The judges thought my Saison was...meh

The previous post in the To Style Series I discuss how I entered an Oatmeal Stout in two similar categories (dry stout and oatmeal stout) with surprising results. Well, I did the same thing with this next batch of beer. I brewed a 'Saison' and entered it as such in category 16c but I also entered it as a Belgian Pale Ale into category 16b. It's been an educational experience thus far doing this To Style Series of batches/posts, outlining recipes, posting feedback from judges, and critically thinking about how to improve subsequent batch's of beer.

This beer was also served at the first tasting for my brewery in planning as "Vernal Equinox: A farmhouse inspired ale traditionally brewed in the Francophone region of Belgium This style is quickly becoming a favorite of American Craft beer drinkers and brewers. This beer is brewed with barley, rye. wheat, and oats creating a bready background. With whole leaf east kent golding hops providing balanced bitterness and flavor, rounded out with whole leaf Czech saaz hops for aroma. The unique saison yeast lends a peppery, fruity, almost tropical fruit aroma and flavor. A complex, aromatic, thirst quencher."

Best Malz Pilsner      47%
Rye Malt                  20%
Wheat Malt              14%
Flaked Oats              8%
Munich Malt              7%
Cara Pils                   3%
Acidulated Malt         1%

mash 154*f

EKG     1 oz.     first wort   whole leaf
EKG     1 oz.      :60           whole leaf
Saaz      2 oz.    whirlpool   whole leaf

13.2*P (1.053sg)
Wyeast 3711 French Saison

Entered in Category 16c Saison
#1- Orange peel? Feel like maybe a wit crossover.
#2- Fruity - lemon and spicy phenols and and citrus

#1- Great color, clarity appropriate for style
#2- Straw color with slightly hazy clarity. Nice small bubbles. White head on side of glass.

#1- Slight astringent hop flavor
#2- Soft malt with hoppy and slight sour, astringent finish. Bitterness is high.

#1- Carbonation high but works
#2- Light to medium body, with good carbonation. Crisp.

Overall Impression
#1- Balance could have been better between malt/phenol/spice.
#2- Good drinkable beer with no perceived faults except bitter hops make the finish astringent.

#1- Professional Brewer  27/50
#2- Certified                   27/50

Overall 27/50---Good (21-29)

Same beer entered as a Belgian Pale Ale in category 16b with same judges
#1- Nice aroma - spicy undertones with a malt background.
#2- Malty, fruity with spicy background. More malt/biscuit as it warms.

#1- Color is too light for style. Wish it was a little more copper to red to golden.
#2- Pale straw color. Hazy. Nice Head

#1- Malt is enjoyable but bitterness is strong on finish.
#2- Fruity and spicy. Light malt flavor with a spicy/phenolic finish. High hop bitterness.

#1- Could be maltier
#2- Medium to light body

Overall Impression
#1- Not too bad a beer. A little darker next time with higher mash temp?
#2- Good drinkable beer. Like a mix/blend of wit and pale. Soft, drinkable beer - just not fully to style. 

#1- Professional Brewer   30/50
#2- Certified                    28/50

Overall 29/50---Good (21-29)

The hop rate is calculated to only 30 ibu's so I'm a little surprised the judges reacted to the "noble hop" bitterness that way. This beer went over very well at the tasting with some naming it as their favorite of the nine featured. I've really fallen in love with creating Saison inspired beers brewing thirteen different Saison's over the last two and a half years. Using spices, fruit, and hops to put interesting twists on the classic Saison. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with how this beer performed. Guess I'll dial back the first wort and sixty minute hop additions to lower the bitterness. The yeast character is continuing to develop in the bottle and the bitterness is mellowing with time as I enjoyed a bottle last night.

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