"It was Belgian styles that inspired me and first captured my interest in Brewing."
So many great breweries start with a similar story. One person, creative and driven, experiences a Beer Moment™ that changes their life forever. Suddenly, their old life is left behind and they follow their true calling in the arcane arts of fermentation.
Sandy Kirkpatrick, Savour Beer's founder and currently its only employee, is a man fulfilling just such a dream. "I first travelled to Belgium in 2009 and was amazed at the diversity and flavour of the beer there. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before." On his return to the UK, Sandy saw a number of small British breweries opening in the UK, but noted that many were of a similar vein. "Most of these [new] breweries were focused on American styles."
Whilst seen by many beer geeks as legends, Belgian brewers aren't as constrained by the idea of beer styles as brewers can be in the UK and US. Rather, they are celebrated for their inherent creativity. "It was Belgian styles that inspired me and first captured my interest in brewing," says Sandy.
After starting Savour last year, using space at the Compass Brewery in Oxfordshire, Sandy has been inspired to brew a number of classic Belgian beers: "I wanted to keep some of the traditional elements…whilst putting my own stamp on it."
So what of Finesse? Fittingly, given its name, this saison very much represents a refinement of the brewing skills Sandy has learned so far. "I always wanted to brew a Saison as part of the core range for Savour. One of the first 'true' Belgian beers I tried was Saison Dupont and I instantly fell in love with the style… I like its origins being brewed by farmers as a thirst-quenching beer to drink during the summer months."
Whilst Finesse is based on a classic Belgian style, Sandy, like the Belgian brewers he so admires, isn't afraid of doing things differently. Finesse is lighter in strength than Dupont and its imitators, a sensible 5% ABV (arguably closer to what saisons would have been originally) as opposed to the 7%+ commonly seen in many modern examples. The refinements don't end there, either. "Rather than simply using hops to provide a citrus edge, I looked at using spices that would complement the yeast flavours. Lemongrass gives the beer a very pleasant but different texture. I add a little at the end of boil and then as a dry spice at the end of fermentation."
Sandy sees Finesse as "a mixture of French and Belgian beer cultures…the beer is bottle conditioned using Champagne yeast to develop a spritzy carbonation."
It's certainly elegant - a bright and zesty beer that pours a burnished gold, with a full and mousse-like head of tiny bubbles. That head is packed with the aromatic lemongrass, which also accents the bready sweetness and peppery hop flavour that defines this beer. It dances across the palate with a firm, crisp mouthfeel and prickly spiciness to its finish. If you have time tonight, grab a Thai green curry to enjoy with this aromatic and sharply-nuanced beer. The lemongrass and citrus flavours dovetail neatly with Thai cuisine, and the crisp carbonation is just the trick for cleansing the palate.
At the moment, Sandy only gets to brew once every 4-6 weeks, but the quality of Savour's range of beers - which also includes a bright, balanced and by-the-numbers Belgian blonde ale (Progress) and a rich and sophisticatedly robust dubbel ale (Opulence) - indicates a bright future.
I ask Sandy what he would choose to brew tomorrow if time and money were no object. His answer speaks volumes about his ambition:
"It would have to be a Flemish Red ale. One of my favourite beers is Duchesse de Bourgogne by Brouwerij Verhaeghe and I love the flavour intensity and uniqueness of the style. So, with a lot of oak, time and money to spend this is what my dream brew would be. For the time being it'll have to remain just that! Maybe one day though….I can always live in hope!"
If you want to taste that Flemish Red, and I know I do, buying a few extra bottles of Savour's sublime Finesse would certainly help Sandy on his way.
This week's write up is by Chris Hall, a London-based beer writer, who blogs about his discoveries in the world of beer at The Beer Diary. He is the co-author of 'Craft Beer: 100 Best Breweries in The World', available in newsagents and to order here online (with free delivery). Chris is also a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers and can be found on Twitter and Untappd @cshallwriter.