18 February 2016


Two Belgian saisons today, one traditional with a twist, the other from one of the country's new wave brewers.

Saison Cazeau is first, from Cazeau Brewery, which is in Cazeau, in case you were wondering. At 5% ABV it is what I've increasingly come to regard as Proper Saison Strength and the unusual feature is the addition of elderflower into the mix. It's the limpid pale gold of a pilsner and smells vaguely floral but with a good dose of saison spices too. Vagueness is quite a feature, actually. I was braced for a big syrupy blast of all-conquering elder but it has been used very sparingly; almost too sparingly for my taste actually, presenting nothing more than a suggestion in the finish. The core of the taste is fizzy dryness without so much of the fun saison flavours and crying out for the balance that sweet elderflower could have provided if it had been added more liberally. I get a staleness too, which I don't think has anything to do with the fact that the bottle is a few weeks past its best-before. This beer lacks character, and there's no excuse for that when you're bunging in strange ingredients.

De la Senne won't let me down. De la Senne never rarely lets me down. Their Crushable Saison is one of my all-time favourites of the style so I had high hopes for Saison du Meyboom: extra super crushable at just 4.2% ABV. This is paler still and the column of foam that formed as I poured created the distinct impression of serving champagne. The aroma is bitter lemon and a slightly unpleasant herbal urinal cake whiff. Its texture is thin and the flavour very lemony, resembling a witbier more than a saison. And not a good witbier either. There's no saison spicing, though the dryness is there and a massive amount of gas. The yeast fuzz does help to soften the sharp edges a little, but between the carbonic bite and the citrus peel there are a lot of sharp edges in this beer. Apparently it sold out incredibly fast, and the chap in the Senne taproom was reluctant to let me take it away. I would like to put in on record, therefore, that I don't see what the fuss is about. Bring back Crushable.

Even at Proper Saison Strength, and regardless of the age or acumen of the brewery, saison still offers more of a Russian roulette experience than other beer styles. I've just taken two to the head.

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