Forced to choose, I’ve often said saison is my favorite beer style.
And recently I was reminded of that, again, when I sampled Georgia Farmhouse Ale from Steady Hand Beer Co., a new brewery that’s slated to open on Atlanta’s Westside in the fall.
Once the product of Belgian and French farmers, who made use of grains from the fall harvest to brew refreshing summer beers, saison displays a range of tart, hoppy, earthy, funky and somewhat sweet flavors.
But like so many other classic beer styles, American brewers have made saison and farmhouse ales their own, playing with the flavor profile, and even packaging some iterations in cans.
With warm summer months upon us, it’s a good time to find saisons among the seasonal offerings at package stores and beer bars. Here are six to look for right now:
Saison Dupont — Brewed at the family farm brewery in Tourpes since 1844, this classic Belgian saison is the standard by which all others are judged. Zesty and Champagne-like, it’s loaded with bright aromas and flavors, with complexity perfectly balanced by refreshing drinkability.
Blackberry Farm Summer Saison — Another winner among the seasonal bottle-conditioned saisons produced by the farmhouse brewery in Tennessee, this one is hop-forward and thrillingly complex. Find aromatic tropical and citrus aroma flavors and a bracing bitterness.
Boulevard Saison Brett — Based on the Kansas City brewery’s popular Tank 7, this limited edition is assertively dry hopped, then bottle conditioned with brettanomyces and aged for three months. The result is a beautifully effervescent beer with a peppery presence and distinctive funky brett character.
New Belgium French Oak Saison — Drawing inspiration from the traditional Belgian beers of Flanders and Wallonia, this Colorado hybrid marries a dry, hop-forward saison with a golden ale soured in French oak foeders for 15 to 18 months. What results is a bright, rustic ale with a puckering tartness.
Steady Hand Georgia Farmhouse Ale — Somewhere between a Belgian saison and a French biere de garde, this unfiltered farmhouse ale from Atlanta is a traditional-meets-contemporary take on the style, brewed with wheat, oats and organic Georgia grits, and brightened with Cascade hops.
Red Brick Zest in Show Citrus Farmhouse Ale — A brand-new Atlanta farmhouse ale, this one tracks closer to a fruity wheat beer, which isn’t surprising since it’s brewed with lemon and tangerine peel. Canned and ready for warm weather, it’s certainly the easiest, most approachable of the lot.
Saison and food
What to pair with saison? The easy answer is almost anything. Because as Brooklyn Brewery’s brewmaster Garrett Oliver once proclaimed, “Saison is not just versatile — it’s downright promiscuous.”
Among the wide range of things Oliver recommends as a match for the bright, bitter, spicy, earthy, acidic and effervescent wonders of saison: grilled steak or salmon; fried fish, crabcakes, clams and calamari; rustic and refined sausages of all kinds; Thai and Vietnamese dishes, including crispy duck, curry, summer rolls and pho.