I appreciate experimentation in brewing, but that doesn’t mean that an
unusual brew makes a good one. Goose Island Pepe Nero is proof of that.
It’s a Belgian-style saison brewed with rye and peppercorns to give it a
dark body and a hint of spice. Though there’s nothing particularly
off-putting about the beer there’s just nothing holding my attention.
I poured a 2011 vintage 12oz bottled on 2/24/11 into a tulip glass.
Appearance: Dark opaque black body like a stout. Forms a huge, khaki,
fluffy head which slowly dissipates, and does leave some lacing on the
Smell: A slightly stout-like scent from a distance, but a closer
inspection reveals typical Belgian farmhouse aromas and a hint of dark
Taste: A beer like Goose Island Pepe Nero probably would be best tasted
blind (literally). Seeing the dark, stout-like body, but tasting a
fairly typical golden saison flavor really messes with the senses. It’s
brewed with black malt, not roasted malt, so you get no stout flavors
(not that you’re supposed to, but there’s a certain Pavlovian effect
imparted by a beer’s color). The entire palate is classic saison flavor
that’s lightly bitter, but quite "zesty." The use of peppercorns should
add some spicy heat to this brew, but all it really does is make the
Perhaps the underwhelming flavor is due to the fact this bottle is about
20 months old and even though it’s bottle-conditioned, it just doesn’t
age well. I’d imagine a fresh bottle would make great use of the rye
and peppercorn spiciness. I’m not a big fan of saisons to begin with,
and I definitely appreciated the originality to this palate, but there’s
not much to it that’s impressing me.
Drinkability: While the flavors might not wake up your mouth, the
actually delivery of the beer across the tongue likely will. Goose
Island Pepe Nero is definitely using Belgian yeast which makes it
extremely foamy, fizzy, and spastic in the mouth. There’s a dryness to
the character all around and a slightly chalky aftertaste (though
tolerable). There’s a high amount of fine carbonation here, but it
still goes down surprisingly smooth. I think the rather low 6% ABV
weight does the beer a disservice since it might need more energy to
make use of its potential.