Saisons Pt 8: The Last Two

Saisons from Durham Brewery and Weird Beard.

As we draw near the end of this series of posts reporting our experiences of tasting British-brewed saisons, we’ve abandoned any attempt at theming: the only thing these last two have in common is that we bought them both from Beer Ritz.

Before we get down to our brief tast­ing notes, here’s a reminder of what this is all about: we want to have a short list of three we can whole­heart­ed­ly rec­om­mend. So, while ‘Do we like it?’ is a good start­ing point, whether oth­er peo­ple might like it is also impor­tant and, in prac­tice, that means we’re not after mad­ly left-field inter­pre­ta­tions.

  • Durham Brew­ery Rasp­beery [sic] Sai­son, 5.6% ABV, 500ml @ £4.20.
  • Weird Beard Sai­son 14, 6%, 500ml @ £3.52.

Durham Brewery Raspbeery Saison, spilled all over the tabletop.

The pho­to­graph above rather gives away our expe­ri­ence with the Durham beer: it hissed, sprayed and spewed all over the table, albeit smelling delight­ful­ly of rasp­ber­ries as it did so. It wasn’t as bad as it looks, though, and we did man­age to get two decent serv­ings, both rud­dy brown and capped with inch­es of sol­id foam.

The rasp­ber­ry that was so appar­ent in the aro­ma is also present in the flavour where it man­i­fests as a high-pitched, thin tart­ness which begs for some bal­anc­ing sweet­ness. (Like you get in the actu­al fruit, come to think of it.) Boak was remind­ed of the rasp­ber­ry vine­gar her Dad used to make when she was lit­tle and, yes, there was a lit­tle of that vari­ety of acid here, too. Though that was all rather inter­est­ing, we’re not sure we actu­al­ly liked it, and it became appar­ent the more we drank that it was sim­ply laid over the top of a beer that resem­bled not a Bel­gian sai­son so much as a strong Eng­lish best bit­ter with the accent on milk choco­late, caramel and mus­co­v­a­do sug­ar.

If we were being kind, we might say it was rus­tic and quirky but, hon­est­ly, it struck us shod­dy, and we’re not sure labelling it as a sai­son is espe­cial­ly help­ful. It’s not a con­tender.

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Weird Beard Saison glowing in its glass.

Weird Beard’s Sai­son 14 made a much bet­ter first impres­sion – after a well-man­nered ‘Psst!’ it pro­duced a glass of clear gold with a good chunk of firm white on top. (The sec­ond glass was hazy, but that’s what hap­pens when you’re split­ting a sin­gle bot­tle-con­di­tioned beer, and it didn’t taste any dif­fer­ent, as far as we could per­ceive.)

The aro­ma was restrained but allur­ing with a sug­ges­tion of wild flow­ers and trop­i­cal fruit, though noth­ing spiked out enough for us to name names. Sim­i­lar­ly, there were lots of hints of this and that in the flavour – onion, coconut, pineap­ple, and more – but no one taste dom­i­nat­ed, giv­ing a gen­er­al impres­sion of full flavour and com­plex­i­ty. The heavy car­bon­a­tion lent a cham­pagne-like creami­ness to the body. After a few mouth­fuls, the mer­est sea­son­ing of salt and sour­ness – just enough to be appetis­ing – began to linger on the tongue.

It wouldn’t pass for Bel­gian and, if it remind­ed us of any­thing, it was that fruity Thai sal­ad of a Farm­house IPA from Mag­ic Rock and Lervig and, for the first time, we began to sus­pect that there might be such as thing as a typ­i­cal British sai­son.

We enjoyed Sai­son 14 a lot and espe­cial­ly appre­ci­at­ed how it strad­dled the line between straight­for­ward refresh­ment and down­right odd­ness. It’s a def­i­nite con­tender.

* * *

There are two more posts to go in this series. Lat­er this week, we hope to taste a cou­ple of Bel­gian saisons to remind our­selves of the inspi­ra­tion behind the UK inter­pre­ta­tions. Then, the week after, we’re going to taste all of our con­tenders togeth­er, blind, before decid­ing our top three.

One thought on “Saisons Pt 8: The Last Two”

  1. Will have to give the weird beard sai­son a go, I do like see­ing what uk brew­eries do with the style with­out screw­ing with it too much, sounds like my kind of beer.

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