It wasn’t what I would call a great experience.

Small | Medium | Large | Xlarge | Original
Small | Medium | Large | Xlarge | Original

The Saison Gauntlet

I recently threw down the saison brew-off gauntlet —I blame the internet.

The person against whom I am brewing (who happens to have the same last name as myself and, arguably, a better username on reddit) is someone who seems to have, at least, actively thought about saison (and brewed one!) within the last 4 years. This places me at a disadvantage.

I never enter the French and Belgian beer category: it’s way competitive! It’s typically got as many entries as IPA, and the number of variations of the saison style alone is completely staggering to me. I’ve always felt I have basically zero chance of winning in that category. As a result I’ve never tried to fine-tune a recipe.

But I have made saison…right?

Right‽ No—I’m sure of it. I’ve read the Farmhouse Ales book. I do have a recipe for saison, but from the looks of it I may have made it to brew at someone else’s house. Looking back through my notes from the past 2.5 years: nothing. Looking at my BeerAlchemy Backup (which I used on my iPhone 3 years ago)—success! I have a recipe with notes! …for a PUMPKIN saison.

Pumpkin beers

The things I don’t brew for competition are few. Brewing a pumpkin beer with my partner for Halloween has been a tradition we’ve had for many years. Even though neither of us are particularly pumpkin beer lovers, we do love Halloween (we got 229 trick-or-treaters last year!). Usually we view the pumpkin beer as an opportunity to do something strange. Last year we did a pumpkin and molasses kettle sour with 50% wheat. And, evidently, in 2014 we brewed a pumpkin saison.

Then I remembered: we bottled some of this, didn’t we?

Why, yes, that does say “Brewed Oct. 2014” Small | Medium | Large | Xlarge | Original
Why, yes, that does say “Brewed Oct. 2014” Small | Medium | Large | Xlarge | Original

Tasting notes

Here are some quotes from the notes I took during the tasting:

  • “tastes like applesauce and old cloves”
  • “slightly chemical old spice”
  • “kind of like pfeffernusse”
  • “tastes like Hobby Lobby smells in the fall”

It was pretty bad. It was oxidized, it had low carbonation, and the only flavor that was still strong, really, was the pumpkin spice.

On the plus side:

It had a nice color Small | Medium | Large | Xlarge | Original
It had a nice color Small | Medium | Large | Xlarge | Original

What did I learn?

I learned beers where the predominate character is spice don’t age well. I’ve learned that the color that I got from my recipe is pretty good (I’m guessing it’s a bit darker than it would have been fresh). And most importantly I’ve learned that I have a deep need to have a third thing in paragraphs like this one.

Basically I’ve got bupkis—no saison recipe, no revelations about my bottling technique, no newly gained confidence in my innate brewing ability—but at least I got to drink a gross beer.