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Posted in Beer & Brewing, Life
November 21, 2012

Tasting: Northern Brewer’s Saison de Noël

I’ve been ready to give this one an official tasting for a while now.  I could hardly wait one week for this one to carb up.  But now it’s ready for a proper, fully-carbed tasting, and here it is.

The recipe for this one was a complete sugar bomb.  Malt, and Belgian Candi sugar, and extra corn sugar, this one was ready for Christmas it seemed.  All it needed were actual sugar plums.  (Hey…there’s an idea!)

So far, it’s been a good brew, though not as overall pleasing as the Northern Brewer White House Honey Porter.  That’s a very drinkable beer.  This one, with its higher gravity, and sharper alcohol content, is more of a one-or-two beer.  But here’s the official word…

Original Recipe/Brewday

Appearance: (3.5/5) A thick, uneven, and tannish head bubbles atop a dark, hazy, opaque body.  The haziness in this beer is what has since inspired me to get an additive called Whirlfloc for future beers.  It will clear up a lot of that, but part of the haziness is also the larger-than-expected batch of yeast sediment that was sitting at the bottom of the bottle.  The head stays around for a while, and laces itself down the glass nicely.

Aroma: (3.5/5) Bananas!  Bananas everywhere!  Holy man, that’s a lot of bananas!  It’s almost overpowering!  Add a little spice and malt, and maybe a hint of cinnamon, and you have what this beer smells like.  But…this beer is almost literally bananas.  We can thank the White Labs Saison Ale yeast for that, it seems.

Taste: (3/5) It’s good, but I was hoping for better.  You can’t escape the bananas, but at least on the palate, there’s the addition of chocolate and clove as well.  It’s pleasant, and tastes better than some of the Pro Brew Christmas beers I’ve had, but it’s a bit one-dimensional.  Super sweet, too.  That 1.018 Final Gravity is very apparent.  Boatload of sugar in, boatload of sugar out, it seems, combined with a mild but noticeable alcohol presence.  That 6.4% calculated ABV seems about right.

Drinkability/Mouthfeel: (3/5) With the alcohol, the malty, sweet body, and heavy banana character, this is a one-or-two-at-a-time beer.  This isn’t one you can drink all night.  But you’ll enjoy the ones you can.  The mouthfeel is heavily influenced by the high gravity nature of the beer.  It’s heavy, it’s smooth, and the head adds a slight frothy element.  Overall pleasant.

Design: (3.5/5) I may have gotten a little heavy-handed with this one, but overall, I think it’s a successful design.  It makes me feel all Christmasy just looking at it.  Though it’s not the easiest to read, but I blame that on the lousy printing.  Okay, the yellow on the blue doesn’t help much, but it’s mostly the printer.

Overall: (16.5/25) Perhaps with the correct yeast, or with a little more fine tuning, this beer could have turned out better.  That’s not to say it turned out poorly, but the overpowering banana aroma, while not unpleasant, is a bit much.  But it will keep me warm during the cold winter months, and accompany many a Hoosiers game coming up.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.  Hope you spend it enjoying friends, family, and everything else that makes you happy and grateful.

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