I brewed up my first Hoppy Black Saison at the end of March. The recipe was intended to combine two styles I greatly enjoy: Saison and Black IPA. It was also intended to be a simple extract recipe using up some of the grains I had sitting around. I should note that part of the reason this took me so long to write is that every time I sit down to do a tasting of these I've suddenly drank 3 or 4 and am in no state to write about them.
Appearance- Extremely dark brown, usually looking opaque and black but in thinner glasses/sections a bit of light shines through. It pours with an off white medium thick head of about half an inch. Really the right look for a black IPA.
Smell- The first thing that hits is a clean citrus with notes of earth, coffee, chocolate and smoke underneath. Again this one is right where I would like it to be. Good start.
Taste- Again the first thing to come through is a fruity citrus flavor that seems to be equal parts hops and yeast derivatives (and maybe a touch of the orange peel I used) and the slight funky earthiness I associate with saisons. This is followed with roast, black cherries and pit fruits with a sweet and chocolaty middle that seems to come from the porter-esque ingredients and the Special B. The finish is just bitter enough (seemingly coming from both the roasted barley and the hops) to balance this sweetness but doesn't meet anywhere near IPA levels (though it does seem on par with some of my favorite black IPA's). There is occasionally a black pepper like sensation but only just enough to make me search for it.
Mouthfeel- Crisp carbonation with medium body puts this one a bit on the heavier side of IPA's and certainly Saisons but still thinner than most porters. I may like the attenuation to finish a bit higher but honestly it goes down well as is.
Drinkability/Overall- This is the best beer I've ever made and one of the most drinkable I've ever had. The complexity of hop/yeast/roast is really intriguing but none of it is overpowering, the elements all play very well together. This beer began as an attempt to use up some grains and try to make something really out of the box, both were achieved magnificently. Like the dark saison reviews I've seen on The Mad Fermentationist there is really so much going on that it is hard to tell where exactly each element arrives from (is the citrus from the orange peel, hops or yeast? The cherry/dried fruit flavor from Special B, yeast or a combination of thing?) which makes it really exciting to me. This one is already gone (I went to grab one on 4th of July and got pretty sad when I noticed there weren't any left) and will be a beer that I will DEFINITELY be brewing again.