The Parched Eagle nanobrewery and pub in the town of Westport is charming and cozy, the undisputed smallest brewery in the Madison metro area. Brewmaster Jim Goronson has a brew house that’s the envy of most homebrewers. That small size provides an outlet for some very creative brews. Small batches often allow a brewer to try things that would be too cost-prohibitive or risky to make on a larger system. Alferd, a current fall seasonal for the brewpub, is a black rye imperial saison that typifies the kind of creative beer that a brewer can make on this kind of small-batch system.
What is it? Alferd black rye imperial saison from the Parched Eagle of Westport.
Style: Alferd is a variation on the saison. At its core is a medium-bodied, bubbly beer with earthiness and dryness associated with the French saison yeast that’s at the heart of a farmhouse ale. Goronson employs artistic license with his use of rye and dark malts. Alferd is strong and warm at 8.5 percent ABV, which is why it gets “imperial” added to its description.
Background: Alferd is a seasonal at the Parched Eagle. It’s a complex beer made with a half-dozen malts, among them a pleasant, bready pilsner base-malt, which is common with many saisons. However, Goronson departs from tradition with his use of the de-bittered black malt called Blackprinz, which gives this beer its dark color. It also has a high percentage of rye malt for a spicy dry background. A peppery spiciness comes from ground Indian coriander. It’s hopped with Northern Brewer, Tettnang and Czech Saaz for light bitterness and herbal grassy notes that go well with the dry earthiness of the coriander and French saison yeast. There’s also a light fruity-sweetness that emerges in the background from organic Valencia orange zest added late in the brewing. Alferd is available only at the Parched Eagle, where it sells for $6/glass. As a fall seasonal, the beer is expected to have a limited run at the brewpub.
Aroma: Light spicy and yeasty.
Appearance: Black body with a thick, bubbly tan head.
Texture: Medium-bodied, bubbly with roundness.
Taste: An earthy-yeast beginning. There are herbal and fruity notes in background.
Finish/Aftertaste: A mild musty-yeastiness. Also spicy and light dryness.
Glassware: The Parched Eagle serves Alferd in a goblet-style glass which helps to focus the light yeastiness and accents of rye.
Pairs well with: Roasted chicken and fish. It’s also quite nice with a creamy goat cheese with a musty rind.
The Verdict: Don’t judge Alferd by traditional style expectations. It has the soul of a saison, with a lot more personality. It’s dark black, a color that one doesn’t often associate with a bubbly and effervescent saison. The French saison yeast offers hints of musty and peppery spiciness, augmented by the dryness of rye malt and the earthiness of coriander. Soft breadiness stems from a cadre of malts which make it smooth and slightly sweet, nicely complemented by the fruity accent of Valencia orange zest. This is a beer that doesn’t let the drinker categorize it, which makes it fun. Enjoy the flavors, which change with every sip. Definitely worth the trip to Westport for a glass.