Ilkley Brewery - Siberia, Rhubarb Saison 5.9%
This is a beer I've wanted to taste for a while, right back to when I saw Melissa Cole was at Ilkley Brewery actually brewing it through twitter. I enquired as to the ingredients and both parties tweeted back at the same time, rhubarb puree, vanilla and grains of paradise. I was intrigued but it has taken me until today, approximately 3 months later to finally open a bottle.
A saison is historically a beer brewed for harvest-time consumption by farmworkers in the Wallonia region of Belgium.They do not tend to share identifiable characteristics but are generally light, zingy and refreshing, ideal for summertime drinking.
Pouring straight from the bottle it is a lively beer, throwing up a large but feather-light bright white head. This takes a while to dissipate, meaning that it takes several careful pourings and several minutes to obtain a reasonable glass of beer, but as the old adage goes: good things come to those who wait.
It is a beautiful cloudy honey-colour, inviting and rather delicate, I can't wait to taste it.
There is a dry spicy lemon aroma coming from the glass, reminding me a little of a good cloudy dry cider, and giving it a swirl around I can pick up a little of the vanilla. If I was offered this is a blind tasting I'd be convinced it was Belgian from the smell of it, but it probably lacks a little of the forcefulness you would tend to associate with beers from that country. It skips and dances smoothly across the tongue, initially quite thin but then the flavour becomes more intense. There are snatches of white pepper, glimmers of tartness from the rhubarb and some oily orange peel flavours, both seperate and intermingling to create quite a rounded and enveloping mouth-feel. It has a wonderful dry yet fresh taste, and this continues into the finish which has a little vanilla and some orange peel bitterness in the mix.
This is a deliciously refreshing beer that very much appeals to the Belgian ale loving part of me. I cannot remember having a beer quite like this from a British brewer before and while it is clearly inspired by a Belgian saison the inclusion of rhubarb, although an imported vegetable (it's not a fruit). somehow adds an element of Englishness to it.
I was pleased to read that due to demand, Ilkley Brewery have now made Siberia a permanent addition to their range, both in cask and bottle-conditioned, so I hopefully won't have to wait too long for my next one.