Looking for a beer that doesn’t break a sweat? Belgian-style Saisons are a low-alcohol, food-friendly option that have been around for centuries. Saisons are brewed with top-fermenting yeast during the winter months, typically between November and March, which is why they are sometimes called “Winter Warmer.” Saisons are typically very pale in color and have a fruity, peppery and spicy flavor profile. They are light-bodied, and are known for their dry finish.
There’s a little romance and reward in the season. These Farmhouse Ales have their roots in Belgium and were created as Grain Ales with a relatively low alcohol content. They were brewed during the coldest months, fermented and served during the hot summer days. This beer is both hearty and light, has a distinct character and often expresses a sense of belonging.
There are many classic examples of this style in Belgium, and one of the most famous producers is Brasserie Dupont. Known throughout the world, this sauce has a fruity, floral, slightly funky and slightly spicy flavor.
Today, it’s easier than ever to find locally produced saisons in the U.S., as most breweries embrace the style and like to play with brettanomycetes and other microbes to give the beer a wild character.
Modern brewers have also embraced country roots in a new way. It’s not uncommon to add hand-picked fruits, vegetables and herbs to seasonal produce. They are often located near the brewery, which gives a deeper sense of place. Others work with small maltsters to use traditional grains, special malts or other flavors to give them a special touch.
Although more and more breweries are packing their saisons in cans, most breweries stick to beers in glass. Not only is this better for the style, but it allows the beer to mature in secondary fermentation for several months.
There are even some American brewers who package their beer in green glass bottles. The green glass allows sunlight to penetrate the beer and gives the hops a slightly sour aroma. This is a drawback for Camps and Pale Ales, and a welcome feature for some seasons.
Brewers also use the season as a playground to develop native yeasts or homegrown cultures, or to use oak barrels in brewing. The style is varied, with some saisons being aggressively hoppy or using dark malts that almost approximate a wild stout.
Russian River Jannemie Saison; $5/375 ml, 96 points. This beer has a golden, straw yellow color, with a slight cloudiness in the glass. The thick foam on the head feels like it could last for days, if only the beer would last that long. With aromas and flavors of hay, lemon peel, and a sweet, funky acidity, this sauce can easily command all the attention, but it will also happily stay in the background of a mind wandering through a favorite album or book.
Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biēre Farmhouse Ale; $11/16oz 4 Pack, 94 points. There are many little things about this beer that contribute to a great drinking experience. This is a slightly fruity and slightly funky drink with a light aroma of aged brettanomyces. The combination of hay, grass and pepper creates a dry finish, with a hint of sweetness that creates an unforgettable drinking experience.
Side Project Le Saisonnier Blend #4; $20, 94 points. Aromas of candied vanilla and oak emerge from the glass of this golden, almost orange colored beer. Clear and crisp, with a little foam, it offers a dry but inviting flavor with aromas of honeycomb, baked baguette crust and a hint of lemon peel.
Embrace the Funk The Lost Butcher; $7/375 ml, 93 points. There is something soft and earthy about this element. Brewed from a variety of grains, including corn, this farmhouse ale definitely has a farmhouse feel. A big glass of this drink at the end of a long day is a real reward.
Fair Isle The Knitting Circle season 1.e; $24, 93 points. This beer has a light golden colour with a fine white head. It’s bursting with herbal aromas and lime zest. Slightly lighter and with a rustic, country feel, this beer was brewed on the tops of larch trees and fermented with wild yeast.
Nebraska Tarte Apricot Saison; $13, 93 points. It is rich and juicy, full-bodied, with deep aromas of baked apricot and wheat reminiscent of decadent pastries, but without excess sugar. Aged in Chardonnay barrels, the wine has a background of presence and offers a subtle base of acidity, with accents of baked apple, cinnamon and vanilla.
Perennial Owen; $14/375 ml, 92 points. With strong carbonation and a distinctive Brettanomyces punch, this is a Farmhouse Ale that deserves to be studied in depth. It has notes of pepper and leather, and a pleasant aroma of guava.
Eden Foeder Brune Yeast; $21/500 ml, 92 points. This woody, tannic saison has been aged for almost a year in white oak and has balsamic, cherry and cedar notes. Brewed as part of the brewery’s Yeast of Eden project, it has a light brown color and a brownish foam that coats the glass.
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Crooked Stave Citrus Earl Grey Saison; $13/12 oz 6-pack, 91 points. Sweet floral and dried citrus notes dominate the tannic body, which makes sense since this beer was brewed with bergamot tea. The scent and taste of orange blossom give it a refreshing character. Medium carbonation makes it easy to drink, with a pleasant, slightly bitter finish.
Embrace the Funk Saison De L’Automne; $13/500 ml, 91 points. Released under the Embrace the Funk label, this season reminds us of autumn in a jar. It has a rustic quality, but still a hoppy brightness reminiscent of the last harvest. This dark golden beer is brewed with the addition of straw and red wheat.
Published on 12. May 2021
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