Against better judgment (I still have tons of beer to drink, but I broke my “no more new beer until a lot of this old stuff is gone” rule) I wandered into the Midtown Gomer’s a couple weeks ago and in the sale bin was a sixer of the Sam Adams Longshot series. Two bottles each of this Lemon Pepper Saison, barleywine, and English-style old ale. Being a nice, hot summer night, I thought the Lemon Pepper Saison seemed like the best choice of the three.

This was my first Longshot beer. I don’t know much about the Longshot series, other than it seems to have started in 2006. Boston Brewing Company hosts a homebrew competition each year and then chooses a few winners, whose beers go into production the next year. The mixed six-pack seemed like a good way to go.

Saison is a traditional Belgian/northern French style of beer that was made during the cold months and cellared for drinking in the warm months when brewing was not done. The saison style is popular these days, especially with American brewers, and the beers tend to be around 6-7% alcohol by volume, fairly highly carbonated and on the dry side. They can have adjuncts like spices or leave the flavor development up to the Belgian yeasts.

The saison poured a nice golden color with a bit of haze, but definitely did not have yeast in the bottle. A white head of tight little bubbles formed  but didn’t stick around for long. The aroma was that typical “Belgian” aroma (you know what I mean. If not, crack any Belgian golden beer open and then you’ll know!)…. This saison had maybe a fruitier nose than the earthier tones I’ve gotten from others, but that Belgian yeast character is just unmistakeable. I can’t say that I got any lemony notes from the spice addition.

The flavor is very reflective of the aroma, with that Belgian yeast character being the predominant flavor profile. This saison has a fair amount of carbonation, with nice little bubbles, and the 6.4%ABV is well-hidden on this beer. I wasn’t getting much lemon, per se, but there was a twang of acidity/sourness about 1/3 of the way into the sip. Not like a sour beer, but a bit of something with a little bite, that I assume comes from the lemon pepper. The second half of the sip is dominated by a scrubbing bubbles feeling from the carbonation, and then a peppery, warm flavor enters, again, presumably from the lemon pepper.

I got a metallic twang in a few sips, so I wonder if they used European hops in this, which sometimes have a metallic character. Larger sips, or taking less times between sips, brought out a boozy, almost hot character to this beer that I wasn’t completely fond of. Larger sips also yielded a short-lived banana-like flavor on the very front end of the palate, and in a blind tasting I’m thinking I might call this a hefeweizen, which often have a banana flavor from the esters in the beer. In fact, as I continued to drink, this beer really started to remind me of a good German hefe, like Franziskaner, only with a lighter mouthfeel and a slightly acidic bite to it.

Thanks to its carbonation and alcohol level, this would probably pair up with some tangy cheese quite well, actually.

Overall, I like this beer. It has quite a bit going on to keep your interest, and is a nice drinker for the heat. I’m not sure if I’d make it part of my regular rotation, but it was a nice beer and I really applaud a huge brewer like Boston Beer Company for adopting an interesting program like the Longshot beers. I am looking forward to the other two styles in my six pack!

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