Blind Taste: Easside vs Wesside Saison Shakedown

P1060991When a preview bottle of Stone Brewing Co’s Saison is sitting on my porch while carrying a preview bottle of Allagash Brewing Co’s Saison from the car…I knew what I had to do: dig through my old CD pack and bump some old West Coast Gansta RAP…that’s right, SUCKAS! Ice Cube’s ‘Today Was A Good Day’ bumpin’ and the 40’s craft beers in the fridge, it’s time to do an Easside vs Wesside Saison Shakedown. BLIND STYLE.

Almost identical in name, release dates (now), ABV (~6%), IBU (~43), this Rialto born and bred beer blogger is armed and ready, beers chilled and sweaty; which Saison came to drop bombs? This opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo*.

My old lady pours them into the same glassware, one with a SN logo and one with a FW logo. Both glasses freshly rinsed and beer poured at 43 degrees. My initial suspicion just on looks alone is a dead giveaway on who is who. “Would Allagash release a caramel colored Saison?” I chuckle pointing at beer #1. My wife walks away as I jot down notes on my kid’s doodle pad.

Visual/Aroma

Beer 1: Orange/caramel tint and clear as a bell. Aromas tinge on grassyness, slightly cheesy, peppery, salty, floral, herbal.

lemonheadsBeer 2: Light hay colored and cloudy, this beer smells like a fresh box of Lemonheads, citrus (lemon, orange) and a little hint of soap and cotton candy. Smells like spring.

(Calling it on the color/clearness alone, I think beer 1 is Stone.)

Taste/Mouthfeel/Finish

Beer 1: First drink is surprisingly tart, subsequent drinks not so much. Herbal notes poke through with rosemary, jasmine and wet hay. It’s a little bit on the chewy side for a Saison, then WHOA…the tip of my tongue numbs with a stripping bitterness that screams “Saisons are fizzy and yellow, that is why this beer is orange!”. The finish bites the tip of my tongue with bitterness, washing away the potential for flavors to develop. Ouch. There’s also a scoville pepper heat my wife detects, I am heat tolerant to the point of not detecting it, but it’s worth noting.

Beer 2: Flavors of fluffy light grain followed by pleasant yeast esters rule this beer. Fermentation induced fruit, pepper, citrus are blanketed with a kiss of barnyard. It’s a little bit thinner and dryer than beer 1. The finish cleans up nicely, lending itself to a nice refreshing sessionable beer. The hop is different for the style as well; Cascade, Bravo and Tettnang are actually surprisingly good in this beer and round out the bitterness/flavor nicely.

Now, before I go on, I want to state something about Saison’s in general. It’s such a broad term of a beer style that is interpreted thousands of different ways. If we were drinking real Saisons, we’d be working out in a field getting our gallon 3% beer ration to keep from getting dysentery from unpotable farm water. I’m stating the obvious based on my perceived bitterness: Beer 1 is clearly Stone’s Saison. My wife nods.

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Beer 1 = Stone, Beer 2 = Allagash. Nailed it.

I can see why arrogant bastards would prefer the Stone interpretation with its unabashed bitter bite and Stone Organic Farms picked goodies tossed in. I just think it’s a little too much for what I prefer of the style. I tend to reach for a dry, grainy, slightly funky beer. In the end, I want my Saison to compliment my food, not be decorated in it. I’d be interested in trying it next to Saison Du Buff and my other fave of 2014, Matt’s Burning Rosids Imperial Saison.

Allagash on the other hand has a handful of Belgian style ales. The addition of Saison to their line up seems like a natural fit. It’s tamed, balanced and sessionable.

Sorry West Side, Biggy Smalls wins this rap battle.

*sucka mc’d some lyrics from emenem’s Lose Yourself

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