In mid-2014, Deschutes Brewery released a new year-round beer that incorporates lemon verbena, pink peppercorn,1 sumac and dried lime in conjunction with noted chef, José Andrés.

The beer, named Zarabanda,2 is a 6.5 percent ABV saison that is brewed with pilsner, Vienna, spelt malt, flaked oats, Munich and crystal malts, along with saaz hops. In addition, the beer uses French saison yeast and sour wort in the mix, and is packaged exclusively in 22-ounce bottles.

Deschutes Zarabanda bottle

The marketing materials that Deschutes sent out when the beer was released has more to say:

An energetic and passionate combination of the culinary and craft brewing worlds, Zarabanda is a spiced Saison that’s been years in the making. Created through a unique collaboration between renowned chef José Andrés and Deschutes Brewery brewers. They worked together throughout this spiced Saison‘s development, infusing the final product with the authentic and distinctive flavors that represent Andrés’ innovation along with Deschutes’ enthusiasm for experimentation and adventure. Zarabanda provides a complex malt body formed from a generous use of Vienna and Spelt malts. A classic Saison yeast strain contributes light fruit esters, which are complemented by aromatic dried lime, flowery pink peppercorn, lemon verbena and savory sumac.

The Deschutes Zarabanda pours a cloudy amber color,with very little head and almost no lacing retention at all after a short time despite the small amount of carbonation evident in the glass. Aroma from the top of the beer is a combination of lemon, oak, grains, grapefruit and cloves, with a touch of pepper thrown in.

Deschutes Zarabanda

My first taste of the Zarabanda is slightly sour with lemongrass, coriander, earth, sweet oranges and a touch of funkiness that gets stronger as the beer warms up. The finish is quite dry, and also exhibits some noticeable pepper that warms my tongue. The lime is evident mostly in the aroma, but every once in a while I picked it up on the finish as well. The carbonation in the beer begins to dissipate quickly after I take my first sip and I am left with virtually none before I even finish my glass. The sweetness on the palate becomes more overt as the beer warms, but the pepper is still present on the finish in a big way, leading to a confusing combination that is not helped by the aforementioned lack of carbonation.

Deschutes Zarabanda
BREWERY: Deschutes Brewery
LOCATION: Bend, Ore.
STYLE: Saison
ABV: 6.5 percent
IBU: 13
PRICE: $9.99
AVAILABLE IN: 22-ounce bottles
To me, this was a confusing beer, with a combination of sweetness and pepper that made it seem like the profile did not know what it wanted to be. There is no nuance to the beer at all and the lack of carbonation really hurt the overall enjoyment of the brew. Honestly, both the name and the ingredients made the beer sound significantly more exotic than the final product turned out to be, but for all its flaws, the Deschutes Zarabanda is still a very drinkable saison.
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