Consider the saison. History did. During the 19th century, Belgian farmers brewed saisons, or “farmhouse ales,” using the leftover grains from the fall harvest. In fact, not only did farmers decrease leftover grains (and keep busy during the non-growing months) but also livestock ate the spent grain feed, and seasonal workers drank during the hot summer months to stay hydrated. That’s what you call a win-win. And back then, saisons only clocked in at about 3.5% ABV, making it a sessionable, hydrating beer during warm weather. The reason for so much of the funky yeast commonly found in saisons? Farmers would re-pitch the same yeast each year to save money, which led to some multi-strain fermentations. Today, the best saisons are refreshing, funky, and unique. OK, it may not be summer yet, but let’s pretend it’s warming up outside and drink Craft Beer Crosscut 2.20.17: A Flight of Farmhouse.
Local beer’s popularity might be the highest it’s been since pioneer Ezra Meeker planted hop vine cuttings on his Puyallup Valley farm in 1865. Speaking of local and Puyallup Valley, Tacoma’s House of Saison, E9 Brewery, gathered a bunch of tayberries from Sterino Farms, aged them with Brettanomyces and produced the loveliest Tayberry Farmhouse Ale in all the land.
5.5% ABV, 35 IBU
Speaking of local and Puyallup Valley, Puyallup River Brewing Co. sources all its fruits from the Puyallup Valley, including Sterino Farms, for its craft beers. Head brewer Eric Akeson and his right-hand man, Nat Woodsmith, have won Washington Beer Awards medals for their Paradise Blonde Farmhouse. Makes sense since farmhouse ales and saisons are Akeson’s passion. And the passion tastes delicious. Late additions of grains of paradise, coriander, and bitter orange peel give this beer natural spicy, sweet and bitter notes.
By using Sterling and Citra hops, with a dash of white sage, Stillwater Artisanal Ales created a very intricate saison bursting with flavors. It pours a beautifully big head, and immediately fills the nostrils with scents of yeast, lemon peel, pepper, grains and even spices. While the first sip will explode with citrus, the beer evens out with grassy and sage notes. Its light carbonation makes bubbles dance on the tongue, but it finishes with a nearly astringent feeling.
7.7% ABV, 24 IBU
With a rich, lasting head, this dark golden ale is quite clear for a saison. It’s all about spices: grains of paradise, ginger, coriander and sweet orange peel. The smell is fruity and grassy at the same time, atypical of the usual yeasty saison scent; you can tell it’s going to be a dry beer by the aroma alone. While it is indeed dry, Brewery Ommegang‘s Hennepin Farmhouse is slightly sharp with great lacing, and is dangerously drinkable. Take it easy with this one; it goes down smooth.
Brewed with barley, wheat and rice and fermented at high temperatures with a special blend of four different yeast strains, Great Divide‘s Colette has moderate malty sweetness and fruity lemon character, with a dry, hoppy finish. The 19th century Belgian farmers would have loved this refreshing beer.