Review Date 9/16/2008
Belgian style saison beer is not something you see being produced by American brewers everyday. So, when Fort Bragg, California’s North Coast Brewing announced that they would be doing one, there was considerable excitement in the beer geek community. North Coast is, after all, already well known for their wonderful array of tasty brews.
The result, Le Merle, is a very interesting beer indeed, and one that beer enthusiasts really should not miss. The name, of course, is French for “The Blackbird”, but here it serves a double purpose, honoring Merle Ruedrich, the wife of North Coast Brewer Mark Ruedrich. In that case, it might have been more appropriate to name the beer “La Merle”, employing the feminine article instead of the masculine.
North Coast Le Merle pours to a hazy yellow color with a huge rocky head formation and a spicy pepper and citrus nose. North Coast sells this one in caged cork 750 ML bottles, but I tried it on draft at Charlie Mopp’s Public House in Atlanta. The presentation was almost as much fun as the beer itself, as it was served in a half liter pitcher, to be decanted in a stemmed tulip-shaped glass for drinking. The added pour beat a bit more carbonation from the liquid and produced a truly towering head.
The body is bright and crisp, crackery and tart, and that helps to make this a very refreshing beer indeed. The zesty, lemony citric notes and drying herbal spice carry right on into the finish, where they balance wonderfully with more of the tart, even slightly sour notes. A gentle kiss of hops just barely poke through in the finish of very special treat.
Perhaps not a dead ringer for Saison Dupont, the classic example of the style, but still a wonderfully quenching, tasty and delicious ale. As with Dupont’s version, the spices employed here are kept secret, and the beer is dangerously drinkable, especially given it’s elevated alcohol content of 7.9%. Try it with a snack of sharp cheddar cheese, crisp and spicy pickles, and dark rye bread.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.