None of us want to admit it, but sadly, summer is coming to a close. Depending on where you live, temperatures may or may not be dropping, but no matter how sweltering it is outside, a feeling of finality is starting to form in the air. Kids are looking more forlorn, stores are already hocking coats, and there is no better time to drink beer. Specifically, saison.
Saisons, or farmhouse ales, range in both color and taste. But generally, if there’s one thing they bring on, it’s the funk. That funk can consist of anything from earthy flavors like mushrooms to tart berries to whatever is in between. Saison is the perfect beer to sip as summer is winding down, because it’s refreshing enough to make you feel like you’re grasping onto the tails of summer, but not so fruity and light that it cruelly reminds you that it’s not June. Anyway, back to embracing the phrase all good things come to an end…
We’ll start with this enjoyable saison to get the ball rolling. Famed craft brewery Allagash doesn’t disappoint with its bold, deeply hued saison. If you’re all about the hops but want to veer away from IPA’s for a change, we’d recommend giving Allagash saison a try. It has a nice hop kick on top of some strong wheat beer flavors – bananas and bread, anyone? There’s also plenty of grassiness and citrus.
2. 21st Amendment Sneak Attack BEST ON A BUDGET
If you have a bias against canned beer, 21st Ammendment is the brewery to drink from to rid you of such nonsense. We love their Hell Or High Watermelon wheat beer (also canned), and Sneak Attack is similarly unique without being too weird. The (not so) secret ingredient here is cardamom pods, the same thing that gives your chai latte that characteristic sweet-spice. Sneak Attack does indeed sneak up on you, with an initial sip revealing a wave of slight sugar followed by a deep spice essence. Notes of tropical fruit and orange also add some fruitiness to this beer, making it kind of similar to a rebellious cobbler.
3. Crooked Stave Wild Sage Mountain BEST OVERALL
This is a beautiful, golden colored saison that pairs wonderfully with food. The aroma is a lovely combination of yeast and herbs, almost making it taste like something you’d find while foraging by the mountainside. Appropriate, considering the beer is called “Wild Sage.” For those who aren’t totally familiar with sage, it’s a bit similar to lavender, so you may pick up on that as well, both with the aroma and the palate. Notes of lemon provide enough refreshment to make this beer highly drinkable. For best results, pair with a lobster roll.
This beer is described by Dogfish Head as “saison-esque,” but that’s good enough for us. If you’re a wine lover, you’ll find it easy to like Noble Rot, as it’s brewed with two types of must: one that’s botrytis-affected and one made from pinot gris grapes intensified through the “dropping-fruit” technique. In any event, it’s a super cool wine/beer mashup that’s very grape forward, making it luscious, elegant, and out there. The next time you’re thinking about serving up a bottle of white wine for your friends, serve this instead. You can even chill it as you would a typical white.
Ah, finally, a Belgian brew! This is a widespread classic that many a beer aficionado adore. A traditional farmhouse ale, Saison Dupont has all the elements you look for in the style: the funk, the tartness, the touch of spice. But this beer manages incredible balance, and it’s considered by many to be the quintessential saison. Dryness meets thirst-quenching juiciness in the palate, and the effervescence is on point. Like Allagash Saison, there are stalky notes (like grass) which amp the complexity of this ubiquitous saison.
6. Stillwater Artisanal’s A Saison Darkly
Cool, a dark saison! This beer is perfect for the early evening, right as the sun is setting and the air around you is balmy. A nose of deep, roasted flavors warms you up for an equally complex palate. Many of the flavors in A Saison Darkly are similar to those you’d find in a stout: chocolate, toffee, molasses, caramel. However, there are some telltale saison giveaways, like citrus and earthy barnyard. While this saison is a bit heavier than many of the other options on this list. It’s a wonderful option for those looking to drink something stout-like during the last days of summer.
Did you also read that as Sriracha ace? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Although Sorachi Ace is not flavored with the famed hot sauce, it is one delicious saison. “Sorachi Ace” is actually a type of hop, even though it sounds like a gangster name out of an old mobster film. Dry-hopped Sorachi Ace saison delights with a texture that’s both light and creamy, plus the perfect amount of fizz. The palate is not unlike that of a pilsner, but the Belgian yeast plays up the bready notes. There’s quite a bit of herbal citrus in this one, an apt match if you’re going to be eating lighter seafood or sushi.
Go Alaska! This is a saison that delivers intriguing spiciness – just as its name would suggest. The nose is tart, you might sniff out some light red wine or even vinegar. Combined with yeastiness and a touch of rose scent, the aroma is intoxicating. The palate is full of dried fruit – think cherries and apricot – which give this beer a jam feel. Although this is a year round beer, it’s definitely perfect for September with a slice of pie.
High in alcohol (8.5% makes Tank 7 punch with the best of ’em), this beer is a great way to get slowly, comfortably tipsy. A sweet, tropical nose gives way to some nice fruity hops. Have no fear, though, there’s still a substantial malt backbone and a bready taste – this isn’t a lambic, after all. Look out for grapefruit and pepper, and make sure to enjoy the foam on this one, it’s fragrant and fluffy.