Tasting Notes: Shipwrecked Saison

I’ve been drinking this one for a while, so its time for a review. I brewed this beer a month or so ago, with the beer fermenting while I was away on holiday. This meant my fermentation strategy was “the upcoming weathers temperature profile looks saison-ish, so lets stick the fermenter upstairs, turn off the A/C, and let-er-rip“. Turns out this was not one of my better ideas…details below.

Appearance: The colour is a little dark, I’m guessing because the sugar I prepared for this batch was a little darker than I intended. Instead of the usual light-straw colour, this beer leans towards the dark straw/copper end of the spectrum. Like most sainsons it is cloudy, and the wheat in it gives it a rocky head – one so rocky that it breaks up into little islands half way through the pint.

Aroma: Bread, followed by bread, with a subtle hint of bread in the background. Jokes aside, it is very bready on the nose, with a fruity – almost citrusy – undertone. The aroma itself is acidic, and tingles when you inhale.

Flavour: Remember in the intro where I said my approach to fermentation temperatures was not a good idea. This is where you notice that. Sainson’s are supposed to be fruity, but there is fruity and then there is FRUITY. This beer has more than enough fruity esters – a clear sign that it was too warm early in the ferment (apparently the weather gods didn’t get my memo about how quickly I wanted them to ramp up the heat). Its not at the point that it is unpleasant, but it is at the point where its a flaw rather than a “fruity saison”. The fruitiness itself is pears & grapes – if in a better balance with the beer they would be dead-on style.  The phenolic notes are toned down compared to what is normal, with the typical “drying” earthy-peppery phenolics of this yeast being present but quite subdued. I’m actually happy with this aspect of the beer – while I enjoy phenolics, the amounts typically produced by the Saison Dupont yeast are usually more than I care for. The underlying body of the beer is great – a nice bready wheat character with a hint of a biscuit note and right amount of bitterness. The only thing it is missing is a bit more hop character – a late addition of some more Saaz hops, which would add a nice herbal character, would complement the phenoics and provide some more balance to the fruit. Alternatively, if fermented at a more reasonable temperature (i.e. was less fruity), a late addition of  Nelson Sauvin and Amarillo Gold would add a nice white wine & citrus/orange character that would work well with the base beer.

Mouthfeel: Light bodied and dry, just as a saison should be. It s a little under-carbonated for the style, but effervescent enough to be pleasant.

Overall: I can see why this recipe was an award-winner; it is a damned good beer and is a beer worth re-brewing – with proper temperature control, of course. Despite its fruitiness it is still a great, refreshing pint of beer at the end of a hot day.

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