Like the Deveiled Amber Ale by Magic Hat, this next offering is part of their Halloween sampler pack. It’s the Seance Saison Ale. Now, I’ve only ever had maybe two saisons before, and both of those shared some characteristics. Lighter in color, some tangy notes, and very fresh tasting. This Seance Ale is nothing like that. What do I mean? Well, let’s go find out.
Upon opening, big aromas of spice and thick, roasted darkness burst out. Smokey and woodsy, with a slight, albeit odd, aroma of fresh-baked pretzels. It’s quite the crazy collection of scent notes, especially in a saison. There’s no tang, no fruits or lightness. Just dark, smokey blackness. I don’t know if this is an interesting take on a radical new saison, or a freakish misunderstanding of what a saison should be.
The first notes to hit the tongue are coffee and roasted malts, almost like a stout, but with no sweet notes to be found, and much lighter, despite its heaviness. A bitter tang washes over the back of the tongue after the first roasted flavors, possibly drawing on the essence of a saison, but make no mistake, there’s nothing remotely close to a saison in this bottle. The flavors are dark, smokey, and dry, clinging to the tongue and sticking to the throat. Hints of the fresh pretzel from earlier make an appearance at the end, but it is much more subdued than the aroma notes.
Poured into a pint glass, the aromas change somewhat. The smokey darkness fades somewhat, allowing some sweet malts to rise up, mingling with hints of fleeting floral scents. These scents are so varied and diverse, but nothing is overpowering. Everything is allowed its own place, and lasts long enough to enjoy each flavor. This collection of craziness all occurs within a super dark, ruby-red hue with a light tan head.
The tastes from the pint glass are more mellow compared to the bottle, which is the opposite of what usually happens when beer is poured. The smokiness is still there, but it has the feeling and consistency of a cream ale. It’s smooth and flows over the tongue very easily. The toasty malts are still there, staying just as dark. The aftertaste, surprisingly, is very dry, which is odd considering how rich it is going down. The smokey flavors don’t last too long, instead replaced by the malts, bringing some sweetness to the top of the flavors. It is a super complex beer, with so many flavors that don’t fit the saison category, but not doing a horrible job on their own either.
In the end, despite the fact that there is no saison to be found anywhere in, near, or within a 10 mile vicinity of this bottle, I found myself enjoying this beer quite a bit. There are about 30 different flavors of smoke crammed inside, along with roasty malts, and some fleeting sweetness here and there. It’s certainly not the best beer I’ve ever had, but it’s definitely not the worst either. It’s different, that’s for sure, going well beyond pushing the limits of a saison, and instead demolishing those limits, before entering witness protection and becoming something entirely different.
Magic Hat’s Seance Saison Ale would be best enjoyed on a chilly night, maybe with a hearty stew, or an epic pot pie. Make sure to have a fire going somewhere to compliment the roasted, smokey notes of the beer. And, remember, just because it claims to be a saison, that doesn’t automatically make it a saison. And, in this case, that’s not such a bad thing. Seance Saison earns a solid B, by the power of smoke and voodoo.
Lasting Strength: 9/10