Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dark Saison III Tasting - Figs and Honey

For the third beer in our series of dark-funky-fall saisons, Alex and I created this earthy fig and buckwheat honey permeated batch late in 2010. The brown honey produced by bees collecting nectar from buckwheat smells like nothing so much as dark malt extract that has been left out too long, pungent. Overpowering on its own, we hoped that a small amount would add depth and complexity to the funk provided by the Brett. We also added a few grams of anise and cinnamon, our attempt at sub-threshold saison spicing.

Complex recipes are hard to learn from. Alex and I combined a bunch of malts, adjuncts, fruits, oak, spices, an expressive yeast, and it is terrific, but I am completely lost on where most of what I taste is coming from. There is definitely dark fruit, but is that the figs or the Special B? I think most of the funk is from the Brett, but I’m sure the buckwheat honey is boosting it. I like the beer, but it would be a hard recipe to refine.

Fantôme has been a big inspiration for this series of beers. Not any of their beers in particular, but rather the notion of making a seasonal beer, like their Hiver or Noel, that evolve from batch to batch. It is a lot more fun to have a general concept to brew towards, rather than trying to recreate the same thing each year. Hopefully Alex and I can keep up this project; it shouldn’t be too hard given all of the dried fruits and spices we have yet to experiment with. Last fall’s Batch #4 is still aging, although I had to rack my share off of the wine-soaked oak stave and dried Zante currants sooner than anticipated when, after just six weeks, the wood character was already becoming too evident.

A glass of fig-honey dark saison on a bookshelf my grandfather built.Dark Fruit Saison III

Appearance – The meager off-white head puts up a good fight, holding on to the last sip. It sits atop a beer has a dark molasses color at the top, but turns transparent Newcastle brown near the bottom of the fluted glass.

Smell – The aroma is dark, port-like, with plenty of dried fruit (although not specifically figgy). There is some dusty Brett funk as well, backed up by some toasty malt (or is that buckwheat honey?). There is so much going on that the peppery yeast and spices get lost in the shuffle.

Taste – Fresh cherries or plums right off the bat, before transitioning into dark fruit in the finish. The acidity is soft and complementary, the saison yeast didn’t leave too much for the bugs. The flavor is dry, but it isn’t grating. The buckwheat honey has calmed down from its once potent position, although it is still there at least in the distinct barnyard finish.

Mouthfeel – I’m usually a fan of low-moderate carbonation, but this one could use a little more oomph. The body is medium-thin, about right for a dark-funky-Belgian.

Drinkability & Notes – I think each year our dark saisons have gotten a little bit better, although this one is probably closer to a funky dubbel. Still waiting to see how the most recent version turned out, but I have high hopes.

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