Well, it's about time I put up some tasting notes for my wild yeast "saison". I've realized that I delay putting up these posts since I don't really feel like I have a good tasting vocabulary and I find it hard to accurately describe the beers. But the more I do this, the more comfortable I am with it and I really want to make sure I follow up with all my batches. So, I'm going to try to be better about writing more timely tasting posts. And even if this post isn't exactly timely, it's better late than never, right?
So, this is the beer I brewed up using wild yeast (and probably bacteria) I collected from my back yard last June (and in case you missed it, I posted some photos of the wee beasties under a microscope). In short, this beer turned out quite well and did not contain anything near the funk I thought it would have. Even though I didn't really know what to expect from this experiment, the final product was definitely outside of what I thought I was going to get. To help me decipher what I was tasting, I sent a few bottles out to some other folks to taste, including Mike Tonsmeire, the Mad Fermentationist. My tasting notes below will also include some of their comments.
Appearance - Pours a hazy, dirty yellow-brown with a nice thick, foamy white head. Honestly, the color is quite ugly - I don't think the photo above does it justice (must have been the warm afternoon lighting). The head leaves nice Belgian lacing behind.
Aroma - Smells faintly of fruit. Not quite citrus with some mellow spiciness - hard to know if this is from the yeast or the Northdown dry hops. A nice malt aroma comes through as well.
Taste - Here's where things get interesting. First off, the flavor is much cleaner than I ever would have thought from using microbes that were floating around in my backyard. There is a fruity, slightly spicy Belgian-y quality there. There's also a slight tang, though certainly not sour - something reminiscent of fresh lemon peel. The rich maltiness of the Maris Otter comes through nicely, but the beer is not quite a dry as I was hoping for. Even though I mashed low (147°F) and pushed the fermentation temp up into the mid-80s, the beer only finished in the 1.012-1.014 range, which is a bit too high for the Belgian quality of the beer. I was hoping for sub-1.010. One of the more interesting flavors comes through at the back-end. One taster described it as "...almost brett-like...sort of 'woodsy'...I wouldn't say barnyard, but like outdoorsy without the smoke...that smell you get when stepping out to go hunting in the fall.". There is also a lingering bitterness that detracts a little from the beer - one taster likened it to tobacco, another to leather.
Mouthfeel - moderate carbonation and a not-so-dry finish leave this beer a bit fuller than it probably should have been.
Overall - Definitely a good outcome to an interesting experiment. Not sure I would call the beer a great beer, but given what I was attempting to do I am very happy with the result. In the end, it was a pretty refreshing beer with a lemony crispness to it. I actually kept some of the original yeast, hoping to use it in another beer, but it is now 9 months old and I'm not sure how great it would be to reuse. I will definitely try my hand again at capturing new yeast though - this brew demonstrated that it was a worthwhile endeavor.