Beer Profile: Against the Grain Coq de la Marche

Profiled by Maria Devan

This is a saison that uses spelt malt and a late hop addition.

Beer uses two kinds of hops. Bittering and flavor and aroma hops. Bittering hops are added at the begining of the boil and that usually lasts between 60 and 90 minutes. 60 minutes less bitterness than at 90. For late hop addition the idea is that the oils from hops are delicate and they boil off leaving mostly bitterness. So to add flavor and aroma without bitterness you need to add the hops later in the cycle. Flavor and aroma hops are called late hop additions because you do not add them to the brew kettle until just before the end. Some brewers do more than one hop drop let’s say at 15, 10 and 5 minutes before flameout. “With an earlier addition, the flavor/aroma contribution will tilt toward flavor. With a later addition, the flavor/aroma contribution will tilt toward aroma.” You can add hops at flameout too and you can stand them after flameout for a period of time before you start chilling your wort. All these different hop schedules will tweak the aroma and flavors just a bit and the oils that blend from the hops you add can create new flavors or exciting combinations.

Spelt malt is usually used in full bodied top fermenting beer. It is a distant cousin to wheat and imparts dry tart, earthy character and improves head retention.

The pour is sultry yellow with a big head of white foam that dwindles. The color has a little golden edge to it. A stream of bubbles, soft haze. Fruity with melon husks sweet grasses and light lemon. It’s fragrant with a soft flower petal and the nutty perfume from the spelt malt. It’s like the musk on this citrusy fruity beer. Sharp little bit of pepper. Drinks softly and very elegant. The malt sinks into a bit of crackery softness with a touch more flavor than you were expecting. the citrus becomes prominent in the drink but it’s heady with dry lemon. Sweet grasses and alight touch of sugar finish this one dry and with a subtle cheek from bitterness. It’s put together very well and has the perfect bubble. You don’t notice any bite and the malt is very lush to the palate. I think there is a little dry funk on this beer too but I can’t prove it.

This is a lovely, malty saison with a bit of nutty flavor from the spelt malt and a vivacious late hop addition gives it presence on the nose. What I like about this style of beer is that it has a hearty character. The fruit is not easy to name and has a quality that sometimes I think you can only define by a color. Cool green like melon, mixed with a peppery herbal , lemon, a touch of tartness – its’ all compliments and that’s balanced. The bittering hop is strong and could take you to the aspirin like bitterness in a DIPA like heady topper, but in this one it’s softer than that. It does have a sharpness. This is not a big IPA with lots of slick feeling to the body so a crisp sharp bitterness accents dryness. It lingers but not longer than the faintly nutty malt and with the light lemon in the aftertaste. Your palate is not all the way reset because of the spelt and the sugar. You want to pair this beer with aged or soft cheeses and a variety of artisan breads and sandwich boards, smoked turkey with melted cheddar and apples.

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Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”

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mdMaria Devan lives in Ithaca, NY and is a great beer writer. That’s Maria in the middle. The other two are not, but they are lucky to have her as a friend.