HARDLY ANYTHING about the Saison style seems misanthropic. Its unfiltered golden hues and alluring tartness delight the palate while its origins in lowland farmhouses from centuries gone by are the Romantic stuff of brewing legend. Add in the wild yeast mysteries of Brett, age it all in white wine barrels, and it seems unfathomable that the product could inspire anything other than goodwill towards man. But Surly Brewing from Minnesota have an image to maintain and thus this clever concoction became Misanthrope, all its pleasures notwithstanding.
Pouring light amber with a uniformly strong white head of a finger’s width, the beer shows mostly Brett on the nose along with some Saison-apropos hay, spice, and peach. It’s moderately tart, opening with a gentle brush of floral hops (Styrian Golding, seeming less spicy than usual) then some grape acidity and Brett tartness cutting through a wheaty midsection towards the finish. That final phase is a little irresolute, not quite borne up by the carbonation that ought perhaps to have been a notch or two stronger. Perhaps some of this is due to the barrels, though, as the flavor and thickening textures of green grapes are fairly strong. The body is estimated around 2.5 Plato, which is hardly full but still a bit big for the style; allowing a bit more attenuation would have lifted and cleared out Misanthrope’s finish a bit more. In fact, Misanthrope could have cleaved a bit more to its Saison base overall—more pronounced phenols, perhaps? A little more action from its 7% ABV in the latter stages? These suggestions aside, the beer is a refreshing combination of assertive flavors, satisfying and generally well-arrayed. Little reason for this misanthrope to hide itself away.
Served: On tap (Skyline Loft, FoBAB 2013, Chicago)