October 8, 2013

Let's Talk About Beer: Harpoon 100 Barrel Series - Saison Various (Session 47)

I will admit at the outset that I am favorably inclined towards Harpoon and their products. When I finished college I moved to Boston in the mid-90s. And one of the highlights of my first couple of years there was St. Patrick's Day. And while that day usually ended early the next day with me in some state of disrepair, it would begin at the Harpoon Brewery. It was always a great time. How great? I still own this.
That's 1996 if you can't read the date on it. This glass has followed me around for almost 20 years. Which is impressive or sad depending on your point of view. Let's go with impressive.

All of this is a long way of saying that Harpoon always holds a positive position in my mind and that may bias me a little. So keep that in mind.

Anyway, I was in the package store the other day and saw a new Harpoon beer. They are doing a 100 Barrel series and this was number 47, called "Saison Various". Essentially, it is a blend of four different Saisons from four Harpoon brewers. The four are defined as such:

  1. A traditional farmhouse Saison brewed without spices
  2. A Saison made with East Kent Goldings hops, coriander and white peppercorns
  3. A Saison made with American hops and a Trappist yeast
  4. A Saison with a citrusy hop profile
So now here is where people usually get all fancy and talk about the mouth of the beer or it's body and they try to sound like wine connoisseurs. And that just isn't me. I'll tell you if it's good or not.

And it is good...but not great. The problem I have with a blended beer is the same I have with a blended Scotch. What makes a great beer great, or a great Scotch great, is that it says something about itself when you drink it. You can taste what makes it special, the time it took to make it. And that doesn't happen with a blend. Everything gets a little...muddled.

So it is with this Saison Various. You do catch the coriander and the peppercorns at the start but they are overtaken by the Trappist yeast and citrusy hops cancelling each other out. The flavor profiles don't mesh as well as you'd like them to. So what you're left with is a beer that you can tell is of good quality but really doesn't make any kind of statement. It's a Saison that can't decide what kind of Saison it wants to be.

I'd much prefer to taste each of these separately and compare the concepts that each brewer brought to the table. Especially the Trappist one - that could be something special or a complete trainwreck.

So is it worth buying? If you want to give it a whirl it's not too expensive - I bought the 22oz bottle for 6.99. And it's not a bad beer by any means. It's just confused.


Beer: Harpoon 100 Barrel Series - Saison Various (Session 47)

ABV: 6.1%

IBU: 34

Price: $6.99

Recommendation: Weak Buy


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