Tasting (and Blending): Honey Season

After a healthy fermentation with repitched yeast from my pomegranate saison, something seemed to go a bit agly with my honey saison. The beer that went into the bottles tasted like the same as my pomegranate saison before priming, but the beer that came out was changed. It developed more acidity, and I thought I spotted small pellicles in some of the bottles. I tried to snap a photo, but (fortunately) those brown glass bottles are very effective at blocking light.

saison_1

Appearance: Hazy golden color with slight orange hue in center. Foamy head with good retention and some lacing.

Aroma: Primarily lemony wheat. Maybe a little lactic, but no characteristic scent of fresh dough. A notable spicy/peppery phenolic. Slight malt sweetness.

Flavor: Somewhat sharp acidity, somewhere between lactic and acetic. Slight bitterness peeks through, but lingers longer than the other flavors and feels a little rough. There’s a berry- or grape-like fruitiness in the background with slight sweetness. Sweetness seems to come further forward with larger sips. As the beer warms the alcohol seems hotter, more bitting, and more bitter. More off flavors abound.

Mouthfeel: Very dry, but not thin or watery. Dryness prickles the mouth a bit. Feels slightly hot, but it’s hard to tell if this is due to high acidity or alcohol.

Overall: The beer ended up with disappointingly little honey character. Even considering the high fermentability of honey and the delicacy of its flavor, I was hoping my efforts would be better rewarded. Additionally, infection (I suspect) has rendered this beer subpar, though not totally undrinkable. The base beer would’ve probably been quite enjoyable if my sanitation had been better (I ended up replacing my tubing, which seems to have gotten rid of the problem). Nonetheless, it’s clear from this experiment that I cannot treat all sugary flavor adjuncts the same and expect the same results.

Normally this is where a tasting post would end, but I recently finished reading Gordon Strong’s book, Brewing Better Beer. He covers the basics of blending beer in one of the later chapters, and while I have been aware of blending for some time, his guidance has given me the courage to try the technique. This first experiment is low risk, since I am blending two beers with faults, hoping their positive attributes will correct their deficiencies. I blended this honey saison with my aging Two Kettle Tripel. The tripel never carbonated and has ended up flat, sweet, and boozy. After a couple tries, I found a 1:3 to 1:4 ratio of tripel to saison tasted best. At this ratio the ABV jumps by slightly more than 1%, making the beer quite a bit more potent.

Appearance: Unaffected by blending.

Aroma: Smells more like the tripel than the saison, just straight sweet malt and alcohol, although the alcohol portion of the tripel’s aroma is greatly diminished.

Flavor: Still slightly rough, but the acidity and off-flavor is certainly slightly masked by the tripel’s sweetness. The hot alcohol character of the tripel is not perceptible at all.

Mothfeel: The carbonation is not substantially reduced by the small amount of tripel. The body is not significantly altered.

Overall: No complexity is added by the blending, and no new flavors emerge. Blending didn’t turn these beers into a beer I’m excited to drink, but it certainly makes both of them palatable enough. Even if the results don’t excite me, it’s exciting to have this new technique present in my mind, and I look forward to becoming more practiced with it.

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