Early in my craft beer exploration, Sofie would call.
In my early twenties, I would sometimes spend a couple days alone in a family friend’s high-rise Manhattan apartment. My job was to watch his dogs, but I came for the 29th-floor view of the East River, the morning run in Central Park, and the afternoons at some East Village cafe, hammering at my keyboard, dreaming up some half-baked novel that would never sell.
At night, I often celebrated my twenties with old college friends who lived in the Village. But sometimes, because I loved walking anywhere for anything, I’d just order some Thai takeout and stop at the local food market for a beer.
And that’s when Sofie would call, laying on the racks inside that cooling case. Above it were the regulars – Sam Adams’ seasonal, Goose Island Honkers Ale, Victory Golden Monkey. I’d had them all. Easy choices, but Sofie was different. It had an elegant, minimalist label that didn’t include the Goose Island mascot. And it was tall, 26 ounces, unlike everyone except its sister Matilda. Sofie looked like a treat, a prize to be saved for a grand celebration.
I’d never take Sofie. Not those nights.
Like other elite saisons, Sofie imbues a romanticism.”
Later, as friends changed and responsibilities grew, I’d spot Sofie in the cases at other markets. Always regal. Always tall. But I still denied it.
Finally, three years ago, two friends visited the apartment I shared with my wife. And they brought Sofie, but not to be hoarded and guzzled like some dipsomaniac. Instead, to be sipped and shared.
Today Sofie is widely available in four packs as 12-ounce bottles. The elegant script remains, but the packaging is less intimidating, more populist. Everyone could, and should, enjoy his or her Sofie. And at any time he or she pleases.
Sofie is officially a saison, but aged in wine barrels, a quality that really hits the nose. I’m sure some of that barrel funk is in the taste, too, but the most obvious flavor of Sofie is pepper. It’s up front and then slowly and smoothly releases with a minor sour kick – orange peel, maybe lemon. It’s never sweet.
Sofie smells terrific, that wine barrel booze with a blast of orange in the front dissipating to pepper. Sofie also looks terrific, pouring a sparkling gold like champagne with a few centimeters of white head.
And though Sofie comes in those a new form, it should still be sipped and shared. Like other elite saisons, Sofie imbues a romanticism. It’s connected strongly to the five-year barrel aging process, and its look and smell recall a vintage drink. To be clear, Sofie is a treat and a prize. It’s a quintessential saison, clean and eminently enjoyable in all seasons.
I was inexperienced and foolish in my twenties, staring primarily at what stood right in front of me, never opting for the long view. But maybe I was right in resisting Sofie’s call in those early days. I wouldn’t have known how to appreciate it. Maybe I would’ve committed some enormous crime against beer and hated it.
Maybe not. But I am glad I waited. Sofie is worth it.