Reviewed: Sante Adairius West Ashley 2018
Product description: Orange, lactic, and bursting with apricot aroma, West Ashley is built for consideration and conversation. While Ashley starts as a simple saison, careful aging in Pinot Noir barrels with apricots, our house microbes, and warm encouragement transform her into a tart, complex, and delectable beer. To enjoy all that she offers, we encourage you to rouse the residual yeast, bacteria, and fruit into solution before serving West Ashley in your favorite stemmed glassware. 7.3% ABV.
Sante Adairius Rustic Ales – Sante Adairius West Ashley 2018 – 750mL served in saison stemware – 7.3% ABV
Thanks to a good friend, I had the privilege to revisit West Ashley, considered a classic in the world of American sour/wild ales. As far as I know, the recipe for this beer doesn’t change from year to year. But for just for reference, this bottling is from May of this year.
Sampled from a 750mL bottle, this year’s vintage of West Ashley is a fully hazy, bright orange-gold in color with generous white foam that sticks around for several minutes. Bringing up the glass, you get an aroma of underripe stone fruit and green plants along with sharp, acidic juices. It’s not as complex as some of Sante Adairius’ unfruited saisons such as Saison Bernice or Lucybelle where you can really appreciate the delicate house yeast blend.
Getting into the beer, moderate lemon juice and leathery apricot skin dominate the flavor profile, but nothing really pops for me. In true saison fashion, West Ashley is light-bodied, highly carbonated, and refreshing with little in the way of sugar and very low acidity. Juicy, ripe apricot eludes me still, which is really the whole point. I do appreciate, though, the lack of acetic acid as you are left with a blend of yogurty lactic acid and dialed-in citric acid for an overall sourness level of 3/10 – nicely subdued in line with what passes for sour saison vs. a typical barrel-aged sour blonde ale. (As noted above, West Ashley starts off as a saison and then goes through the full barrel-aged treatment with house bacteria and wild yeast, so the end result could have been much more acidic.) As it warms, the mouthfeel gets a bit slick and buttery from barrel aging. Specific Pinot Noir flavors elude me, though.
West Ashley tows a difficult line between saison and wine barrel-aged sour blonde. Acidity is somewhere in between the two while the super light, effervescent body and dry finish match closer to saison. Since there is little to no residual sugar in this beer, the apricot flavors don’t jump out as much as I’d like. That relatively nuanced stone fruit, though, is exactly what keeps this in the tart saison zone. I still wish SARA’s house yeast dominated the aroma, as here it competes with the fruit addition. Still, West Ashley remains refreshing and flawless.
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