Mendocino’s second release in their Anniversary series has been announced! This brew, a Belgian Style Spiced Saison, will soon be making its way to market, and the brewing team is eagerly awaiting its debut. I talked to Ben Wilkinson, Mendo’s brewing supervisor, about the making of this traditional—yet unusual—brew.
I’m excited to hear about the upcoming Anniversary Ale Saison! Why did Mendo choose that style for their next release?
Ben: This is the second release in our Anniversary series. Our first release, the single hop Cascade Pale Ale, was a very traditional American craft beer. For this release, we wanted to do something a little different for us. We haven’t brewed many Belgian style beers, so we thought that would make a great choice to present a different taste profile to Mendocino drinkers.
What hops and spices did you use in the brew?
Ben: We used Sterling, Kent Golding, and Cezch Saaz hops in the brew. All those hops are fairly mild and mellow because we wanted the hop flavor to complement the flavors coming from the yeast and spices without overpowering them. For the spices, we used ginger, star anise, coriander, and orange peel.
How much of a role does the yeast play in Mendo’s version?
Ben: When brewing Belgian-style beer, it is vital to use Belgian-style yeast. The characteristic fruity and clove-like flavors found in Belgian beers come from a flavor compound called esters produced by the Belgian yeast during fermentation. There is no way to replicate that flavor with other tools available to brewers. For our Anniversary Saison, we usead a yeast specifically designed for Saisons. In addition to the estery flavors, this specific yeast strain will contribute earthy, peppery, and spicy notes to the beer.
What are some of the challenges involved with brewing a Saison?
Ben: The main challenge with brewing Saisons is narrowing down which ingredients to add to the beer. The Saison is a fairly freeform style beer that can vary widely in both the ingredients used and the final flavor. We tasted five different Saisons before brewing our own. They all were quite different from one another, but they all were delicious. In the end, we chose the particular spices we used in the beer because we felt they would complement the flavors coming from the yeast and make Mendocino’s Saison stand out as unique amongst the Saisons of the world.
What kind of flavor profile can we expect from this beer?
Ben: This beer is filled with the classic Belgian flavor of fruit and spices. Out of all the spices we used, the most noticeable for me is definitely the orange peel, which gives the beer a strong citrus character. The flavors from the spices and the yeast are balanced out by the subtle use of hops, which keeps the beer from being too sweet and maintains a crisp, dry finish.
What foods would you recommend pairing with this beer?
Ben: This Saison is a very flavorful beer, so it is best paired with flavorful food so that the taste of the beer will not overpower the food. I would say it pairs well with spicy foods like curries, Cajun food, and sausage. The slight sweetness of the beer actually makes it an excellent choice for pairing with desserts. In particular non-chocolate desserts like fruit pies, carrot cake, and baklava would go excellently with this beer.
The Season for Saison?
Saisons have a distinctive taste, and definitely inhabit the realm of unique, yet classic, beers. Are you looking forward to Mendo’s release of their own version? Let us know in comments below, and be sure to shoot us a line once you try one and tell us what you think!
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