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Le Merle - North Coast Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Le MerleLe Merle

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
87
very good

1,036 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 1,036
Reviews: 468
rAvg: 3.89
pDev: 10.28%
Wants: 29
Gots: 60 | FT: 3
Brewed by:
North Coast Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Saison / Farmhouse Ale |  7.90% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: BeerBeing on 06-03-2007)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,036 | Reviews: 468 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of aubuc1
4.1/5  rDev +5.4%

750 ml bottle poured in to a goblet.

Pours a clear light amber with a fluffy whtie head.

Smell is fruity sweet. Kind of a sour apple and ripe tropical fruit with a slight biscuit.

Taste is a dry champagny tart with a very dry finish. Kind of spicy.

Very good mouthfeel and very good drinkability. Really reminds me of drinking champagne and also a dry chardonay.

aubuc1, Aug 23, 2009
Photo of brewdoc75
4.47/5  rDev +14.9%

I had this on tap at a local bar and had to get some in a bottle.

A: Light yellow to gold with strong carbonation and a generous head. The head dwindles after a few minutes to nothingness. It is appetizing nonetheless.

S: Wow! Fruits galore with some apple, banana and even some citrus. Smells "candy-like" at times. The aroma doesn't quit. Some pleasant sourness in the end albiet faint.

T: Lovely fruity esters hit the tongue first and transition to sour apples. Spicy hops tickle the taste buds ib the end. A honey-like sweetness is present throughout. Full of flavor and spot on.

M: Dry, just like it should be. Finishes crisp and light.

D: This is a superb saison! I love dupont, but I'm having an affair with Le Merle. A must try for saison lovers.

brewdoc75, Aug 14, 2009
Photo of JRhode
4.3/5  rDev +10.5%

750 bottle poured into Duvel Tulip.

A- Bright glowing orange with nice head. A beautiful beer.

S- Some citrus notes, sweet malt, spicy funk, estery.

T- Citrusy, a little hop bitterness. Definitely some bready/yeasty flavors too. Doesn't finish as dry as authentic saisons (Dupont).

M- Full bodied, creamy; maybe even a little syrupy for the style.

D- 7.9% abv is well masked. No trouble drinking a 750, although we'll see when I try to stand up. Nice food beer.

One of the best domestic saisons I have tried. Not quite the dry crispness and phenolic impressions on the finish that a Fantome Printemps has.

JRhode, Aug 08, 2009
Photo of pmcadamis
4.18/5  rDev +7.5%

Le Merle - or, "The Blackbird" is a hefty 7.9% brew... probably the booziest saison that I've ever encountered, and while I always think of this as a lower ABV style, this is not typically the case. I like the name, and although this moniker might be better suited to a stout, it does bring to mind a certain scarecrow and blackbird farmhouse image. The black and grey image on the bottle reminds me of the Alfred Hitchcock film "The Birds"... which scared the living bejezuz out of me when I fist saw it as a kid (albeit a kid growing up 40 years after the initial release of that venerable film).

A - This brew pours from the corked and caged 750ml bottle a cloudy but luminescent tangerine hue, and is topped with a wonderfully rocky three finger head. The color of this one reminds me of honey-hued candle wax made from tallow in an old cabin. The head takes it's time receding to a nice full finger, and it gets really rocky and pitted on it's way down. Lots of really thick lace graces the oversized wine glass (about 16 oz) that I chose to serve this in, and that full lace slides beautifully down the glass with a genteel and casual speed.

S - Wild yeasty notes jump from the glass and bring to mind hay-filled barns and growing midwest prairie grass. Some hints of citrus break through a green grassy "cornfield just before harvest" aroma that only those of us cursed/blessed to live in the vast cornbelt can appreciate. In retrospect, this nose is not bad, but far to delicate IMO.

T - The combination of ultra-bready yeast and lively bubblegum notes would combine to give one the impression of a hefeweissen, if not for the grassy hay-like notes imparted by what I can only assume is a Belgian yeast strain. There is also the overriding funkiness that gives this away as something not of our continent... a cheesy, 'shroomy, funky note that reminds me of those oddball brews that only a whacked country like Belgium could inspire. There is definitely a huge wheat component to this beer (I may be wrong, but that's what I taste), and some apricot, orange, tangerine, starfruit, and lime flavors give this a summery note that stands in blatant opposition to the autumn darkness imparted by the film-noir art on the bottle.

M - This one is delicately dry, and finishes with a complex hoppy note that is probably way too bitter and hop-laden for the style, but easily wins over a hop-fool like me. Light bodied but for the high ABV (which is honestly well hidden), this one is best enjoyed on its own as I fear that even the most mild of foods could overwhelm its manifold subtleties.

D - An excellently drinkable and complex brew that suffers only at the hands of its own mild and delicate nature. A word of advice: don't attempt to pair this one with a steak, a cigar, or a night of IPA pounding. This one deserves a fresh palate and an open mind, but at the $5 I paid for the 750 ml bottle one could be forgiven for experimenting.

pmcadamis, Aug 07, 2009
Photo of ffejherb
4.18/5  rDev +7.5%

On tap at North Coast on 7/16/09.

A - Hazy golden/pale orange body with over a finger of pouffy bright white head that retained quite well into a quarter inch of tight compacted bubbles and left modest lace around the tulip.

S - Initial aroma of fruity Belgian yeast suggests tropical fruit akin to pineapple and mango. However, this Saison also displays a spicy flair with hints of clove and pepper. The spices become more prominent as the liquid warmed up a bit.

T - Opens with a spicy yeast character with clove and peppery notes, then evolves into a blast of citrus and tropical fruit with pineapple and mango at the forefront. Closes with mild citrus hop bitterness and some earthy yeast suggesting barnyard funk and hay.

M - Medium bodied and a bit syrupy, perhaps a tad watery overall. Carbonation is moderate, resulting in a smooth mouthfeel. Very subtle alcohol warmth. Finishes with a spicy character and some funky bitterness on the tongue.

D - Really good farmhouse ale with lots of complexities. Fruity and fresh with a great aroma to boot!

ffejherb, Aug 05, 2009
Photo of jdense
4/5  rDev +2.8%

750 ml bottle from Belmont Station poured into Chimay chalice.

Gunsmoke after opening caged bottled. One finger creamy white head over golden orange body, a bit of haze, clear once it warms up. The etching at the bottom of the Chimay chalice threw a nice geyser of effervescence, pretty to look at. Pretty spicy nose, white pepper, coriander, balanced with a fairly big citrus presence, lemony goodness. The taste brings the lemon and pepper to the forefront, with a complex citrus character, lemon, pineapple, mango, not as lemony as Dupont. Hops are noticeable but pushed to the background. Lingering dry finish. A bit sweet, pretty close to tripel in style, but certainly a nice quaffer for a hot summer afternoon.

jdense, Aug 03, 2009
Photo of damienblack
4.08/5  rDev +4.9%

Cork comes with a huge pop, lots of co2 coming out of the bottle. Sounded like a champage cork being popped. Very cloudy, deep golden, huge massive pillowey head. Retains very well. Lacing spiders around the glass throughout. Smell is adequate if unimpressive, on the slightly musty side as opposed to full blown horse blanket. Taste... this is a very busy saison. It's on the fuller and heavier side as opposed to the lighter and delicate side. Almost like Golden Monkey is to the standard tripel. At first the spicing is a little overpowering, but towards the end it melds quite nicely. A bit of warming booziness. Vivid mouthfeel, really stands out and lingers with the carbonation, almost overly so, but it lingers pleasantly on the palate. An hour easily saw me putting the bottle away. An interesting take on the style.

damienblack, Jul 28, 2009
Photo of BEERchitect
3.98/5  rDev +2.3%

A fitting beer for a late summer night. Kinda cool outside and sitting on the porch after a long day's work. Saison it is.

Le Merle begins with a serious pop with the cork. the beer shows very active carbonation and a billowing eggshell head that maintains constant replenishment because of the efforvesence. Golden to orange in color, the beer shows a modest haze, great retention, and ample lacing.

The whole gammot of fruits can be found in the nose: peaches, pears, apples, appricots, pineapples, under-rippened berries, mangos, papayas, orange zest, and lemons are all recognizable. Spicy pepper, corriander, curraco, and light plastics round out the phenols.

Flavors do much the same. Very fruity, spicy, and well, Belgiany. Lightly vineous, tart, and acidic taste amplify the zesty and vibrant fruits. It's easy to forget about the malts. These are very well attenuated and give a subtle cracker-like crisp grain flavor along with a confection sweetness that provide the daintiest of backdrops for the showcase of fruits and spices.

The body is quite light and crisp for its fruitiness, sweetness, and boldness. A moderate hop bitterness persists and has a problem ajoining to the beer properly. Very warm, nearly hot to the mouth with a sharp carbonic bite from the CO2 activity.

The spicy-fruity attributes of the beer are in the keeping of Saisons. Even the sweetness suggests so. Though there is little to complain about the beer, it is not wonderful as we expect from great Belgian varieties.

Edit: After the beer looses its carbonation a bit, the mouthfeel and aggressive textures fade nicely, leaving the fruity, spicy blend to work their magic.

BEERchitect, Jul 25, 2009
Photo of ectomorph
4.38/5  rDev +12.6%

750ML corked bottle with no freshness/best by date poured (in parts) into a pint glass.

A - Cloudy golden in color with the classic huge Belgian carbonation and bright white foamy head. Fades very slowly in clumps leaving patches on the glass.

S - Tropical fruit, a mixture of figs, raisins, clove and moderate citrus hop presence are balanced by a light malt/bread backbone.

T - Hoppier than expected with a sweetness on the end. All the fruits mentioned above are there and the alcohol warmth is slight. Very clean finish has me waiting for another sip.

M - Moderate to big bodied, but not quite chewy. Very nice and full of bubbles it's like this brew is alive....

D - Very high. At a modest 7.9% ABV, this can be paired (and was) with big meals much like a white wine.

This one gives Hennepin a run for its' money, and I will be purchasing it again. Soon...

ectomorph, Jul 12, 2009
Photo of Mistofminn
4.03/5  rDev +3.6%

750 ml bottle with no date on it. Poured into my Surly Tulip a golden orange color with a lively carbonation. Very hazy and Belgian looking. Light pour produces a two finger off white head with great retention and lacing.

The nose is very good. Typical Belgian Saison spices and fruits. I get apples and pears, as well as a great Belgian yeastiness. Great stuff.

The taste is everything I hoped it would be. Maybe my favorite american made Saison to date. I get citrus fruits, apples and pears, lemon zest and spicey Belgian yeast. Clove also makes an appearance. The hop presence is strong in this one, and I love it. My favorite part is the strange aftertaste. It's almost as if this bottle had a wild yeast or something, but about 5 seconds after swallow, there was an very mild tart and sour funk. I'm not sure if it was meant to be there or not, but I thought it was excellent.

Mouthfeel is right on par with other Saisons, light and creamy from the carbonation. Great drinkability. The near 8% ABV is completely and fully hidden. In comparison, I had a Southern Tier Imperial Cherry Saison, with nearly identical ABV level, yet you could taste the horrible ethanol in that, where you don't even get a hint in this. Much better crafted beer this one is.

Maybe my favorite domestic Saison, it might have just ousted Ommegang Hennepin. I think a side by side blind tasting is in order. Great stuff!

Mistofminn, Jul 06, 2009
Photo of TLove
3.88/5  rDev -0.3%

(From Notes)

A strong and complex body. Another solid beer from North Coast.

Above average dark yellowish color and thin, expansive carbonation.

Classic saison smell and taste. Strong alcohol up front and full, yeasty, grainy, gritty body with a sweet, fruity and malty complexity.

Refreshing and a perfect summer beer. A bit hard on the back end, where the hops come out with the alcohol.

TLove, Jul 03, 2009
Photo of augustgarage
3.78/5  rDev -2.8%

Poured from a 750mL bottle into my Troubadour tulip glass.

Body is somewhere between amber and gamboge in shade, with a hefty dollop of ivory foam. Excellent head retention and Belgian-style lacing. Haze dissipates as the carbonation wears down.

Yeast (Brett?) with a fruity hop aroma which brings to mind fresh cut honeydew. Delicate, restrained, but pleasant.

The flavor on the other hand is quite potent. Tart and earthy with orange peel and lemon, grapefruit seeds (hops), yeasty astringency, and a little malt are well balanced, though the alcohol is maybe a touch excessive.

Alcohol ramps up the heat on the palate as well, which makes this a bit prickly on the gums given the high effervescence.

A fairly aggressive ale, hop-forward with a moderately high ABV, which makes this less refreshing than a Farmhouse/table brew...not my first choice for Summer.

Overall, an thoughtful domestic twist on a Flemish classic...

augustgarage, Jul 03, 2009
Photo of Seanstoppable
3.38/5  rDev -13.1%

Had a bit of trouble getting the cork out initially, but eventually it came out with a satisfying pop.

Pouring into an oversized wine glass resulted in a cloudy dark-yellow/light amber brew with two fingers of fizzy, quickly evaporating head.

Very, very light scent. I caught a brief hint of yeast.

The taste is like nothing else I have had before. Some sweetness and malts burst on the taste buds, which eventually results in some citrus and bitterness at the end.

Lots of carbonation in the mouth with this beverage, reminding me of champagne (which I guess is fitting considering the cork and pop), but caused me to nurse the drink along for quite a while.

Seanstoppable, Jul 02, 2009
Photo of gueuzeonhigh
3.95/5  rDev +1.5%

When I think of North Coast Brewing-- Russian Imperial Stout comes to mind.

I was intrigued to see "North Coast Brewing" as the creator of this Saison...

Poured with a nice frothy long lasting head. It didn't just lace my glass-- it coated it!

The nose was scant.. I don't think there was one.. Maybe I've got a cold..

Over all is a nice Saison. It could do with some more "earthiness" to the flavor. It's hard to characterize but I find the flavor profile somewhat without character.. or something pleasantly memorable-- something that signified "North Coast Brewing" saison..

Very cordial on the palate- and a very enjoyable 750ml. In fact I was disappointed that the bottle emptied so quickly.

Alcohol content wasn't so strong that I can't type this message after ingesting 749ml of this beer..

ENJOY!

gueuzeonhigh, Jun 28, 2009
Photo of BeerManDan
4.47/5  rDev +14.9%

When poured, the color was a hazy light yellow with nice white foam and medium retention of lace on the side of the glass. The smell had a fruity aroma, with a hint of citrus.

Fruity aroma and a soft, sweet maltiness. Lively mouth feel with a finish reminiscent of brut champagne. Nicely balanced and very pleasant as a sipper on a hot day or anythime!

BeerManDan, Jun 20, 2009
Photo of swierczt
4.15/5  rDev +6.7%

Poured from 750 ml bottle into Chimay goblet. Foamy white head after pouring. Slight lacing on the glass after a couple of minutes. Very effervescent with many tiny little bubbles. Straw yellow in color.

Nose is very fruity (pear, apple, honey aromas) and slightly yeasty. About what I would expect from a Saison.

Tastes smooth and somewhat creamy, full bodied.
This quickly fades to a dry sourness first in the front and then in the back of your palate. The sourness seems to intesify a bit before fading completely. Not at all what I was expecting. Taste is very different than the aroma.

I found Le Merle to be very drinkable and more complex than I had anticipated. Overall, I enjoyed this offering from Northcoast and would recommend trying.

swierczt, Jun 19, 2009
Photo of TheMistler
3.88/5  rDev -0.3%

Lots and lots o' head. Big bubbled, barely off white, it has a pleasing if hardly discernable golden tint. The color of the beer itself reminds me of a mead, deeply golden, hints of amber, and cloudy.

Tangy nose, the slightly sour funky notes hovering over light but sweet malts. Biscuit, and certainly some honey sweetness. Citrus and light fruits. A little bit of a dusty quality from the yeast. Very slight nostril-tingling spice, white pepper. Overall the nose is much more crisp than I feel my description gives it credit for.

Biscuit malt is noticeable right up front, but the taste is much like the nose - tangy (and nice) - and that takes over rather quick, though the tang continues to develop. Honey sweetness is not as noticeable as it was in the nose. Slight bittering, grass notes. Tangy, dusty yeast brings up the rear. Finishes quite dry, possibly aided by the ABV, which is otherwise very well hidden.

Starts very creamy, but with lots and lots of prickly carbonation making itself known. Medium bodied. Overall, smooth, nice. The carbonation put my stomach in knots a bit, but for a sipper this is pretty drinkable.

TheMistler, Jun 11, 2009
Photo of NiceGuyMike
3.85/5  rDev -1%

This beer poured golden clear with loads of streaming bubbles.
A huge pillowy white head heavy lacing keeps you occupied as you prepare yourself for tasting.

Smells of fruity Belgian yeasts with a touch of sourness that hints what you're in store for.

You're initially hit with a curious twang. The twang reveals itself as a basic sourness. Some bitterness follows up the rear (it is an American interpretation so bitterness is a must). Good Belgian fruity back flavor is always nice and curiously abundant.

This ale is silky smooth and creamy. This is such an excellent quality compared to the bitter sourness.

The 750ml kicked me in the ass. Much stronger than I would expect from a 7.9 abv brew. It is an interesting and I think I'll have to try it again in a few months. The sourness is a bit disconcerting, but overall I liked it.

NiceGuyMike, Jun 06, 2009
Photo of mhatters
4.22/5  rDev +8.5%

Poured in a Duvel glass from a cork-finished 75cl bottle at my house (purchased from State Line Liquors in Md)

Pours a straw golden with a thick fluffy white head.

Classic Saison nose, wheat, spice, goodness - a touch of light fruit

Yeast, wheat, pear, apple and banana with coriander, clove and a hint of pepper.

nicely carbonated, easy to drink, refreshing in the heat. A great Saison, it would be fun to have this, Dupont and Fantome at the same time for a taste-off

mhatters, Jun 04, 2009
Photo of pants678
3.25/5  rDev -16.5%

My first North Coast brew and it's from the bottle into a make-shift chalice that's actually a large-type brandy glass. It's stark orange and is as cloudy as they come. It had a two finger head that retains decently.

Smells starkly of coriander and all things citrus. I can smell the alcohol coming through after a good spinning to get the head back. Very sharp aroma.

Hits the tongue just as sharp as it smells. Front heavy carbonation combines surprisingly well with malt and yeast giving off an intricate orange. What I expected from my first Saison. Not necessarily up my alley, it's good brew.The back reminds me of Duvel, a warm, not too sharp, cloudy mix of garlic and tart. The orange and coriander can be boring toward the middle, not particularly complex.

Again, very warming and has a solid balance of front and back. Does not come off as over carbonated.

pants678, Jun 04, 2009
Photo of froghop
3.38/5  rDev -13.1%

pours a semi-clear yellow, lively carbonation, extremely large white head, and good lacing.

smell of grain, sweet fruits, malt in the back, and a touch of smoke.

taste is fizzy, pear, peach, grain, yeast, and a touch of sour malt, ends on the dry side.

froghop, Jun 03, 2009
Photo of clayrock81
3.53/5  rDev -9.3%

Poured a dark gold with orange tints with a frothy white head that sticks around for awhile and leaves sticky lace patches. Has that yeast smell I am accustomed to, as well as some sour fruits with the citric hops and some spices and a faint dose of caramelized malt. Light and smooth, goes down easy with some bubbly carbonation on tongue. Just not the greatest taste though, as the tartness from the fruit flavoring seems to override the taste of the fruits (I'm picking up apple, orange, citric) and the sweet malts. Finishes crisp and dry. Not bad, but I can think of better farm ales.

clayrock81, Jun 01, 2009
Photo of Buebie
3.38/5  rDev -13.1%

Got this bottle for christmas in 2007, been cellering since.

Poured from a brown 750, caged and corked. Off the pour the beer foams like its infected, hopfully it is not.
4 inches of cola like head form up. The color of the beer is a transparent dark golden. The head receeds to leave a half inch white froth. Thick spotty globs of lace line the glass in islands, not a solid lace drape.

Aroma of pepery spice, grassy hops, lots of cereal grain maltyness and a semi sweet citric rind aroma. Some cloves and herbs in there. A touch of alcahol at the knose, with a yeasty funk. Sourdough bread and a belgian like fermented honey aroma.

Mouthfeel is pretty creamy, still with a good doseage of carbonation, but definatly more light in feel from that carbonation flare up. It just has a more full body to the feel. Carbonation is crisp with a real bite to it. It seems like it wants to foam up though in my mouth as I sip. I'm nervous that this is going to cause me GI problems later.

Taste seems much more laid back then the aroma. Its picking up bitters though into the swallow with alot of non traditional hop flavors. Grassy with alot of bitter lem rind zestyness.
Some malt in the middle with more of that fermented honey taste, resembling very strongly an imperial kolsch.
I really dont know how to describe the taste. I know I dont care for it and am not enjoying it, but for the style it seems to follow the guidlines. Its not fruity though and definatly a bit more warm from alcahol. Compared to other saisons I've had this on is very dry, bitter and bready with plenty of sourdough flavors.

Buebie, May 31, 2009
Photo of mltobin
4.08/5  rDev +4.9%

This offering from North Coast Brewing came in a corked bottle, which the cork came out with a loud pop ! Thankfully, the beer did rise a bit, but not enough to pour all over the kitchen, whew ! The color is a nice light golden with a thick, big head. The smell is like faint hard cider. The taste is a bit sharper than some other 8% saisons but very enjoyable. I tasted cloves, apples, a crispness. Mouthfeel is bubbly with some fruit tones, and tart/spice aftertaste. Drinkability is good, an interesting saison. I had read about La Merle on this site in the past and am glad that I finally bought it, very enjoyable.

mltobin, May 28, 2009
Photo of kylesobrien
3.75/5  rDev -3.6%

Appearance: This one pours a foamy white head, and is quite effervescent. Lots of tiny little bubbles, clearly visible as this brew is quite clear with little in suspension. Color is a beautiful golden yellow with a slight orange hue. La Merle looks the part -- on appearances alone, there's no mistaking that this one's a saison.

Smell: Immediately after pouring a glass, the aroma of honey and orange peel is apparent, as well as a slight suggestion of jasmine. As the ale warms, the scent of coriander and a mild hop fragrance are more obvious. I'm having trouble trying to describe the hop character I'm noticing, but it's definitely there.

Mouthfeel: Surprisingly full-bodied. It's a bit stronger than quite a few saisons at 7.9% ABV, which may account a bit for the more robust mouthfeel. It's not quite what I would consider an easy to drink thirst-quencher, which is what I understand the original saisons were for the farmhands who drank them. It is smooth, however, which makes up for the fuller body of the ale.

Taste: This is the hard part for me. I like the way La Merle tastes, and if I didn't know it was a saison, I'd think it was a great American brew in the style of a Belgian golden ale. This one is tasty. While saisons are tough to classify, I'm not sure I would personally call this a saison. The first sip tasted sweeter than I had expected it to taste; the overall profile was almost a cross between a tripel and a saison. The slightly tart dryness which often makes saisons such a good warm weather beer does not seem to be present in this example of the style.

I must admit I had very high hopes before I popped the cork, since North Coast is a wonderful brewery which produces several beers I truly admire. Over the years I've come to realize that saisons comprise my favorite European style of ale, and I've been lucky enough to try quite a few imports. I'd certainly buy this one again, but as a consequence of the sweetness and the lack of moderate acidity to balance it out, it's definitely not one of my favorites within the style.

Drinkability: This one is definitely drinkable. I like it, but once again, I'd say it's not really my style, given the other saisons I've tried and really enjoyed. One of the best American interpretations of a Belgian brew I've had in a while, but the lack of balanced dry and tart flavors and the heavier body make it hard for me to call it a saison. If you like Belgian golden ales, I'd suggest giving this one a try. But if you're looking for a Belgian-style seasonal ale which is great to drink on a warmer afternoon, I'd save this one until the leaves start falling once again.

kylesobrien, May 26, 2009
Le Merle from North Coast Brewing Co.
87 out of 100 based on 1,036 ratings.