When I started this column I figured it would be pretty easy to pick out an ingredient to write about in each beer I reviewed. Most modern beers I drink tend to focus on showcasing a single ingredient, be it the yeast in a Saison, hops in an IPA or malt in a Stout or Porter. Then along comes Burning Sky’s Gaston, the Sussex brewery’s take on a modern, Belgian-style pale ale. If you’re a fan of Brasserie de la Senne’s Taras Boulba, then trust me when I say that this is a beer for you.
I often hear people talk about how balance is the most important characteristic in any beer when judging its quality. For the most part I agree with this statement and the balance of malt, hop, yeast and water in Gaston is the kind of balance I seek in the beer I drink. The hops and the yeast are, in particular, vying for my attention in this beer. Both are flavourful to the point of being intense but at the same time show an elegant restraint, a characteristic that’s present in all of Burning Sky’s beers and puts them among some of the best in the country.
In the end, I couldn’t decide which to focus on, so instead I asked Burning Sky’s founder and head brewer Mark Tranter why the blend of hop and yeast in this beer works so well.
“The yeast and hops are equally powerful in this beer and the interaction between the two is really interesting,” Tranter says. “At a time when everyone’s getting their knickers in a twist over NEIPAs and Vermont yeast, we like to show our continued love for Belgian styles and hybrids.”
He continues, “The fruity, slightly sweet and phenolic Ardennes yeast, is a perfect platform for many types of pales, through to witbiers. For Gaston we chose to marry it with a blend of old and new world hops with a slight spicing in the kettle to accentuate the yeasts characteristics. For the dry hop, we chose varieties that would compliment and enhance the yeasts character; Saaz for an earthy/grassy note, Centennial for a more punchy lemon pith and finally Amarillo for a soft fruit like character. Drinkability is, as with all our beers, key - drinking a beer should be a joy, not an endurance test.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself. The soft fruity characteristics of the yeast work so well with a blend of earthy, spicy European and bright, citrus forward North American hops. The only bad news is that its only available during the Spring and Summer months, so enjoy it now while you can.
The fundamentals of beer are anything that makes up the sum of a beer’s parts. Water, barley, wheat, oats, sugars, yeast, bacteria and even adjuncts such as fruit or maize are all fundamental parts of what make up our favourite beers. You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog Total Ales, Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up a bottle of Burning Sky Gaston in store or online now.