Leeds Brewery Saison: A beer for beginners?

Saison is a beer style that I’m not an expert in. I’ve tried a few different ones such as the classic Saison Dupont, the quirky little Saison Silly, Pepe Nero Dark Saison from Goose Island and the UK brewed Saison by the ever reliable DarkStar, but I’m still getting my head around what this beer style is all about. What I’ve drank I’ve largely enjoyed, but much like Olives, Oysters and Espresso, Saison takes some time to win you over – but once it does, you’re in love.

Zak Avery wrote
an interesting blog post recently about Saison - in fact he was responding to Rob from HopZine, who was responding to someone else...which means I’m now partially responding to someone, who was responding to someone else, about them responding to someone else, but lets just put that aside for now.

Essentially Zak was saying how Saison will never become as popular and well known as something like a Citra Hopped Pale as it’s just too complicated, unusual and challenging, and that “Saison is the riesling of the wine world - loved by those in the know and in the trade, but largely ignored by everyone else.” It’s a beer which is loved by connoisseurs, but has an unapproachable sourness, mustiness and herbal quality which is so Alien to most drinkers it acts as a barrier for all but the most well honed palates. Which is why I was more than a little surprised when I heard that Leeds Brewery were producing a summer Saison with fresh Rosemary at their Brewery Tap Microbrewery (it’s upstairs, inside the pub, behind a big glass wall for customers to see on their way back from the loo).

Leeds Brewery make tasty, solid, but fairly unimaginative beers that very much cater for the local market. Their pale ale seems a little toothless compared to the competition, their Best is decent but definitely traditional, and their Midnight Bell Dark Mild is actually rather good. Brewing a Saison seems distinctly out of character, but maybe it’s a good sign of things to come as I’ve also spotted Tweets about a collaboration coffee beer brewed with the help of the truly fantastic Laynes Espresso based right next door to The Brewery Tap.

So finally I get to the beer itself. What was it like? Well, like much of Leeds Brewery’s output it was tasty but totally uninspiring, with very little estery quality and little in the way of that typical Saison mustiness.

There is however a big rosemary aroma on top of biscuity malt, a faint whiff of hops but mostly all you get is a herb garden. The flavour delivers more rosemary, a sweet malt flavour and a twang of yeasty sourness as well as a white pepper and clove bite. It remains refreshing though and the finish is herbal and dry with bitter spicyness from the hops and a strong rosemary aftertaste. It's a decent beer that tastes much bigger than it's 3.5% abv would suggest. That said you could still quaff a fair few of these in one go if it was served with a bit less gas and at a more appropriate temperature, i.e. not freezing cold and fizzy to the point of being foamy.

Also, £3.70 a pint for a 3.5% beer is definitely a touch high, but looking around at the guys in suits drinking their tall thin pints of pricy Leodis lager, I don’t think Leeds will have much trouble on that front.

5 comments:

  1. A timely blog post indeed! I caught the chatter on "Is Saison the new Citra Pale" and had to chuckle, but it certainly gained a more serious response from those in the know. Like you, I have tried and enjoyed the Saison Dupont and Silly Saison, particularly enjoying the Silly Saison given that it was my first try of the style. So, I guess I'm already a convert, if there needs to be any converting done here? but I'll certainly try the Leeds Brewery at least once based on this write up (3.5% is def a selling point for some, but may scoff at the price).

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  2. Thanks for your comment, my vanity is going to assume you missplaced a comma in your comment, and it should have read "...but it certainly gained a more serious response from those in the know, like you. I have tried..."

    ;-)

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  3. ha ha, yes that's right. Eats shoots and leaves. Sorry no slight intended!
    (I actually meant you to read it as you being in that group of knowing people - and then a new sentence. "Like you.."). ;-)

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  4. We still haven't seen it with saison. People keep saying we just haven't tried the right ones. Some Dupont is in the post as we speak, though -- we're going to crack it this summer.

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  5. I'd have to disagree that it was "tasty but uninspiring" I found it undrinkable. The herbs where over the top. And saison is never, and should never be made with champange yeast. Without putting too fine a point on it, it wasn't a saison.

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