Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tasting Notes of the Dark Saison 2015

It's been a while since I brewed this beer.  Back in late October I decided I wanted to brew a dark Saison for the Winter.  Well, here it is, Summer, and I'm just now getting tasting notes done.  This year I'll brew much sooner so that I will have the beer for drinking during the colder months.  Take a look at the post of the brew day to see where the inspiration of this beer came from.  Michael Tonsmeire has done a ton of dark funky Saisons over the years.  The original post is one of my most read ones so I believe there are many out there who are interested in dark Saison as a style.

Using the notes from Michael Thorpe's post on his blog Spontaneous Funk, I decided to use some tart cherry juice for bottle conditioning this beer.  His post can be found here with a lot of great info.  Knowing I would need 150-155g of sugar to get this beer to 2.8-3.0 vol of CO2, I used 48oz of the juice.  Each 8oz serving contained 25g of sugar.  That would mean just over 6 servings to get where I wanted with 5 gallons of beer.

I chose to use tart cherry juice since the beer had a great cherry note from the GigaYeast Sour Cherry Funk.  The pH of the beer was only down to 4.3 (strangely high I think?) but the tart flavors of the juice and maybe a bit more time in the bottle may increase the tartness over time.

Slightly cold at the time of the photo. 

ABV: 7.9%
SG:  1.060 or 14.74°P
FG:  1.000 or 0.00°P
Apparent Attenuation:  100%
Actual Attenuation:  81.4%

Tasting on 6-9-16
Appearance:  Dark brown with hints of ruby throughout the glass.  Off white to almost cream colored, rocky head with lots of fine bubbles.  Carbonation running up the glass.  More carbonation than I expected.  I wasn't sure how using the juice to carbonate would work out but Thorpe was spot on with his calculations that I copied (not that I doubted Thorpe, it was more me screwing it up than anything).  Really nice lacing as I drank the glass and a portion of the head stuck around the entire time drinking.  Had a solid cap throughout.

Aroma:  Cherry is noticeable when you first take a sniff.  Malt character borderline sweetness but more of a slightly sweet chocolate note.  Maybe more caramel than chocolate I would say.  Just a bit of yeast aroma in the form of spice that I didn't get in early drinking of the bottles.  The cherry is right at the point of being medicinal but not quite.  As the beer warms the cherry turns to more of a dark fruit aroma. Fig and dried or candied fruity is what I start to get with some graininess and a bit of pepper.

Not perfectly in the sunlight but still pretty dark overall.

Flavor:  There is more yeast spice in the flavor than the aroma.  But in a good way.  Less caramel or chocolate sweetness and more of a dried fruit/dark cherry character going on.  You get just a bit of sweetness but it isn't overly sweet at all.  It's really drinkable.  Dry in the finish but just a touch of sweetness before it fades.  Initially there was something off in the beer I was associating with 3725 but now it seems to have mellowed out.  It was something reminiscent of soapy I think.  None of that is present now.  Maybe just a touch of alcohol as the beer warms but the fruit notes really come out more.

Mouthfeel:  Medium-full mouthfeel for sure.  It has a creaminess to it almost.  Lively carbonation help to move it through the mouth.  It's definitely a fuller mouthfeel than my typical Saison and I think that's a good thing.

Overall:  I'm impressed with the beer I really didn't like just a few months ago.  I think I'm really sensitive to the medicinal cherry notes in beers that aren't sour.  I get the cough syrup note in commercial versions of stouts or other beers with cherry that aren't sour.  I never tend to pick that out of sour beers with cherries.  That may have to do with something in the darker malts but I'm not sure.  I really enjoyed drinking this beer and a few others that have had it have said they enjoyed it as well.  What's to note is that there really isn't much funk at all in this beer from the brett in the Sour Cherry Funk.  I understand there not being any tartness due to the higher IBUs but the brett has seemed to have strong cherry flavors as described.  That's the whole reason I wanted to use the cherry juice to prime this beer.  I find that super interesting and think that this blend would be great in a Belgian Strong Dark or something similar.  I'll have to test that out in the future maybe.

I do think this is a much better beer for colder weather, as I intended it to be.  I'm already working on my dark Saison recipe for this year.  I'll brew it much earlier this time and use a different fruit or fruit juice to interact with it.  This one is also using some new microbes from Bootleg Biology that I'll go over in that post.  I'm really looking forward to this years brew.  The autumnal Saison is looking to be something interesting this year as well.  More on all of that to come!


Andrew "Gus" Addkison
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  1. Great read, and glad everything turned out well! We definitely need to do a swap once I get a few more things bottled!

    1. I'm definitely in for that! I've got a bunch conditioning now and need to pick up some more bottles for a few more. Thanks again for the advice on this one!