Over the last few months I have been sampling a wide array of saisons. It has been a lot of fun comparing and contrasting the different breweries takes on the style. I thought it would be worthwhile to write up a little summary, but instead of just listing my favorites I’m going to try something new. This article is Saison Superlatives, like your high school year book only much more delicious. Needless to say this only applies to beers I was able to taste this Spring. If there are any saisons I missed and need to try, please let me know. As always, the name of each beer is a link to the full review. Let me know what you think!
Best traditional saison: Allagash Saison. No surprise that one of the titans of great Belgian style ales brews a new year round saison and it is amazing. Expressive yeast nicely balanced with a full malt flavor and just a little hops.
The “there’s a reason why it’s a classic” award: Boulevard Tank 7 Saison. One of the reasons the saison style has become so widespread amongst American craft breweries is the popularity of this beer. Complex but still easy to drink, with a surprisingly potent ABV.
Another saison that will knock you out: Foolproof La Ferme Urbaine. Another beer that is light bodied, tasty and easy to drink but packs a wallop. This brisk saison weighs in at 7.8% ABV but goes down smooth without a hint of alcohol in the flavor.
Best rustic saison: The Bruery Saison de Lente. Traditional saisons were often spontaneously fernmented, so the use of Brettanomyces in fermentation helps recreate this rustic, barnyard flavor. This beer does it well, providing a lot of character without overwhelming the beer.
Best sessionable saison: Stillwater Classique and Notch Saison (tie). Many American saisons are surprisingly high in alcohol, often reaching 7-8% ABV. It is nice to find a few that are full flavored but light enough that you can drink a few. These are both perfect for your summer BBQs.
Best witbier labeled as a saison: Victory Swing Saison. A solid beer, but the malt profile and adjunct ingredients both scream witbier to me.
Most unique saison: Idle Hands D’aison. There are a few breweries that combine saison yeast with dark malts. Idle Hands makes the only one I tried this Spring. It is an interesting combination, with the dark fruit flavors from the malt mingling with the fruity esters from the yeast.
Best seamless integration of fruit flavors: Night Shift Grove. Night Shift has mastered the art of deftly incorporating adjunct ingredients that complement the malt, hop and yeast profiles of their beers. Grove is a saison brewed with Meyer lemon and ruby red grapefruit, and the subtle citrus perfectly integrates with the fruit flavors from the yeast.
Best saison if you prefer a strong fruity flavor in your beer: Cape Ann Sunrise Saison. Cape Ann brews their saison with fresh strawberries and rhubarb. In this case the fruit flavors are very strong. I’d recommend this only if you like more aggressively fruity beers.
Best saison if you like hoppy beer and want to branch out: Mystic Mary of the Gael. I know a lot of people who drink almost all IPAs and other very hop-forward beers, but want to branch out a little. This is always one of my recommendations, lots of hop flavor that perfectly meshes with the expressive saison yeast. A close runner up for my favorite saison.
Best saison I tasted this Spring: Trillium Farmhouse Ale. The best saison I tasted this Spring, or ever. Amazing balance between bold yeast, substantial malt and flavorful hops. There are many reasons why Trillium is one of the most popular breweries in the Boston area and this beer is definitely one of them.