'Tis the Saison
Exploring the versatility of this popular style of Belgian beer
Saison, the delicate style born in the verdant countryside of Belgium’s Wallonia region, is the vanguard of changing palates in the United States. A growing number of breweries — some of which brew saisons exclusively — are proving that this historically everyday drink can be that again, and they’re putting their own spin on it. Though traditionally soft and estery, the spectrum of saisons at the bottle shop show just how versatile the style can be.
The Traditional: Saison Dupont
Brewed since 1844, this traditional farmhouse beer defines the style with vibrant peppery spice, bright lemon zest and earthy, musty notes, all punctuated by spritzy carbonation.
The Hopped: Brooklyn Sorachi Ace
Saisons are already woven with brilliant lemon notes, but when one’s hopped with the bright-flavored Japanese Sorachi Ace species, it’s extra lemony.
The Flowered: Upright Flora Rustica
This saison’s brewed with calendula and yarrow flowers, which add bold floral and herbal notes and elevate the style’s inherent earthiness.
The Fruity: Cigar City Guava Grove Saison
This version undergoes secondary fermentation on a bed of guava. The juicy, tropical flavors the fruit imparts combine with lemon for an exotic profile.
The Funky: Boulevard Saison-Brett
Earthy must is a hallmark saison flavor, so when a brewer adds Brettanomyces yeast, the brew explodes with wild funk. This saison’s peppery spice gets a boost while its lemon notes counter the pucker.
SIMPLY SAISON: These saison-heavy breweries are keeping farmhouse ales alive.
Opened in 2009, this all-organic Colorado brewery is obsessed with saisons, so much that it’s the only style bottled. Funkwerks’ Saison follows tradition with spicy phenols, bright lemon and orange flavors and a crisp mouthfeel.
At his Portland, Ore., brewery, Alex Ganum brews four year-round saisons with his house saison yeast and open-container fermenters. Try Seven for a traditional take on the style, or Flora Rustica for its wonderful botanicals.
Beer maker Brian Strumke’s Stateside Saison is generously hopped with American and New Zealand varietals, while A Saison Darkly, a black saison spiced with rose hips, hibiscus and schisandra berries, is a game-changer.