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May 30, 2003

Old Well White, Davie Poplar IPA

Beers of the mid afternoon. Why, with luck I'll have a beer of the night post as well. Nothing like having to wade through another alcohol discursion to find the Ngnat news to make Meryl and the relatives crotchety. Three words, Meryl. Lindemans Framboise Lambic. There's nothing like it the world when it comes to changing a person's mind about what beer is. Lambics taste like nothing else on the planet. If I hadn't told you it was beer you'd have never known. The Peche is also verra nice.

Was in a two hour meeting about purchasing a couple of Nortel's Alteon SSL accelerators at noon today, so it was a late lunch. The weekly N&O beer column had mentioned that Top of the Hill was going to offer a saison in June, so I figured I'd go see if it was available yet.

At Top of the Hill in Chapel Hill, brewer John Withey keeps his Summer Lager on tap year-round, so when it came to a choice exclusively for the summer, he decided to do something different. He will turn to Belgian brewing traditions, and in June, Top of the Hill will offer its first saison. Appropriately meaning "season," the saison beers of Flanders are usually bottled, champagne-style, with secondary fermentation in the bottle creating lots of carbonation. The draft version will be less carbonated, cloudy, pale and refreshing, with additions of coriander and orange peel. Saisons are wonderful with food.

Apparently the N&O jumped the gun a bit, for there were shocked looks all round when I asked for the saison. Presumably this was as much for my horrid pronunciation of the word as it was for the fact that the brew wasn't due for another two weeks, minimum. Disappointing, but as I had already decided on beer for lunch this was hardly off putting. The bartender pointed me towards the Old Well White instead, it being the closest thing to a Belgian beer in the absence of the saison.

Must of been a slow day, or else I'd already been identified as a first-class beer geek, for hardly had I gotten my white and unpacked my lunch time reading (a comic book, cause there's nothing in the world as a appealing as man alone at a bar with his comic book) than the brewer himself, John, hustled over to denigrate it.

That's right, talk bad about his own beer. He wasn't happy with it, he having experimented with a brewing process on this particular batch that didn't give the orange peel a long enough exposure in the mash to create the classic high citrus notes that characterize a Belgian White. And he was right. Belgian whites are distinctive beers, of a type that easily distinguishable from every other drink in the world, spicy and with the mouthfeel of a soft champagne, and the Old Well white, while a perfectly decent drink, was rather thin on the both citrus high note and the mouthfeel. Reminiscent of a lager, almost.

I ate my pizza, talked beer for a bit and closed out with 10 ounces of the Davie Poplar IPA. I did have to go back to work, after all. It's a mainstay at Top of the Hill, hoppy, and bitingly refreshing, with a nice backgrounded caramel overtone. The hop content has crept up over the years as the general beer palate in Chapel Hill has grown more sophisticated, though it's nowhere near the level of some of the more extreme bitters. Almost took another one, but I am alas all too responsible now I'm a parent.

I'll be back. Not only should the saison be ready in two weeks or so, but as I left they told me to ask for the cask beer next time I was in.

"It's not on the menu. It's what we drink."

Mmmmmmmm.........Secret Beer.

Posted by Bigwig at May 30, 2003 04:52 PM | TrackBack
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