Stillwater Chardonnay Barrel-Aged Stateside Saison

I believe I reviewed the regular Stateside Saison a couple months ago; now in front of me I have the Chardonnay barrel-aged version, from Stillwater Artisan Ales. First of all, I have to say that I’m bummed…no, check that, a little annoyed, that this did not come in a 750ml bottle. For the price I paid, that is what I was expecting, but nope – it’s a 12-ounce stubby. Sure, I know that throwing beer into a barrel and letting it sit around for months and months is both labor and time-intensive, so of course the beer will cost more. I would just have appreciated a more incremental price increase with a 750ml bottle, not a drastic price increase to go along with a drastic volume decrease – that kinda sucks.

Alright, rant off – time to enjoy the beer, because it promises to be a good one. I’m pouring this one into a wine glass, where it shows a bunch of carbonation that quickly recedes. The color is of white gold.

The usual saison aromas don’t quite apply here – instead of grassy hops and a sourdough bread yeastiness, much more of a white grape aroma is present. This does smell a lot like a white wine, and a fairly complex one at that. I’m noticing a lot of honeyed grape, lime, peach, wildflowers, and even a touch of fennel every few whiffs or so. There’s also a mild tart-apple gueuze lambic-type character, but on the balance this smells much more like wine than beer. If I could find white wines that smelled like this, I’m sure I’d be inclined to drink them more often. I wonder how much cash I’d have to drop to get such a wonderfully aromatic Chardonnay?

This is smooth and tasty, and again, very wine-like but for the soft bubbles and creamy mouthfeel that give away the drink’s identity as beer. I wish all examples of Chardonnay were as good as this; every one I’ve had (admittedly, not too many, and they were probably all cheap-ass examples at that) has burned going down and given me a crushing headache. But back to the beer. It does taste more beery than it smells, with a thick pilsner malt backbone giving it more of that underlying lightly toasted sourdough bread flavor, grassy hops, and some leathery Brettanomyces similar to that found in the Trappist beer Orval, just like the regular Stateside Saison. What sets this one apart is the sweet-tart white grape flavors and oaky vanilla from the barrels, with some of the lime and peach flavors coming in on the back end.

This is something I’d love to drink more often, but cost and availability, make it prohibitive. The best locally-available analog I can give is Jolly Pumpkin’s “Oro de Calabaza.” I’d say that beer is fairly similar – a 7.5% golden ale, barrel-aged, with a comparable flavor profile, perhaps even a bit more tart. I just don’t get quite as much of the complex white wine aromas in that one…but it is still an outstanding beer. And it’s a better deal price-wise than what I’m drinking here, no question. That beer comes in a 750ml bottle, and basically costs the same as this 12-ouncer.

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