In this week’s Try-It Thursday, we shine a light on the beer that took the trophy for Best in Class – Champion French/Belgian Style beer at the inaugural Australian Craft Beer Awards. (thanks for the reminder, Chris McNamara!)
La Sirene, Alphington, Victoria
6.5% Farmhouse Ale
Many breweries in what Willie Simpson described beautifully as “Australia’s second wave of craft” began with two or more friends sitting around and deciding to take the big step of turning passion into profit. From Mountain Goat’s Cam and Dave and an ‘I get it now!’ postcard, to Heath and Steve launching Cavalier over dog-walking beer-tasting sessions in the park, plenty of success stories have launched off the back of a beer.
Few, however, have their genesis in winemaking. For Costa Nikias and his original business partner James Brown, a rather long and science-heavy course in winemaking led to numerous after-class discussions (over good Belgian beer) which led both to realise that beer was, in fact, their true shared passion. La Sirene was born.
World travels led them to a rather special yeast strain which had been fermenting beer for generations of a family brewer (but not from an actual brewery) a hybrid of which makes the saison for which La Sirene Saison is now well known.
So, to the beer;
“La Sirène Saison is true to style, with a subtle backdrop of premium European Pilsner malt and understated hops allowing fruity yeast characters to take centre stage. A generous and well integrated alcohol content rounds out the mouthfeel and further lifts the aromas. A dry finish and a tart kiss ensure this beer is most food friendly and thirst quenching. In contrast to the current craze for highly hopped ales, we prefer to let our yeast do the talking. We believe that this approach yields beers with more elegant flavour and aroma profiles.”
Dan Hampton was effusive in his praise in The Critics’ Choice 3rd edition;
“Love the bottles. Love the labels. Love the way it pours with a dense white fluffy head and cloudy sweet straw colour. Love the citrus, funky yeast and banana aromas. And taste? Yep….LOVE IT! Saisons may have changed considerably over the centuries, but as we know them, this one is stylistically spot-on.”
…then this year;
“Sneaking into the number 30 spot last year despite limited availability, it makes a welcome but maybe surprising return this year as it seemed to be even harder to track down. Spritzy and vibrant, fluffy-headed and tart and yeastily aromatic it deserves setting aside the time to pour carefully, watch transfixed as it settles then sip slowly while appreciating the stylish bottle artwork. Truly a feast for the senses.” (Pete Mitcham)
A number 32 spot in last year’s Taphouse Hottest 100 rounds out a pretty fair swag of accolades for a beer that has, according to the brewer, undergone many test batches before it was deemed worthy of our palates.
It could fairly be argued that while Ben Kraus at Bridge Road Brewers introduced the vast majority of us to the pleasures of saison, examples like La Sirene’s are carrying the torch for the next generation.