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.
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’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.
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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.