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Black Saison - Perfectly balanced or a forced combination of two styles?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by tbm882, Nov 16, 2012.

  1. tbm882

    tbm882 Aficionado (150) New York Aug 25, 2007

    I took a quick look through the threads and didn't see this previously discussed. As I see more and more of these "hitting the shelves" I find myself wondering how everyone else feels about the style.

    Admittedly I've only sampled a handful of black saisons, and while they are certainly not drain pours, I find that the roasted qualities just don't meld well with the spiciness of the yeast. I was thinking at first that it was just a single beer that was a poor representation or even a matter of personal preference, but the more I try the less I feel either of those reasons are true. I like to think that I give any beer or any style the benefit of the doubt no matter how bad it is. I feel that I can appreciate the direction a beer was meant to go even if it missed the mark, but with these black saisons I just don't know that there will be an end result that will change my mind.

    I even homebrewed a similar style in hopes of creating a better balance, but have struggled for over a year to finish off the 5 gal batch of bottles.

    Does any one else feel that this is a style that just isn't meant to be? Are there better representations out there that I've overlooked? Does anyone love this style?
  2. ncaudle

    ncaudle Advocate (700) Virginia May 28, 2010 Beer Trader

    the only examples I've found that I liked are both from Stillwater: Existent and A Saison Darkly.
    Existent I like even with some age but, imo, A Saison Darkly falls apart quickly (luckily the bottles have a best by date of 1 year to help know how fresh it is)
    Richard33 likes this.
  3. danieelol

    danieelol Advocate (585) Australia Jun 15, 2010

    the former
  4. Ricelikesbeer

    Ricelikesbeer Savant (445) Colorado Nov 29, 2006

    I've seen the growing trend as well, but don't see too many out there yet commercially. Stone just did a collaberation for a dark smoked saison. (interesting, but didn't pick it up). Widmer makes a pretty bland one, and I've had a collaberation between avery and Mountain Sun, which was incredible. I think it was called Van Der Kaiser or something like that.

    The madfermentationist has brewed several dark funky saisons that all reportedly were very good. I would also like to brew this style to see if I can master it. As we get more and more inundated with crazy beers, I think we'll see lots of weird mixes of styles come out.
  5. When in doubt, paint it, black...
    harrymel and MattyG85 like this.
  6. tbm882

    tbm882 Aficionado (150) New York Aug 25, 2007

    I've heard good things about stillwater's representations, I'll have to give them a shot.
  7. RDMII

    RDMII Savant (435) Georgia Apr 11, 2010

    Green Flash's Friendship Brew was absolutely awful. I haven't had any other examples yet but am not too excited about them either.
  8. tbm882

    tbm882 Aficionado (150) New York Aug 25, 2007

    I did pick up the Stone collaboration, it was a decent beer, but i still felt a disconnect of flavors at the finish.

    I feel that one of the reasons my homebrew fell short was due to the lack of quality yeast choices at the time, that could possibly be the key to producing a better representation.
  9. tbm882

    tbm882 Aficionado (150) New York Aug 25, 2007

    This is definitely one of the ones that fell short for me...
  10. Gosox8787

    Gosox8787 Savant (475) New Hampshire Jan 24, 2009 Verified

    I was a big fan of Civil Dis. 4 from Hill Farmstead and Tired Hands Undertow. Both are black saisons. Neither seemed forced at all to me. Like any style, it can be great when done correctly. I actually wish more breweries tried this style.
    franklinn likes this.
  11. pisano

    pisano Advocate (635) Massachusetts Sep 18, 2007 Beer Trader

    I agree. Greenflash did one as a collaboration with St-Feuillien called Friendship Brew. Wasn't a huge fan as I found the two styles to be clashing and inharmonious in this interpretation. I'm sure there are better examples out there but this one didn't provide a great first impression.
  12. tbm882

    tbm882 Aficionado (150) New York Aug 25, 2007

    I wish that both of these breweries beers were more accessible
  13. Ricelikesbeer

    Ricelikesbeer Savant (445) Colorado Nov 29, 2006

    Fantome brews several dark saisons that I think are world class, and I think it certainly can be done correctly. I guess Saison is such a broad style that anything with saison yeast is considered a saison nowadays. River North Brewery in Denver reportedly uses one or two saison yeasts exclusively, and they even brew an imperial stout and ipa's with those strains.
  14. Darkness stirs and wakes imagination
    Silently the senses abandon their defenses
  15. crusian

    crusian Advocate (700) Oregon May 14, 2010 Beer Trader

    had an amazing black saison about 4 years ago in boulder... a collaboration between two breweries. it was seriously art in a glass. so damn good. mountain sun brewery and avery.

    found it:
  16. Brew33

    Brew33 Advocate (690) Ohio Oct 24, 2007 Beer Trader

    Stillwater Existent was decent enough but I have yet to find one I actually enjoy or would buy again.

    This has trying something weird just to try it written all over it. If you enjoy these, more power to you but I just don't get it.... The flavor profile of a traditional Saison just doesn't work with Roasted Malt imo.
  17. I thought Pepe Nero was awesome. There are few things better along side a beautiful NY Strip Steak. I think the key with black saisons is to use smaller quantities of extremely dark black malt and debittered black malt, versus high quantities of chocolate malt or roasted barley. But that's just my two cents.
    Duff27 likes this.
  18. Down once more to the dungeons
    of my black despair!
    Down that path into darkness
    deep as hell!
    mintjellie and MarkIntihar like this.
  19. Pahn

    Pahn Champion (850) New York Dec 2, 2009 Beer Trader

    stillwater and hill farmstead are proof enough for me, but honestly i don't think the style's that out there in the first place.

    not everyone likes every style, it's no big deal.
  20. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poobah (1,035) New Jersey Jun 3, 2004 Beer Trader

    Of the ones I've had, I thought they make for a nice change of pace. Some substyles you don't need to have around every day, but they're good to have around when the mood strikes. Don't know if I'd like to have 5 gallons to deal with, though- I'm sure I'd get tired of it pretty quick.

    Pepe Nero comes across as though they are pulling their punches a bit, so I probably won't revisit that one, even though it's kind of mild.

    But I really did enjoy the new Stone collaboration The Perfect Crime, myself- in fact I even went back for a few more bottles while I still can get it. I really dig how well the mouthfeel is crafted- the proteins, moderate residuals, water chemistry, roasted malts- it's definitely more in saison territory than any other style. And I find the flavors to work in harmony as sort of a tapestry where you notice the threads- sometimes you get the phenols, sometimes the roast, sometimes the smoke, etc.- and nothing overshadows the other. I don't find this beer to be about a blending of components, rather it's about the interplay.

    I think that says something more about this particular beer, though, rather than the style. Even at it's best- like I said above- I don't see this as something I'll get regularly.
    tbm882 likes this.
  21. Hopefully this won’t divert the discussion too much but I recently tried a bottle of Jester King Wytchmaker Farmhouse Rye IPA (I was in Texas visiting family). This was my first taste of Jester King Brewery (which has been getting a bit of praise on BA threads). This beer is a hoppy beer (the IPA part) with some Rye malt and a Saison yeast was used. I couldn’t really decide whether I liked this beer. I like IPAs (hop flavor/aroma), Rye malt (spicy flavors) and Saison beers (traditional Saison beers) but there was so much going on with this beer that I think my palate got ‘confused’? I am not anti-innovation but maybe sometimes the result of these innovations is just weird beer?

  22. in my opinion, the worst of the new hybrid styles.

    although I haven't had a smoked IPA yet.
    luwak likes this.
  23. I have only had friendship brew and Pepe Nero so if these are solid representations of a black saison then I will not be purchasing any more brews of this style.
  24. superspak

    superspak Poobah (1,285) Michigan May 5, 2010 Beer Trader

    I love saisons, but haven't had too many black saisons. New Holland Four Witches was quite good IMO, and Fantome Black Ghost is most certainly excellent. I do have a bottle of Stillwater Existent I am looking to try soon. Brewers can concoct any Belgian style they want and I'd drink it.
  25. yankeefan287

    yankeefan287 Savant (325) Pennsylvania Feb 23, 2012 Verified

    Pepe Nero and Friendship Brew were underwhelming. Not going to be searching out anymore of these in the near future.
  26. This is somewhat off topic but I feel it's kind of relevant. I always thought Black IPA was a stupid, forced, oxymoron of a style. Then I had Wookey Jack.

    I'm sure there's a black saison out there that would give you the same reaction.
    joeseppy likes this.
  27. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Champion (800) Colorado Jan 20, 2012 Beer Trader

    That's funny, I actually thought as it warmed up a little bit it worked better.
  28. tbm882

    tbm882 Aficionado (150) New York Aug 25, 2007

    I completely agree about the black IPA's, there were certainly a lot of misses before I found a few I liked. I will continue to try these black saisons in hopes that I will find that one... There have been some good suggestions on this thread that I will for sure seek out. I honestly like every single other style of beer I've tasted in the past 9 years of drinking craft beer, but I'm really struggling with this one.
  29. duchessedubourg

    duchessedubourg Advocate (545) Vermont Nov 2, 2007 Beer Trader

    I am kind of a saison purist (if there be such a thing) and was skeptical of the black versions that have been coming out lately. Just seemed to go against the notion of a dry, spicy golden brew. But after a few by Stillwater and Hill Farmstead, I am won over - as long as the dark malt character is subtle and not tannic, and the hopping is not too pronounced. Had one by Mystic recently that sort of violated those tenets, so wasn't into it.
    ncaudle, tbm882 and Gosox8787 like this.
  30. UCLABrewN84

    UCLABrewN84 Poobah (1,475) California Mar 18, 2010 Verified

    Just like every beer style, there are bound to be some great ones and some duds too.
  31. DonDirkA

    DonDirkA Savant (410) Arizona Dec 14, 2011

    I haven't had a lot but Stone's Evil Twin collab sounds good. This one was delicious too:

  32. Jolly Pumpkin Bam Noire is delicious!
  33. cavedave

    cavedave Poobah (1,070) New York Mar 12, 2009 Beer Trader

    Phantom of the Hopera would be a great name for a Black IPA brewed with Saison yeast, I think I am gonna try to make one, thanks for stirring that drink with your post.

    This thread has piqued my interest, especially to try the Stillwater ones and Bam Noir.
  34. I'll letcha know when mine comes outa the secondary :) I, like you, was really curious about the style and what it could be/do. I brewed a 4.5-5% dark saison with Pils, Munich, a touch of Special B, a hint of Caramunich III, and a half-pound of D-180. Wyeast 3711 (my first experience w/this yeast), and just a touch of Indian coriander and star anise on the finish...I, like you, don't want a lot of roast w/the peppery yeast, so I went w/dark caramel malts and sugar to get my color. I'm hoping it's at least drinkable...
    tbm882 likes this.
  35. papat444

    papat444 Poobah (1,640) Quebec (Canada) Dec 28, 2006 Beer Trader

  36. Pahn

    Pahn Champion (850) New York Dec 2, 2009 Beer Trader

    glanced at this thread and it occurred to me that dark horse's experimental 1-off beer at the last belgian beer fest was a dark saison, and it was awesome.
  37. BB1313

    BB1313 Poobah (1,010) Ohio Jul 16, 2009

    The only "Black Saison" I've had was New Holland Four Witches, and I didn't really enjoy it. It was an anise bomb. All I got was black licorice. It didn't remind me of a saison or any belgian style.
  38. Ricelikesbeer

    Ricelikesbeer Savant (445) Colorado Nov 29, 2006

    Yes! A great one right? Glad others enjoyed this one as much As me
  39. fritts211

    fritts211 Savant (380) Tennessee Feb 19, 2011 Beer Trader

    Goose Island had a one-off a while back at the Clybourn location that was a black saison aged in carbernet barrels. I don't know if the base was Pepe or not, but that beer was fantastic, and the first beer my fiance ever had a sip of and admitted she liked. The barrel aging muted the roast, and gave it some extra softness on the tongue. Wish they made it again...
  40. It really depends on the beer. I'm drinking something right now that I brewed with Belgian pils, light chocolate malt, brown sugar and Wyeast 3726, which is the Blaugies yeast. It's delicious. Honestly one of the best beers I've made in 10+ years of brewing.