Expectation can be a downfall. Fill yourself with visions of greatness before paying to see a highly acclaimed movie or starting to watch a “must-see” TV series, and the experience can sometimes be met with a resounding sigh. The same holds true with beer, which is why I struggled to temper my expectations when I got a bottle of the Jardinier, the first year-round release from The Bruery since 2009.
This Cali-based brewery routinely makes pretty epic seasonal and year-round brews—50 in all, all in large-format bottles, and they’re all pretty much fantastic (including my personal favorite, The Sour in the Rye). That kind of track record made it challenging for me to keep things in perspective.
And with the Jardinier, perspective is important. Unlike most of their higher-octane releases, this session beer weighs in at a modest 4.9% ABV. Inspired by a trip to Belgium taken by master brewer Patrick Rue and others on the Bruery team, the Jardinier—French for gardener—ranks more as a table beer similar to lower alcohol styles like abbey ales and lambics.
It pours an even gold color with a pronounced white head with the expected aromas of Belgian yeast, earthiness, and floral notes. The use of Euro noble hop varieties are evident and evenly balanced on the first sip, with a bit of spicy bitterness that hits the palate up front. The back note is pretty low-key, on par with most low-octane beer, but the transition is a touch odd; The bold beginning almost sets you up for an expected delivery of a more robust experience throughout. Instead, you get a bit of grass and floral notes, more similar to a fresh Pilsner. Which is nice—once you get used to the shift from a more flavor-forward start followed by a mellow end.
Again, expectations must be measured. The Jardinier isn’t trying to be a big-ass beer with an explosion of hops, or a dense, alcohol-rich beverage. It’s the kind of beer you could enjoy every damn day. In other words, it hits every mark it strives to achieve.
Brewery: The Bruery
City: Orange County, Calif.
Style: Belgian Style Pale Ale