Jula 2013 by Dr. M, Saison/Belgian Ale, 7.2% ABV, 90 IBU.
This very untraditional christmas beer comes in two versions: a regular and one with a little gnome on the label. I can’t quite remember what the difference between the two versions is, but we’ll find that out soon enough.
Both beers pour a slightly hazy, medium amber body. They seem to be quite lively carbonated, the gnomed version even more so, and the lightly tanned head is bigger and more frothy. Both heads are long-lived and lace the glasses well. The aroma and taste of the two beers are so different that I’ll have to rate them separately. First the regular version:
The aroma is strong, and it has lovely notes of Belgian yeast, or rather saison yeast I suppose, citrus, pale malts and lots of sweet fruits with hints of overripe strawberries. It’s a pleasant mix of crispness and sweetness.
There is very little sweetness in the taste and the finish is heavy bitter. Totally out of style perhaps, but fun. The flavours are moderate, it feels like the bitterness drowns most of the elements that should be present according to the aroma. I get yeast, fruits in the back and some alcohol. Even further in the back I get resin, pine needles and bitter grapefruit, vague hints of anise and traces of honey in the late aftertaste.
As expected the body is quite light, the texture is bone dry and the carbonation is lively.
The gnomed version is a totally different creature all together! The aroma is very strong, far stronger than for the regular version, but most of the notes found in the regular version are in the gnomed version efficiently masked by a massive wall of herbs, anise seeds, cloves and liquorice. There is nothing saison-ish about this one. But still an interesting aroma, I wonder what Dr. M has actually added to this brew!
The strong flavours follow the aroma, with lots of herbs, anise, spices (again especially cloves). There is really lots of herbs in this one. Lots and lots. This is like drinking a Jägermeister. Not very christmassy, but definitely an unusual and entertaining experiment! The alcohol feels better hidden than in the regular version, it also feels a bit less bitter, less dry and there are more sweetness.
Conclusion: The regular version is a quite nice beer, but there is too much bitterness for the gentle flavours. Maybe more late hops should have been used to back up the bitter taste? On the other hand, that would move the beer even further away from it’s saison origin. Finally it’s a bit too alcoholic. The gnomed version is a fun one, but it’s also quite demanding, and the herbal overdose is simply a bit too much. Neither of the beers are very more-ish, and it wasn’t a great loss to partially rate these two beers Polden Arnesen style.
Aroma: 7/10 Appearance: 4/5 Taste: 6/10 Palate: 3/5 Overall: 11/20 Ratebeer score: 3.1/5.0
Aroma: 6/10 Appearance: 4/5 Taste: 6/10 Palate: 3/5 Overall: 10/20 Ratebeer score: 2.9/5.0