Review: Ovila Abbey Saison, Sierra Nevada

Ovila Abbey Saison with Mandarin Oranges and Peppercorns
Sierra Nevada Brewing — Chico, CA 

  • Style:  Saison
  • Bitterness:  25 IBU
  • ABV:  7.5%
  • Malts:  Estate-Grown 2-Row Pale, Wheat, Carmel
  • Hops:  Summit, Styrian Golding, El Dorado, Mandarina Bavaria
  • Special Ingredients:  Mandarin Orange and Peppercorn
  • Sampled:  375 ml bottle (provided by brewery) 

Description:  An homage to the monks’ noble work, this unique farmhouse ale is incredibly complex with notes of lemon, pepper, straw and herbs balanced by the tang of Mandarin oranges and a spicy kick of pepper. The Mandarin oranges used to make this beer were locally grown, including a portion grown on the grounds of the Abbey of New Clairvaux and picked by hand by the community of monks living there. We hope you enjoy this collaboration ale. — Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Random thoughts:  I picked up this bottle of during a trip to the Boston BeerBloggers Conference. Sierra Nevada’s Ovila brand of beers is produced in collaboration with monks of the Abbey of New Claivaux. I just finished reading Ken Grossman’s Beyond the Pale, which chronicles the history of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. In chapter 15, Grossman explains how this unique collaboration was formed. The book itself is excellent, and I plan to write about it in detail soon. 

The tasting:  Golden orange in color and hazy. Its white head dissipates very quickly leaving a ring around the edge of the glass. The aroma is very spicy with notes of coriander, clove, and pepper. Mandarin orange is also prominent in the nose. Flavor starts with a rush of spices—essentially the same ones from the aroma. In the middle, biscuit malt comes through along with some spicy and herbal hop flavors. Overall hop bitterness is low. A touch of alcohol is present in both aroma and taste. Ovila Saison is light bodied, has a prickly effervescent mouth feel, and finishes dry with spicy pepper and light alcohol. 

4 star.  Really Good! I want this again!  I was surprised by how well the Mandarin orange paired with the spice notes. It’s a great combination! If you enjoy saisons, this is one you should try. On a related note, I’m thrilled to see Sierra Nevada releasing some of the Ovila beers in 375 ml bottles. The smaller size encourages consumers to experiment with less risk and enables them to enjoy smaller portions. I hope to see more breweries do the same! 

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