Battling the Viking Saison
A Review of Debauched by Stillwater Artisanal Ales
Posted on 6/5/2013 by Chops
                   
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The American craft beer movement has exploded all over beer store shelves in the past few decades. Gone are the days when beer drinkers could count their options on a single hand. Today there are seemingly endless varieties in every category imaginable. These days, even breweries with vast nectar arsenals are common. And we all know what happens when variety becomes commonplace: specialization. This environment is what gave birth to brewing outfits like Stillwater Artisanal Ales. If a brewer had declared 20 years ago that they would focus solely on the Belgian saison beer style, most beer drinkers would have responded with ''what the hell is a saison?'' But in today's craft beer world, not only do beer fans know exactly what good saisons tastes like, they also openly welcome interesting interpretations. This is why I sit here today staring at a glass of the Stillwater Debauched, a Scandinavian Farmhouse Ale. And as a beer geek who happens to be Nordic, I couldn't help but give this one a try.

In the glass, this beer has a bright and hazy orange coloration. It comes with a frothy white head that dissipates rather quickly. On the nose, I found a big burst of fruity sweetness, which I can only assume is coming from the whole juniper bushes used in the brewing process. I also found an herbal and spicy flare along with Belgian bread, sweet peppers, and a savory orange citrus. Talk about one hell of a mouthwatering introduction, I couldn't wait to dive in for that first sip.

Wow. This beer tastes like, now try to follow me here, the candied orange citrus equivalent of a Flanders Red Ale (yeah, let that nugget sink in for a minute). There is a strong fruity tartness to this beer that is balanced out by an equally strong tropical citrus. The resulting flavor profile is all sorts of tangy and zesty. The base malt is earthy, bready, and a tad musky. The hops tend to get overpowered, but that's not a bad thing. Only a minimal bitterness would be acceptable here. The sourness forces this beer into obligate sipper status, yet it retains a highly refreshing quality. Regardless, taking your time is highly advised because the 6.7% ABV is very well hidden. The beer almost tastes like a tropical sour mixed drink. It finishes tangy and dry, then exits with a sour citrus aftertaste.

Overall, Stillwater's Debauched Scandinavian Farmhouse Ale is a delightful brew with a zesty personality. Stillwater describes this beer as a ''Viking Saison'' and I couldn't agree more. It's very forward for the style and it loves to needle your taste buds. But on the flip side, it still retains the high accessibility, balance and refreshment that saisons are well known for. Consequently, I can recommend this beer to any and all beer fans. Seasoned drinkers will adore this beer as a tangy interpretation of a delicious beer style. Novices can enjoy this beer as a readily accessible flavor punch. Debauched is definitely one of the more whimsical saisons I have tasted, and in this case it's a winning interpretation. If anything, it reinforces my assertion that Brian Strumke, the brains behind Stillwater, knows exactly what he is doing. Skaal!

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Debauched by Stillwater Artisanal Ales
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