Don't Do What Donny Don't Does: South Austin Brewery Belgian Style Saison

I got off to kind of a rough start with this one. First off, someone needs to teach those guys that there are supposed to be six twists to a cage. I don't know if that rule is different with beer, but I counted eight. After I absentmindedly tried to tug the cage off on the sixth. My wife drinks a lot of sparkling wine; it's muscle memory. It was also irritating. More irritating was that skinny cork that brewers are so fond of using. Rather than the broad, mushrooming head preferred by winemakers, brewers seem hell-bent on these narrow taper jobs, which offer little purchase.

In the past, I've opened such bottles with a wine key when they've refused to submit to more traditional manual methods (grasp the cork with a kitchen towel in one hand, grasp the bottom of the bottle with the other, twist the bottle). I would not recommend this. I have yet to suffer serious injury, but I think that's just a matter of statistics. That and the fact that beer bottles are typically far less pressurized than sparkling wine bottles, even when corks and cages are deemed appropriate.

This time, after a few futile seconds attempting to free the cork, I used my teeth. Yes, this is a terrible idea. The cork was stubborn; I pulled a muscle in my back while wrenching it free. The content it dammed was also more active than anticipated, and nearly launched the cork down my throat as it burst forth. Like it says up there at the top, Don't Do What Donny Don't Does.

As soon as the terror of nearly asphyxiating on a cork abated, I turned my attention to the gush of foam cascading out of the bottle. I sucked it off the top as I rushed to the sink, aspirating a bit on the way, unleashing a coughing fit that brought my wife into the kitchen, wondering what the hell all the fuss was about. "Cork. Almost choked. Spilling," I managed, as I staunched the flow with a towel. Like I said, we got off to kind of a rough start.

When I finally got to pouring, things in the bottle were still pretty lively. No matter how gently I tipped its contents into my glass, the beer responded with a mountain of fluffy, insubstantial foam. Reminding me of the bubble-bath-beards my kids like to wear, it shimmered and shifted, threatening to blow from the top of my glass in the a/c breeze. Waiting for it to settle before pouring again, I was met with the same result. Defeated, I turned to place the bottle on the counter, resigned to drinking my beer through four inches of beer-batting. When my gaze settled back on my glass, its head had settled as if a fever-dream, leaving no trace that it had threatened to over-top the levee only moments before. Weird.

Aromas are of lemon zest, coriander, white pepper and damp hay. A sense of general spiciness pervades, with a slightly wild disposition. A whiff of under-ripe pear floats tantalizingly under the surface. I can be specific on that one, as I was adding under-ripe pears to my daughters' lunches at the time, and so could compare the two discreetly. My children have no patience for nature's schedule, and frequently eat their fruit crunchy and full of starch, a visceral analogue for unfulfilled promise. Which, interestingly, is sort of an analogue for this beer.

As should come as no surprise, carbonic acid is a major player on the palate. Its prickly, metallic character comes charging out of the glass, creating a sort of tape delay before any other flavors come across. The carbonation responsible also lends an unpleasantly aggressive nature, with a texture like Pop Rocks and a similarly shrapnel-like flavor profile. The textural effect of over-carbonation is like drinking something that's not really there, like sucking the foam from the erupting bottle. At least the brewer employed a bit of foreshadowing, eh, SirRon?

Bits of apple get thrown to the back of the mouth; some dusty malt hits the sides of the tongue; the slightly funky pepper/spice moves over the wreckage like a shock wave. There are things to like, but the overall effect is confusing and a bit jarring, like the way a sip of water tastes after eating something really sweet.

It gets a bit better as it goes slightly flat, with the flavors pinging around slightly less helter-skelter. The spice notes come out a bit more, which is nice, and the acidic bite fades. Still, things never really coalesce. I wish they would, as the flavors I chase through the glass can be quite nice. As it is, I don't think it's a beer worth losing teeth over.

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Nicholas L. Hall is a husband and father who earns his keep playing a video game that controls the U.S. power grid. He also writes for the Houston Press about food, booze and music, in an attempt to keep the demons at bay. When he's not busy keeping your lights on, he can usually be found making various messes in the kitchen, with apologies to his wife.
Contact: Nicholas L. Hall