autumn months for farm workers to drink during the summer, when they were entitled to up to 5 liters per day.
Modern saisons are often bottle conditioned, but this version came, as I mentioned, from a cask. For anyone not familiar with cask beer, this is what Public House has to say:
Cask or “real ale” is the purest form of beer there is. It is aged and re-fermented in the cask. It is never pasteurized or filtered, and served without the use of Co2. We believe it is the best way to drink beer.
The server asked whether I was familiar with cask beer, to which I confidently replied that I understood it'd be around room temp and not all fizzy and such. I thought I knew what I was getting into, but boy, was I wrong. This beer was a bridge over herbal-ed waters; it was a Simon and Garfunkel album in a glass, except without the parsley.
Seriously. In addition to sage, Epic brews this member of its Exponential Series with rosemary and thyme, giving it a,dare I say, savory dimension. It was spicy and herbal, with a cloudy, light-golden hue, but full-bodied in flavor. I felt a little like Violet Beauregard noshing on her meal-in-a-stick-of-gum, only I didn't turn into an obnoxious blueberry. Or, I guess, just a more blueberry-like form of myself.
It assaulted me with all the subtlety of a Mack truck hauling a full load from the Herbco factory. And I liked it. I was literally in awe of this beer, and I couldn't really put my finger on why; I'm not even sure I can now. It was just so different, so utterly, shockingly unexpected, that I just sat there staring at it and commenting to no one in particular about how good it was.
I think my reaction can best be summed up by the following scene from the classic comedy Beerfest:
So enamored was I that I have almost forgotten what I had to eat and drink after the Utah Sage Saison. And that is really saying something because the food was incredible and the remaining beer list vast. I opted for the 18oz dry-aged ribeye with Yukon potato puree, a duo that combined with the saison to make this a truly transcendent meal.
I also partook of the Hop Tour flight, the members of which change frequently. On this night, the four horseman pulling my chariot of awesomeness were Therapy Session IPA (Moylan's), Sculpin IPA (Ballast Point), SF Fusion (Lagunitas), and Palate Wrecker (Green Flash); quite the worthy phalanx of dinner companions, to be sure.
But still Epic's Utah Sage Saison stood taller than the rest. I cannot recommend this beer highly enough, though it's basically the malt beverage version of Stephen King's The Stand. It's a magnum opus that's not to be taken lightly; it's just so layered and nuanced that I don't believe anyone other than an "accomplished consumer" would truly be able to appreciate it.
But if you're looking for something outside the box, something that flies in the face of mass produced swill (Epic has had only 15 releases of Utah Sage Saison, or one every few months since it was first produced in December of 2011), this is your beer. You're welcome.
7.5% ABV, others unknown; 97% on RateBeer and 88% on BeerAdvocate
Only 14 states, primarily in the West, but some distribution in Minnesota, Michigan, and Ohio.
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Filed under: Craft Beer