This is, I believe, the second is what I expect will be a series of special edition beers celebrating the Toronto-based Great Lakes Brewing Company‘s silver anniversary.
My first impression of this medium golden brew is that I wish they had chosen a different name for it. I have nothing against spices in a saison — although they are not at all necessary, are they Brasserie Dupont? — but neither do I think that the use of a yeast classified as a “classic Belgian Saison yeast” necessarily means that you’re making a beer of that style. There needs to be more, in my opinion, like dryness. Like hops.
The GLB Belgian Saison — and just to add a quibble, it’s not really Belgian, is it? I mean, they didn’t go to Belgium to brew it, right? — is a perfectly enjoyable beer, spritely and spicy and, even at 6.5% alcohol, quite quaffable. In fact, it reminds me more of the unspiced, unsaison Brugse Zot than it does any other saison I’ve tasted in Belgium, and I’ve been known to enjoy a few glasses of that beer at a session. But is it a saison? No, I don’t really think so.
First off, there’s the sweet character of the grains of paradise used to spice the beer. It’s in the nose and in the body, and while it’s offset a bit by the coriander and pepper also used, it still serves to keep things on the sweeter side of spicy. Then there is the dryness, or rather the lack thereof. Maybe it will dry out more in a year or so, but let’s face it, most people will be drinking this in the summer of 2012, not 2013. And while there is some hoppiness on the finish, it isn’t quite sufficient to erase the thin, cloying, honey-ish sweetness that lingers on the back of the tongue.
All that said, this is a beer I enjoy and would pair happily with some soft and stinky cheese. It just isn’t a saison.