About once a month, I drive to Greenville, SC and then back to my home in Arlington, VA. Depending on I95 traffic between DC and Richmond, it’s a relatively easy seven hour drive. Conveniently located approximately halfway between DC and Greenville, Hillsborough, NC offers several reasons why the drive should be extended by about an hour. The small NC town, which seems to be populated primarily by writers and creative writing professors, has several excellent dining options that keep me from having to eat fast food or Cracker Barrel. One of my favorite local Hillsborough restaurants is Hillsborough BBQ. The food is delicious, and, possibly just as important, the restaurant is right next door to Mystery Brewing Company’s pub. I can order brisket to go and then walk right next door – pairing tangy BBQ with the exciting beer of Mystery Brewing Company. This last trip, I paired my brisket with the brewery’s black saison. The beer was so good, I bought a bomber to take home.
Mystery Brewing Company has been in operation since 2012, and has declared the Reinheitsgebot, the German Beer Purity Law of 1516, as NOT a consideration in the brewing of their beers; that’s a good thing. The brewery is known for inventive, fresh beers that reflect the changing seasons and tastes. The brewery’s website states, “We don’t have a flagship and we don’t want one. We believe that what people like to drink changes depending on the time of year, the type of foods that are available in the local markets, the weather, and even their moods. Because of that, we’re striving to provide a seasonal selection that’s always fresh and reflects what we think drinkers will be looking for at each time of the year.”
The Annabel Black Saison is definitely fresh and what I was looking for to pair with that delicious brisket. In fact, I want more of it, and am making a trip to Hillsborough this week to buy some more. That way, I can follow my advice, and make Mystery Brewing Annabel Black Saison my beer for the weekend. And so should you.
AROMA: Saisons are complex and interesting beers, and Annabel is no different. Saison yeast, which according to some experts is related to red wine yeast, helps provide that complexity. The aromas mix nicely together, and the peppery phenols from the yeast spice it up. The nose in Mystery Brewing’s black saison has plenty of chocolate and fruit to go with the glazed, sweet bread that dominates. 10/12
APPEARANCE: Annabel pours a deep, rich brown with two fingers of a light brown head. Good retention with thick lacing. 3/3
FLAVOR: Mystery Brewing used rye and wheat for the base, the combination of the saison yeast make for interesting and delicious flavors that are also accessible. Plenty of chocolate, of course, with dark fruits throughout. A nice spice and rye breadiness compliments the rich flavors quite nicely. The bitterness in the finish in muted, and the swirling flavors continue to the end. 17/20
MOUTHFEEL: The use of saison yeast provides some excellent astringency. The beer is medium body, smooth, and has good carbonation. 5/5
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: With the “Beer for the Weekend” articles, I tend to give my “overall impressions” in the introductory paragraphs. By the time I get to the end of the actual review, I’m running the risk of repeating myself. Mystery Brewing Annabel Black Saison is a delicious and interesting beer; I don’t know if I said that yet or not. If you can get your hands on some bottle for this weekend, I highly encourage you to do so. It’s a worth a trip to Hillsborough if needed. 8/10
Outstanding (45-50), Excellent (38-44), Very Good (30-37), Good (21-29), Fair (14-20), Problematic (0-13)
 Every time I stop to eat, I overhear conversations between writers.
 Actually, I’m going down to record some more Dark Night Episodes. Being able to visit the brewery is a bonus.
 Assuming you live in NC, and get your hands on some. If you live in VA or SC, the drive is worth it.
 Randy Mosher, for one.