Sometimes, the road less traveled leads you to a place you’ve never been but, for sure, you will want to return. Unexpected pleasantries come from a journey such as this… Often, it comes from getting lost while on your way to a different destination and you find yourself enamored by what you have stumbled upon. Such is this feeling as we explore Saison du Cheval Noir.
Just two years old this month, Belgian Mare Brewery in Alstead, NH has carved a rugged niche into the craft brew scene. Living on a historical farm in Cheshire county of southwest NH, Tim Roettiger uses a wood fired oven to cook his brews “the old fashion way.” He has been perfecting his recipes for almost a decade in preparation for launching his brewery. The brewery is a 3 barrel system. Self-distributing in only 22 oz bottles, you will find both year-round and seasonal offerings from this expert brewer. The other beers from Belgian Mare are Pale Ale, Red Bitter, Hemlock Stout, Britton Mine Black Ale, New England Cream Lager, Harvest Lager, Alsteadder Ale and Mill Hollow Saison. There are also some seasonals (not listed) which are usually one-offs. You can learn more about Belgian Mare at http://belgianmare.blogspot.com
Saison du Cheval Noir is a complex and inviting beer with a name which needs to be explained. First, Cheval Noir is a black horse as well as a legend from Quebec. Saison speaks of a yeast strain that is unique in flavor and aroma. The malts used in this beer are from the dark wheat variety. The combination of these two contributions is born in Noir.
Poured into a tulip glass, this bottle-conditioned, deep dark treat delivered a rich khaki head which laces the glass as you enjoy. The darkness doesn’t come into play as much as one would expect in your first sips. Rather, it is mildly smoky and not an overwhelming mouthfeel as one would expect in a stout of the same hue. Also, the saison yeast strain helps to keep this beer apart from its dark relatives and reminds you of lighter versions of German or Belgian saison cousins. There are earthy bitters that poke through the caramel and slight chocolate notes. This 5.6% ABV could be my favorite tastes from Belgian Mare.
As with any seasonal, you need to search out this great beer. Beer Advocate has not yet rated this brew but a few have agreed with my conclusions. Tim self-distributes all of his wonderful creations throughout the state and can be purchased at Case-n-Keg in Meredith and Laconia. Look for Saison du Cheval Noir and grab it quickly… there will be no disappointment!
Jim MacMillan is the owner of WonByOne Design of Meredith, NH, and is an avid imbiber of craft brews and a home brewer as well. Send him your recommendations and brew news to firstname.lastname@example.org