Don’t Judge Oak Highlands' Chump Change By Its Color.
Welcome to On Tap! Each week in this recurring feature, we'll take an in-depth look at one of the many beers now available in the suddenly crowded North Texas brew scene. The goal here is to look at these area beers without our local goggles on and to wonder aloud, “Is this beer good or do I just like it because it's local?” Should be a fun experiment, no? Cheers to that!
This week, we sipped on Oak Highlands Brewing's Chump Change.
Fast Facts on Oak Highlands Brewing Chump Change.
Style: Imperial Black Saison.
ABV: 9.8 percent.
International Bitterness Units (IBUs): 28.
Availability: Limited — Winter Seasonal.
Let's talk about Oak Highlands Brewing. A few months back, I reviewed their Derelict, and I was very impressed. No, really, that's exactly what I said back then, too. Opening this past July with five outstanding beers is a most impressive feat. So let's see if we remain just as impressed with its new winter seasonal.
Background on Saison.
For an overview on saison, visit our review of El Superbee de Saison. Chump Change is a bit of a different sort of beer, though, and for a couple of reasons. First, this is the darkest saison I have ever tried. So, unlike most saisons, this beer has a healthy addition of highly kilned malts that give it a nutty, roasty note. Second, this is an imperial saison. Just in case you're new to beer terms, the term imperial is a signifier for a beer that contains a higher level of alcohol than its every-day version.
This is a super black beer. And it's confusing. A friend of mine once told me that we taste beer with four of our five senses; it's a multi-sensory experience and we may never get away from that fact. Because this beer is so dark, there is a built-in expectation that the dark malts will dominate the palate. There's not much noticeable lacing in the glass, nor is there much of a head on this beer.
Like the dark malt that confuses the appearance, the aroma portion of the beer is also an enigma. First and foremost, I sense that classic sweetness and hint of citrus that saison styles are known for. And then almost tied with the Belgian character is a round chocolate, roasty, sort of bitter note. Some people might perceive the dark malt first. But I suspect that if I had you blindfolded and asked you to smell this beer and guess that color, you might not guess that this beer is darker than a black steer's tuchus on a moonless prairie night. The hop notes are non-existent in this beer. I have been so preoccupied with the roast and spice that I almost totally forgot to mention any kind of hop aroma. Ooops?
The flavor is crisp and clean. Dark malts do not overwhelm the palate as the color suggests. It's just not a big, badass dark malt driven beer. And it's weird! And y'know what? I like it! The Belgian saison flavor sticks around during and after each sip, and there's a clean aftertaste. There is a somewhat hot note on the tongue. But, hey, this is a 9.8 percent ABV beer — a helmet beer. And I don't mean fusel hot in a bad way; I don't perceive any nail polish remover or other off flavors that can be present when fermenting beer at too high of temperature. By the way, did you know that some saison yeast strains can ferment in the 90-degree range? That's way, way higher than normal ale yeasts, which ferment best just below 70 degrees.
This beer is surprisingly crisp with full carbonation. There's no doubt about it, this is a full-bodied beer. But unlike a barley wine or some other classic big-sugar style, this beer is deceptively drinkable. I have to keep reminding myself that this beer is almost 10 percent ABV.
I like this beer. And I could drink several of these before I ditch my car and decide to Uber home. Typically, my craving for a saison fades as we move into 10 to 15 minutes of winter here in Dallas. But this beer bridges the gap between my love for warmer-weather saisons and increased hankering for cooler weather beers like porters and stouts. Why did Oak Highlands Brewing make this a 9.8 percent ABV beer? Dunno. I suspect that, since they want to have this beer as a winter seasonal, they wanted to make a bigger ABV beer, something that warms the palate. All in all, this beer is a confusing experience for the palate. Is this a bad thing? No, not if you want to drink an interesting beer that challenges your senses and asks you to try something new. In fact, I recommend it!
On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give Oak Highlands Brewing's Chump Change a 7.
What's happening in the area brew scene?
• Friday, November 20. Fire Brewed Flair: A Beer & Food Pairing with Urban Flair at Shannon Brewing.
• Saturday, November 21. Festicle at BrainDead Brewing.
• Saturday, November 21. Grand Opening Brewery Tour at 3 Nations Brewing Co.
• Saturday, November 21. Can Launch Party at Texas Ale Project.
• Saturday, December 5. Second Anniversary Party at Grapevine Craft Brewery.
• Saturday, December 12. Second Anniversary Party at Rabbit Hole Brewing Co.
• Saturday, December 12. Fifth Annual NTBA Beard & Mustache Competition at Rahr & Sons Brewing Co.
• Saturday, December 19. Two-Year Anniversary Celebration at Cobra Brewing Co.
Previous On Tap Reviews:
• Peticolas' Royal Scandal: 10.
• Community's Mosaic IPA: 10.
• Peticolas' Velvet Hammer: 10.
• Community's Barrel-Aged Legion: 10.
• Community's Legion: 10.
• Lakewood's Saint Dymphna: 9.5.
• Peticolas' Lost Epic: 9.5.
• Community's Ascension Porter: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Temptress: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Goatman: 9.5.
• Community's Public Ale: 9.5.
• Peticolas' Thrilla in Brazilla: 9.5.
• Lakewood's Wild Manimal: 9.
• Revolver's Blood & Honey: 9.
• Martin House's Imperial Texan: 9.
• Community's Trinity Tripel: 9.
• Peticolas' Irish Goodbye: 9.
• Four Corners' Block Party Porter: 9.
• Cedar Creek's Belgian Dubbel: 9.
• Peticolas' Ghost Of Alfred Brown: 8.5.
• Deep Ellum's Easy Peasy IPA: 8.5.
• Deep Ellum's Oak Cliff Coffee Ale: 8.5.
• Lakewood's Rock Ryder: 8.5.
• Rahr's Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer: 8.5.
• Lakewood's Raspberry Temptress: 8.5.
• Bitter Sisters' Belgian Tripel: 8.
• Noble Rey's SteamPunk: 8.
• 903 Brewers' Citra On Top: 8.
• Bitter Sisters' Hissy Fit: 8.
• BrainDead's Gritz: 8.
• Community's Barrel-Aged Inspiration : 8.
• Cedar Creek's Fisticuffs: 8.
• Lakewood's Punkel: 8.
• Four Corners' El Chingon IPA: 8.
• Martin House's Day Break: 8.
• Deep Ellum's GOURDzilla: 8.
• Peticolas' The Duke (Aged 12 Months): 8.
• Deep Ellum's Pale Ale: 8.
• Revolver's Bock: 8.
• 903 Brewers' Sasquatch: 8.
• Peticolas' Wintervention: 8.
• Armadillo Ale Works' Brunch Money: 8.
• Martin House's Salsa Verde: 8.
• Cedar Creek's Spinning Mule Robust Porter: 8.
• Lakewood's Holiday Bonus: 8.
• Lakewood's Hop Trapp: 8.
• True Vine's Unicorn's Revenge: 7.5.
• Deep Ellum's Hop Seeker: 7.5.
• Four Corners' El Super Bee: 7.5.
• Lakewood's Hopochondria: 7.5.
• Three Nations GPA: 7.5.
• Martin House's Rubberneck Red: 7.5.
• Lakewood's Antigoon's Revenge: 7.5.
• Community's Texas Pils: 7.5.
• Lakewood's Zomer Pils: 7.5.
• Cedar Creek's Dankosaurus: 7.5.
• Martin House's Turtle Power: 7.
• Collective's Petite Golden Sour: 7.
• Shannon's Chocolate Stout: 7.
• BrainDead's Red Ale: 7.
• Community's Razzy Raspberry Witbier: 7.
• Martin House's Gateway Blonde Ale: 7.
• Bearded Eel's Purple Unicorn: 7.
• Shannon Brewing Company's Irish Red: 7.
• Texas Ale Project's Somethin' Shady: 7.
• Deep Ellum IPA: 7.
• Cedar Creek's The Lawn Ranger: 7.
• Martin House Brewing Company's Cellarman's Reserve IPA (Amarillo).: 7.
• Lakewood's Till & Toil: 7.
• 903 Brewers' The Chosen One: 7.
• 903 Brewers' Sugar On Top: 7.
• Martin House's Gateway XPA: 7.
• Armadillo Ale Work's Quakertown Stout: 7.
• Revolver's High Brass: 7.
• Community's Pale Ale: 7.
• Martin House's River House: 7.
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Sir William's Brown Ale: 7.
• Community's Funnel Cake Ale: 7.
• Audacity's Boss Raptor IPA: 7.
• Collective Brewing Project's Mom Azacca: 6.5.
• Revolver's Ironhead IPA: 6.5.
• 903 Brewers' Trot Line: 6.5.
• Peticolas' Operation Collaboration: 6.5.
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Nightwatch: 6.5.
• Peticolas' The Duke: 6.5.
• Deep Ellum's Double Brown Stout : 6.5.
• Tupps' Cotton Mill Gold: 6.
• Rabbit Hole's Tweedleyum: 6.
• Rabbit Hole's Off With Your Red: 6.
• Cedar Creek's Elliott's Phoned Home Pale Ale: 6
• Grapevine Craft Brewery's Lakefire: 6
• Armadillo Ale Works' WunderMelon: 6
• Deep Ellum Pale Ale: 6
• Lakewood's La Dame Du Lac: 5.5.
• Deep Ellum's Numb Comfort: 5.
• Four Bullets' Black Jack Brown: 4.5.
• Four Corners Heart O' Texas: 4.
• Audacity's Sunset Boulevard: 4.
• Shannon Brewing Company's IPA: 4.
• Grapevine's Monarch: 4.
• Franconia Wheat: 3.
• Miller Lite: 1.