seems to be two general sub-styles of the saison: the juicy/hoppy
version and the dry/spicy version. North Coast’s “Le Merle” (the
blackbird) is definitely a member of the latter. Though not actually
brewed with peppercorn or other spices/seasonings (as far as I can
tell), it definitely has the zesty palette of one. This is probably the
least boring saison you’re ever encounter, but whether you enjoy it or
not depends on how you like your saison.
I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. It was bottled on 2/17/15.
Appearance: Golden/light orange hue over a fairly cloudy body; steady
carbonation visible. Pours to a two-finger, white, foamy head which
laces and retains fairly well.
Smell: Strong peppercorn scent with some banana and lemon, but more spicy than fruity.
Taste: The palette starts out with a slightly fruity flavor of banana
and a touch of lemon fruit. It immediately transitions to something more
spicy and savory, however. Peppercorn is a pretty dominate flavor here –
spicy to be sure, but also quite dry. There’s no heat from capsaicin
(not that there should be), though I do feel and taste a bit of warmth
from the alcohol. The malt base is quite pale and crisp, akin to a
cracker. Not especially bitter at only 26 IBUs, though not much in the
way of actual hop flavor (I do like saisons that use citrusy hops to
their advantage). Perhaps a touch of caramel sweetness to found in the
background, though it’s just a nice little bonus to those with
Drinkability: At 7.9% ABV, North Coast Le Merle is rather hefty for the
style (but not uncommon). It’s a full-bodied brew to be sure. There’s a
lot of weight and energy to the mouthfeel – crisp and effervescent but
by no means thin or light. The alcohol imparts some warmth, and the
natural spicy sensation from the yeast leaves the palate quite dry –
almost starchy. This would be ideal to stand up to a spicy chicken meal
or any kind of fish.