Brewer creativity is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it’s a pleasure to taste beers that blur the distinction between beer categories—but it’s also a bit confusing. The evolving notion of the “tart saison” is the latest of many examples in American brewing. Most beer purists reference the earthy and peppery flavors of Belgium’s Saison Dupont when thinking of a saison, but Maui Brewing Company isn’t working entirely from that playbook with its Lilikoi Saison. There’s still the classic yeast components and light body, but from there, this beer sets sail for new territory.
The Lilikoi pours with big carbonation and fast-rising bubbles to form a large head, which dissipates rather quickly. In this sense, it leans toward a classic saison. The beer presents with an appealing hazy gold color, just a couple of shades darker than Maui’s golden beaches. It’s canned with the brewery’s modern label with bright violet lettering and artwork to showcase the passionfruit.
A heavy dose of lemon and grapefruit citrus comes through from the Amarillo hops, and some tropical notes of pineapple and mango from the lilikoi (a.k.a. passionfruit), along with a telltale banana saison ester. The saison’s lightly spicy flavor also shows through with a hint of white pepper. Overall, it’s a nice, warm weather, sweet-tart vibe, with a heavy dose of fruity esters leading the way.
This tartly fruity spin on the category isn’t for everyone, but fans of goses and Berliner Weisses will find much to enjoy here.”
Tasted blind, we’d swear this was a Berliner Weisse rather than a saison. (The mash bill has both pilsner and wheat, so there’s good reason for that.) The 5.5% ABV is well-hidden, and the tart passionfruit flavor and bready malt dominate the mid-palate. The Amarillo hops are noticeable—there’s lemon and lime—but they’re also restrained, with only a touch of bitterness on the lengthy, dry finish. There’s a pleasant tartness here that’s meant to be the star of the show, but it wisely stops short of puckering sourness.
This tartly fruity spin on the category isn’t for everyone, but fans of goses and Berliner Weisses will find much to enjoy here. It’s a bit of an oddball, but one that probably makes perfect sense with Hawaii’s sweet, sour, and salty cuisine. It’s certainly worth trying a pint, especially with some appropriate Hawaiian fare.