Spring has sprung! One of the best parts of the warming weather is enjoying beers that match with the season. There are few styles I like more in the spring than a saison. Here are five worth drinking.
21st Amendment Sneak Attack
Now that the weather has finally turned and it looks to be mostly sunny days ahead, the saison is going to become the style of choice for many craft beer lovers. No surprise there. There is
something about the saison that feels like open air and bright spring days. Of course, some brewers, such as 21st Amendment, buck traditional by making their saison a winter seasonal. That’s okay. A saison is a saison no matter the time of year. This one has a huge, frothy white head and potent aromas of thick, musky yeast. Touches of grain, grass and spice shoot through the taste, along with a hint of lemon zest, but what dominates is rich, sourdough-like breadiness. The aroma of fresh hops has subdued since this was brewed a few months back, but you won’t miss it.
The Belgian-style farmhouse ale (same thing as a saison, essentially) is a special style of beer. Even mediocre examples of the style are pretty good and worth drinking. And when they’re great? They are spectacular. Helios, by local favorites Victory, fits in the latter category. Barely-there pepper spice adds a bit of fun to the lemony, grassy goodness in every sip. It’s bright and herbal, like the wind blowing across a blooming field in spring, with a pleasantly bready backbone to support the bright, airy taste. A little bit of juicy citrus and a dry finish rounds things out and wraps up one of the finest farmhouse ales in the northeast. It’s spring; you need this.
Southhampton Biere de Mars
The Biere de Garde is a close cousin to the saison / farmhouse ale family of beers, in this case a French variant that often leans a little closer to amber ales than saisons do. Each spring, New York’s Southhampton makes a damn fine one that is worth seeking out. Many of the characteristics you expect in a saison are here – a fluffy white head, hints of pepper spice, herbal grassiness, and so on – but so is a more pronounced banana aroma (thanks to the yeast) and some sweet caramel and toffee in the malts, along with a hint of honeyed alcohol in the finish. This makes Biere de Mars a little bigger and “fuller” than your typical saison. What does that mean? It means pair this with a hearty meal for some good springtime eating. You’ll thank me for the tip.
Sly Fox Saison Vos
Saisons may be a traditional Belgian style, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great ones being produced right here in Pennsylvania, too. Brewed over in Pottstown, Saison Vos by the folks at Sly Fox is a slightly Americanized take on this delicious springtime beer. Slightly amber, with its pronounced malt character balanced by clove spices, grassy hops, brisk carbonation and a mildly tart finish, Saison Vos also showcases more pronounced bitterness than you might be used to in the style. The aforementioned tartness keeps this in check, though, adding up to a saison that even those without a fetish for bitterness will enjoy on a clear spring day.
Firestone Walker Opal
The masterful brewers at Firestone Walker are probably best known for their fantastic line of “Jack” IPAs and their barrel-aging program, which is among the best in the country, but beers like Opal prove their talents range far and wide. Opal is a fairly traditional saison style of beer, perfect for springtime drinking. Lemony citrus and peppery spice are up front and present, just as you’d expect, with some pleasant funkiness adding a bit of adventure to every sip. What really sets it apart are undertones of sauvignon blanc wine, which adds some fruitiness that begs to be paired with a nice cheese. (No Velveeta, please.) The carbonation is robust, which only serves to enhance the mildly sour tang in the finish. No surprise that this is another winner from Firestone Walker.