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Our Lives, our Fortunes, our Honor

by Matt O'Connor

"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor." 

- the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson

The Fourth of July is a time for gathering together with a group of friends and family and sharing the commonalities of life: successes, challenges, dilemmas, and a dose of family drama. On this day we gather ostensibly in celebration of the Declaration of Independence, which went into effect on July 4, 1776, but in the intervening years the holiday has been pushed afield of that extraordinary foundational text. The Declaration of Independence was not a document of superiority or American Exceptionalism; rather, it was an assertion of equality with all the other independent states of the world. The colonies would no longer stand for oppression at the hands of a Parliament who saw only dollar signs flowing from America's distant shores. When Thomas Jefferson wrote, "these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States," he passed no judgment on the righteousness of this new country.

Today, the Fourth is a bit of Americana mixed with a bit of commercialism, lacking a good bit of history. We see American flag cans of Budweiser and Miller High Life, millions of little rayon Stars and Stripes, and colorful pyrotechnics. Ignoring for the moment that Budweiser is owned by the Dutch and your flags and fireworks came out of a factory in Sichuan province, the meaning of this day is obscured by pomp and circumstance. America is at its best when striving to be the greatest country in the world, like all other nations, rather than resting on its laurels and crowning itself king. The Fourth of July is worth celebrating, as long as one puts it in proper context: a celebration of a nation's birth, not a marking of a nation's continued reign of superiority.

How does this relate to beer? Today I am reviewing a beer that encapsulates what the Declaration advocated: people coming together in recognition of a common desire to simply be the best they can be, without pretense. Certainly three brewers lack the gravitas of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, but we must start on some small scale. The collaborative effort came between Greg Koch of Stone Brewing (I've reviewed one of their beers), Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery (see this review), and Bill Covaleski of Victory Brewing Company. They banded together, united by a founding document, to form "BUFF - Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor."

BUFF was founded on the same high ideals as America, just on the aforementioned miniature scale, in order to "throw off the last vestiges of oppression" faced by such small innovative brewers. This was in 2003. Fast forward to 2010, when BUFF came together to make a collaborative product, a saison-style beer brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Saison du BUFF was so popular that it has returned for another round to the delight of the beer drinking masses on both coasts. Dogfish Head brewed theirs in February 2012, Victory in April, and Stone just finished their version up in May. The same recipe is followed at three different breweries in three different states to together produce the same quality offering, in slightly different packaging. I won't hammer home the America analogy on this one. Pretty self-evident.

Before we get to the beer, I'll give my traditional background on info on the newest brewery to join the club here in my Inclusive reviews: Victory Brewing Company of Downingtown, Pennsylvania, one-third of BUFF. Victory has a really great story, founded by two guys, Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski, who met on the school bus in fifth grade. After separate corporate jobs, Ron and Bill took some detours. It all started with home brewing, the gateway drug of beer, and wound up with Ron attending brewing school in Germany. Both ended up working for the Baltimore Brewing Company at some point in their careers to further flesh out their love for the business. Victory was founded in 1996 as a brewpub that is still churning out delicious beer in downtown Downingtown (say that ten times), a short drive from Philadelphia. Some of Victory's best known beers are their Prima Pils, Golden Monkey, and Storm King Stout. All are very good and come with my stamp of approval.

Today's beer, Saison du BUFF, is in the style of a French-Belgian farmhouse ale. As I've detailed in a previous review, saisons were traditionally brewed in winter for summer enjoyment. They tend to be refreshing not through temperature, but through a nice dry bite that really puts a dent in your thirst. This is a result of the fermentation temperatures and process. The yeast give off higher than normal levels of certain compounds resulting in a zingy beer with a very unique taste. To try the hallmark of the style seek out Saison DuPont, a Belgian classic. This particular saison is hit with a bit of a twist in the herbs they add to the mix: Simon and Garfunkel's parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

Pouring the beer into a glass you get a great, nearly clear, golden yellow offering with a thin ring of small bubbles. The nose on this beer is awesome, with the rosemary the most prominent. The rosemary gives the beer an herbal freshness plus some of its rustic woody notes. The rest of the named herbs sort of mingle together to give us a savory note more akin to a rich sauce than a beer, but I'll be damned, they work together. On first sip, my impression is that this is not as dry and biting as other saisons, but a bit more rounded. The beer is bubbly and light – very refreshing – with a nice kick of bitterness from the hops and true to the style. The finish is a tad bitter too, but there is a slight clinging sweetness that makes this a bit more approachable than some other saisons, while still nailing the style and getting creativity points as well. This is a supremely drinkable beer. Grade: A


Victory Saison du BUFF

An American take on the Franco-Belgian Farmhouse Ale

ABV: 6.8%

Availability: Limited, brewed in April 2012.

Look for Dogfish Head or Stone's versions as well!

Also Try

Cream Ale, Narragansett Brewing Company (Rochester, NY and Providence, RI). The newest of Narragansett's year-round offerings, available in their signature 16-ounce cans. A cream ale is a hybrid ale and lager, which makes for a malty but light golden refreshing beer. Grade: B+

Corona Extra, Groupo Modelo (Mexico City, Mexico). Ok, ok, hear me out. Yes, Anheuser-Busch-InBev just bought Modelo this week. No, it's not a craft beer. BUT … it's now available in cans and therefore it's not a skunked mess which requires a lime. Instead, the can (perfect for the beach) protects the beer from sunlight delivering a decently tasty Mexican lager directly to your thirsty mouth. Really, it's a vast improvement over the bottle. Lime or not; your choice. Grade: B

Image courtesy of the author


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Matt O’Connor lives in Boston and is a proud graduate of Boston University. Explore beer with him as he quits his job in the sciences and starts law school. Send any requests, beer, or job offers to him at: matt.oconnor[at]