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Saison du Buff – Dogfish Head Brewery, Stone Brewing Company & Victory Brewing Company (2012)

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du buff glassesBLC Says:

Saison du Buff is an interesting trio of beers much like the three breweries who crafted each version. Born out of the formation of the BUFF alliance (Brewers United for the Freedom of Flavor) in 2003 these beers were a long time coming. This group was comprised of Sam Calagione, Bill Covaleski and Greg Koch. The goal of BUFF was to highlight the “passion and camaraderie of the American craft brew movement”, at least according to the Dogfish Head Brewery website. It was three young brewers trying something bold and building upon something that had been slowly growing since Jack McAuliffe first opened New Albion Brewing Company in 1976.

With all of the passion Mr. Calagione, Mr. Covaleski and Mr. Koch put into their beer (and their branding) it’s a bit of a shock to think BUFF did essentially nothing until 2010. That year saw the release of the first iteration of Saison du Buff. It started out with the members of BUFF jointly brewing a batch at the Stone Brewing Company facilities. The beer was then re-created at both Victory in Pennsylvania and Dogfish Head in Delaware and unleashed on the public. After a two year hiatus Sam, Greg and Bill got the BUFF band back together releasing Saison du BUFF again in 2012.

These three beers brewed by Sam Calagione, Bill Covaleski and Greg Koch show the difference the brewer and brewery can make. They all have distinct characteristics. The mix of herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme) used in this ale express themselves differently in each version. Having had some time in the BLC cellars these beers have developed event further. We present for you our thoughts on each of these renditions of Saison du BUFF. While BUFF may have only produced one beer over it’s eleven year life time we are glad it was done with such flare and style.

Dogfish du Buff is a slightly hazy, bright yellow color with rusty orange highlights and a large, fluffy head. The white lacing it leaves behind sticks around and is very clumpy on the side of the glass. Of all the versions, this was the lightest in color with the largest head. Herbs are heavy in the aroma, with a bit of malty sweetness and hints of Belgian-esque banana. It’s medium bodied with a fluffy mouthfeel and very aggressive carbonation that carries the flavors. Herbal zest and hints of fruit, mainly bananas, are front and venter in the sip though there is a mild maltiness throughout. The finish is slightly dry, but overall the sip is refreshing.

Stone du Buff pours a slightly darker, more orange color than the Dogfish Head with a smaller bright white, foamy head. Vegetal herbal notes are present in the aroma with hints of licorice and grass. The body is smooth with moderate carbonation. The herbal flavors are prevalent in the taste, though there is also a significant hop presence with only a small amount of malt sweetness. It finishes crisp and bitter, leaving behind an earthy, hoppy aftertaste.

Victory du Buff has the darkest appearance of all three, with a slightly hazy deep gold body capped with a thin white head and some spotty lacing. The carbonation is mild and slow moving but it does help to carry the subtle, minty herbal aroma. In addition to the herbs there is also a bit of sour lactic fruit and slight malt, which makes this smell the most saison-like of the bunch. Like the aroma, the taste is a bit on the muted side with a medium, semi fluffy mouthfeel and dry, slightly bitter finish. Herbs, yeast and a small amount of malty sweetness are present throughout, making this a fairly soft, mild beer.

du buff

What Alicia Thinks:
I somehow missed the part of all three labels that mentioned this is a saison brewed with Simon & Garfunkel herbs, so I was really thrown off when I first took a sip and was hit with a wall of savory flavors. Once I mentally cleared that all up, the beers made a lot more sense to me. Though they are all supposed to be based off the exact same recipe, it was crazy to see how different each breweries result was. I personally liked the Dogfish Head version best, as it had a little bit of fruitiness that cut the herbal flavors nicely. We also did a super scientific experiment and poured a bit of each in a glass and they surprisingly blended together decently. Though they all had very distinct, different flavors the base must have been similar enough that when combined it still produced a drinkable beer.

What Kevin Thinks:
These beers were one I was looking forward to trying together for quite a while. Over the two years since these beers were released we drank each release of Saison du BUFF once and revisited the Stone version more than that. For some reason that was the easiest version to acquire. We did not sit down to take our notes however until recently and it was interesting to see what time (and thyme) can do to beer.

I think that these beers were successful as a concept. Saisons, while en vogue now, were not quite such a go to beer two years ago let alone four. The brewer’s BUFF created a beer (and then re-created it) that truly is free with it’s flavor. As home brewers who have dabbled often in brewing with herbs and spices we can tell you one thing for certain, rosemary asserts itself in a brew.

It might not be totally fair to judge these beers two years on but then what is right? I think each beer was enjoyable and still makes for something to taste. Herbal beers and especially an herbal saisons seem to bring together flavors that are meant for each other.

These brews each showed varying degrees of a light-golden yellow body and Belgian style lacing. I found the DfH version to have the fluffiest head and to have the least amount of yeast characteristics on the nose. That honor would go to Victory which combined notes of yeast with subdued malts and a sharp, almost sour, peach like note. The herbs were in abundance with Stone’s version giving off more sage and something licorice-esque.

On tasting the Stone brew I felt it seemed more like a faded, herbal pale ale rather than a saison. None of the character shone in the taste as it had in the aroma. Time was not as kind to the beer from Escondido. For me it was a 7/10.

I found the DfH du BUFF fluffy and slightly dry, a mix of herbs, zesty touches and banana. Everything was cranked up and off-centered in this beer which is Mr. Calagione’s style. I think if the edges were smoothed a tad it would have been great. It was a good 7.5/10.

Victory crafted a truly solid ale. The beer had a nice medium full body and a dry finish. This was no doubt a by product of the herbs and yeast. The flavors were soft and all in balance. Very pleasing and for me a 8/10.

Trying three version of the same beer from three different breweries was a fun exercise. I would like to see more breweries put out collaborations like this. I felt I could see each brewer in there version of this ale rather than having several of them represented at once. The BUFF movement is one I can get behind. Keep those flavors free brothers.

Style: Saison ABV: 6.8% IBU: ? Color: Golden Yellow Year: 2012 Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery / Stone Brewing Co. / Victory Brewing Co.

The Brewery Says:
From the website of Dogfish Head Brewery: This beer is collaboration between Dogfish Head (Milton, DE), Stone Brewing Co. (Escondido, CA) and Victory Brewing Company (Downingtown, PA).

The idea for this beer germinated way back in 2003 when the three guys (Sam from Dogfish, Greg from Stone and Bill from Victory) formed the BUFF alliance (Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor) – a noble endeavor with the goal to highlight the passion and camaraderie of the American craft brew movement.

So, BUFF didn’t really do anything (beyond talk a lot of talk) until 2010 when the three brewers finally got together to jointly brew at beer at the Stone Brewery. Saison du BUFF was first brewed at Stone and then replicated at each of the other two breweries – same recipe, same ingredients, three different breweries throughout 2010. The brewers have a repeat performance planned for 2012!

Saison du BUFF is a 6.8% ABV Saison brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. The beer is brewed three times, once at each brewery using the same recipe.

Written by A+K

March 28th, 2014 at 5:09 pm

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