Naughty Brewing contacted me to review some of their beers a while ago, and due to a conflict on scheduling I was unable to make the trip up to Austin to Adelbert’s Brewery (where Naughty contract brews) to go to the even they invited me to. Luckily for me, they were going to have an introduction night at Big Hops here in San Antonio, so I would get a chance to try some of their wares a bit closer to home. Me, and everyone else, as it was a FREE BEER NIGHT. Yes, you read that right. As Naughty wasn’t officially open yet, they had a night at Big Hops in which they brought two kegs and poured free sample glasses all night for everyone. Needless to say, the promise of free beer meant a packed location, which I’m sure was great for Naughty since a lot of people got a chance to try them out before they made their official splash in the market, and also gave them a chance to collect a lot of feedback on the two beers they offered that night, which I understand were the not-quite-production-final versions of these brews.
About the Brewery (from http://www.facebook.com/pages/Naughty-Brewing-Co/593267897390378):
Born on a dream and a back porch, we strive to produce quality beers for the most ardent patrons of the craft. We won’t skimp on the quality of ingredients or ever sell out, for we are fervent, we like what you do. We brew for our friends, our friends are compassionate, educated and wise. They know how to be…a little Naughty.
About the Beer (from the style sheet):
Yet another Belgian-Style IPA? No not really, we have tried many in the style, some didn’t meet our expectations. It was time to try our hand at it. We brewed this for ourselves and friends, a collective group that shares the same tastes. Expect citrus, pine, tropical fruit, yeast infused piciness and a sweet crystal backbone that balances it all out.
Style: Belgian IPA
To be up front and honest: I’m not a huge fan of Belgian IPAs. I find the style to be kind of trendy or hokey, almost just a gimmick to get people to try something else. And it really is a bit odd when I think about it, because I really enjoy most Belgian styles (especially Tripels and Quads), and I love IPAs. It’s my go-to style, the one I always have to say to myself “no, try something else instead.” So, logic would have it that combining these two styles would end up with something that I would really enjoy, but in this particular equation the sum is not greater than its parts.
ZIJDEN KOUSEN, Dutch for “silk stockings,” pours a cloudy burnt orange with a light head that does a good job of making its presence remembered. The color itself is a bit odd, but in thinking of what this beer is shooting to be – a combination of Belgian and IPA – it makes a bit more sense. The thickness of its opacity reminds me of an unfiltered Wit, while the color itself brings to mind a vast selection of IPAs that fall squarely in that citrusy area of the color spectrum. Bringing these naughty leggings to my nose, I’m surprised by what I don’t smell. Thinking BIPA, I expect one of two things, or maybe both: either a.) a schnoz full of resiny hoppy goodness, or b.) Belgian esters being big and bad. What I got from ZK was not a whole lot of either. The Belgian funk was completely missing from my glass, which was a big disappointment for me; there was a slight hoppy aroma, but not what I would expect out of something defined as any sort of variation of an IPA.
Thankfully the flavor did not follow down the same road the aroma hinted at. The esters I expect from a beer with yeast that could speak French or German comes through much more prominently on my palate than they did in my nose, and for that I’m grateful. The hops that were hinted at in the aroma also begin that way on the tongue, but with each successive sip the citrus and pine percolate and begin to pop. By the time I had finished the two tasters I procured (shhh don’t tell any one I went back for seconds!) the hops had made themselves much more well known. Still not quite what I would expect from an IPA, but the hops were not as absent as I feared from the first sniff. This is a bit of a sad fact for my palate, because while I love IPAs, my favorites are the IPAs that favor the aroma hopping over the bittering, and ZK was (at least in its introductory form) much more of an early-addition hopped beer rather than late.
When it came to the body presented in these sexy socks, I was a bit more impressed. ZK comes with a really nice smoothness, and it is a bit heavier than what I would expect from your average IPA. The body is leaning much more to the Belgian side of its heritage, and I enjoy the fact that it is a bit thicker than the norm, which does make me take a bit more notice. Overall, I felt ZK was very barely a Belgian IPA, other than the color and the body and a touch in the flavor. Again, this is not a style I will readily order or go for if offered again other options, and in the canon of BIPAs I’ve had I just didn’t find ZK to be that much different. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t do anything special to make me change my thinking on a style that I’m already somewhat biased against. I hope that the final version of this beer features a heavier hop addition later in the boil where the aroma can make a much heavier impact on the drinker, and maybe a stronger yeast that can impart more of that funkiness that I love to find in beer from this region.
Overall 5.5 / 10
I Think She Hung The Moon
About the Beer (from the style sheet):
The very nature of this beer is to be a bit provocative. Belgian candy sugar and Mexican piloncillo sugar cones dry the body, sweet pecan smoke adds a bold smoke, laced witht the tart note of hibiscus. We had a vision of a dark, dry, tart and smoky beer that would pair well with anything you would put on a grill. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoy making it.
Style: Tenebrous Smoked Saison
So it seems from the couple of chances I got to get in on the Naught Brewing party, they don’t plan on doing “regular” beers. ZK is a BIPA, a less common IPA variant, and I THINK SHE HUNG THE MOON is described as a “Tenebrous Smoked Saison,” a dark Saison brewed with some odd and interesting adjuncts for the style. Saison, as you may know if you read these reviews regularly, has been moving up my list of styles I really enjoy, and I’m always interested when someone takes a different approach on something I like. I’m not one of those people that says that a style must be defined exactly as ingredient a + ingredient b at temp c and if it’s not exactly that then it’s not right, I can enjoy some experimentation.
ITSHTM pours like coffee, a mocha chocolate brown but with a surprising white head for how dark the body of the beer is. The head sticks around for just a minute or two, but when it’s gone it does leave a reminder in the form of a halo on the rim of the beer that licks the glasswear. When employing my nose for some feedback, it’s telling me first and fore most “smoke! Smoke smoke smokity smoke!!” Just behind the combustible fog, my nose tells me there is a heavy, thick sweetness to be found. These are very odd aromas to be coming from a saison, as generally the style is a bit dry, and while it’s generally a bit fruity in the nose, it’s not so heavily sweet as ITSHTM is.
Taking ITSHTM to my palate, the smog is upfront and prevalent, and really reminds me of liquid smoke more than the real stuff. In talking to James Vaello, the Naughty brewer, I know that this is NOT the case, but for some reason in ITSHTM the rauch is really coming across as reproduction. I was pleasantly surprised to find though that the smoke is not nearly as overbearing as my nose made it out to be. The flavors ITSHTM bring combine into a very complex concoction, with some deep sweetness from the piconcillo sugar and some incredibly balancing tartness from the hibiscus. On the way out, the hops also pop up for a quick “hello,” but it’s pretty much an afterthought. I really enjoy the flavors of ITSHTM (much more than the aroma), but it just doesn’t say “saison” at all to me. As I said before, I love experimentation and I love tweaking a style, but I think maybe ITSHTM is just too much of a departure from the standard saison description and if someone was buying it looking for a saison, they would be disappointed. Now, if ITSHTM were re-branded into something else (what, exactly, I’m not sure) as far as the style goes, I think it would sit much better with me.
ITSHTM is a smooth, velvety, creamy beer with a nice medium thickness. It’s not light like a pils, and it’s not heavy in the stout areas. This again heads away from the saison though, because I find most of the better saisons are a bit lighter in body than ITSHTM, and I think this may come from all the extra adjuncts ITSHTM is carrying around with it. For a smoked beer, it’s actually pretty easily drinkable. I probably wouldn’t be able to have more than two pints or so, but that’s better than most of the smoked beers out there. Overall, ITSHTM is a really nice beer with some very interesting flavors going on. The smoke needs to be turned down a bit on the aroma so to not overwhelm the senses before you even get a chance to get into the tasting. The biggest issue I have with it is just an issue with misidentification: I believe that “saison” is a misnomer and with some re-branding I think ITSHTM could be a much more successful brew.
Overall 7 / 10