Avery Brewing Co., Sixteen Saison

Grade: B-
Avery Brewing Co.

Pours a cloudy, extremly pale yellow, almost the color of lemonade. The head is pure white but dissipates quickly. Getting a lot of Belgian yeast notes in the aroma, banana, some spices, ripe fruit. Upon swirling around, more of the herbal, grassy elements come out, as well as a little sulphery rotten egg. Mouthfeel is medium light, with a semi dry finish and a decent amount of sparkle from the carbonation. I was looking for more dryness from this style, this beer leaves me with some sweetness on the back of my palate. The flavor is well balanced, with ripe fruit, banana, spice and a little bit of toast from the malts. Stone fruit starts to come out in the middle palate, aided by the slightly sweet, floral notes.

Avery has made another pretty good beer. As far as acheiving the goal they set out for themselves (a saison style ale with jasmine, peaches, and honey) they got three out of four. A saison? Yeah, I'll buy that. Peaches? Yup, got that, but wasn't hit over the head with them (thankfully). Honey? That round sweetness and floral character is indicitive of honey, sure. But jasmine? Didn't taste that at all, totally lost in the fruity, spicey esters of the yeast.

Saison is a difficult style for American brewers to make, particularly because the Belgian brewers do it so well, and have for hundreds of years. Management of fermentation and the yeast strain is key. It's the yeast that makes the flavors in saison, and in most Belgian beers. It seems that where the American saisons fall flat is their inability or ignorance of the nuances of Belgian yeast strains, how they should be handled, what they are capible of, and how to keep the strains pure and unmutated throughout the generations.

Will they get it? Eventually, sure. But right now Avery has fallen in line with every other American brewery trying to make a saison, which is to say they've fallen short. Their beer is too sweet, not dry enough, the yeast they use tastes more like a hefeweizen than a saison, and the addition of things like jasmine, honey, and peaches are just crutches. Good Belgian brewers are able to create all those flavors using only water, hops, grains, and yeast. Will I order another pint of this? Perhaps. But if it's a decision between Saison Dupont and Avery Sixteen, I'm going with the Belgian Dupont every day of the week. Now if only I could afford it.