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Smelling (and SAVORing) the Flowers

22 June 2011

Last week, I was lucky enough to win a contest from DrinkPhilly.com to attend a special tasting of SAVOR Flowers, a collaboration beer from Jim Koch of Boston Beer and Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head.  This rare beer was brewed only for the SAVOR craft beer festival, with only 30 barrels coming into existence.  DrinkPhilly was able to get their hands on two of the scarce bottles and were generous enough to share them with nine lucky contest winners.

Every facet of the creation of this beer screamed “special.”  Calagione distilled a special rosewater to use in place of regular water—one of the few ingredients of beer that never really gets experimented with.  In addition to the rosewater, a mixture of dried lavender, hibiscus, jasmine and rosebuds were used to bring even more floral qualities to the beer.  Honey was added in the brewing process to bring a sweetness to the beer, and the two used a hop strain bred to impart more floral qualities—a hop strain so experimental, it doesn’t even have a name yet.  To top off the impressive collaboration, it was aged in “Barrel One,” the original barrel Boston Beer used to age their Triple Bock in 1993.

After learning all there was to learn about the beer and making our introductions, we were all passed snifters with about three ounces of the golden liquid inside.  At first smell, there was a heavy dark honey flavor as well as an impressive spiciness.  I don’t exactly know what hibiscus tastes or smells like, but my first thought was cinnamon.  I didn’t smell anything even remotely rosy, which was a relief as I don’t care much for rosewater.

After hearing so much about the rosewater and seeing some of the reviews (one BeerAdvocate user said it was “[k]ind of like drinking hooka water with sweet n low and some vodka after smoking rose tobacco”), I was worried to try it.  But when we eventually got to that point, the taste didn’t disappoint.  The dark honey and spice came forward much more than it did in the nose, and there was a slight alcohol quality from the 10% ABV.  The honey made it sweet, but not cloying. 

LeeAnne, who was on-hand for the tasting, mentioned that there was a distinct lack of balance in the beer.  The hops that were used were for a floral quality, and lacked any kind of bitterness that could help to balance the sweetness from the honey.  She also mentioned that having a small taste from a snifter was good, but drinking an entire bottle, or even having it again, would probably be out of the question.

In comparison to a sweet dessert wine, I noted that Flowers was kind of like the Muscat of beers.  It would be great to have a glass here and there, especially after dinner, but the overall honey flavor and the sweetness would make it nearly impossible to have more than one glass at a time.  As another contest winner mentioned, it was more of a checklist beer than anything else. I was able to not only check it off my list, but also hit a milestone with SAVOR Flowers being my 1,000th beer tasted. 

Be sure to check out our tasting video on DrinkPhilly.com, and let me know in the comments if you were one of the lucky few to have SAVOR Flowers and what you thought of it.

All pictures are courtesy of Amy Strauss.

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