Britannia Brewing Evergreen Spruce Saison
ABV: 6.1% IBU: 23
I recently stepped away on a lunch hour from my day job in Richmond to walk the 5 minutes to Britannia Brewing. I was greeted by one of the assistant brewers, Dakota, who let me try the various brews on tap. ‘Tis the saison and I settled on the Evergreen Spruce Saison. Richmond is well known for it’s history of farming and this saison style beer complements that idea at this time of year very nicely.
Why do we choose the beers we choose in tasting rooms and breweries alike? When choosing a growler, I generally want something that will last in my fridge for more than a day, so if I find a beer is very flat, I likely will steer clear of it. I usually weigh the more powerful flavours and think of what my friends or a date might make of the flavours. Then I have another sip and make the decision. All of the flavours seem to come out for me on the second or third mouthful. One of the other reasons I choose a beer is the time of year. As I mentioned above, the time of year is harvest, and back at the turn of the century and earlier, saison was drunk by seasonal workers throughout France, and likely a version of a saison elsewhere in Europe. Each farmhouse had their own version and it might attract a great variety of workers if good and suitable to working all day. Although the ABV was lower than the North American current incarnation, so that workers weren’t drunk at work, the flavours are likely fairly similar.
I chose this beer because of it’s subtle hint of wheat malt, cut with spruce tips harvested locally and that added a bit of a punch to the citrusy hops. The hops were not overpowering, mind you, but they were complemented by the spruce flavour. It reminded me of the forests of the Central and south coast of British Columbia, where I have spent a bit of time camping and hiking. The smell of the saison was reminiscent of the mighty Sitka and the sap that I have many times turned into gum from the tree resin was a great reminder of those hike.
I appreciate that Britannia uses local ingredients for their brews. They also use watermelon and blueberries to flavour their beers and conjoin with either local events, such as the seal that was a little aggressive with tourists in Steveston, or the abundant blueberry farms that grow on the fertile delta upon which Richmond is situated.
This is an easy drinking, wheaty beer, which is very consistent for a saison. It retained a fairly consistent, what I like to call a ‘milky way’ head, with a hazy, unfiltered appearance. Swirling brought the proteins to a head again, and livened the medium density of bubbles. This is also consistent with saison style beers.
By the time this is written, you likely won’t find this on taps near you, but I hope they make it again next year. It may still be available at the Pioneer Pub in Steveston. A very good localized saison.