Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dark Zante Currant Saison Tasting

12 oz of Zante Dark Currant Saison in a ~30 oz glass.With the second test batch for Modern Times Lomaland saison bubbling away next to a radiator and on a heating pad (it is similar to the first batch, but with wheat in place of spelt and fermenting with WY3711), I wanted to post a tasting of a dark saison I brewed around the same time I began working with the brewery. Brewed fall 2011, this is the fourth in the series of dark saisons my friend Alex and I have brewed. This is the darkest thus far, with cold steeped roasted barley added to the boil. Fermentation was a mixture of saison yeast and several Brett strains (including some White Labs American Farmhouse sent to me by Brandon who writes the always fascinating Embrace the Funk blog); the beer was aged on dried Zante currants and an oak stave that had previously soaked in a red wine barrel.

Dark Funky Saison IV

Appearance – Dark brown with amber-ruby highlights when held to the light. Head retention is dreadful, the thin mocha head fizzing out almost completely in less than a minute.

Smell – Lots of dank Brett funk. Raisin (probably the currants) is the lead fruit, but there is a red wine as well. I'd initially worried that I'd pulled the beer off the fruit too early (to avoid over-oaking), but the currant is at about the right level. As it warms, vanilla from the oak becomes apparent, as does some toasty malt.

Taste – Similar to the nose, with damp leaves, port, cherries, but also a subtle light-roast coffee dark malt flavor. Cold steeping the dark malt successfully prevented them from adding a harsh or acrid character. This is a dry beer, but not overly so, it is after all saison-inspired. The only issue is that all of this complexity covers up the simple peppery flavors of the primary fermentation. Lightly tart, minimal bitterness, slight warming alcohol.

Mouthfeel – Thin, but not watery. Solid carbonation, lower than many spritzy saisons, but I tend to like dark beers a bit under-carbonated compared to pale beers. Somewhat tannic from the oak, but it isn’t obnoxious.

Drinkability & Notes – Really happy with the way this batch turned out. Rich flavors in a drinkable package. The right saison for a winter evening, like the other version I’ll be enjoying this one for years to come!


derek said...

This is a fascinating beer. Trying to wrap my head around how those roast flavors are working. Do they add to the overall package or are they just there?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I think the raisin character from the currants wouldn't meld well with the clean-graininess of the Pilsner malt of a "standard" saison. The toasty-roasty malt in this one is subtle, but it would be a very different beer without it.

Pewther said...

Hi Mike, have you tried this beer recently? If so how has it developed?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

So far it is my favorite of the dark saison series! Held up well, although carbonation has climbed slightly over the years. Just a couple bottles left (maybe a big 10-year blow-out tasting?)

Radiohead78 said...

Hi Mike, in December, I bottled an extract and specialty grains version of this fermented with the Yeast Bay's Saison Brett #1. It had aged for about 11 months before bottling. I re-yeasted with Red Star Pasteur Blanc. After more than two months in the bottle I was shocked by the fizzy head that dissipated so quickly. I decided to check your tasting notes, and I see that your beer also had bad head retention. Do you recall if yours was really fizzy as well, and do you have any idea why this might have happened?


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The currants are coated with a thin layer of oil to prevent sticking. I tried to remove the majority of it with StarSan, but that's never perfect. I don't recall this one being worse that average, sours in general don't have terrific head retention thanks to the omnivorous microbes. Fizzy sounds like too much CO2 though?