Beer: 7 Wives Saison
While brewers I've talked to usually sing the joys of collaborating with others in their craft, a few have confessed that the process is a pain. Attention spans are short among beer-makers, they say, and coordinating a collaborative effort can be like herding cats. Competing approaches to brewing as well as differing goals toward the finished product can also make things difficult, as things usually are when there are too many cooks in the kitchen.
But what would happen if a brewery staffed its metaphorical kitchen with a literal cook? Beer and food are already deeply related on many levels -- the adjuncts added during the brewing process are often the same used to spice up dishes at the dinner table. An accomplished chef might be just the person to decide which flavors to pair and give the final word on how a beer should taste.
Ahead of the game, Sonoran Brewing announced earlier this year its inaugural Chef Series -- a set of seasonal brews created in collaboration with Arizona's finest food artisans. The chosen chefs? Chef James Porter from Petite Maison and Big Earl's BBQ in Old Town Scottsdale; Chef Eddie Matney from Eddie's House; Chef Lee Hillson from T. Cook's at the Royal Palms; and Chef Jeremy Pacheco from Lon's at the Hermosa Inn. Each will design and brew a unique beer with Sonoran Brewmaster Zach Schroeder using local ingredients. The beers will then make their way into bottles with labels designed by Ellison Keomaka, a local artist who also drew up the logos for Sonoran's Arizona Centennial beers as well as Inebriator Stout.
7 Wives Saison is the first of the series, made in partnership with Jeremy Pacheco, Executive Chef at Lon's at the Hermosa Inn in Paradise Valley. Chef Pacheco came up with the name for his brew as a way to pay homage to famed cowboy artist Lon Megargee, who founded the Hermosa Inn and had the distinct fortune (or misfortune) of being married seven times. The magic number also appears in the ingredients list -- seven adjuncts from local sources made their way into the beer. These include:
- wheat from Chef Pacheco's family farm in Marana
- green peppercorns from Singh Farms in Scottsdale
- whole fennel and fennel pollen from LON's Garden and Peoria local Bob McClendon
- mesquite syrup from Cotton Country Jams
- locally produced orange and coriander
The result is a brew that is as gorgeous as Megargee's seven wives must have been. Bright and honey-hued, the brew shimmers in the sunlight under a wispy layer of pure white. The clarity of this brew is flawless -- you could make sepia-toned sunglasses out of it.
Of the ingredients that have made their way into this brew, the peppercorns and fennel are the most prominent in the aroma. Sweet and light, the nose showcases sugary canned pear syrup mixed with slightly musty cereal grain and spiced with dashes of black pepper, licorice and orange pith.
7 Wives is the first saison made by an Arizona brewer, which is surprising given that the style was originally developed by farmers in Wallonia -- a French-speaking area in Belgium -- to enjoy during hot days of work on the farm. Brewmaster Zach Schroeder used a mix of two slightly different farmhouse-style yeasts in creating this brew, which lend their own flavors that work very well with the earthy, peppery adjuncts. Fennel is big here, as is coriander which has added a nice floral quality. Citrusy orange peel grips the back sides of the tongue with pithy bitterness while very subtle, almost-not-there carbonation tingles the rest of it. It's altogether light on the palate and quaffable -- great for refreshment on a summer day -- but layers of flavor are also there for exploring.
Arizona's beer catalogue has long been bereft of a quality Belgian brew, but Sonoran has filled that void, and filled it through an impressive integration of all things local, from chefs to ingredients to artwork. The intense focus on the community and the aspects that make Arizona unique would make the brew incredibly appealing even if it didn't taste good. The fact that it does is just a bonus.
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You can try 7 Wives Saison on tap at Lon's at The Hermosa and in 22-ounce bottles available at stores that sell Sonoran beer.
Food pairing suggestions:
The pairing here is done for you: Chef Pacheco is offering his saison alongside a "Tenderbelly" barley-fed pork shoulder with Hayden Mills polenta, Crow's Dairy goat cheese, local broccoli and BBQ sauce made with the beer at the Epicuriad on April 6. The event, benefitting the Beer for Brains Foundation and its fight against brain cancer, pairs beer and wine with dishes from acclaimed local chefs. Get tickets here.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer.