When it comes to describing Saisons or Belgian Farmhouse Ales it is really open to the interpretation of the brewer. They range anywhere from 2.8% – 8% ABV and can be made to be any color imaginable. Their heritage comes from the southern part of Belgium and Northern France. They were originally brewed as a low alcohol beverage that common folk would consume while farming to refresh them. Brewed in the winter for the summer months and commonly spiced or a little citrus was added to improve the flavor. Today’s Saisons are typically higher in ABV but try to hint at these classic elements: Straw in color and typically hazy and unfiltered. Saison is a rustic type of ale it should not be too polished. Flavors and aromas should hint towards straw, light cereal grain maltiness, hay, straw, freshly cut grass, citrus fruits, and spicy elements from the yeast. Yeast should be a little more dominant than hops in most cases. Though hops can be employed quite heavily. The idea is that these beers evoke barnyard elements in the minds eye but most importantly quench the thirst of a hard work day. Saison should finish dry and crisp and entice us to want to keep drinking. A great beer for people who don’t like the hoppiness of IPA or the Roastiness of stout.
Saison Dupont: 94 Points BA Exceptional. 6.5% ABV. The Classic Example. If you want to truly understand the Saison style of beer you need to wrap your mind around this bottle. This is a beautifully balanced, complex beer that has a refreshing fruitiness and a long, dry finish. It is bottled unfiltered so it may be cloudy or have a slight sediment but this is normal and perfectly natural. Pours a slightly hazy yellow color with a white head. Aroma is yeasty, clove, bubblegum, wheat. Medium on the palate with soft carbonation. Flavor is sweet, bready, spicy, clove, banana, with a light spicy finish.
$11.25 a 25.4 oz Bottle
Prairie Standard Ale: 92 Points BA Excellent. 7.0% ABV. Pours a cloudy straw color with a smallish white cap. The aroma is dried out fresh grain with fruity, barnyard yeast notes and a dash of funk. The fruitiness is a mix of light citrus and light stone fruits, lemons meet apricots. It has that dry yeasty smell of a well-fermented Saison. Very farmhouse fresh. The brett adds on a pleasant complexity. The taste starts lightly sweet and fruity before drying out and pushing into a lasting, bitterness. The transition from fresh light grain and apricots to yeasty peppercorns and lemon peels is fast, nearly jarring, but it works for me. I particularly like that dry, bitter, spicy finish. The mouthfeel is light but full of flavor. Carbonation is somewhat high, though not abnormal for the style. This is a very well done beer.
$15.99 a 25.4 oz. bottle
Boulevard Saison Brett: 100 Points BA World Class. 7.0% ABV. This beer must get daily calls from Brussels wanting its lace back, perhaps the best lacing and head retention we’ve seen from an American-brewed beer. Slightly hazy, pale yellow-orange color. Smells of apple skin, musty basement, wild herbs and animal feed grain. Heavenly smoothness from a light, fluffy body. Flavors range from lemongrass to apple cider, hop oil to medicinal herbs, cracker graininess to faint black pepper. Needless to say, very complex. Alcohol drops in with that black pepper spice and some pear-like fruitiness, yet shows little warmth from its size, just more of a clean breath of alcohol. Finishes bone dry with some tart remnants.
$15.99 a 25.4 oz. bottle