The Gleaner was brewed for Societe Brewing's second anniversary, and was recently re-released for Societe's third anniversary. I picked up a growler of The Gleaner late last week and shared it over two nights. I remember, after trying it last year, thinking that it was a fine saison, but a not great or standout beer. My opinion this year, despite trying to keep an open mind, is similar to last year's (which I did not write down in a blog post).
The Gleaner, a cloudy beer, was a golden yellow and had a rough, white foam. I could smell its herbs, especially the sage, as soon as I poured the beer. The Gleaner's initial tastes were jarring. I knew before drinking it that The Gleaner was not a typical yeasty saison, which did not bother me, since saison can be an experimental style. I think I even grimaced, not from the herbs, which were more aromatic than flavorful, but because The Gleaner's ingredients were too discordant. The yeast, hops, malt, and herbs did not mix well with me. Plus, the alcohol at 7.1% abv, was too prominent, and became a flavor component.
Then something strange began to happen. As The Gleaner sat in the glass it opened up and its uneven, independent flavors mellowed and began to blend together, softening the saison and easing the drinking experience. The Gleaner went from being a disaster to a decent, but unexceptional beer, never quite recovering from its rocky start.
Like last year's release, this year's version of The Gleaner suffers from immediate comparisons to Stone Brewing's superior Stone Saison, which is also an unconventional herb saison released in early summer, but which is a complex, lovely beer.