Reviewed: Oxbow Saison du Smeirlap!
Official description: Saison du Smeirlap is Taras Boulba refermented with Oxbow’s house mixed cultures and conditioned with brettanomyces. Produced in collaboration with Brasserie de la Senne of Brussels, Belgium.
Oxbow Brewing Company / Brasserie de la Senne – Saison du Smeirlap! – 330mL (11.2 oz) bottle served in Rastal Harmony glass – 5.5% ABV
Saison du Smeirlap! is one of the most unique beers I’ve come across lately. Oxbow takes, what I’m assuming is, ready-to-drink Taras Boulba from Belgium and then ages it in stainless steel for several months with Oxbow’s house mixed cultures and eventually is conditioned with Brett. That’s in contrast to brewing a clone of Taras Boulba on-site and then modifying the fermentation. For those unfamiliar with Brasserie de la Senne, they are a brewery in Brussels that makes some of the cleanest ales on the planet. Taras Boulba is their most popular beer and is the archetypal hoppy Belgian pale ale. In contrast to high ABV, sweet, estery Belgian blondes; Taras Boulba is only 4.5% and is extremely dry but also very hop-forward. On the de la Senne label is a cartoon of a man about to be assaulted/crushed with a keg of beer by a red-faced antagonist. The antagonist cries out, “Smeirlap!”, which translates roughly to “Fool!” or “Bastard!”
I like how Oxbow opts for the European 330mL (11.2oz) size bottle vs. the standard 12oz. It’s the same bottle in which you would find de la Senne’s Taras Boulba in stores. Into my glass, Saison du Smeirlap! is crystal clear straw in color with modest, white foam that doesn’t stick around too long. The nose is yeast-forward and absolutely stunning – like walking into a French bakery early in the morning. Oxbow’s house yeast is front and center plus milled, heirloom grain and lime blossom honey. Layered on top are Key lime pie, moldy white grapefruit, and other lovely Brett-driven aromas. Funky, barnyard notes, though, are toned down nicely. It’s the perfect saison aroma.
Flavor-wise, Saison du Smeirlap! is only modestly sour (4/10 level). With sourness not drowning out the entire experience, you can really dive in and enjoy this beer. It’s insanely refreshing, buoyant, and slightly salty with a lemonade-like quenching ability. Herbal, noble hops from the base beer come through underneath for excellent balance. There’s hardly any sweetness, so you get an unusual interplay of sour and bitter. Funkiness is nicely modulated, too. Zesty lemon/lime flavors continue through the finish but there’s very little lingering acidity.
Perceived Specs for Oxbow Saison du Smeirlap!
Saison du Smeirlap! is a beer nerd’s dream come true. Though it’s impossible to improve upon Taras Boulba, arguably the world standard for hoppy Belgian pale ale, Oxbow pulls off the funky/sour version of this classic with aplomb.
VERDICT: 98 pts (SUPERLATIVE)
* * *
The Full Pint is a fully independent website dedicated to bringing you the highest quality reviews of today’s craft beer. Our team has no financial conflicts of interest with the beer industry in order to give you the least biased information out there in today’s craft beer world. Please use the comment section below for general comments about this beer and/or our review. For more information on how we review beer read here.