An increasingly popular style of beer, Saisons are bursting onto the scene, offering many beer drinkers something completely new for their pallets. Saisons come from the pale ale family and definitely aren’t for everybody. The word ‘Saison’ means season; i’m actually not entirely sure why it’s named ‘season’ but the backstory of the beer provides some suggestion. Traditionally, saisons were brewed in the winter time by French farmers for consumption in the summer time. I suppose it was a ‘seasonal’ beer, a term which we use today quite frequently in the beer scene.
There are many good reasons why Saisons were traditionally a summertime seasonal beer. They are extremely complex beers, but provide a level of refreshment similar to a wheat ale. Saisons are typically golden in color, sometimes cloudy, and generally have fruity characteristics. They range in flavor tremendously though so it’s important to try a variety before you make your decision on the style.
For some, they can be ‘too’ hoppy. This is typically a common description from someone like the lager man as I personally don’t find them on the hoppy side. They can often be quite tart which is where I think more casual beer drinkers mistake the flavor for hoppiness.
From the Brooklyn brewery comes perhaps my favorite Saison. I do have to apologize that I haven’t tasted many traditional Saisons from France (Sorry Saison Dupont- it’s on my to-do list) but I have tasted my fair share and this beer definitely deserves to be recognized. It has an unmistakable flavor which is derived from the Sorachi Ace hop which is a tremendously rare Japanese developed hop. It has flavors of lemon zest and pineapple with a peppery finish which makes for an absolutely delicious beer. It’s available year round and widely distributed so hopefully you’ll be able to find a bottle in your liquor store.
Only a couple of years old, I am giving some love to a Canadian brewery based in Vancouver BC. One of Canada’s best new breweries, they are delivering on their promise to provide some pretty damn delicious beer and the Four Winds Saison maintains this trend.
Brewed with noble hops to provide beautiful aromatics, the brew is finished with Pacific Northwest Cascade hops. You’ll find notes of flower and spice along with a subtle fruit flavor. I find the Cascade hops really bring out some citrus flavors with hints of lemon zest on first taste. As the beer mellows out though, you’ll get flavors of more robust orchard fruit including apple and apricots. Apricots are a great way to describe the color of this beer as well as its golden colored and cloudy which eventually settles revealing firm carbonation. One of my favorites, it’s definitely worth a try.
This beer has an interesting story that ironically happens more often than you think. The Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale is brewed by Boulevard Brewing and gets it’s name from the piece of equipment is was magically combined in: Tank 7. But Tank 7 was no ordinary tank; Tank 7 was the black of their cellar family and would often times be overly persnickety. But despite it’s drawbacks, Tank 7 was the birthing tank of this particular beer and for that reason carries its name to the top of many fellow Saison lovers beer lists.
The Tank 7 is an extremely fruit forward beer, with grapefruit- hoppy notes and delicious aromatics. You’ll also notice flavors of lemon and other citrus fruits before getting that peppery finish Saisons are so well known for. Golden in color with a slight orange hue, you’ll enjoy a frothy first sip from the active carbonation in this particular ale.
Look for this style of beer the next time you visit your local pub or microbrewery. There are a lot of different styles to explore and enjoy and while some might be convinced to keep this limited to the Summer time, I like to drink em’ all year wrong.