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'Tis the Saison

American brewers take cues from Belgian farmhouses
Tasting Table
Funkwerks Saison | Boulevard Brewing Company Tank 7 | Stillwater Stateside Saison

Farmers in southern Belgium once faced a conundrum: How to quench farmhands’ thirst during the hot harvest season?

To ensure a supply of potable water, farmers spent winter (when the cooler weather lessened the risk of the beers becoming contaminated) brewing batches of saison--French for “season.” The saisons were stored until summer, when the tart, earthy, low-alcohol beverages wet workers’ whistles.

While saisons have long been the domain of Belgian and French brewers, over the last decade American breweries have also become smitten by the versatile style, a perfect platform for experimentation.

In the brewer’s inventive hands, saisons range from dry and hoppy to spicy, floral and citrusy, with the addition of herbs such as rosemary or thyme, and spices like black pepper. Here are three saisons worth sipping in any season.

  • Funkwerks Saison: At last year’s Great American Beer Festival, the Fort Collins, Colorado, brewery won a gold medal for its flagship saison. A facsimile of the Belgian style, this ale pours out hazy and fluffy, with citrusy, peppery aromatics matched by a persistent bitterness. ($11 for 750 ml)

  • Boulevard Brewing Company Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale: The Missouri brewery’s malfunctioning fermentation tank inspired the name of this effervescent, straw-hued saison. Its aroma evokes orange and grapefruit, leading to a lively, spicy flavor and a dry finish. ($10 for 750 ml)

  • Stillwater Artisanal Ales Stateside Saison: Gypsy brewer Brian Strumke travels to breweries around America and around the world to craft flavor-forward saisons such as the dry-drinking Stateside, which smells of honey, citrus and pepper. Nelson Sauvin hops provide a tropical, white-wine-like profile. ($11 for 750 ml)

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