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Le Merle - North Coast Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Le MerleLe Merle

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

1,037 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 1,037
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: 1,037 | Reviews: 468 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of kylesobrien
3.75/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

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
Photo of Jablonski
3.18/5  rDev -18.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: pours a cloudy yellow-orange with some sediment on the sides; the head is large and long lasting; minimal lacing on the glass

S: appears a bit subdued; mostly sour apple and a bit of spice

T: initially sweet with a banana flavor followed by a drier bitter aftertaste; I can sense a slight funky flavor to the beer, but it does not come out strong

M: good thickness, carbonation too strong

D: easy to drink; nothing too bad about the beer, but nothing special

Jablonski, May 25, 2009
Photo of canucklehead
4.1/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Nice to see the Artist series available in BC from North coast. This is a big Saison with a full mouthfeel and more hops than usual for the style. I likes the fruit notes on the nose and the finish and the fuller mouthfeel actually made it more versatile with greater varieties of food. Nice work from NC on a style that invokes Spring for me

canucklehead, May 19, 2009
Photo of Sammy
3.73/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A very good saison, which some people think is gone and reired. Pours foamy whitish body and big lasting soapy white head, lasting lace. A little farmhouse aroma, and spice. Taste is above average, complex spice. A nce drinking saison, more of a sipper, hat refreshes the Summer wheaher.

Sammy, May 19, 2009
Photo of callmemickey
3.98/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Orange-hay colored body with a slight off white head. Mediocre retention and spotty lacing.

S: Farm fresh floral character. Orchard tones including ripening apples and peaches. Slight earthy breads.

T: The taste, like the nose, is soft and rounded... which isn't always a bad thing, but does diminish the ability to explore the depth of flavor. Mostly a fresh breeze flavor.. grassy with slight fruit flavoring. Not much spice. Some alcohol creeps in.

M: Smooth and crisp. Light bodied.

D: This is a good saison... it just lacks in the complexity and cohesiveness of a well crafted saison. Worth exploring.

callmemickey, May 16, 2009
Photo of xmorgan
5/5  rDev +28.5%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

First things first. Saison is a cool concept, but originally this beer should be low alcohol, it's meant to be a potable beverage right?

That said this is a beer for the working class, and after a hard days labor in the field of carpet covered squares, I needed some potable refreshment, for re-hydrating my mind, and body.

The Bistro in Hayward CA. is the place, the atmosphere to accomplish such tasks.

I dig saisons and this beer from North Coast was an awesome interpretation. The bouquet was of flowers and fruits, the taste had a bit of spice, but it had a pleasing evervesance that I really dug. It at almost 8% did not have an alchool prescence that lesser beers at such percentage may have.

Overall, I dig this beer. Drinking a 750ml bottle on my own, gave me time to appreciate it, as it warmed it got better, more drinkable. It reminded me of Pure Mead, at the first taste, and later as my palate dried. This is excellent with strong cheese and fruit. A white wine alternative...

xmorgan, May 13, 2009
Photo of lstokes
4.22/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I love the experience of uncorking a beer, so points for that, although the tortured blackbird is not really what I think of when I think of this beer. The first pour had a way-too-aggressive head, but second pour settled to one-finger and a hazy gold beer with just a bit of carbonation around the edges.

Smell is flowers and fruits with a bit of banana and spice, taste hits you sweet up-front and then dries out like a nice wine with some substantial spice and a lot of citrus, a light, bubbly mouthfeel with a touch of alcohol. Not very funky at all, but a very solid American un-funky interpretation of the style.

lstokes, May 11, 2009
Photo of firkinhophead
4.43/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

No freshness date, but it was on sale at Tower on Buford Hwy, so I suspect it has been there a while.

Uncorks with a resounding pop. Very frothy pour, with a big foamy head of loose bubbles that settles to a nice cap and leaves a good amount of lacing. Color is a hazy, golden yellow.

Flowery, fruity aroma, with notes of homeysuckle blossoms, papaya, apple, melon rind, a smidgen of banana, and bready malt. Very nice.

Taste has a honey sweetness on the tip of the tongue that is quickly followed by a dry fruitiness that suggests a German Rhine wine, some lemony tartness, faint white pepper and mace spices, and some grainy sweetness coming back at the end.

Mouthfeel is crisp and light, but with a solid body. Active carbonation keeps it on the bright side.

Overall a well structured, complex saison. Stands with the best in the buisness.

firkinhophead, May 10, 2009
Photo of hwwty4
4.18/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured a corked and caged 750 into my Tripel Karmeliet tulip. This beer pours a sunny orange with a massive, rocky, bright white head that leaves ample lacing as it recedes. Le Merle has a typical aroma of a Saison. Lush, ripe golden apples, pears, apple skins, grass and damp earth. Green apple skins, biscuits, toast and what I would call a hay flavor, are surrounded by a rich pale malt sweetness that pulls all the flavors together. The mouthfeel is light and crisp leaving a great interplay of tingling carbonation on the tip of the tongue. With summer approaching, nothing beats a great saison for a refreshing beer. This is a great American example of a Saison.

hwwty4, May 02, 2009
Photo of Birchgrove77
3.8/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle pulled out to celebrate the first BBQ of the season.

Pours a beautiful orange hue with cloudiness increasing as the bottle gets drunk. Intial smell was quite inviting with a definite citrus aroma, but as the beer warmed the Pilsner malt came through with a bit of sour funkiness.

Initial taste was of some honey with a touch of clove followed by a great fresh orange character. I would say this was perfectly carbonated, but the beer seemed a tad heavy on the mouthfeel with a touch of alcohol. No real discernable hop character but I wasn't really expecting one with this beer. Some funkiness, but quite pleasant and helped round this beer out. Will definitely purchase again for the summer months.

Birchgrove77, Apr 26, 2009
Photo of SurlyDuff
4.38/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

It's the first 80 degree day since...oh, last september. How wonderful to have a tasty saison like this to celebrate!

Pours a thick looking golden yellow sunrise-y color. The last pour of this 750ml caged and corked bottle was very cloudy, packed with tasty yeasties.

Great aroma of some farmyard funky yeast, spicy corriander and clove, and some banana bread.

Great full body brew, but equally crisp and refreshing like a good hefe. I really enjoyed this, though I admit i'm impartial to the style. Good strong zesty flavors here, nothing lacking or at want.Just a good all around saison, true to style, and just what I wanted on this premature summer day.

SurlyDuff, Apr 22, 2009
Photo of EPICAC
3.55/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a very cloudy golden with amber tints, and is topped by a thick, meringue-like, off-white head that retains well and leaves patches of lace. The aroma carries fruity notes of citrus, bananas and apricots, as well as hints of yeast and a peppery spice.

Sweet and bready malts move into a banana fruitiness in the center. The finish is mildly grainy and has a peppery spice that strengthens as the beer warms. Medium-bodied and smooth with moderate carbonation.

I'm not sure what I look for in a Saison, but not many have it. This beer is pleasant enough to drink, but just doesn't have that extra something that makes me say "Now this is a Saison!"

EPICAC, Apr 22, 2009
Photo of lehkost
3.58/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I tried this beer last year, but I fear the keg had been sitting around too long, and there was nothing exceptional about it to me.

This time around, I found a beer with zing and character, boldly bucking tradition, but maybe in a good way.

This beer calls itself a saison, but instead of dry spiciness, I got tart and smooth character. Rather than tasting like a typical saison, or a typical Belgian or California variety of beer, I feel that this beer has more in common (as far as flavor is concerned) with a Sauvignon Blanc.

Don't get me wrong. I love Sauvignon Blancs, and I really enjoyed this beer. This beer has all of the visual characteristics of a saison, including an unbridled effervescence, but the tart, fruity flavor is much more reminiscent of a white wine, in my opinion.

I tried to balance my rating here, since I feel it is a poor implementation of the style, but a wonderful beer worth trying, if only for its refreshing uniqueness.

lehkost, Apr 21, 2009
Photo of mtrentm
4.18/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a corked 750 ml into a snifter

A: Clear golden straw color with a 2-finger head that quickly dissolves leaving some spotty lacing.

S: Love the nose! Granny Smith Apple notes upfront with a medly of other fruit as well. Has a little bit of funk & yeast rounding out the finish.

T: Sweet, semi-sour fruit upfront followed by a little spice with some hay/yeast on the finish.

M: Crisp & carbonated mouthfeel. Nice bubbly dry finish, reminds me of a nice Champagne.

D: A very solid saison by North Coast

mtrentm, Apr 19, 2009
Photo of brentk56
4.05/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a hazy apricot nectar color with a whipped egg white cap that retains beautifully and leaves nice shards of lace

Smell: Wheat bread, with a lemon and grassy aroma that features some spices, too, such as coriander and a hint of clove

Taste: Fruity, up front, with apple and pear bleeding into the lemon and grassy bitterness, with spices arriving by mid-palate (white pepper, coriander and clove); after the swallow, flavors mellow out but there is a residual sweetness that builds, almost like a tripel

Mouthfeel: Medium body with spritzy carbonation

Drinkability: One of the top domestic saisons I have encountered - really catches the spirit of the style; this bottle is at least a year old and I tried it the day after I tried my four year old Jubilee which, though similar, had developed a bit more complexity

Thanks, rsyberg01, for the opportunity

brentk56, Apr 18, 2009
Photo of jwinship83
3.95/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle with no freshness date purchased from a place thats clearing them out, so it must be older.

A- this one pours a hazy straw colored body with a massive white fluffy head. the head lasts almost the entire length of the glass and leaves a solid wall of lacing behind.

S- the smell on this one is rather subdued. it has several wheat like qualities. clove, bubble gum, and lots of yeast. some sweet fruity malts in here too.

T- the taste follows the nose. lots of yeast and fruity malts. banana, pear, and apple. lots of spicy clove, coriander, and bubble gum.

M- light to medium bodied with ample carbonation. no trace of alcohol.

D- easy to finish the bottle, and almost a sessionable ABV. this is something i can see myself having this again. espicially if the price break i got it with holds up.

jwinship83, Apr 18, 2009
Photo of CrellMoset
3.75/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

La Merle, enjoyed courtesy of IBUnit63, who accidentally left this one over at my house during a tasting and then most magnanimously imparted it as a gift upon my person. Many thanks! Split w/ a friend, with my portion poured into a cervoise.

Appearance: Pours a translucent at first but increasingly hazy yellow orange amber, capped by an absolutely mammoth, uncontrollable, outrageously fluffy head. Maybe this bottle is old, but the carbonation here is huge, great, off the charts, and though it's difficult to manage, it's not un-Saison-like. Plenty of visible carbonation - rapid, fine-bubbled - rises swiftly to the head, which recedes perhaps a little quickly for the style, though does leave a few nice blobs and clouds of sticky lacing on the sides of the cervoise.

Aroma: Relatively weak is the first thing I note about it, but it does open up a little as it warms. Curaco orange peel and other citrusy notes are dominant, coupled with mellow, relaxed, faded spices, like someone left the top half off the little thing of cloves in the back of the spice cabinet for, like, a year, maybe two, and then, oh my god it's Christmas and my ass is makin' a mincemeat pie, do we have any - oh yes, thank god, we have clo - wait, what the fuck are these lifeless sticks? These aren't cloves. But, you know, better than that. It's not bad, but not particularly amazing either.

Taste: Interesting. Relatively well attenuated - that is, it's pretty dry, but there's still a faint, simple, honey-like note present - with ample spiciness, fruity notes, and (pleasantly) a kiss of funk. Not sure if this one's Bretted or not (eh, I'll check later). The spices - the obligatory clove and coriander, primarily, though perhaps with a little ginger - are accompanied by pineapple, orange peel, lemon zest, and a few other tropical notes, perhaps papaya, and the latter category definitely dominates the former. The slight kiss of funk only comes through in the finish, sort of a dry, musty, attic-like note, reminiscent of hay or something. Overall, it's a solid taste, and a good progression of flavors.

Mouthfeel: A little thick, perhaps, for the style, and given the proliferation of carbonation that was visible prior, I'm actually a little surprised this one doesn't come off as lighter and crisper. It's even, and though it's still relatively airy, it floats over the tongue a little too "low," if you know what I mean. Beware fog!!

Drinkability: A drinkable if in my opinion slightly below average saison. I say that not literally - it's quite a good beer - but I really like saisons, and this one just doesn't quite rise to the level of some of the more amazing ones I've had. It's a relatively heavy, thicker, candied fruit-like mess, but doesn't have the amount of sweetness you'd expect, the freshness of the spices in the nose, the ... eh, you get the idea. It's good, I'd drink it again, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it. Give it a shot.

CrellMoset, Apr 18, 2009
Photo of jklinck
4.1/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

aroma: spicy Belgian yeast notes with some frutiness, very faint plastic and solventy alcohol aromas

apperance: pale gold, clear with a slight haze, large tan white head that is very fluffy that persists

flavor: upfront spicy notes, medium low tang in the middle, medium fruitiness also in the middle complementing the tang,
finishing with a medium high bitterness, some slight solventy alcohol notes, faint plastic aroma does not come through in the flavor, finsihes dry

mouthfeel: medium low body, high level of carbonation with an initial carbonic bite

overall impression: a good classic example of a not brett saison, the beer has no faults but the flavor could have been more

jklinck, Apr 14, 2009
Photo of errantnight
4.13/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at El Prado in Silverlake/Echo Park.

Pours a creamy, hazy, pale orange. Looks a bit like a creamsicle. No real head to speak of or lacing. Almost seems like it's the bottom of the keg, although they assure me it's not.

Fortunately this smells a heckuva lot better than it looks. Huge plume of grapefruit with a bit of crackling warm spice, tangy and fresh.

The taste delivers more than the nose promises... a big grapefruit middle is met by delicate spicing against a cracker/biscuit malt base, and a deepening funk/mustiness that brings this up another level.

Mouthfeel is creamy and rich, but sits lightly. Almost... fluffy, with a bit of a refreshing tang at the finish with moderate even mild bitterness.

Of the two saisons sampled at El Prado this evening, this would be my pick. Not what I'd want all the time in my saisons, but really captures the wild, funky haphazardness of the style. A beer with character, flavor, and style.

errantnight, Apr 04, 2009
Photo of nighthawk
3.73/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750mL bottle, corked and caged, with no apparent freshness or vintage date.

Cork comes out with a nice pop, followed by a rush of fruity, musty aromas. Nice way to start a beer.

It pours a hazy, bubbly orange that softens to yellow at the edges. Lots of carbonation seen, producing a large tight head that settles to a well-retaining cap. Little lacing.

Aroma is a nice mix of clove, bubblegum, musty and fruit odours. Might be a bit of spiciness to it up front, mellows nicely with the fruity notes.

Big carbonated feel on this beer, accented with fruit notes makes this feel like a nice lively tropical drink. Some further sips and inspection reveal the deeper musty/wet hay flavours and a mild clove, with a touch of granny smith apple tartness. Turns slightly bitter on the finish with some floral leaning to citrus hop taste.

Mouthfeel is light, highly carbonated almost to the point of feeling fizzy. It hits somewhere between semi-dry and semi-sweet.

I hope I'll be able to get this beer around here come summertime; it's nice and light, refreshing and pretty tasty. Goes down pretty well, though the carbonation is just a tad overdone.

First saison I've tried, and I'm definitely hankering for more. This is a decent brew, more straightforward than complex, but definitely tasty. Recommended.

nighthawk, Mar 19, 2009
Photo of goatgoat
4.5/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a hazy tangerine orange. A voluminous frothy head falls slowly into large island. Sheets of fine frilly lace coat the glass.
Aroma well poured hits me at with a light citric tartness at arm's length. Closer it reveals a distinct sourness, earthy, floral, spicy and fruity.
Taste starts very earthy. A bright tartness presents with citrus. Finish is slightly musty "dirty socks" and a barely there smooth bitterness. Excellent balance.
Very light body with generous carbonation, moderately dry. Alcohol is well hidden.

I was walking the juniper woods in 80 degrees today. This was a perfect beer to come home to. Light, complex but with an easy drinking dryness. This brew is one of the reasons saison is quickly becoming one of my favorite styles.

goatgoat, Mar 16, 2009
Photo of jujubeast6000
3.48/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Reviewed (bottle):

Pours a golden colored body, pretty cloudy, with a smallish white colored head. Has a belgian flower aroma, sugary, and super sweet. Carbonated palte, with a sour taste, mediciney. Warming up, mellower, medicine taste is gone. Flowery taste.

jujubeast6000, Mar 14, 2009
Photo of BarrelO
3.98/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750ml bottle poured into a goblet.

A: Hazy orange color with a huge head that becomes a thin film. Good amount of lacing.

S: Fruitiness abounds. Apples, grapes, hints of citrus.

T: Like a cross between sparkling wine and hard cider. I would have preferred more citrusy fruitiness and less apple/grape fruitiness. Fortunately, the hops and bready yeast provide a nice counterpoint and prevent the fruitiness from becoming cloying. No trace of alcohol. Drying finish.

M: Light and heavily carbonated. A bit too carbonated, as a matter of fact.

D: It probably could have benefited from a bit more hop character, but still a quality saison. I have yet to be let down by a North Coast brew. Would go well as an aperitif or with a light lunch on a hot summer day.

BarrelO, Mar 11, 2009
Photo of dougfir
3.75/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a nice golden color, with two-finger foamy head and plenty of lacing and vibrant bubbles from the glass. Nice smell of citrus and sweet malt. Initial taste is bright, dry citrus with some bread yeast. Nice mellow spice and sweet maltness. Finishes with a slight metallic taste and warm alcohol notes. Some hoppy bitterness around for the end as well, but very light.
Overall this is a good, basic saison...nothing too crazy. No wild yeast, no unusual spices.

dougfir, Mar 07, 2009
Photo of kmeves
3.43/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours an opaque yellow with a fine bubbled white head and some lace. Aroam is medium sweet with Pils malt, light lemon, bread and nicely spiced. Flavor is initially sweet malt flavor with a good deal of bready yeastyneess and ample spice. Lingering bitter/dry finish. Mouthfeel is crisp citrus with a medium body.

kmeves, Mar 02, 2009
Le Merle from North Coast Brewing Co.
87 out of 100 based on 1,037 ratings.