New Holland “Four Witches” from New Holland’s “High Gravity Series” – Black Saison
ABV: 8.92% (I have seen this listed as 7.3% and 8.3%, however my bottle clearly stated 8.92%… I think!) – IBU: Unknown (I would guess no more than 15)
Chemistry time! Today, Dr. Deltoid is going to be teaching you young lads and lasses about specific gravity. “What is specific gravity?” you ask. Simply put: it is the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a reference substance. When measuring specific gravity of liquids, the reference substance is almost always water. “High gravity” is a moniker given to beers which contain a high concentration of quality malts, grains, sugar, and other added ingredients which make it denser than its reference substance (water) and as a result contain a relatively high concentration of alcohol. And to make this lesson even simpler: “high gravity beer” = “craft beer”.
Disclaimer: I truly don’t know if water is the reference substance for the specific gravity calculation of beer. If you want to know for sure, go look it up yourself. I don’t give enough of a shit. Go ahead and call me a novice. While you’re at it, feel free to exercise your right to blow me. I would comfortably bet my left testicle that I am correct… but not my right testicle, because it hangs a bit higher than my left one so it is my preferred testicle.
New Holland’s “Four Witches” is a part of their “High Gravity Series”. It is very dark brown and almost black. The foamy head erupts beautifully within the body of the beer and builds up nicely to a thick, caramel color with a touch of pink, at about two fingers high, but unfortunately dies down rather quickly. The aroma is malty, yeasty, and contains cocoa. Lacing for all intents and purposes of this narration is non-existent in this brew. The flavor is malty, slightly funky, and dry with the taste of rye, sour apple and cocoa. It also contains a noticeable sherry flavor that toward the end of the bottle hijacks the flavor and dominates it as well as the aftertaste. I really like the texture of this beer; it’s creamy at first but then changes to a more watery and carbonated feel. The aftertaste is very yeasty, oaty, earthy, slightly bitter, and smoky. But again, the sherry flavor stands in the way and thumps its chest like a rabid gorilla with a raging hard-on toward the latter half of the drink.
Last year I reviewed New Holland’s “Oak Aged Hatter” and noted it wasn’t particularly great, per their trend on producing beers that are slightly weak in flavor. Four Witches is a continuation of this trend, but I did enjoy it a bit more than the Oak Aged Hatter. It’s interesting, creatively conceived, and tastes great but again it lacks the strength of flavor I expect out of a craft beer. And as a saison, or farmhouse ale, it doesn’t taste traditional, not that I mind that at all. “Saison” (French for “season”) ales were originally brewed on farmlands with various ingredients (I suppose whatever was available) as refreshments for the farmers. They traditionally carried a very low ABV (lower than Bud Light if you can believe that) so the farm workers wouldn’t get shit-faced and lop off their own limbs with their scythes, or get way randy and fornicate with the farmer’s daughter… or the livestock if the farmer’s daughter looked like Eli Manning in a wig.
This style is a step or two away in flavor from wild ales with tart, sour, and fruity flavors. But with Four Witches, the heavy flavor of malt and sherry, and the muted fruit and tart flavors set it apart from its brothers and sisters, not to mention its dark color. And since I’m not a fan of sours the profiles of this beer are great for me.
Four Witches is definitely worth a try, but I’m disappointed the flavor isn’t stronger. Again, New Holland takes a great idea and brings an excellent flavor to an interesting beer, but doesn’t quite give it the balls it needs. I have another one of their brews in my collection and shall review it soon. Until then, cheers!