Blueberry Thyme Saison
Sometimes in the life of a craft beer enthusiast, the seemingly perfect beer appears on the shelf of a local liquor store. I have to say “liquor store” because that’s the only place that is legally allowed to sell beer in my home state of New Jersey. It’s true, there are no gas station beer runs for us in the Garden State, unfortunately. Despite its lame liquor laws and otherwise less-than-stellar reputation, the Garden State does have one thing going for it: New Jersey is the fifth-highest blueberry producing state in the country. So, when I saw Terrapin Beer Co.’s Blueberry Thyme Saison, I knew it was my stately duty to give it a try.
Herbs being incorporated into the brewing process feels like a very modern trend. Beer drinkers are always looking for the next “thing,” and a savory, herbaceous beer certainly checks my list as a must-try. As Terrapin Beer Co. puts it, their “newest Saison is a blend of fresh summer flavors. The tart sweetness of ripe blueberries combined with the floral warmth of thyme evoke garden memories in this culinary-inspired brew.”
The 500mL bottle of this beer is pretty stunning, complete with contemporary swirling green bushes laced with blueberries and flanked with thyme plants. The art is encapsulating. It creates a welcome invitation for anyone looking to buy it. It achieves beautiful intricacy without being too busy. When the beer is poured, it’s a shockingly true blueberry juice color—deep, thick purple that looks like no other beer I’ve seen before.
Upon a quick smell, this beer certainly reads blueberry on the nose. It comes across as kind of a standard blueberry beer at first, but a deeper inhalation of the beer provides an—and I don’t say this lightly—artificial smell. I know I came across as some sort of blueberry expert by touting New Jersey’s ranking, but the truth is, Georgia (home of Terrapin Beer Co.) is ranked number one. So, I am confident that they know their stuff when it comes to blueberries. That’s part of the reason the smell of this beer was so surprising. Its overpowering sweetness is not exactly a testament to the complexities that blueberries have to offer. Pair that with the jarring blueberry color and I was left scratching my head. Noticeably absent from the scent was the thyme or anything that resembled a garden. The earthy notes of saison were there, but nothing that screamed thyme or any other specific herb that would set this apart from any other saison or farmhouse ale.
I have to wonder what could have been if this side project were given the front and center attention it clearly needed.”
The first sip was unfortunately disappointing. There is a definite blueberry sweetness—albeit perhaps overly ‘from concentrate’ tasting—followed by a slight back-end tartness. Immediately thereafter is an pleasant herbaceousness. If the flavor profile ended there, it would be a much different review. Unfortunately, all of that gets washed out on the back end of the taste by an artificial sweetness and medicinal quality. I attribute this to the 9.1% ABV paired with fruit flavor that was trying a bit too hard to be front and center. After my first sip, I was upset at the high ABV for overpowering everything else that promised to be such a curious and nuanced beer
I was initially surprised to see that this saison was 9.1% ABV. I’d have to check my Untappd history to be sure, but I’ll go out on a limb and say this is definitely the highest alcohol percentage in any saison that I’ve had to date. A closer inspection of the bottle revealed that the ABV percentage is actually a sticker placed on after the bottle was printed. Peel off the sticker and the bottle’s original print reveals that this beer was planned to be 7.7% ABV. Untappd, Terrapin Beer Co.’s own website, and everything else I can find after the beer’s release lists the Blueberry Thyme Saison as 9.1%. However, looking at press releases (although not from Terrapin Beer Co. themselves—that I couldn’t find) prior to the beer’s release, everything stated the beer would be 7.7%. It makes me think the beer somehow accidentally acquired an extra 1.4% ABV along the way but was bottled anyway. And while that doesn’t seem like much, it really does make a huge difference in taste. Especially in a beer that comes off as too high in alcohol. This Blueberry Thyme Saison is also known as “Side Project 30” to Terrapin, and I have to wonder what could have been if this side project were given the front and center attention it clearly needed.
My first reaction in the liquor store upon seeing this beer was one of excitement. Feeling like I am about to experience a flavor that I hadn’t yet seen attempted in a beer is one that really amps me up. I thought, “I have to buy this beer and write about the groundbreaking things that are up and coming in flavor profiles.” While I still firmly believe there is a need for savory beers in the market, and that these savory flavors will be the future trend that usurps the current sweetness (I’m looking at you, lactose IPA...please stop), this, unfortunately, was not the pioneer that the movement needs.