Review: Sierra Nevada Oliva Abbey Saison w/Mandarin Oranges & Peppercorns

Review of Sierra Nevada Oliva Abbey Saison w/Mandarin Oranges & Peppercorns from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, CA

Beer Type: Saison  ABV: 7.5%  Tried from bottle.

Their Description: “An homage to the monks’ noble work, this unique farmhouse ale is incredibly complex with notes of lemon, pepper, straw and herbs balanced by the tang of Mandarin oranges and a spicy kick of pepper. The Mandarin oranges used to make this beer were locally grown, including a portion grown on the grounds of the Abbey of New Clairvaux and picked by hand by the community of monks living there. We hope you enjoy this collaboration ale.”

The Reality: Deep orange in color with a light head, and a pleasant orange/tangerine scent that has a hint of plum. Initial taste is a malty orange sweetness that transitions to a mild peppery floral finish. All the flavors play well together, as none of them overwhelm the others. They mention notes of lemon, pepper, straw, and herbs. I picked up the pepper and herbs, but not the lemon. As for the taste of straw, I don’t eat straw so its flavor is unfamiliar to me. Perhaps if you gave some of this beer to a horse it could let you know if that is a truthful statement. A smooth honey-like quality coats the tongue in the aftertaste.


Final Verdict: I was trepidatious about trying this beer because saison is not one of my favorite styles, and although Sierra Nevada is definitely a quality brewery, I’ve found that their offerings are hit-and-miss with me. I was encouraged by the monk collaboration, because do monks ever make a bad beer? (That’s clearly rhetorical). The outcome exceeded my expectations. I truly enjoyed this saison, but one of the main reasons is that it doesn’t drink like a saison. It’s more balanced, a bit more savory, and certainly more robust than most saisons. The contrast of the mandarin oranges and peppercorns is reason enough to try this beer. Come to think of it, don’t waste any of this beer on your horses.