Cellar West Artisan Ales’ Sapience

Beer Reviews by | Aug 2017 | Issue #127

“Sapience is this sort of calm wisdom; a sageness,” explains Zach Nichols, the proprietor of Colorado’s Cellar West Artisan Ales. “I felt that this beer represents that notion of faith in a path among the pandemonium, among this mélange of ingredients.”

What kind of mélange? We’re talking pink peppercorn, coriander, honey-like specialty malts, some acidulated malt to adjust the beer’s pH and brighten things up, and American hops. Fermented with a “house blend of wild yeast” in former white wine barrels, Sapience is allowed to rest in barrels for several months, gets blended, and is finally packaged with a label by his own design, too. “[It’s] my take on [a] Bière de Mars, which isn’t made very often in the states,” adds Nichols.

So what’s a Bière de Mars? Without losing ourselves down the rabbit hole that is beer style history, “March beer” is a French style with Alsatian origins that’s closely related to French Bière de Garde (darker, maltier) and Belgian Saison (lighter, yeastier), which, here in America, we often lump together as farmhouse ales. As Nichols views it, “Bière de Mars takes the drinkability and yeast character from Saison and blends it with some of the malt characteristics of Bière de Garde.”

And then there’s that mixed culture yeast, which Nichols says is a “blend of yeast I propagated from bottles of some of my favorite beers from around the world and a handful of Brettanomyces and wild Saccharomyces strains we isolated from the air out here in Colorado.”

Yeah. There’s a lot going on, and there’s only one way to find out if this medley is in tune.

Light copper in color, Sapience has a fluffy white head that settles to a thin lace. A toasty aroma with a pleasing pepperiness includes soft oak, floral, and overripe stone fruit notes. The body is light-ish and the beer is nice and dry. There’s a hint of residual sweetness within the breadcrust maltiness, and some light honey. Meanwhile, the coriander lends light curry and nutty flavors that complement both the rustic yeasty character and the vinous oakiness, while a splash of lemon, a hint of tart berries, and a floral, tea-like bitterness liven things up. It’s quite phenolic, too, which adds some oldschool funky and semi-medicinal layers. I also get some browned apple. And I could go on and on. But I won’t. I’ll simply savor these last few sips.

Sapience immediately takes me back to some of the Belgian and French beers that I explored in my early beer geek years. It’s good to be back. Despite everything going on, each ingredient finds its place. This beer works as a whole, and it brings some incredible drinkability and food pairing versatility to the table.

Cellar West Artisan Ales | Boulder, CO
STYLE: Bière de Mars
ABV: 5.7%
Look: 4.25 | Smell: 3.75 | Taste: 4.5 | Feel: 4 | Overall: 4.25
Todd’s Score: 4.21/5