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.