Goose Island Double Header #SupSaison
Goose Island - Sofie 2010 6.5%
Goose Island - Pepe Nero 2011 6.0%
Coming late to the party, I was unable to partake of the twitter event that was #SupSaison last night due to another family/drink-related commitment. It was organised by fellow blogger and appreciator of fine beer @Filrd , and you can read all about his intrguing Pre-Saisonathon in Macclesfield here.
When I found out that this was to happen I knew that I had no Belgian or English Saisons in my cellar, having already drunk and reviewed Ilkley Brewerys excellent Siberia in July, I contemplated buying some more. Then I remembered that last year I had procured some of Chicago brewery Goose Island's Vintage Series beers, two of which, Sofie and Pepe Nero were both brewed in the Saison style but both very different.
I'm sure you're all familiar with the history and definition of the Saison style, however just in case you need to refresh your memory you can read the Wikipedia entry here and the BJCP Style Guidelines here.
Time to drink the beer.
It pours a pale and ever-so slightly cloudy yellow-gold with a highly carbonated pure sparkling white head. The thing with Saisons generally is that they take a while to pour, but they're usually worth it. The aroma has lots of grapefruit and orange peel, but muted, as if sub-merged in Chardonnay but with a sour funky edge. Smooth, sharp and dry over the tongue, it has tart grapefruit, the bite of white pepper, some white wine sharpness, a sprinkle of sour lemon juice, a whisper of vanilla and a good dose of the funkiness you would associate with a spontaneously fermented beer. More of the tart sour grapefruit and lemon lingers long in the finish.
This really is a refreshing fruity saison in excellent condition for a two and a half year old (it was bottled on 24/03/2010) and although it states that it will mature for up to five years in the bottle I'd say it's drinking rather well right now.
By total contrast, this pours a deep dark brown with a coffee-coloured edge and a tightly carbonated beige-brown head. There's lychee, peppery grapefruit and white chocolate in the aroma with an initial smooth then a gentle prickliness over the tongue. There's a massive hit of evaporated milk which clashes then merges with a tropical fruit yoghurt taste, certainly not what I was expecting from such a dark beer. There's some coffee notes and a hit of spicy black pepper in there too. As it warms it develops an almost a light chocolate sponge taste, served up a a mild but sour tropical fruit coulis. The aftertaste has some creamy grapefruit with some shavings of white chocolate but without the faintest hint of oiliness, and this is sustained for a good few minutes before fading into a wonderful echo.
This is a surprising and stunning beer that I first tasted just under a year ago. I'd read in Draft magazine that it was brewed as the first black Saison and I was anxious to try it, but it was too rough around the edges for me to really appreciate it. Ten months later it has blossomed into the beer that I was hoping to taste then, full, rich and rounded with every flavour and nuance pin-sharp.
As I mentioned earlier, I had these beers stored away with a view to drink them in a few years time, however due to #SupSaison I believe I might just have caught both of them at their peak. Cheers!