Saison is seemingly approaching royalty these days. Ironically so, as it was once brewed as a working beer for seasonal workers (les saisonniers) in the field. The things I really enjoy about saison is how the style is broadly defined and the creativity it is pushing in the yeast market. Currently there are many great saison yeasts available – and more are coming to market monthly. But nothing is released without adequate testing.
As you may have been following, there are three of us (Marshall, Ed, and myself) who are testing for Nick over at The Yeast Bay. Recently, we brewed a saison and split it four ways with four unknown yeast strains. Yesterday, we finally sat down (figuratively speaking) and talked about the beers we’d brewed – numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 as we have affectionately come to know them.
This is the end of the road for strains 1 and 2 for me. Strains 3 and 4 are now sitting with four different strains of brettanomyces (each!) and will be tasted again in several months.
On Saturday, I had four experienced tasters (most BJCP certified) come over and we went through a standard judging of each strain. We will refer to them as [1,2,3,4, and 5]. Most of our conclusions were pretty similar – the full results are below. Strains #3 and #4 were definitely our favorite, however there is some bias because strains 1 and 2 were not nearly as carbonated for some reason. #1’s only problem was being too sweet, although that could be a result of the mild carbonation. #2 was quite sweet, and not fully attenuated.
While our tasting group enjoyed #3 as a “pretty standard saison,” the consensus between Marshall, Nick, Ed, and myself was that #’s 1 and 4 showed the most potential. I’ll leave it to the others to share their experiences/favorites.
The following is from the tasting group I hosted:
Definitions: LQS stands for Les Quatre Saison. Rank was our tasting group rank. The boxed numbers correspond to the “taster numbers” as to who thought what.
Aroma – Some banana , sweet, peppery [1,3], slight plastic medicinal , light bubble gum [4,3] , clove , no hop, some malt aroma [3,2]
Appearance – hazy, straw color, low head retention [1,2,3,4]
Flavor – light banana, clove [2,4], phenolic/spicy [2,3,4], sweet [2,3], mild alcohol finish, fruity sweet .
Mouthfeel – low carb, medium body
Overall Impressions – low carb makes it seem sweeter , lots of esters, peppery and clove [2,3,4], underattenuated [2,3,4],
Aroma – sharp peppery , banana, slight fruitiness, perfumy nose, low malt, no strong phenolics , light brett aromas [3,4,5]. Some citrus [2,5]
Appearance – hazy, low head retention
Flavor – some bitterness upfront , low sweetness , brett flavors, well balanced [3,4,5], still slightly sweet [2,3,4,5]
Mouthfeel – low carb [1,2,3,4,5], sparkly, brett lingers, light body
Overall Impressions – harsher on the palate  needs more carb, not typical of a saison, but good , needs more carb, lots of citrus, brett [3,4,5], needs to be dryer, [2,3,4,5]
Aroma – light aromas 1,2,3,4,5], clean, light clove [1,2,4], light hop aromas, light brett , light fruit, esters, light sulfur [1,5],
Appearance – yellow, head fades quickly
Flavor – fruit [1,2,3,4] citrus, pineapple, hay, some fruitiness, light phenols [1,2,3,4,5], more dry than others
Mouthfeel – high carb, thin body [2,3,4,5]
Overall Impressions – a gusher, cleaner than the others, thinner side, pretty classic saison, finish is dry, [3,4] could be drier, nicely balanced .
Aroma – fruity [1,2,3,5], bubblegum?1, light malt [2,3], some fruit, less pepper, no hop aroma , citrus, lemon 
Appearance – small white head, hazy, best head retention thus far
Flavor – lemon pepper, fruitiness [1,2], balanced hop/malt character, spice [1,2,3]
Mouthfeel – nice carb, dry finish.
Overall Impressions – not as balanced as #3 , well balanced, nice overall, could be drier [2,3], standard saison with fruit.