After being very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Ilkley Brewery’s The Mayan Chocolate Chipotle Stout, I had high hopes for the second Ilkley beer I was soon to try, Siberia Rhubarb Saison. Like the Chocolate Chipotle Stout, this also sounded to be an interesting culinary concoction, combining the flavors of spicy rhubarb with a yeasty Belgian-style saison.
Those hopes were reinforced by the fact that the brewery calls this their most successful export beer. Here’s what Ilkley says of this beer on the label:
A Belgian Style Saison brewed with a specially sourced yeast, Siberia has earthy spice and fresh vanilla coupled with a hint of sourness from Yorkshire forced rhubarb introduced into fermentation. It is a unique beer refreshing on the palate with a long and satisfying bittersweet finish. Brewed in collaboration with renowned beer writer Melissa Cole.
I personally have never heard of Melissa Cole, but apparently she’s well known in England for her beer writing. It would be interesting to know what her contribution to Ilkley Siberia Rhubarb Saison was.
Ilkley Siberia Rhubarb Saison has an alcohol content of 5.9% by volume and I paid $4.49 for a half liter bottle. The beer is made with vanilla and grains of paradise in addition to the rhubarb, and is hopped with Willamette, Saaz, and Galaxy varieties.
Ilkley Siberia Rhubarb Saison pours to a lightly hazy straw color with a very light head formation and a soft spicy nose of vanilla and earthy hops. Taking a sip, the beer has a mild sweet maltiness up front with spicy yeast notes but more hints of vanilla than anything else. The tart vegetal rhubarb comes in at the finish and adds an interesting punctuation. I don’t get much more than balancing hops, and I think the classic spiciness of a saison is crowded out here too by the vanilla.
I would have liked less vanilla, more yeasty spice and more rhubarb here to be honest. Not that this is a bad beer, and I do like the tartly sour contribution of the rhubarb in the finish, but really this beer did not sing with the title ingredient for me. With the yeasty and grains of paradise spice lost as well, this did not really work as a fruit/vegetable beer or as a saison. Not a beer I would likely buy again.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.