September 4, 2015

Fake Fox Rye Saison Tasting Notes

I've had brewing a low ABV saison (often referred to as a table saison) on the to-brew list for a long time and this was my first swipe at one. Overall I'm pretty happy with the recipe for Fake Fox rye saison and it seems to be quite a crowd pleaser. So let's get into it.

Appearance: Pours a touch darker than pure-pilsner blonde. The head is snow white and rocky, leaving beyond moderate lacing while the head survives to the bottom of the glass. The beer initially poured quite clear but as the sediment was aroused into the beer on the second pour from the bomber it became slightly cloudy. Without the yeast kicked up it definitely did not suffer from any protein haze from 33% rye.

Aroma: The prominent aroma is rye, somewhere between rye bread and rye crackers. Subtle malt sweetness. The hops are tucked in but present with peach, apricot, cherry, melon, white grape and some pine. Yeast character mingles with the hops with pepper, lemon, orange and tropical fruit salad.

Flavor: Rye crackers covered in apricot preserves comes first. Citrus fruit, melon and pepper follow with a a graininess and finished with a touch of malt sweetness. Early tastes when the beer was first poured were on the sweeter side but as the beer warmed the hop bitterness appears and makes the fruit character more vibrant and moderates the rye. The finish develops some of the earthy, tea and pine notes from the rakau hops.

Mouthfeel: The risk with low ABV beers is avoiding a thin mouthfeel and this beer is miles off. The light malt bill plus the rye creates a nice mouthfeel that feels as dense as a beer twice its gravity but doesn't feel heavy on the tongue. There is a moment where the rye sits heavy on the tongue but it's wiped away by the carbonation and then you're left with just a little of that rye slickness in the finish.

Overall: I'm happy with this beer. It's pretty much on the mark for what I wanted. The initial draft of the recipe was heavy handed with hops but I dialed it back in the final recipe. I could go a touch heavier on the whirlpool hops. This is probably the first beer I've had that I liked with rakau hops and I think the aurora hops did a nice job of downplaying what I don't like about rakau and playing up what I do like. I would use rakau again but probably not in equal proportions. I might also play with mixing in cascade, which also works wonderfully with aurora, for a little grapefruit to punch up the citrus notes. If I were judging this beer as it is I'd probably go upper 30s and maybe low 40s but with a little cascade--maybe in a dry hop--I could easily make this a mid-40s in saison. At least as long as I picked up a judge with a love for rye.

What I probably like most about this beer is how well the rye works. I really enjoy rye in a beer but to be heavy handed with it you really have to be careful because the great mouthfeel and body on this beer easily turns into an unpleasant oil slick on the tongue. Even in big rye stouts going 30% rye is just too much.

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