Sunday, January 1, 2012

506. New Belgium Prickly Passion Saison

So it finally happened: a New Belgium beer we don’t like. Trust me, we’ve tried our shared, including Vrieden, La Folie Falling Rock Tap House 10th Anniversary, Mighty Arrow Pale Ale, Ranger, Le Fleur, Misseur?, Transatlantique Kriek, Biere de Mars, Fat Tire, 1554 Enlightened Black Ale and La Folie. As well, Prickly Passion is both a saison and from the Lips of Faith series. Dag. Talk about your unexpected turn of events. I don’t think even Negrodamus saw this one coming.

Prickly Passion pours a crystal clear dark gold with moderate head retention. The nose is über-candy sweetness—it comes across as the cloying sweetness found in cheap candy for children—accompanied by floral and fruit notes from both the fruit additions and the yeast, although the fruit aromatics are bordering on over-ripe and spoiled. Since the bottle notes the beer is made with “French saison yeast,” I’m calling 3711, which is why I would ascribe the cloying and over-ripe components to the fruit—I can smell the traditional 3711 esters in conjunction with the others components, so I’m blaming the fruit. Because 3711 would never do this to me. Flavors follow the nose, although they come across in a subtler manner—there is candy and delicate fruit in the front, which I would describe as a mix of apple, pear, and lightly tart fruit, followed by a slight slick creaminess and just a touch of vanilla. The finish starts clean, but gums up quickly; while the bright carbonation tries to clean up the palate sensation, the residual fruit and sugar flavors end up overwhelming everything else. As well, there is a cloying, artificial flavor left in the back of the throat after the final flavors recede—something like the taste and effect that remains when drinking an under-attenuated golden ale (Prickly Passion is 8.5% ABV, which is a bit beyond the 5%-7% range for a saison).There is also absolutely no discernable bitterness in the beer—while I am guessing the decision to minimally hop the beer was intended to preserve the delicate fruit flavors, it also exacerbates the stickier, golden-ale like qualities previously mentioned. This allows the alcohol heat and flavor to fill in the void left by the lack of hop bitterness, which further throws off the balance. Overall, a rather disappointing beer from an otherwise enjoyable brewery—I actually held out on drinking this beer over the last week to savor having a new Lips of Faith beer to try, and because I figured it would be a sure thing. Having finally cracked it, the disappointment hangs palpably in the air. While I applaud the innovation (and I do want to note that Elli does not share these sentiments), I’m not able to applaud this particular beer.

From the bottle: “Peter picked a prickly pear and paired it with a passion fruit. ‘Perfect! Pitch it in!’ he proclaimed. Now we have this pleasing Prickly Passion Saison brewed with fruit juices and French saison yeast to our brewmaster’s picking.”

From the New Belgium website: “Prickly pear and passion fruit mingle together for New Belgium’s return to farmhouse ales. Prickly Passion Saison is truly a beer for Belgian inspiration. The combination of passion fruit and prickly pear juices with the tropical esters of a traditionally earthy Saison yeast create a wonderfully broad and reaching mango-like character. Ostentatiously amber, this Prickly Passion Saison is sure to provoke the palate with a passionate prick, turn that bottle over and take a sip.”

ABV: 8.5%


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