Cigar City Brewing Company out of Tampa, FL is one of the hot new rising stars in the craft beer world. They prolifically brew and bottle more new beers than virtually any other brewery of its size. Their beer is so popular it is tough to find within the reaches of Florida, let alone the market or two outside of the state that see Cigar City’s distribution.
Tonight I decided to finally crack open my bottle of Guava Grove Saison. A saison is a Belgian/French style beer that is typically light in body and color, higher in carbonation, and full of estery funk. Now, “funk” may sound like a bad word to some people, but in the beer world it can often be a good thing. In a proper saison, the funk would entail bready peppery notes, as well as some banana esters commonly associated with many Belgian styles (also very common in Hefeweizens). Funk in saisons may also include descriptors such as: dry, dusty, spicy, fruity, cheesy, grassy, etc.
There have been reports that this beer in its older forms had begun to go sour – usually a sign of infection – meaning that some element of yeast or bacteria got introduced into the beer causing unwanted effects. However, in this case, the infection wound up being a positive. Most reviews seem to agree that the older bottles (and aged bottles of the more recent batches) are better. I believe that this bottle was brewed sometime in the winter/spring of 2011, and has been in my cellar since I received it in a trade box this summer.
One of the more elegant-looking labels from Cigar City, Guava Grove is sold in 750ml bottles.
I popped the cap and was almost immediately greeted by a steadily rising rush of foam. I wiped it off, and it was replaced even faster than before. Uh, oh… looks like a gusher here. Once I managed to reign in the foam enough to pour some of the beer the pressure still managed to force some beer onto the floor. Not the best way to start things off… Later, upon closer inspection I could see corrosion on the inside of the cap. How old is this bad boy?
I poured Guava Grove appropriately into my Cigar City snifter. The beer is now very cloudy due to the roused yeast sediment from the gushing pressure. Nevertheless, the beer isn’t all that bad to look at. It’s a nice ruddy apricot color, and a hay-hued head is quick to rise and very slow to subside. Pillowy formations were easy enough to force above the edges of the glass without risking spillage. Both a good and bad sign in my book. The fear at this point, is severe over-carbonation. And at first, this was precisely the case. However, if you allow this one to sit and settle for a few minutes before you drink it, and if you take things slowly, the carbonation does eventually settle back into a more tolerable level. Finally, by the time I was midway through the second pour, I was starting to see some really nice smearings of lace on the front of the glass.
The aroma immediately starts to redeem any negative aspects of the beer’s appearance. While faint, the aroma of guava is never far off. It certainly made me think of rum punch and the Caribbean initially. As the beer warms however, a large dosage of bretty funk wades in. It’s a sort of mineral/dusty type of aroma. The saison aspects are there in spirit, but never shine through like they would have when the beer was fresh. Other than brett, the yeast is playing little role in the aroma of this beer. I don’t think this was brewed with all brett, so I must assume the saison yeast strain is dying off with age. What we are left with, interestingly enough, is something mildly tart with nice fruity undertones and a smooth sweetness.
As you sip Guava Grove the beer impresses even more. Where the aroma was just starting to show the beginnings of tartness, the flavor embodies actual sourness at times. It’s never biting or overwhelming, mind you, but the sourness is assertively present. Notions of tangerine and bitter pomelo mingle with the guava. However, all through the experience the heavy carbonation rears its ugly head. As I type this the bottle has been open nearly two hours and still I am experiencing discourteous carbonation issues with each sip. While not detracting enough to keep me from finishing the bottle, it is enough to reduce my appreciation for all of the nuance a beer like this might have had in its glory day.
Overall – a fun beer to drink, and without the brett infection/over-carbonation, the beer might have been a real gem. Worth trying, but maybe not quite enough so to seek out actively.