Farmers in the Wallonia region of Belgium had the right idea: Centuries ago, they served their agricultural workers beer during hot months, both because water quality was dicey and because it kept the workers happy (beer writer William Bostwick called saisons “the Gatorade of beers” in an article for Bon Appetit). Farmer-brewers back in the day brewed their saisons during cool months, then doled them out during harvests. Perhaps that’s why they’re still associated with warmer temperatures, despite the fact that many modern versions are brewed year-round. Here, four newly available saisons to sip regardless of whether or not you’re a French-speaking fieldhand:
Breakside Américaine: Portland, Oregon’s Breakside recently introduced a new series of bottle-conditioned saisons; this is one of its first two offerings (the other is called Classique). It’s fairly traditional at the core, but receives an extra layer of intrigue from Citra dry hopping, which reads as bright, herbal and near sprucelike on the nose. On the sip, oats added to the grain bill create a smooth, soft mouthfeel pepped up by effervescent bubbles which deftly carry flavors of both a well-made saison and a brush of citrusy hops. White peppercorn and lemon notes overlap with sunny, citrusy hops before the swallow closes with firm but not distracting hop bitterness.
Highland Saw-Whet Saison: If you like your saisons bone dry, seek out this new January-through-April seasonal from Asheville, N.C.’s Highland Brewing. Its aroma is straight-forward—lemon, pear skin and pepper atop crackery malt—but its sip is much dryer than the fruit-forward nose would indicate. Bold, peppery Belgian yeast still allows grainy lemon notes to peek through, but this is a champagne drinker’s saison to be sure.
Funkwerks Nelson Sauvin: This Fort Collins, Colorado-brewed, Nelson Sauvin single-hopped saison isn’t new per se; it’s been brewed in experimental batches but recently got promoted to year-round distribution in 330mL four-packs. And no wonder—the hops add funk and honeydew melon aromas that dovetail with a saison’s yeast-driven white peppercorn notes. Flavor-wise, Nelson Sauvin hops are often described as white winelike; here, they impart white grape, melon and fresh-cut pear fruitiness to the front end, before the base saison’s peppery, dry finish cleans up the swallow.
4 Hands/Brasserie Dunham Hugo: This collaboration beer (the work of St. Louis’ 4 Hands and Quebec’s Brasserie Dunham) fittingly marries two trends in saison brewing: dry hopping and Brett fermentation. Hops-wise, Galaxy and Raku impart big, fresh herbal scents of sweet onion and basil to a base saison that’s bready but with an aura of light grape must. The sip leans more heavily toward the Brett, which tamps down some of a saison’s brighter flavors in favor of hay and a white wine grape tartness. It’s a fun drink for Brett fans, who will enjoy the way that yeast combines with the hops for a dry, softly bitter finish. Our only wish for this beer? A bit more bubbles.