Saisons (French for “season”) are beers that were traditionally brewed over the course of a winter with the intention of becoming a nice, refreshing ale for farm (seasonal) workers once harvest rolled around. Also falling into the category of farmhouse ales alongside bière de garde, saison has recently exploded in popularity, leading to a renaissance for this once nearly forgotten style. Brewers here in the Pacific Northwest have embraced the fashion, creating a huge variety of the ale ranging from sweet and fruity to dark and smoky. Here, we take a look at some of the best saisons on tap in the region.
Market Fresh Saison #7 || Cloudburst Brewing || Seattle
Ever since its founding early last year, Cloudburst Brewing has been churning out deliciously experimental beers and their Market Fresh Saison series has been no exception. The seventh in the set combines blackberries and juniper to create a pastel purple ale that, although a bit odd in appearance, is appropriately bursting with yeasty, berry-packed flavor that is perfect for August’s long summer days.
Spock || Ecliptic Brewing || Portland
The Spock dry-hopped saison is Ecliptic Brewing’s hoppy tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy, the actor behind the iconic ears of Spock, who passed last year. Each sip sings with notes of apricots and peaches, lending the beer a nice tanginess, while the Amarillo hops are perfectly balanced by a rich maltiness. Notes of citrus peel and cardamom help to round out an already delicious beer that all come together to create a stunning tribute to the late actor for which the beer is named.
Bayard || Strange Fellows Brewing Co. || Vancouver, BC
Named for the legendary Bayard the Horse, the medieval French legend that could change size to carry any riders, Strange Fellow’s Bayard farmhouse saison is an equally strong beer with the ability to carry the taste buds of any who drink it. Lemon rind joins notes of peppercorn to create a hazy, rose gold-colored dry ale that finishes with unique tastes of both candy and a distinct spiciness.
Cascadian Dark Saison || Three Magnets Brewing || Olympia, WA
While most saisons are light in color and are meant to a refreshing sip in the midday summer sun, Three Magnet’s Cascadian Dark Saison is a heartier ale with savory notes of roasted barley that pours a deep, rich chocolate in color. Falling somewhere between a saison and a stout in look and texture, the Cascadian Dark Saison is an interesting new take on an old style that would be best enjoyed after the sun has set and the cool summer breeze starts to roll in.
Apricotopus || Parallel 49 Brewing Co. || Vancouver, BC
Homebrewers turned pro, the folks behind Parallel 49 aim to impress with unique ales, like its summer seasonal, the Acpricotopus. The highly drinkable sour saison overflows with the flavor of apricots — pouring a light straw-color with very little head, making it almost resemble a cider. The excellent combination of sweet and sour, with the powerful taste of apricots works to make Apricotopus a refreshing summer saison, if not necessarily a complex one.
Pilgrimage || Base Camp Brewing Co. || Portland
Pouring a cloudy golden-orange in color with an aroma of tropical fruits and citrus, Base Camp Brewing Co.’s Pilgrimage saison has a complex, slightly tart, taste of fruit, citrus, and cloves, with some extra floral notes that can be difficult to place. Even though this is a thought-provoking sipper, it remains light and refreshing, with none of the many competing flavors overpowering another. An excellent beer to take on an end-of-summer hike and as well as a solid entry point to the style.
Refraction || Holy Mountain Brewing || Seattle
Set next to a bustling rail line in Seattle’s Interbay district, this acclaimed brewery is best known for its urban farmhouse ales (plus multiple saisons on tap at any given time). Take the Refraction: a barrel-aged saison brewed with 60 percent spelt grain and hopped with a medley of European varieties. The wine barrels the beer ages in are laden with Brettanomyces, the funky yeast that helps produce sour qualities. Tangy tropical fruits flavors refresh while the beer finishes wide, crisp and clean.