Tag Archive: Saison


Pilot: Buzz (Scotland: Saison: 11.4% ABV)

Visual: Pale hazy lemon juice colour. Lots of small bubbled carbonation and a small, white, bubbled head.

Nose: Dry mead. White wine. Dry honey. Pear drops. Grapes.

Body: Honey. Custard. Grapes. Peppery. Earthy notes. Pear cider. Light menthol.

Finish: Lightly earthy. Oats. Light honey. Grapes. Champagne. Wheat. Peppery. Muesli. Light peppermint. Raisins.

Conclusion: Ok, going in I wasn’t sure what this would show from its influences. Would it show the mead? The saison? Wine like character as this was described as an aim on the bottle? Turns out the decided to go with all of the above.

First impressions are very mead like, though rapidly become even more like the pure base honey than most meads, feeling and tasting of every element that makes up a thick, rich honey. This is backed by a custard sweetness to the body that makes for a smoother element than the thick honey. However here the base saison style seems miles away – lost below this sweet and heavy creation that you have here.

The wine like notes come next; A while wine dry aroma seeping into juicy grape notes in the main body before leading out with a slightly funky champagne style finish. The juicy, yet still matched by dryness acts as a much needed rounding to take the edge off the very honey sweet style that came up front.

The saison element is the last to show and the lightest. The oat and muesli cereal notes come out to add some wight, then there’s some light peppery and earthy notes that act more as a grounding than as a main character. Late on you get some darker fruit, raisin like notes which I have no idea where they came from, but again they add something to the otherwise very sweet beer. So, while I am enjoying this I must say don’t buy this if it is the saison side of things that attract you to it. There is a lot to recommend it but it, but not that side of things.

It feels mainly like mead meets white wine, sparkling like champagne. Also, this is definitely one to share – I made the mistake of soloing this and, delicious though it is, it kicked the shit out of me.

So, this is complex enough to be worthwhile, if not pushing the boundaries of how much range a beer can have. It instead wears its special ingredients on its sleeve, but adds enough that it doesn’t feel like it is using it as a crutch. So, a very good, very sweet mead/wine/beer thing. It isn’t one to have too often, it is too overpowering for that, but if you are a mead fan then this has enough mead style to be your thing, while enough beer to make it stand out. Definitely a worthwhile experiment.

Background: Another one from Independent Spirit, this is an imperial saison that is described as ”one of a series of experimental sharing beers designed to be treated like sparkling wines.” This particular one is made with woodland honey, which , as a mead fan caught my eye. I was silly enough to drink the entire bottle myself. It was very potent. Very, very potent. I’m not doing that again. Continued my attempt to put on albums I’d not heard for a while while drinking – Faithless: Sunday 8PM, though I will admit I prefer the very different single version of “God is a DJ” to the album version. Both are good though.

Advertisements

Wild Beer Co: To Øl: TrØffeler (England: Saison: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice. Large white head.

Nose: Chestnut mushrooms. Ground pepper. Quite fresh. Fresh sour dough. White pepper. White wine. Sulphur.

Body: Dry. White pepper. Dry lemon juice. Earthy bitterness. Dried mushrooms. Spritzy to soda water.

Finish: Spritzy. Soda water. Chalk touch. Peppery. White wine. Sage. Dried meat chunks. Coriander.

Conclusion: This is very spritzy, very peppery, mixed with some earthiness and spice over white wine dryness. That last element is especially odd as this has been aged in sweet Sauternes wine casks so you would expect something sweeter, but hey, I can only call ’em as I see ’em.

The body is softly lemony, which is probably the most normal element going on here. When that lemon is combined with the spice it feels like it calls to a more traditional take on a Belgian wit, but with a heavier, earthy saison edge to it.

I’m finding it hard to say exactly what the truffles bring here – there is a chestnut mushroom like note, a general set of savoury notes mid body, but nothing that stands out as massively unexpected, nothing that says unusual ingredient rather than beer hop character. Then again, my knowledge of truffles is entirely from truffle oil. So, for all I know this could be super truffly and I am just ignorant. I hear truffles are quite earthy, so maaaaybe that is them?

Anyway, this is easy drinking early on, and very earthy and spicy late on. In fact a bit too much spice for me. Reined in at the end this would be super drinkable and an awesome mix of wit and saison notes. As is it starts out good but feels a tad rough by the end.

So, not too stand out, but has promise for tweaking with.

Background: So, I am a huge fan of To Øl, they are very talented and turn out amazing beers. I am also a fan of Wild Beer co – they can be variable, but when they are on they are on. However the reason I bought this is not because of either of those. It is because it is made with truffles. I mean, WTF right? Terrible or great that was something I wanted to try. To be more specific this is made with truffles, sage and aged in Sauternes barrels. Saw that Crossfaith are coming back to Bristol later this year so put on a mix of their tunes while drinking. This was another one bought from Independent Spirit.

Left Handed Giant: Heretic: Monuments (England: Saison: 8% ABV)

Visual: Pale lemon yellow with a gold hint. Large white mound of a head.

Nose: Raspberry. Wheaty. Light cloves. Light dried banana. Flour. Soft bitter red wine.

Body: Pomegranate. Cherry picked digestives. Wheaty. Peppery. Light lemon. Slight sour red wine. Apircot. Funk. Raisins. Plums. Moderate, earthy, low level bitterness.

Finish: Rum. Pomegranate. Raisins. Turmeric. Dry red wine. Dry plum notes. Milk. Port notes. Lightly earthy with a yeast funk.

Conclusion: I’ve had to take quite a while with this one, as it isn’t a beer that instantly jumps up and punches you in the face with what it is all about.

It is a gentle rustic style saison rather than the highly hopped take on the style – slightly milky, oaty mix with the rustic and wheaty notes that makes a soothing background that the pomegranate notes can come out from in a natural feeling and not too heavy way.

There is an earthy bitterness that becomes, well, present over time if not overly evident. The barrel ageing starts off light in raisin and plum backing notes, but becomes fully fledged with sour and bitter red wine notes coming out by the end after flirting with sweeter red wine notes for a moment before. It is never heavy, more a robust body that is a competent part of the beer, but doesn’t feel overly dominant.

It is both blessed and cursed in its balance – it is definitely barrel aged, but not so much as to make you go “wow” but also not to lose the base beer. It is definitely showing its fruit, but I would not call it a fruit beer for better and worse. It has a good rustic base, but the other elements of ageing and fruit mean that you don’t really get to see it at its best.

So, it is balanced, super easy to drink but… also 8% abv at that. At a low abv this would be a fairly awesome beer that you could drink forever. As it is is a master-work of balance that uses that balance to deny itself the large moments that would justify the 8% abv.

So it is very good and very impressive, but can’t quite earn the high abv, nor work as a session beer, so it struggles for a spot in the drinking line up.

Background: This came on my radar for a couple of reasons – one, I dig saisons and they don’t seem to pop up as often as I would like, so new ones tend to catch my eyes. Two, this is made with pomegranate puree, which was unexpected – saisons also seem to be a beer style where people don’t try the odd experimentations as much as some other styles. Finally – burgundy barrel aged, another bit of experimentation that often is overlook with saisons. So I grabbed a bottle from Independent Spirit to give a go. Put on Television Villain again while drinking – so proud of those guys for their awesome music.

Brewdog: Make Earth Great Again (Scotland: Saison: 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale light yellow to grain, very clear. An inch of white froth for a head but still main body.

Nose: Wheaty. Vanilla. Light lemon citrus character. Dried banana. Light cloves. Crusty white bread. Light white chocolate. Cheese puff crisps styled funk.

Body: Bitter. Slight cloying cream character. Cream cheese and chives. Slight chalk and prickly feel mix. Cheese puff crisps. Hop oils. Light lemon. Palma violets. Dried banana.

Finish: Cream cheese and chives. Dried banana. Light yeast funk. Light tart yellow raspberries. Hop oils. Palma violets. Light bitterness. Mature cheese.

Conclusion: This actually reminds me of Wild Beer Co’s bretted lager “Chronos” – it has that mix of lager like easy drinking character with a yeast funk style.

At its base it feels clean, slightly lemony and very lager styled with noble hop feeling hop oils and a light palma violets touch to it. Layered over that clean base is a kind of cheese puff into cream cheese and then mature cheese notes – a real contrast of feel and taste going on here. It opens with the cheese funk first, then lets the lighter lager drinking feel through, rather than the other way around that you might expect.

Now, that funk gives some flavour but there is also a light berry tartness below those heavier funk notes that works as a nice bridge between the lager like notes and the more saison like funk. Good use of hop oils smooth out the remaining rough cracks that may have existed, and a moderate bitterness caps off the finish.

Everything works – it doesn’t declare itself as a must drink – instead concentrating on being very easy to drink, mixing smooth feel and funk. The flavour is gentle but tasty, and the beer feels far too close to a session character for a beer of higher abv. It doesn’t break the world, but once you start drinking it is easy to just keep continuing to drink this in a dangerously drunken way – so it definitely has something for it!

Background: So, Brewdog making a beer to protest USA removing itself from the Paris agreement and gives the profits to a climate change charity – I can get behind that. A few gimmicks to go with that, the saison is made with melted ice cap water and cloudberries which are endangered (A few people have asked if that is a good idea, using endangered berries- I presume using the berries isn’t a prob – it’s the plants environment being in danger that is screwing it – I could be wrong). As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was grabbed from Brewdog’s shop and drunk while listening to the final CD of Mclusky – Mcluskyism. So you will probably hear me mention it less for a while. Great 3 CD set and great value. Proper loving the insane energy it has.

Northern Monk: Alefarm: Patron’s Project 7.01: DDH Saison (England: Saison: 7.0% ABV)

Visual: Overripe banana coloured, high carbonation, hazy body with an utterly massive yellowed head that leaves lace.

Nose: Peppery. Key lime. Lightly earthy. Wet ropes.

Body: Bitter. Greenery. Peppery. Nettles. Key lime. Peppermint. Oatmeal and light milk. Vanilla toffee. Orange crème.

Finish: Vanilla. Good hop bitterness. Peppery. Slight mint. Hop oils. Mild dill pickle. Milky. Peppermint.

Conclusion: This is very full of greenery, very menthol touched – kind of within its aimed for saison wheelhouse, but also a bit unusual for the style. A good combo if done well, lets look into this.

It has the slightly rustic saison feel as the base – slight earthy and peppery notes. It is far away from the smooth, high hop matched with vanilla style of the quintessential sasion Dupont, heading more towards the heavier style; It does, however still have a slight smooth vanilla base under the other elements -giving slight call to that more recognised saison style.

That is the base then, but far from the full story – what really shows up is the amount of greenery and such notes this plays with. The label on the can wasn’t lying – be it crushed mint leaves, nettles or fresher peppermint this has lots of plant notes added to the earthy base. Very refreshing, very menthol clean along with the very robust hop bitterness. While a rustic styled saison is a very traditional take, this seems to take that idea and push it into a much fresher, more sparkling way that you would expect.

There are even some side notes just rounding it out – light orange and key lime citrus elements – ones that you see used a lot on the new wave of saisons, but here they are not up front. These new world hop notes are an addition to the base, not overwhelming it.

In fact, I have ranted recently about masses of hops being used to overpower interesting styles – this feels like a good example of the opposite – where matching craft style hopping to a traditional saison style manages to enhance both sides. Very distinct, its levels of greenery are not for everyone, but well worth checking out if that style doesn’t put you off.

Background: I had to check what was in this brew – the amount of leaves on the can made me think it was a cannabis beer. Which is totally a thing, but not a thing that I think is legal to see in the UK. Anyway, turns out it is not a cannabis beer, just a saison style beer made with Citra, Mosaic and Galaxy hops. Good combo. It is made in association with Alefarm brewing, brewers from Denmark. This was grabbed from independent spirit and drunk while listening to some Mobina Galore – got into the band when they opened for Against Me! And they were darn cool.

Fantome: Vertignasse (Belgium: Saison: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Bright green. Massive green to white bubbled head.

Nose: Minty. Wheaty. Lamb stew. Lime. Coriander.

Body: Lime. Sage. Wheaty. Moderate bitterness. Peppery. Minty. Peppermint and mint leaves.

Finish: Lime jelly. Moderate bitterness. Wheaty. Malt drinks. Greenery. Peppery. Mint.

Conclusion: This is the, I think, 2nd green Fantome beer I have had. I think. It’s not something you expected to see more than one per brewery of at the most. Anyway, considering that there is strong suspicion that woodruff is used to make this green, that could explain that flavour that I am having a very hard time pinning down. I have never tried woodruff in anything except a Chorlton beer which a) similarly confused me and b) wasn’t green. So, anyway, could taste like woodruff for all I know, I’m doing my best here.

What seems to come out of the beer is a mix of lime and herbal sage notes over the usual peppery, high quality saison from Fantome. The result is good, but seems slightly less than the sum of its parts. The base seems to lead towards their awesome Spring Saison but the … you know what, right or wrong I’m going to call it woodruff for now just so I have a word for it rather than just saying “green thingy influence” … the woodruff influence does overpower a lot of the lighter subtle notes that made that beer so awesome.

Now, it’s still good – but also more one note, or really more two note with the strong lime and sage like notes. There is an impressive, slow building, bitterness backing it, but again this is matched by the fact it overpowers the lighter notes.

So, fairly decent – though another one I would say to share – despite the lower abv the flavours can get wearing if you solo this beer raid (If you forgive the video game reference). There is a cloying note and a minty character that raises up, adding complexity, but it still becomes heavy going over 750ml.

So, good, kind of one note – I would say to go with some of Fantome’s other excellent beers over this merely ok but not great one. The curse of having such a great line up is that only ok ones like this seem weak by comparison.

Background: Another beer with style disagreement online- depending on where you look it is described as a wit or a saison. Frankly, considering whatever was added to it to make it green, it isn’t close to any style really – but I have leant towards saison based on my experiences. I don’t think official word has been given on what makes it green, but a few people have guessed woodruff, which seems a fair call. I adore Fantome saisons, they rate from ok to bloody excellent, and from just excellent takes on a standard saison, to weird mad experiments. All good. This one was grabbed at Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to some Rhapsody – great fantasy, storytelling metal. This was drunk the night before heading up north to go watch NXT wrestling – so I knew good times were ahead.

Hubris Id: Tempus (England: Saison: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy streaks in the bottom of a gold main body. Large white head.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Lemongrass. Dill pickle. Soft toffee. Pepper. Soft cream and milk. Orange rind.

Body: Soft kiwi and lime. Moderate bitterness. Earthy notes. Salted lime. Coriander. Peppery. Gentle middle. Lemongrass. Salted wheat. Slight chilli seeds. Charring late on.

Finish: Kiwi. Earthy character. Malt chocolate. Lemongrass. Milk chews. Slight chalk. Slightly salty. Orange rind. Charring later on.

Conclusion: This is a pretty unique take on a saison. Ok, that sounds very much like damning with faint praise. Kind of like when someone says the food is おもしろい in Japan. It really sounds like you are just trying to be polite, apparently I come across like I am doing that a lot. Well, let us examine this and see if it is just interesting, or interesting good.

This has an earthy, rustic, peppery saison base. So fairly standard in that way – but it is very unusual in that it is also slightly milky, making a mix of rough and smooth in the base to work from. Then it brings in the odd hop choice – with Sorachi Ace bringing lemongrass, dill pickle and kiwi into saison territory where it is not normally used. That however isn’t the odd part of the flavours though, that is the comparatively normal part. What is really odd is the salty, wheaty character that makes this actually feel like a more robust take on a gose. So, yeah. Nigh unique in my experience that one.

So, is it good different, or bad different? Well, for the first half it actually really works. A mix of unusual textures and unusual flavours gives you a lot to get your teeth into. It feels very grounded, with an earthiness to it that feels closer to earthy British hop character than the natural rustic saison character, but still enjoyable for that.

Late on the rougher notes start to dominate. A more charred character starts rising to overpower the hop character and brings with it a taste like crushed chilli seeds. It could be due to the beer warming I think, rather than just extended exposure to the beer, but any which way it adds a rough edge that does not benefit the beer.

An interesting one to try, and close to being a good one – but that latter half means that it falls short. Ah well.

Background: Second set of tasting notes on a Hubris ID beer – a tiny nano brewery around the Bath area. This is me being ultra hipster and trying beers that really won’t turn up far from where they are made, most likely. This one caught my eye as it is a saison made with good old Sorachi Ace, my beloved, odd as hell, hop. It also uses the jarrylo hop – an experimental hop from the look of it, and not one I know much about. Interesting. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk with a random bit of music going on in the background.

Kinnegar: One for Ronan (Ireland: Saison: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Caramel to chestnut brown body with a massive browned mounded head that leaves suds.

Nose: Malt drinks. Crushed peanuts. Cinnamon and orange skin. Perfume. Mild ground chocolate. Very milky coffee.

Body: Soft lemon and lime. Light cream. Rustic feel. Good bitterness and gritty hop character. Chestnut mushrooms. Smooth base. Malt drinks. Peppery. Very slight sweet sugar cane.

Finish: Peppery. Wheaty. Cornflakes. Moderate bitterness and light gritty feel. Soft lime. Charring. Malt chocolate drinks. Nuts. Slight yeast funk. Very slight sweet sugar cane.

Conclusion: An odd mix of several varied Belgian characteristics here in this beer. The smooth Belgian texture that is used well in a wide range of Belgian beers. The more rustic saison notes which match with a light peppery character. Then finally a level of hop prickle and bitterness that … is actually fairly odd for Belgian beers, even their more bitter beers don’t tend to express it in quite the new wave prickly bitter style like this does.

It keeps things interesting I’ll give it that.

Despite mentioning new wave hopping styles above, the best way I can describe the resulting mix is like a smooth Belgian saison meets a British best bitter. The hopping is prickly, but the overall feel of Belgian style meeting that bitterness is that kind of heavy and solid Best Bitter style, but with a bunch of Belgian twists.

The main flavours are in that robust middle – good bitterness, peppery spice, malt drinks and such. Nothing too unusual but well delivered. However there are some soft creamy citrus notes in there as well – more so early on, as he bitterness rises during the beer’s lifespan they end up pushed to hints around the edges. There is also a bit of the fun Belgian style with yeast characteristics in there giving light esters to a mild as can be sweet cane sugar touch. Not the most complex set of notes but covers the base set of bitter/sweet/etc pretty well. It more uses that varied set of textures to keep things interesting rather than the flavour.

So – it isn’t a classic – but it feels like a very polished remix of the saison and the bitter. It adds a few twists to each by matching them with the other, and it ends up more than the sum of its parts. A solid drinking pint for the pub, with a lot more to it than that term may indicate. Basically, the next level of a solid standby drinking ale.

Background: A beer brewed in memory of Ronan Walsh – I have to admit I do not know who this is but will raise a drink to their name. Was unsure on beer style for this – the label says “Belgian Amber” but also refers to it as a saison. In a pinch I’ve gone with Saison even if it is a tad atypical for that style. This was grabbed from Brewdog’s guest beer section and drunk while listening to some of The Kominas. Not much else to say at this point. Enjoy your drink!


Lost and Grounded: Hop-Hand Fallacy (England: Saison: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Dark hazy lemon to apricot. Middling white head. Some black sediment visible at the base.

Nose: Big orange. Carrot and coriander. Wheaty and tart lemon juice.

Body: Brown bread. Tart lemon. Slight sulphur. Peppery. Light chalk. Sour dough. Apples. Light key lime.

Finish: Sour lemon. Peppery. Sulphur. Chalk. Light hop bitterness and charring. Key lime. Coriander. Light orange skin. Earthy hops.

Conclusion: This feels kind of sulphur touched – to a similar degree to what I would expect in a cask pulled real ale – less so expected in a bottled saison. Very different – now that doesn’t mean bad automatically, but it is different to what I would expect from the style.

It also seems to leans towards a more earthy and grounded interpretation of the saison style, rather than the crisp hopped take of Saison Dupnt and the like. Which is pretty unexpected from the aroma – the aroma actually seemed to be taking some Belgian Wit influence with lots of orange and coriander notes popping out. By comparison the more earthy base seems quite, well, prosaic.

There are subtle orange, and even key lime notes in the body – but under the earthier hop character. It is ok, but it feels slightly dominated by the earthy and sulphur elements, which lead into a peppery finish. The higher notes don’t seem to get much room to play and so, while robust, it seems hard to get excited about.

Possibly if it had not opened with such a high note of that lovely fresh orange I would be viewing it with a kinder eye – but it promised a really fresh touched saison then took it away. IT TOOK IT AWAY. So, as is it seems worse in comparison to the expectations it sets. It really works the more grounded notes, chalky touches, lots of grounding, but all the elements to build off that are done too weakly.

So, to give constructive feedback – it has a solid base that could have a shit-ton done to it without hurting it – but it needs to really build from that. This feels like a beer half done. Not a favourite I am afraid.

Background: This is, technically, not the beer I intended to buy. A while back a bunch of fellow enthusiasts and I did what we called #Brisdram – a whisky fuelled tour of Bristol. It was awesome. Such a pity you missed it. Anyway, Lost and Grounded, a new Brewery in Bristol let us set up in their Brewery based taphouse for some of this time. Many thanks! Anyway, during that time I tried an awesome lager from them – really hopped and fruity but did not lose the natural lager style. Awesome beer. So, now sober, I tried to remember what it was. No bloody clue. So I grabbed this one from Independent Spirit, which sounded about right. Turns out it is a saison. So probably not the one I drank before. Ah well. Drunk while listening to bit more of the excellent Canadian punk band Mobina Galore.

fantome-chocolat

Fantome: Chocolat (Belgium: Saison: 8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy darkened yellow to apricot with a large off white head and some sediment.

Nose: Carrot and coriander. Wheaty. Light malt chocolate. Lemon fresh air. Orange zest. Dried apricot. Bready.

Body: Juicy but warming. Chocolate late on. Peach and cream. Rustic middle. Light chilli seeds. Sour dough. Lime. Slight custard notes. Blood orange. Blackpool rock.

Finish: Chilli seeds. Light green peppers. Chocolate and cocoa dust. Lightly earthy. Ginger. Slight sour cream and chives. Apricot. Lime jelly. Dried banana.

Conclusion: You know what I like about Fantome beers? The fact that they can use a concept for a beer, show the concept clearly in a beer, but not make the beer solely about that concept.

Take this for example – chocolat by name – so, for most people they would this to be a dark beer and to be pushing all chocolate all the time, right? Except it isn’t. It is a beer that clearly has that light Belgian spice use, with a fruity but rustic base body and evident fruit sweetness. The chocolate only comes out late mid body and into the finish. Similarly, this has chilli powder in it – is it some heat factory? Nope, just a slight mild chilli tingle, not no more prevalent that any other spice in a Belgian beer.

So, you end up with a fruity Belgian Ale with only some hints of its saison base there, leaning instead towards the Belgian Blond Ale side of things. It is smooth, the saison notes coming in light rustic elements, but definitely more on the sweet cane sugar touched, fruity blond ale style. This then leads out into the warming and chocolate styled finish. Normally around now I would be talking about the shock of moving between two such distinct elements – but here they manage to make it feel like a natural progression.

Now before I get too raving about it here, there are weak points -with the amount of strong flavours it can get wearing, and feel more a beer you appreciate than enjoy – but for the most part it is well done. It has a very solid base, and the smoothness of the texture shows a beer that is very competently done. That wearing character mentioned is most evident over several glasses. At 750 ml it is definitely a bottle best shared to get most enjoyment from it. So, not as high flying as most Fantome ales – but a very solid middle ground beer, with unusual styling. So, enjoyable, but not one of Fantome’s exceptional beers – Still, kind of damning with very faint criticism there – still enjoyed it a lot.

Background: I’ve been a huge fan of Fantome since I first managed to get my hands on their beers. This, a saison made with cocoa and chilli powder, was grabbed from Independent Spirit I am not quite sure if cocoa and chilli powder should go together, but hey, up for giving it a a try. Drunk while listening to some music from Louise Distras who I only recently heard – a nice mix of Billy Bragg and Riot Grrrl style punk to my ears. Due to an extended session on Dark Souls 2 this was drunk fairly late in the night. So far it seams weaker than the original Dark Souls – the bosses especially seem not as inspiring or awesome – still, early days yet – could be all the cool stuff is packed at the end.

%d bloggers like this: