North Coast – Puck The Beer
North Coast Brewing – Fort Bragg, CA
The presence of North Coast’s Puck on this list is the result of the most pleasant drinking surprise I’ve had this year. I bought a bottle of this beer as part of a pick-6 at a local store, intrigued because of the brewery (whose beers I’ve enjoyed in the past) and the low ABV, which is much less common in Saisons than it was when they were ACTUAL farmhouse ales. Imagine my joy when this turned out to be the best beer I’ve tried in 2015, and my #2 beer overall (at least per my Beer Advocate ratings.)
I’ll try not be too esoteric or verbose, but it will be difficult with this beer. Puck! is light gold, clear but for a touch of chill haze, and incredibly effervescent with bubbles cascading up, up, up, cresting in an inch-plus of bright white long-lasting foam. Lemon-lime citrus and peppercorns or grains of paradise on the nose, along with an orange/clementine note and a bit of lemongrass and even Chardonnay grapes greet the drinker’s nose. Flavors are similar, with the Chardonnay notes even more prominent and the peppery notes from traditional Saison yeast shining. The entire profile is bright, refreshing, and brisk, as is the mouthfeel due to high carbonation and dryness on the finish, cleansing the palate and leaving you longing for the next sip. This is about as well as a Saison can be made, very traditional with complex but decipherable aroma and flavor. An outstanding beer in a saturated style, especially considering it is an American interpretation of a Belgian-French tradition.
Pour this beer, along with any other Saison, into a tulip or chalice at about 45-50 degrees, and watch the light shine through it. These tend to be foamy, so pour slowly.
Saisons were originally “provision” ales, brewed each fall to be stored and fermented/matured cold over the winter, to be consumed during and following the next year’s harvest. They will pair well with just about any food, with some of the best being fatty terrines, pates, and sausages, along with rich cheeses. Fresh seafood, including sushi, will be a great match along as the fish is not too delicate (the carbonation may overwhelm it then.)
North Coast appears to be distributed in all but two states—Wyoming and West Virginia—based on the most recent information I can find. As such, when Puck The Beer is available (it is in rotating production), it should be wherever other North Coast beers are found. In addition to Puck, North Coast makes the renowned Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout (and its barrel aged version) and Old Stock Ale. An Irish stout called Old #38, as well as Le Merle Saison and Scrimshaw Pilsner, are also popular. Two other Belgian interpretations, Pranqster (Belgian Strong Pale) and Brother Thelonius (Belgian Strong Dark) well-known.
JAB – 12/16/15