Drop The Anchor: Anchor Brewing Company Saison Spring Ale

In a recent post, I talked about my evolution as a beer drinker from stealing Coors Light out of The Father’s basement fridge to today’s life of bombers and mixed six packs. Along the way, I tried styles that I don’t like (porters, sadly) and others that immediately took a place in the permanent rotation (bocks). Saisons fall into a third category: the beer that I generally like but will walk away from for a while before drinking again.

Good saisons are smooth and tart like a Belgian, spicy and heavy like an ale, and fulfilling. The only one that I reviewed here came from Smuttynose’s Smuttlabs line, which is mostly about timing than interest. I’ve been on a saison kick for the past 4 to 6 months, ordering some while out at fine drinking establishments, and enjoying them while off the clock for beer reviewing. I’m high on the one’s from 21st Amendment, Brewery Ommegang and Dogfish Head. Smuttynose produces one every so often that is quite good as well.

Anchor Brewing Company is a great brewery from the San Francisco Bay area that makes a range of very good beers including the Steam Beer, Winter Wheat and its vaunted holiday seasonal. For the second consecutive year, it brewed a saison as its spring seasonal. It made its way eastward for March to May 2015, and found itself on a shelf at the Wegmans in Dewitt. Naturally, I thought Anchor would make a right honorable farmhouse ale. 

2015-04-07 at 17-20-30

Unfortunately, I was mistaken.

Anchor goes into its spring saison with the best of intentions. It utilizes chinook and nelson sauvin hops, as well as a California yeast created for this brewing style. The toasted Belgian wheat malt brings some spice. But, it’s the herbs that push this train off the track. Rather than utilize sage, thyme or other traditional herb in its farmhouse ale, Anchor calls in three flavors native to its region of California: lemon peel, lemongrass and ginger. 

Forget about the bitter lemon. You barely taste citrus here. The yeast and malt overwhelm the beer on first taste. As you seek the complexities of the beer, you pick up the lemongrass and ginger. The puzzle pieces fit together well, but the picture doesn’t make much sense. The flavors are not good, and you are left chasing each sip with a mouthful of water to cleanse your tongue, palate, throat, and memory.

No puns or pithy conclusion here. This beer needs to be rethought and reengineered before 2016. It’s a below average offering from an above average brewery that earns a pass this time around.

2015-04-07 at 17-20-01

Brewer: Anchor Brewing Company
Beer: Saison Spring Ale
Style: Saison
ABV: 7.2%   IBU: 32
Container: 12 oz. bottle
Price: $n/a (purchased as a mixed six)   Point of Purchase: Wegmans, Syracuse, N.Y.
To The Eye: Golden and clear. Fluffy head that fades away into a very faint lacing.
To The Nose: Overwhelming clove and herbal aromas.
To The Palate: A mess of clove, lemongrass, ginger and yeasty bitterness. Full-bodied. Not refreshing. Leaves dry and peppery.
Boozy Factor: Average for a saison
On a Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 as highest: 4

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