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Ginever and a Dry Gin Martini, don't look the same - but are twins of the soul.
Ginever and a Dry Gin Martini, don't look the same - but are twins of the soul.

Or maybe the first question should be, “What is Ginever?” Well, it’s my project name for a beer we collaborated with Brasserie Fantôme to conceptualize, and soon brew.

The concept for this beer is to layer the aromatics and flavors of fine Gin over the peppery/spice and farmhouse/phenolic tones expressed in Fantôme Saisons. The project name is a spin on “Jenever”, the name for the heirloom Dutch liquor that is known as the “grandfather of gin”.

In my conversations about the concept with Dany Prignon of Brasserie Fantôme we decided that he would drive the backbone Saison, and I would design the aromatics. In researching herbs used in Jenever and one of my favorite Spanish gins I learned that Jenever originally was a liquor made by distilling moutwijn (malt wine in Dutch) then incorporating herbs, predominantly juniper berries (jeneverbes in Dutch). So, this beer is fundamentally Jenever that someone forgot to distill (umm… disregard the flourished editorial license).

A few of the floral and herbal aromatics.
A few of the floral and herbal aromatics.

Contributing the Gin like characters to this beer are bold brushstrokes of aromatics starting with juniper berries of course. Then there’s a few flowers including Chinese tea roses, a few herbs including cardamom, and some wildflower honey. The canvas will be a simple Saison in the rustic/earthy/complex fashion at which Brasserie Fantôme excels.

I drew from my experience with juniper berries and floral aromatics brewing Giniper White IPA for the BCT Brewing Project, and Rosita White IPA which I designed for Cerveses La Gardènia in Tarragona Spain. I used some tips on grain and hops from Dany Prignon. I made some adjustments to account for the peppery/herbal/spice expressed by Fantôme beers, then designed and brewed a test batch.

Ginever and a Dry Martini.
Ginever and a Dry Martini.

Tonight I decided to prove the merit of our concept. I side-by-sided Ginever with a classic dry martini. Maybe a twist of lemon peel would have been better than the olive, but I digress. The similarity in the aromatics is delightful. The herbal and floral flavors are the fulcrum. Tipped to gin it is dry, bright, and elegant. Tipped to the Saison base it is invigorating, complex, and comforting. Very simply, it works – especially if you like gin.

So on January 3rd of 2017, Dany Prignon (the undisputed “Mad Scientist” of modern Wallonian Super Saisons) and Daniel Fernandez (a humbled designer of aromatic and flavor complex specialty beers) will come together at Brasserie Fantôme to brew a unique collaboration that will surprise many beer drinkers. Frankly, it will be best understood by those who have enjoyed a shot of frozen Jenever, or a classic dry martini (preferably with Spanish gin).

My recommendation? Get yourself a bottle of Jenever or a fine gin. Put it in the freezer. When this beer is released (probably mid-2017), set yourself up a shot to side-by-side with this beer. You’ll understand what it’s all about… Yes you will!

À votre santé!
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Valencia Saison, designed by Beancurdturtle Brewing LLC
Valencia Saison, designed by Beancurdturtle Brewing LLC

“Make it all about fresh oranges.” Was the request when I was designing this specialty Saison to be brewed in Valencia Spain. I’d used fresh oranges in a couple beers before – they only remain fresh maybe a few weeks at best. After that the freshness fades fast, and the orange character becomes muddled and pithy. The first pilot beer proved this.

So rather than use fresh oranges, I asked “How can I proxy the characters of oranges in a way that will last?”. For some brewing challenges I have to dig deep into the practical library in my head from cooking for 30+ and brewing for 20+ years – this was one of those challenges.

No oranges are used in brewing this beer, though in aroma and flavor it expresses the aromatics and flavors of fresh oranges. How? Two kinds of dried orange peel – European and Caribbean – for the aromatics and flavors. Rose hips for the acidity and residual sweetness. Citrus forward New Zealand hops for the juicy backbone. Orange blossom honey for the aromatics. It is “all about fresh oranges” after months (even years) post packaging.

It was the first commercially brewed and internationally distributed beer that I designed. It has been awarded a medal in international competition. It has been sold and enjoyed from Finland to Spain, and in the USA. It is at its core an earthy, turbid, and funky Saison, expressing what you would expect being brewed in Valencia Spain – oranges in your face. That’s right – nothing fancy, something special.

¡Salud!
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