In this time of uncertainty for South African brewers, it’s wonderful to see some breweries still daring to innovate. Saggy Stone is one of those breweries.
Many of you will be familiar with their Brut IPA. First released two years ago in collaboration with the now sadly defunct Metal Lane Brewery, Champagne Citra Nova was one of the country’s first Brut IPAs. The style emerged in the US in late 2017 – the goal being to create a beer with all the hop character of an IPA, but with the addition of an enzyme – amyloglucosidase – which gives the beer a dryness you might associate with champagne.
I loved Citra Nova (they had to drop the ‘Champagne’ part from the name after a cease and desist type letter from France’s Comité Champagne), so I was excited to see it make a comeback. And not only that, but their already well-loved Brut was accompanied by two others – an IPA starring the relatively new Sabro hop, and most interestingly of all, a Brut lager.
This year’s Citra Nova (6.5% ABV) was actually a little disappointing in my opinion. It lacked the “punch you in the olfactories” aroma of previous years, and while it’s a perfectly clean and drinkable beer, it somehow doesn’t live up to its first two incarnations.
The Sabro version (6% ABV), however, really made me sit up and pay attention. There’s certainly no lack of aroma here. The beer emits all of the classic Sabro character – mango, peach, sweet orange and a lot of coconut. The first time I tried it, my nose was met with so much coconut I found it hard to believe there was none added to the beer, but the aroma is all hop. I think it missed the mark a little as a Brut. Although the dry finish was there, Saggy Stone’s Sabro is fuller bodied than a Brut IPA should be. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a really good beer. It got me excited about Sabro and I’m looking forward to more breweries experimenting with the new hop.
And finally, the lager. Saggy Stone’s is not the first Brut lager in the world, but as far as I am aware, it is the first in South Africa. The Brut Lager (5.8% ABV) is the sixth beer in the Robertson-based brewery’s small batch series and as far as I can recall, the first brewed by Saggy Stone’s founder and co-owner, Adrian Robinson. And on first sip, it’s a bit of a baffler. Overly fruity for a lager and with a slight, almost vinous sharpness that I certainly wouldn’t expect from the style, I began to wonder what had gone wrong with the brew. Then I remembered the blurb I’d read on Saggy Stone’s online store, and proceeded to read the back of the can: “A super dry, effervescent, light lager with vinous like character…the hops give the beer a white wine character…”
The aroma totally delivers, reminding me of a Columbard I purchased in the Northern Cape back when we were allowed to travel: ripe peaches and a touch of sweet melon. There was a slight hint of gooseberry (thanks to the Hallertau Blanc hops), although I didn’t pick up much evidence of oak (the beer has spent time on oak chips to enhance the wine character). There is a fleeting moment of sweetness, but then the dryness hits, leaving a crisp, refreshing finish. And while at first I wasn’t sure about this beer at all, suddenly I had emptied the can. Indeed, I failed to take a single pic of the beer in glass, as I was busy sipping and scrutinising and enjoying. Just like a really great night out, I think it’s a positive sign when you don’t think to take photos because you’re too busy enjoying the moment.
I’m tipping my hat to Saggy Stone for continuing to innovate and for forging onward in a very difficult time. And a big high five (virtual, of course) to all the breweries that are daring to brew something new right now. I hope the beer drinking public will support their efforts. Drink sensibly folks. Order online, enjoy at home, and keep supporting where you can.
Disclosure: Saggy Stone sent me a complimentary voucher for their Brut mixed pack to use on their online store. I do accept free beer, but never with a promise that I will review it favourably, or indeed, at all. All reviews on the site are honest, whether I bought the beer myself or received it as a gift.