4 Summer Beers
Now that we’ve made it through the cold winter and rainy spring, it’s time to turn our attention to warm-weather entertainment and festivities. That’s right, it’s finally summer!
With rising temperatures and outside gatherings of family and friends, it’s important to find refreshing and versatile beverages that will please a wide audience and pair well with a variety of foods. While wheat beers, lagers and even pale ales might do the trick, some of the best options are traditional saisons, or farmhouse ale.
A saison, the French word for season, was traditionally brewed in the autumn or winter for consumption by farm workers in late summer during the harvest. While the flavor profile, color, alcohol and conditioning of the brews can vary, traditionally the beer was quite rustic, with the addition of a significant amount of hops and spices, moderate alcohol (between 5–8% abv) and some degree of bottle conditioning.
The Belgian yeast strain typically used provides a distinct foundation, while flavors of wild organisms, especially Brettanomyces, are often present, with varying degrees of intensity, dependent on the brewery’s style.
Domestic brewers are experimenting with nontraditional American hop varieties for additional layers of aroma and flavor.
Originally brewed for consumption within the year, selections today offer such depth and complexity—and perhaps a bit more brett influence—that they cellar well. Age will take these beers from fresh hop and primary fruit characteristics to nuanced, earthy selections of intrigue.
Wonderfully complex, spicy and refreshing, there’s no better way to welcome a new season.
(Saison/Farmhouse Ale; Port Brewing Company, CA).
This is a “saison-style blonde ale,” brewed using Brettanomyces as well as Amarillo and Simcoe hops. It’s a light-bodied and incredibly refreshing saison, with bright fruit aromas of barely ripe yellow stone fruit, apple and lemon rind that are accented by spicy notes of pepper, Belgian yeast and barnyard. Dry and tart on the palate, this is complex and layered, with the pale-malt core complemented by flavors of juicy pear, peppercorn, hay, citrus zest, floral hops and just a touch of honey. The brisk carbonation keeps the palate lively, finishing crisp and dry. A well-balanced and intricate selection, this is delicious now but should evolve nicely over the next couple of years.
abv: 6.5% Price: $9/750 ml
(Saison/Farmhouse Ale; Brewery Ommegang, NY).
Hennepin is a classic domestic saison, a benchmark for the style. Brewed with grains of paradise, ginger and sweet-orange peel, this is spicy and attractive right from the start, with additional aromas and flavors of pepper, pale malt, Anjou pear, underripe banana, tart citrus and fresh grass. Medium to light in body, this is remarkably balanced, with crisp, tingling carbonation that leads into the dry yet refreshing finish. A no-brainer for summer entertaining, just beware of the well-hidden alcohol.
abv: 7.7% Price: $10/12 oz 4 pack
(Saison/Farmhouse Ale; Allagash Brewing Co., ME).
The first addition to Allagash’s year-round lineup in seven years, this saison is clean and refreshing. A hazy, golden-straw color with a nice, pillowy white head, this offers nuances of white pepper, whole nutmeg, clove, ginger and orange zest along with a clean malt core. Notes of dried grass and white flower accent the palate, with a subtle minerality and an incredibly attractive dryness on the finish. This is well-balanced, elegant and extremely drinkable—an ideal pairing for generously spiced or fiery fare.
abv: 6.1% Price: $11/12 oz 4 pack
(Saison/Farmhouse Ale; The Bruery, CA).
This attractive selection pours a rich gold color, with a slight haze and a fluffy off-white head. The bouquet is immediately earthy, with a fresh hoppiness and a wild, brett-based character alongside notes of white pepper and tangerine peel. The medium-weight mouth offers those same notes, and is supported by a bready malt backbone. Unfiltered and bottle conditioned, this is a layered and complex brew that will evolve over time, with the fresh hop notes subsiding and the dry, earthy characteristics becoming increasingly prominent.
abv: 6.5% Price: $10/750 ml
- 295 The Lost Abbey Carnevale Ale
- 393 Ommegang Hennepin Farmhouse Saison
- 492 Allagash Saison Belgian-style Ale
- 592 The Bruery Saison de Lente Belgian-style Saison Ale