Friday, August 22, 2014

Tasting Notes: Le Quatre Saisons (The Yeast Bay Beta Testing Round 1)

All four of the Saison strains that Nick from The Yeast Bay isolated, and so generously shared with us Beta testers, have been thoroughly reviewed, analyzed, and tasted by we the Beta testers, among other folks. I waited as long as I have to post tasting notes on the batch so I could allow the beers to spend some time in the bottles and see how they changed, since there really is something magical about bottle conditioned Saison. 
Tasting I did by myself at six weeks in the bottle,
the night before the Google Hangout.

I did my own little tasting alone to start, prior to sharing them with anyone, then Marshall, Brian and I each shipped a few bottles to Nick for his review. We scheduled a mutually agreed upon, which is always difficult, to do a little Google Hangout video session tasting and discussion on the beers. Some of us had our personal preferences but if memory serves me, since my dumbass forgot to document the other folks opinions that morning, there were at least one clear favorite and one "dumper" if you will, those being strains #1 and #2 respectively. 

We had some differing opinions on strain #3, Brian and I quite enjoyed it while Nick was repulsed and I believe he said "I would never sell that". We all seemed to really enjoy strain #4, which with strain #1 seemed to be the most complex and interesting yet exhibiting some classic Belgian/Saison-esque characteristics. Here are some tasting notes that I took at the time of the Google Hangout, June 29th which was a little over 6 weeks in the bottle.

Les Quatre Saison - 6 week tasting notes:
  • TYB Beta Saison Strain #1: poured with a nice head that settle down relatively well straw yellow color moderate clarity. Aromas of lemon, bready malt, peppery spice. Subtle bitter up front, clove, some fruit and pepper. Kind of cloying. Under attenuated but some nice aromas and classic Saison flavors, could do better with a warmer ferm and low mash temp obviously.
  • TYB Beta Saison Strain #2: Pours with almost no head, there is a light carb though, somewhat hazy compared to #1. Aromas are subdued, mildly earthy, distant fruits. It's very sweet, extremely cloying, has a tartness to it that seems to cut the sweetness though. You get sweet then it's instantly cut off with a pucker. Bile, it tastes like bile, and I can't drink it. Could work in a blend though, aromas were mildly enticing.
  • TYB Beta Saison Strain #3: Pours with a head that lasts throughout, haze similar to all 1 and 4, perfect carbonation. Most appealing visually. Aroma is pepper and Corriander, and some kind of funk I cant pinoint. Spicy, clove, pepper, dry but could be more so, really nice. This is uniquely weird, I'm not sure how it would go over commercially but its bizarre, and I like it.
  • TYB Beta Saison Strain #4: Nice effervescent carbonation, same color and haze as the prior. Head is more soapy looking, lays a little flatter than #3 and #1. Smells similar to Palm to me, clove, hay, some fruit, no pepper spice. Medium bodied, slick mouthfeel, clove and spice, picking up some coconut to (suntan lotion). Would pair really well with #3. One of the winners.

Unfortunately all of these bottles are now gone, save for a keg that I racked 1 gallon of each batch into with some Lochristi blend that I plan to share with my fellow Beta-dudes. But before the bottles disappeared from my cellar I got the chance to present our experiment to the members of my club, Philly Homebrew club, and of course share the last 5-6 bottles of each to get some objective feedback from folks other than Nick, Marshall, Brian and I. 

I was really hoping I would get a consensus on 1-2 of these but the feedback was all over the place, it seemed there was someone who liked at least one of the strains. I had a slide up on all of the data points for each strain and how they performed up till that point so some opinions could have been a bit skewed. Unfortunately some people actually neglected to taste strain #2 because I lamented about how it showed some low attenuation numbers, I didn't do a good job selling it I guess. I was a little busy opening the bottles and talking to the group, mostly deflecting inquiries on where the strains were isolated from, to take down any new tasting notes but they all changed for the better with time. 

This is all based on memory - 3 months in the bottle:
  • TYB Beta Saison Strain #1: The aromas are classic Saison, peppery spice, very reminiscent of DuPont. So much so that people were very surprised that I shot down their guess at this being a DuPont strain. This is a real serious winner, but is it unique enough to sell? Not sure, especially since so many people really thought it was Dupont.
  • TYB Beta Saison Strain #2: So odd, so very odd, people loved this one. The sourness that I noticed 2 months back is even stronger now, it has completely cut the residual sweetness of the beer and its actually quite balanced now. One of the group mentioned the beer was very "Citric".
  • TYB Beta Saison Strain #3: This was another group favorite, for me it seemed to be less interesting than I had remmebered but there was still a spice character that grabs your attention. Its weird, but unique, however hadn't changed as much as the others.
  • TYB Beta Saison Strain #4: This once again is proving to be a winner, a fellow club member Kirk (who knows his way around a Saison) was quite intrigued by this one and mentioned "...fullness and most desirable-ness of 4's clove-y bubblegum-y complexity". Still picking up a lot of the same notes as the earlier tasting. Probably stands out as the most unique of the 4, and could be a good one as a commercial strain.
Final opinion is that Strains #1 and #4 are the best candidates for single strain production, with strain #4 being the most unique of the two but Strain #1 has the most classic Saison character. Strain #3 would come in third for me, its very unique and weird, but I wouldn't expect to see it commercially because Nick was really repulsed by it, maybe it'll make it into a blend. Finally strain #2, oh what a fickle little strain. I think this could definitely work in a nice sour blend, or something with just a couple Brett strains. Its odd and unique leaving the beer nicely tart, but needs help attenuating. I plan re-use all of these strains and see how they pair in some of my own blends. I hope some people will be able to get their hands on some of these, if Nick ends up selling any I will post and update on what is what.

Check out Brian's tasting notes over at Brouwerij-chugach.com.

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