St Austell Cornish Saison for M&S

Cornish cliffsides.

Marks & Spencer, the slightly upmarket English supermarket-stroke-department-store, has been doing interesting things with its beer range for a few years now but the idea of a Cornish-brewed Saison really grabbed our interest.

It’s pro­duced for them by St Austell, a brew­ery very much on our trust­ed list, and has evolved from an orig­i­nal small-batch brew designed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with beer writer Melis­sa Cole. It has 5.9% ABV, comes in a cute pur­ple 330ml can, and costs £2. (Or less as part of the cur­rent four-for-the-price-of-three pro­mo­tion.)

But is it a bar­gain, or do we have a Hather­wood sit­u­a­tion on our hands?

Saison in the glass with can nearby.

It is per­fect­ly, almost aston­ish­ing­ly clear in the glass, with a decent head of foam that stops short of Bel­gian volu­mi­nous­ness. (Per­haps it’s hard­er to achieve the nec­es­sary pres­sure in cans.)

On tast­ing, the mod­el is clear: it is an homage to Sai­son Dupont, which is fine by us. There’s the same famil­iar spici­ness from the yeast and the same gold­en colour. It isn’t a slav­ish clone, though: this beer is clean­er, more bit­ter, and seemed to have a lot more orange peel and corian­der char­ac­ter.

In fact by the end of the glass we were won­der­ing if it might not almost be described as a kind of Kristall Wit – that is, an appli­ca­tion of the fil­ter­ing tech­nique used to clar­i­fy cer­tain wheat beers in Ger­many to the spici­er, more cit­rusy Bel­gian equiv­a­lent.

It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing, very enjoy­able beer that could eas­i­ly pass for some­thing gen­uine­ly Bel­gian. (We know St Austel­l’s head brew­er, Roger Ryman, is a Bel­gian beer fanat­ic.) So, yes, that means it’s good val­ue, and we’ll cer­tain­ly be buy­ing some more next time we pass a branch of M&S.

In gen­er­al, we do like how M&S pack­ages its own-brand beers these days. Quite apart from the cool and colour­ful graph­ic design they’re (a) clear­ly iden­ti­fied as own-brand but (b) with clear infor­ma­tion about who brews them. That means we can make an informed choice about which to take a chance on (Oakham, Adnams, St Austell) and which to avoid (sor­ry, Hogs Back).

4 thoughts on “St Austell Cornish Saison for M&S”

      1. Spoil­sport. 🙂

        Don’t all attempts at hit­ting the Sai­son style (as opposed to being Sai­son-based) pay homage to Dupont, in the sense that it’s the arche­type of the style? Sor­ry, you have my mind whirring away now on the whole top­ic of styles – again.
        One to look out for, by the sound of it. Sounds like I would like it.

  1. I real­ly enjoy the M&S range as well, and for sim­i­lar rea­sons; well thought out pack­ag­ing with good beer inside. I’ve avoid­ed the Cor­nish Sai­son as I’ve nev­er enjoyed the style much, apart from Dupont, but will now give it a go!

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