Make Like a Tree and Get Out of Here…

Dogfish Head’s spruce infused pale ale, Pennsylvania Tuxedo, was a much sought after well regarded beer.  It was brewed in collaboration with Woolrich, an outdoor clothing company. The beer was brewed with fresh green spruce tips that were picked from Northern PA forests in the spring.  They give the beer a resin like flavor that is piney (obviously) and complements well with bitterness of the hops.  This is, without a doubt, a fantastic beer.

Dogfish Head likes to play with the notion that they are don’t do things the way everyone else is doing things; this is generally true. Putting thousands of handpicked little bits of new pine tree growth into a beer is certainly not the traditional way of brewing a pale ale.

If you like craft beer, and considering you are reading this blog I assume you do, chances are really good that you very much like this beer.  It is a damn fine pale ale. It is a little hard to find but definitely worth your efforts to try.

Is it “off-centered?”  Sure.

But is it daring?  I don’t think so.

Daring is putting an entire six-foot Douglas fir tree into your brew and hoping you do not end up kegging turpentine.

Theo Armstrong of ZerØday Brewing Co. did just that… put an entire six-foot Douglas fir tree into this beer.

 A glass of D.T.F Saison at the bar at ZerØday

When I saw that he was putting an entire six-foot tree into his brew I first assumed it was a joke. Then when it was clear that it was not a joke, I thought it was stupid and that it would never work.  I mean… You can’t just put the whole fucking tree in there.

Apparently, you can put the whole fucking tree in there and I am the stupid one. The end result was D.T.F. Sasion and it’s delicious.

Not everyone is going to love D.T.F. Saison. It is a piney, earthy, slightly sweet, semi-dry saison/farmhouse ale. D.T.F. is funky and has a strange nature that builds as you sip the medium bodied lightly carbonated brew. At first sip I thought “well I think I can taste the pine tree.” As the beer warmed up and throughout the drink the flavors stick and build on the palate like baseball pine tar upon a batting helmet over the course of the season. It’s slightly sticky and clear on opening day and by the end of the glass you have 162 games worth of rich, dark, earthy, aberrant flavors adhering to your mouth via a long finish.  I loved it.

This beer is daring because it is strange, unusual and riddled with risk.  I have not asked Theo, but if he says he KNEW the beer was going to turn out as well as it did, I wouldn’t believe it.  This beer easily could have turned into a disaster. In brewing, failure is not an infrequent occurrence.  Failed brews cause brewers to dump beers that just don’t turn out; even with beers that they have perfected over years of brewing. Sometimes, yeast just don’t eat. Temperatures get out of hand. Sometimes something goes wrong that is out of the brewer’s control.  Each ingredient, level of complexity, and step of the brewing process is an opportunity for failure.

Failing a brew at ZerØday would have been difficult. As far as I know they are working very hard to meet demand.  Theo is brewing all the time (while working his regular job).  To fail an entire batch at a brewery that is less than a year old would have been hard. If Dogfish Head’s Pennsylvania Tuxedo fails, they move on and no one outside can tell the difference.

Theo Armstrong put a six-foot pine tree in his beer and it turned out magnificently. Dogfish Head made a fine beer that in reflection to what ZerØday has done only is lacking in its audacity.  Being the little guy has its difficulties and advantages. Dogfish Head can’t put entire trees in their brews; they can’t really crank the dial to 11. ZerØday can and did.  D.T.F. Saison’s execution and flavors are outlandish and audacious; and it paid off in spades and you have to give it a try.

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