NORTH COAST BREWING COMPANY’S LE MERLE SAISON is a very consistent and underrated Belgian-Style Farmhouse Saison. It’s always a cherished occasion (with a little bit of California pride) whenever we enjoy this excellent ale.

If you are a fan of Saisons, you will most definitely enjoy Le Merle. We challenge you to do a blind tasting against the classic ones from Belgium. You will be pleasantly surprised just how it does compare.


A pioneer in the Craft Beer movement, North Coast Brewing Company opened in 1988 as a local brewpub in the historic town of Fort Bragg, located on California’s Mendocino Coast.

Under the leadership of Brewmaster Mark Ruedrich, the brewery has developed a strong reputation for quality having won more than 70 awards in national and international competitions.

In addition to Red Seal Ale, Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, Scrimshaw Pilsner, and other fine North Coast brands, the brewery has resurrected the old Acme label with a heritage dating back to the San Francisco of the 1860s.NorthCoastBrewing-BreweryPicThese exceptional beers are available in 47 states now and also are exported to Europe and the Pacific Rim. North Coast Brewing Company has been previously voted as one of the Ten Best Breweries in the World by the Beverage Tasting Institute. (Source: North Coast Brewing Company)


Le Merle is a rustic ale, pale in color, inspired by the rich brewing traditions of the Flanders region. Abundant hops and a Belgian yeast strain contribute exotic aromas of tropical fruit.For all she has contributed since the brewery’s founding, North Coast Brewing is pleased to honor our Merle, Brewmaster Mark Ruedrich’s wife, with Le Merle (the Blackbird), a subtle sophisticated Belgian-style Saison beer.

Vital Statistics

Style: Saison
Color: Straw
ABV: 7.9%
Bitterness: 26 IBUs

92 Points, Rated “Exceptional”
Beverage Testing Institute, Chicago

Reviews & Accolades


“Congratulations, Your beer is really amazing and you deserve your gold medal in a truly classic Belgian style.”
Luc De Raedemaeker, co-founder and tasting director, Brussels Beer Challenge

“More than a serious beer—it is outstanding…. Dizzying, appetizing, refreshing.”
The Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson

“Best Cult Brew”
SF Weekly 2010

“A heavenly American Saison—Highly Recommended”
Celebrator Beer News

LE MERLE Medals & Awards

2012 Brussels Beer Challenge
2005 World Beer Championships, Chicago
2006 World Beer Championships


7.9% ABV. Poured into a tulip shaped glass at 56° F. It pours a nice 3-finger egg white fluffy head with small and large bubbles (we ensured the glass was BCG = Beer Clean Glass standards)

The color is medium golden color with some straw hues in it. The meniscus is fast to medium rising. Slight haze in the beer. The head retains a 1/4″ body on it throughout consumption time. Very nice and dense Brussels lacing on the sides of the glass.

Starts off with a soft, floral bouquet, it has a spice and malt aroma to it, but more in the background. It has a gentle bouquet to it, soft grassyness. Around 10-15 minutes into consumption time, (and has warmed up to about 60° F,) the bouquet does change; more of the soft herbal Saison characteristics and aromatics are released.  The hop character is floral, and moderate.Le Merle 011

The initial dry hop character balances excellent with the spicy sharp yeast phenols. There are definitive citrus notes-  tart, lemony, blood orange.

The mouthfeel is extremely effervescent, the tartness is soft, and very drinkable. It fills the entire mouth with its sparkle and carbonation level. The finish is dry and herbal.


LeMerleBottleAPPETIZERS: Cheeses- white sharp cheddar, Morbier, Stilton, classic blue cheese. Salads with light vinaigrettes and Feta cheese. Oysters in the half shell or shrimp ceviche would be very nice.

ENTRÈES: Chicken Marsala, Monkfish, lobster, pastas with white sauces. Moule en Frite (of course!) If you are in the Fort Bragg, California area, we suggest a visit at North Coast’s taproom and pair Le Merle with the wide variety of pizzas on their menu.

DESSERTS: Lemon tarts or Key lime pie, classic cheesecake would be fantastic. Lemon Crème Brûlée- the spiciness of the beer will cut through the richness quite well.

In our opinion, this multiple Gold Medal award winner is one of the best Belgian-style Saisons in the market today. Even though is it a bit over 7% ABV, we feel it is a great session beer. We purchased our bottle at Redding, California’s Liquor Barn at $6.99 for  a 750ML bottle… what a great buy, as all the North Coast Brewing Company’s beers are.

North Coast Brewing Company makes world-class Belgian-style ales, and for the very moderate price, their quality far outweighs the cost. It is a joy to know that a brewery such as this is located very near our back yard!

Although Le Merle is brewed year round to enjoy as fresh as possible, the bottle conditioning does allow for some aging- preferably for 3-5 years.

Because of North Coast Brewing Company’s vast distribution network, Le Merle is widely available in a many retail outlets and great pubs, restaurants, etc. It’s a great Summertime refresher, but because of its complex flavor profile, we suggest having it anytime of the year, when you want a crisp, and well balanced Saison.  And as we’ve said, Le Merle is a Saison that matches up with the best of the Belgians. Don’t just take our word for it- even the Belgians think so! World class… for the price, you need to buy as many 750 ML bottles and 4-packs as you can!

Brew Building
455 North Main Street
Fort Bragg CA 95437
707 964-2739

Brewery Taproom
444 North Main Street
Fort Bragg, CA 95437
707 964-3400

501 North Main Street, Suite A
Fort Bragg, CA 95427
707 964-1286

BrewView author GORDON A. PONCE is the main driving force behind Belgian Beer Since 1983, Gordon recognized that beers from Belgium were special, set apart from the typical craft beer.

He views beers from Belgium (plus Belgian-style and Belgian Inspired beers from other countries) great examples of the brewer’s art. Gordon and his wife live in beautiful Northern California- a great place to enjoy Belgian beer!      Ecclesiastes 8:15


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