Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Hickory, North Carolina, the Olde Hickory Brewery began making beer in 1994 with a seven-barrel converted dairy system. But after soon outgrowing this set-up, founders Seven Lyerly and Jason Yates moved to their current 25-barrel facility located in a historic landmark built in 1880.
Olde Hickory makes a variety of beers ranging from pales ales and pilsners to stouts and barley wines year-round. Their beers are brewed with mountain fresh water that trickles in from Blue Ridge, making for pure and delicious brews. For this tasting, we went with some of the brewery's limited production releases including two offerings from their 2012 saison series.
A very limited release, the Eiraphiotes Imperial Pilsner is aged in chardonnay barrels, which imparts hints of grape skins in the smell and taste. The hazy, orange appearance opens up aromas of dry cider, yeasty malt, and caramel sweetness while the barrel-aging shines through with woody flavors of oak, burnt caramel, and slight hop bitterness.
Part of the brewery's 2012 series of saisons, Southern Belle mixes Belgian malts with Styrian Aurora hops to lend a lemony citrus flavor and aroma to complement the tartness. Also aged in chardonnay barrels, Southern Belle exhibits a hazy orange appearance somewhat similar to the Eiraphiotes, but with decidedly sweeter scents of raisin, vanilla, grappa, and cake, all of which carry over to a sweet yet balanced mouthful.
Another member of Olde Hickory's saison series, Orion takes on strong notes of spice and earth thanks to the healthy dose of rye used in the brew. Compared to our other two selections from Old Hickory, this saison poured slightly dark, but tasted fairly light with a slight oily mouthfeel and sweet cider-like finish.
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