Funkwerks In Mysterious Ways

Funkwerks2.jpg
funkwerks.com
Beer: Saison
Brewery: Funkwerks
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.8 percent

Phoenix, it must be said, is a pretty odd place -- made up primarily of people exported from other regions. With our climate and the variety of drinkers making their homes in the Valley, it's difficult to dial in on what beers will be successful here. In the grand story that is the beer scene in Phoenix, what works? Four Peaks has proved resoundingly (and against all logic) that Scottish ale works. Hops and fruit work, if the success of SanTan's Devil's Ale and Mr. Pineapple are any judge. But what about funk? Does funk work?

A few weeks ago, Hensley Beverage Co., a liquor distributor in Phoenix, posted the picture you see below on its Facebook page. The logo flew over most heads, but a small group of craft beer drinkers immediately started buzzing. They knew what those green letters stood for: Funkwerks. Though young in craft beer terms (founders Brad Lincoln and Gordon Schuck met in September 2009 while studying brewing science at Chicago's Siebel Institute and incorporated Funkwerks soon after, but the brewery didn't officially open its doors until early 2011), the Fort Collins, Colo.-based brewery has nonetheless become a leader of the new craft beer revolution. At the 2011 Great American Beer Festival, Funkwerks' Saison earned a silver medal; the next year it won gold, while the brewery itself was named Small Brewing Company of the year. Funk obviously works for GABF judges.

Funkwerks1.jpg
See also:
- Grassroots Arctic Saison
-
Duvel
- Fate Brewing Co.'s Irish Red

But again, Phoenix is weird. Our brewers, for reasons that defy my tiny mind, have never fully accepted Belgian brews and funky yeast strains, and so our drinkers have never fully appreciated one of the styles that is most suited to the Arizona summer: saison. These beers were first developed in the southern region of Belgium as a potable drink for farm workers on hot summer days. The trademarks of the style -- light, effervescent body, low alcohol, dry finish -- make it especially thirst-quenching. Saison works in the Arizona heat.

In a tulip glass, Funkwerks saison exhibits all the attributes of a well-designed farmhouse ale: slightly cloudy, pale-gold color; dense, billowing head of pure white; lace that grips the glass like spiderwebs. The nose, too, is solid, as rustic, earthy malt provides a backbone for soft swirls of banana, apple, and lemon zest. Yeast adds sharp, peppery notes and grassy funk.

The flavor can be described as "controlled" -- unlike many traditional saison brewers who ferment their beers in aseptic environments with multiple varieties of yeast and bacteria, Funkwerks seems to have penned in its fermenting organisms. This adds to the beer's solidity -- there's no doubt it's a fine example of a saison -- but it also lacks some of the wildness you might find in a true Belgian saison like Fantome or Saison Dupont. Which might be just fine for some -- the flavors of orange juice, white grape, cidery apples, hay bales, coriander, just-uprooted ginger, honeydew, and white pepper dried are all the more clearly without the wild guys bounding around. Add in a smooth yet subtle hop bitterness and an almost-dry finish, and you've got a brew that should be a staple in every Phoenician's fridge.

Funkwerks works for Phoenix. Get it here August 12.

Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.

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7 comments
GrahamS
GrahamS

Can't speak to Arizona beers but Funkwerk's Saison is fantastic. Sampled a full array of bombers over the last month and its stood out!

peterson
peterson

The author should do some history on Arizona breweries and Belgian beers that they have made including some with funk.  With the exception of Sun Up Brewing every brewey I looked up has made at least one Belgian Ale.  Four peaks has produced a saison called The Little Saison That Could as well as a Belgian Black Ale and Hoof Hearted Wit.  Old Worlds Praying Monk Belgian IPA. Papago Brewing has produced a sour ale called Second Coming, two saisons called Belle Epoque and Le fleur de Pearadise as well as Oh Brother a quad and Baby Brother a belgian blonde.   Barrio Brewing in Tuscon has made Mountain Sun Saison Del Barrio. Dragoon made Saison Blue and a quad called Biere del Bac. Rio Salado made Saison des Carbs,  Badwater Saison. 1702 has made Saison Dos Santos.  Oak Creek has made Earth Angel Saison and as well as a Trappist Style Ale.  Lumberyard has made a dubbel and triple, Mudshark makes a wit and Saison De Re Quin. Sonoran Chef series 7 Saison. Fate Wit, Thunder Canyon Wit,  BJ's is king of Beligums with a sour ale, Abbey Normal, a Grand Cru, a Quad, a blond, a flanders red and a saison all in Chandler as well as Nit Wit.  I could probably keep going with all the Rock Bottoms and other places but why belabor the point, their is a lot more Belgians Ales produced here than the author knows about.

alansimons
alansimons

A lot of misconception about what a saison is these days. What one might think it is, it isn't and vice versa. I would say more often than not, saisons are very controlled fementations with Fantome being more of the exception. Dupont is very consistent and not wild at all. Check out the yeast funkwerks used in this beer and you'll understand its character better.

Saison shouldn't be automatically lumped into this wild and/or sour category.

Fred_Schuster
Fred_Schuster

@alansimonsCareful Alan, you are talking to a World of Beer employee who is supposed to know a lot about beer. ROTFLMAO

krystall_light
krystall_light

Pretty good article however slamming Arizona breweries was wrong especially since Papago Brewing makes Oude Zuipers Belgian Strong Ale year round and BJ's and Four Peaks both make a Wit beer called Nit Wit seasonally so saying that Arizona breweries haven't embraced Belgian Ales is a mistake, especially since all three of the breweries have won awards for their Belgian style beers. Also, even though not intentional Zach Fowle's favorite AZ brewery, Old World Brewing certainly has embraced wild yeast and funk which is a trademark of that brewery even though they never intended it to be but if they did their beers could be held in the same regard as Funkwerks or Crooked Stave which will also soon be released here. And, a new brewery about to open, Arizona Wilderness has stated that they are going to make funky, sour beers intentionally. The Belgian style beer scene is alive and well here and about to grow. The thing holding it back from being bigger is that the masses prefer to buy beers such as Orange Blossom, Kiltlifter and Jerimiah Red at the breweries already making great Belgian style beers locally. Local brewers can and do make good Belgian style beers already.

ZachFowle
ZachFowle

@krystall_light I'm not sure I understand what point you're trying to make about Old World (they'd be as highly rated as Crooked Stave or Funkwerks if they were making sours...intentionally?), but Four Peaks has never produced a beer called Nit Wit and Oude Zuipers, while delicious, contains no sour/funky yeast strains. I have high hopes for AZ Wilderness, but saying that the Belgian beer scene is alive and well here now, today, is a stretch. 

krystall_light
krystall_light

@ZachFowle @krystall_light Zach, if you have had the opportunity to travel around Belgium you will discover that 99% of the beer there is neither funky or sour. That is how I can say that local Breweries here get the Belgian beers. Even in Belgium they are not on your sour-funky bandwagon. It isn't how you define Belgian beer.

RE: Old World OK I was being lighthearted but if whomever is running that place marketed their sour infected beers as sour funky beers instead of trying to say people just got a bad bottle than they could develop a reputation for making sour beers that rival Funkwerks, The Bruery or Crooked Stave. Those places do it by design, Old World does it by mistake but they should embrace it. There aren't a lot of breweries who want to make sour funky beers because it is such a niche market-both here and in Belgium but those that do get undeserved attention by beer geeks like yourself. If you have ever made homebrew you would know it is pretty easy to make sour beer and more difficult to make clean beer. Old World does it by mistake but if they said they did it on purpose they would get praise is my point.

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