I am doing this a little different this time. I haven’t written about the making of this beer yet, that will be coming tomorrow. Maybe it will be interesting to read the tasting notes before knowing how the beer was made? We’ll see. This is a hybrid between a pumpkin ale and a saison that I brewed last fall, here are my tasting notes.
This is a beautiful looking beer. It is so very orange. Clear, perfectly carbonated and… orange. Not amber, it is orange. The aroma is immediately cinnamon with a bit of nutmeg.
It doesn’t taste like a saison. This is the first thing I notice. I don’t like this yeast, although it is likely more in how I treated the yeast, I just don’t like the character I got from it. It is very dry, but it’s sort of harsh. Not alcohol harsh, just dry and wine like. Old, bad wine. Maybe some band aid flavor?
The spices come through a bit, mostly nutmeg after a brief hint of cinnamon in the front. In the back of the mouth, there is more spice, this time a pumpkin pie mix. All jumbled together, I can’t really pick out individual spices, which I guess is what you usually want. I’m not getting much clove, which I’ve said is what I liked in my first pumpkin ale. I would definitely like to up the clove in this if I did it again. Maybe cut back on the nutmeg a bit, too.
The dryness mixed with the malt flavor seems strange. There is some Marris Otter in here and I’m thinking it might be better to just stick with Pilsner Malt for the base of this beer if it’s going to get saison yeast. There is a lot of malt character here and I think that it is fighting with the fermentation character and that might be part of the problem I have.
There is just too much going on in this beer. I like the idea of a pumpkin spice saison, but I think I tried to carry over too much from other pumpkin beers. I would like to give this another try but strip it down to basically be a standard saison recipe with pumpkin spice added. This is more of a pumpkin ale with saison yeast added.
There are not a lot of hops noticeable in this beer. More hops, less malt, different yeast… This beer is definitely not a failure, it is just a rough draft. I plan to brew a new version next year and I think I can make some huge improvements.
In the mean time, I have close to a case of this version left and it is aging pretty well. At 9.4% ABV, there is not alcohol evident. The spice may have calmed down some, I don’t have a clear memory of how intense it was last year, but it is still noticeable but not intrusive now. I’m trying to get the last bit of this beer to warm up some before I finish it to see how much it will change with that.
As I’m waiting, I am looking up the band aid flavor. It looks like that may have been caused by my water, this was pre-filter. It comes from chlorine or bleach based cleaners reacting with the yeast. I don’t normally use bleach except in extreme cases, but my tap water, which I was still using at the time I brewed this does have chlorine. Maybe I’m too quick to blame the yeast, but with my current love affair with White Labs’ Saison II, I don’t think I’ll be going back to Belle Saison anyway.
Okay, it has warmed up a bit and the character has definitely changed a bit. I don’t know that it is for the better, though. It tastes even maltier. I am getting some cookie or graham cracker flavors on the front of my tongue. While this may be good in some beers, it just doesn’t work here. I’m still not getting much alcohol, though, which is slightly surprising.
I’m just about done with the beer. To summarize, this is a good first try, but the recipe still needs a lot of tuning up. The water, I think may be an even bigger problem. If I didn’t have so much of this left and I hadn’t learned my lesson in 2011, I would be very tempted to give this another shot this year, alas, though it will have to wait for 2015.