(review of Saison de Noel from the YellowhammerBrewery of Huntsville, AL)
I’ll be the first to admit, the title for this review is intended to be an ironic cliché. My apologies to my fellow beer snobs who realize this is as reckless as unregulated beer vat on a hot summer day!
Originally brewed by French speaking Belgian farmers saisons historically made use of wild yeast strains which inevitably changed both the final flavor and color of every beer produced. So to say that this saison is “of a different color” is as comically erroneous as a presidential candidate’s press conference. (for a descent and concise article on saisons please see the Wikipedia article by clicking here)
But for this particular brew the irony was entirely warranted; because this is no normal saison. Pitch black in color it resembles a strong stout more than a true saison. With a pleasant maltiness you would swear it was a stout. And with an ABV that rivals some Rieslings you would think you were drinking a barley wine!
In spite of the unconventional qualities of this brew, I give it my full endorsement. It is by far the BEST “Christmas Ale” I have encountered this season, with a sweet bite and a balanced spiciness that leaves you wanting the festivities to continue well into 2012!
Origin: YellowhammerBrewery of Huntsville, Alabama
Style: Belgian Saison
Appearance: Pitch black, with a slight twinge of deep mahogany around the edges. Though for a saison, it seems remarkably clear with very little sediment.
Aroma: Surprisingly, this beer does not boast a very strong bouquet. When you do catch a fleeting whiff of its musk, your nostrils will detect very ripe fruit, with raisins, and a touch of honey.
Taste: The taste, though enjoyable and complex, can be summarized as a yeasty Belgian dubbel. Rich roasted maltiness, meets a complex array of spicy yeast. The taste profile concludes with a slight vegetal presence and crisp hopiness.
Mouthfeel: Surprisingly this beer opens with a pleasant crispness. The body was weaker than I would have preferred, but substantially better than say “Blue Moon.” Unfortunately, the only drawback to this entire beer is its prolonged lingering aftertaste (which is not entirely unlike eating an acerbic persimmon!)
This beer needs air! I have tried it on two separate occasions (once at its world-wide debut, and again several days later). I can only say that some oxidation seems to help concentrate the flavors and accentuate the balance of sweet against spicy.
Eat good food. Drink good beer. And above all, stay classy.