As colder weather is finally settling in to the area, I decided it's time to move into darker beers to keep me warm. But before I do that, I wanted to try my last few saisons of the year. And two caught my eye; one from a brewery I've never heard of and the other a style of saison I've never had before.
Up first, the brewery I've never had before - Green Bench.
Green Bench is the first microbrewery from St. Petersburg, Florida and (from what I can find) opened back in 2013. They are named after St. Petersburg's old nickname - "The City of Green Benches" - as 2500+ green benches used to line the streets of the city.
Their limited edition saison, Saison De Banc Vert, was fermented in oak barrels and pours a hazy orange color. There is a slight aroma of apples, pears, and the Belgian yeast used...but nothing is dominant or stands out too much.
As you can see from the picture above, this saison pours with a HUGE amount of head. Over three full fingers of thick, white foam built up quickly in my glass and stayed there for some time; leaving patches of froth sticking to the side of the glass as it diminished.
Once the foam finally bubbled down enough to where I could sip it, I dove right in. Surprisingly, the first taste that hit my lips was much more sour than I thought it would be. Like most saisons, there was plenty of carbonation that fizzed up front on my tongue. Following that was a green apple sourness and slight pear flavoring that fades into a bready finish.
It was an interesting start to the beer. However, as I drank deeper into the glass, the sourness and fruit profiles faded almost entirely away after the first few mouthfuls. The aroma must have foreshadowed the flavor, because soon I was solely left with a yeasty, fizzy flavor that was kind of boring for a saison.
Even though this is aged in oak barrels, there really wasn't too much of an oak-y/woody flavor to the beer. It's almost as if everything flavor is just subtlety there...nothing stands out and instead is just a decent blend of flavors with a bready backbone. Even the 6.8% ABV is hidden well.
There is a slight spiced aftertaste to the beer that I really enjoy...if only I could pick up on that during the actual drinking portion. When all is said and done though, this beer is just a little too subtle for me. There's not a flavor that stands out and, instead, the last three-quarters of the bottle is just kind of bland.
I would have like to have more spices or even more of that sour flavoring from the beginning. The $7.99 price tag that accompanies the 500 mL bottle (16.9 ounces) is a little steep for what it is, but it's nothing too overpriced. Just needs more flavor. 7/10
Secondly, a black saison. The first I've ever had.
Brewery Ommegang comes from the same city that baseball does: Cooperstown, New York. They began a little after baseball, however, building their brewery on a former hop farm in 1997. It was the first farmstead brewery built in the US in over 100 years, so that's pretty cool. Right now, Brewery Ommegang is available in 45 of the 50 states. The five places you CAN NOT find them are Mississippi, both Dakotas, Wyoming, and Utah.
I'll start off by saying I don't watch Game of Thrones (let the booing commence...) so I don't know what the beer's name is referencing from the show. But I will say when I saw Three Eyed Raven was a dark saison, I was very intrigued. I've had my fair share of black IPAs but never a black saison.
The 750 mL (25.4 ounce) bottle comes corked and, when released, there is a pretty loud pop which means that there's quite a bit of carbonation in this beer. As the smoke cleared from the spout, I poured it into the glass and, true to form; there was about three full fingers of thick, tan head that topped the jet black beer.
Before sipping the beer for the first time, I gave it quick sniff. It smelled exactly like a saison (shocking, I know). It was weird. This beer looks like porter/stout but has the yeasty, bready aroma of a saison. There were also hints of spices, but nothing was too distinguishable in the smell.
The head retention was amazing, as it took an incredibly long while before dissipating...in fact; I gave up on waiting and took my first sip through the long-lasting foam topper. Up front there is a lot of fizzy carbonation and some coriander and pine nuts coming through in the flavor.
Occasionally, I got some fruit flavors peaking through; mostly apples and pears that would linger in the aftertaste. There really isn't much of a floral or earthy taste that a lot of saisons have, this one is just some spices...and honestly, for a saison, it's a little on the bland side.
The 7.2% ABV is really well hidden and the beer is quite smooth and light despite its appearance. I was lucky as I found my bottle on sale, but the original price is a little high, at $8.99.
Overall, Three Eyed Raven is good and a rather interesting style of beer (it's saison that looks like a stout! What?!). But, to me, it lacks something in the flavor department. 7/10