Saison

Saranac High Peaks Lemon Ginger Saison

Beer: Saranc High PeaksLemon Ginger Saison
Brewery: Matt Brewing Company
Style: Saison
ABV: 8.5%

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Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: A New Brunswick apartment
Primary Consumer(s): Ally and Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:



Sight: Slightly cloudy bright orange body with visible Champagne-like carbonation. There’s a dusting of bubbles in lieu of a head.

Smell: There’s a definite citrus scent, but it’s not distinctively lemon like the bottle advertises. There’s also a very sweet cardamom aroma and a slightly grassy smell, almost like some strange Riesling-Belgian White Ale hybrid.

Flavor: It more or less tastes as it smells, but the flavor is heavier on the grass and it’s less sweet than expected.  The high ABV (8.5%) is absolutely hidden in this, which is relieving. It’s quite spicy, but not in a hot way, instead a spices way. There are traces of cardamom, coriander, and ginger. If we had to compare it to anything, it would be spicy Hoegaarden.

Feel: Thin with moderate carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Saranac’s High Peaks line features beers that are “bigger, more complex and flavorful.” Well, Saranac, mission freaking accomplished. The Lemon Ginger Saison (WHAT?) is just that: bigger (at 8.5%, it has a higher ABV than most Saisons), more complex (lemon…and ginger…in a Saison…need I say more?), and flavorful (see previous parenthesis). While atypical of the style, it’s an adventurous brew deserving of the name “High Peaks.” It’s only downfall, really, is that it might be a little too much: it’s a little too spicy, a little too sweet, and a little too flavorful for hours of daytime drinking. However, if you can brave all of this flavor, you will be rewarded with a nice pile of drunk at the top of the proverbial peak.

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White Birch Farmhouse Red Ale

Beer: Farmhouse Red
Brewery: White Birch Brewing
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.6%

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Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: A New Brunswick apartment
Primary Consumer (s): Ally and Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:



Sight: Opaque maple syrup-hued body, with hints of pink and orange. Creamy tan head with huge bubbles that resemble a boiling cauldron. A blizzard of yeast particulates float around at the bottom of the glass.

Smell: It smells distinctively of Fruit Roll-Up. It’s quite sweet, with a generic berry scent. There’s also a hint of ethyl alcohol. (These Fruit Roll-Ups are not for kids!)

Flavor: It bears resemblance to a Raspberry Lambic upfront, followed by a bit of a yeast/bread flavor. There’s a slight trace of spice, but it’s almost not even worth mentioning. Despite the average ABV, the alcohol makes itself known and distracts from the almost pleasant flavor. As it continues to sit, and we continue to drink, it begins to taste just like strawberry rhubarb pie.

Feel: Thin body with moderate carbonation.

Concluding Remarks: Well, as we’ve said, the Saison is one of the most ambiguous beer styles out there. In that tradition, this Farmhouse Red, straight outta New Hampshire, pushes the stylistic boundaries of what a Saison could be considered. It’s not your typical Saison, but it’s nearly as complex as one.

While the raspberry flavor is interesting, the major flaw in White Birch’s Saison is the obnoxious alcohol taste. However, as noted by the label, this is the first incarnation of the Farmhouse Red–batch numero uno. We have no doubt it will develop into a more satisfying Saison as the brewery continues to brew it up. But it’s just not quite there yet.

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After coming to the conclusion that the ‘Red’ in Farmhouse Red is the strange combination of strawberry and rhubarb, we serendipitously realized that we had strawberry rhubarb pie in the refrigerator. So, clearly, we needed to test this pairing, using the Scientific Method.

Research question: Does this beer taste good with strawberry rhubarb pie?
Hypothesis: Yes.
Results (using a control group): Sometimes combining two good things doesn’t equal a better thing. The pie renders the beer less sweet and more bready, though it does mask the alcohol.
Recommendation: Enjoy separately.

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Birrificio Del Ducato Nuova Mattina

Beer: Nuova Mattina
Brewery: Birrificio Del Ducato
Style: Saison
ABV: 5.9%

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 Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:



Sight: Rich golden opaque body with a frothy white head that leaves a thick lacing.

Smell: Bright lemon and grass notes with a slight Saison yeast funk. It reminds me of walking by a fresh garden.

Flavor: Well I’ll be damned; I’ve never tasted anything quite like this before. Not only is it like walking by a fresh garden, it’s also like drinking a fresh garden. In the best way possible (the worst way possible would be being reminded of fertilizer I suppose).

Feel: Thin with full carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Our first Italian beer of the year, Birrificio’s Nuova Mattina is Terrifico and worth it’s steep price ($7 for 330ml). While drinking Nuova Mattina, I can imagine a piccola Nonna picking fresh herbs and fruits from her Tuscan garden, throwing them into a ceramic vat, and letting it all ferment through the winter to produce this sensational beer to enjoy in the nuova mattina (new morning).

This Italian Farmhouse Ale is brewed with coriander, ginger, green pepper, and chamomile. You can really detect each flavor as you go, from the slight spice of the ginger, to crispness of the green pepper, to the soothing element of the chamomile. It’s a beer for any season, for any time of day, from the new morning to the…old night? Sure. Yeah. Old night.

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The Bruery Saison de Lente

Beer: Saison de Lente
Brewery: The Bruery
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.5%

 Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: The Shwed House
Primary Consumer: Ally
Secondary Consumers: Papa Shwed, Sister Shwed, and Brother-in-Law Shw–er, Fant

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OVERALL RATING:



Sight: Cloudy, golden honey color, with a 2-finger fluffy off-white head that lingers and leaves nice lacing on the glass.  Champagne-like bubbles are seen throughout.

Smell: Mostly citrus, with a slight grassy note.  After it sits, it develops an almost soapy aroma.

Flavor: The predominant note is citrus, with a slight bitter hop aftertaste.

Feel: Dry mouthfeel, with a moderate-to-high carbonation.

Concluding Remark: As the label says, the Saison de Lente from California’s The Bruery is “clean and hoppy when fresh,” with a noticeable citrus note.  If aged, it will apparently taste drier and earthy–which I feel like you can still taste in its un-aged state.  However, it’s not extremely dynamic–or “wild and rustic,” as the label also touts. As the Shwed Family agrees, it’s an enjoyable beer for the warmer weather, but not the best Saison ever enjoyed.  And for me personally, it gave me the same feeling I get when I drink white wine: a strange allergic reaction that results in coughing and difficultly swallowing.  I don’t think the flavor quite makes up for this uncomfortable side affect.

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Lost Abbey Carnevale Ale

Beer: Carnevale Ale
Brewery: The Lost Abbey
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.5%

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 Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:



Sight:  Bright honey-colored body filled with tiny carbonation bubbles. The head is like a sticky, iridescent, voluminous sculpture and leaves a thick lacing.

Smell:  Predominantly lemon and pineapple with a slight musky, coppery note.

Flavor: Although it doesn’t taste as sweet as it smells, it is nevertheless incredible. The pineapple aroma translates into a shockingly strong pineapple flavor, almost as though it was a pineapple-flavored ale. Once you get past the feeling of drinking a tropical cocktail, the quintessential Saison funk flavor sets in.

Feel: Like a fine Champagne, the exceptional mouthfeel is thin with high carbonation.

Concluding Remark:  Its moniker derived from the wild Carnevale festival, Lost Abbey’s Saison is an alluring and bombastic Belgian-American hybrid. Lost Abbey dumps American hops (Amarillo and Simcoe) into the traditional Saison recipe, and the result is an unusually complex elixir. The pineapple presence evokes the feeling of sitting on a beach, so if you don’t have the vacation days to take a day trip to the beach, head to your local beer store instead and drink in the Carnevale on a roof, porch, or stoop. It’s not sweet and it’s not really bitter; instead, like any good Carnevale celebration, it’s a whole lot of sass and funk. And dare I say, nearly perfect.

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Two Brothers Domaine DuPage

Beer: Domaine DuPage
Brewery: Two Brothers Brewing Company
Style: Bière de Garde
ABV: 5.9%

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 Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:



Sight:  Cloudy ruby body with a sad excuse for a head.

Smell:  Overwhelmingly sweet malt scent. It kind of smells like inhaling a loaf of crusty bread.

Flavor: It tastes like drinking caramel water. It’s quite sweet, but slightly balanced with a trace of herbal hops.

Feel:  Thin with low carbonation.

Concluding Remark:  This is not a Saison, but rather Bière de Garde, France’s farmhouse ale. As anticipated by the style, it’s much maltier, sweeter, and quite frankly not as spectacular as what’s found in farmhouses throughout Belgium. It has a rather uninteresting generic sweetness, but I will have to try additional Bière de Gardes in order to determine whether it’s the style that’s boring, or the Domaine DuPage. Two Brothers Brewery is out of Chicago, not the northern French countryside after all.

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Great Divide Colette Farmhouse Ale

Beer: Colette Farmhouse Ale
Brewery: Great Divide Brewing Company
Style: Saison
ABV: 7.3%

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 Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Pint glass
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:



Sight: Pale, almost neon yellow, hazy body with a huge billowy white head.

Smell: Hell. Yes. This smells exactly as a Saison should: funky, citrusy, spicy, and sour. It smells like lemons that have been seeped in a gallon of wheat beer.

Flavor: Thankfully, it tastes almost exactly how it smells. It tastes like drinking extremely fresh lemons, with a touch of clove.

Feel: Thin body, Champagne-like carbonation.

Concluding Remark: Great Divide’s Colette is like the bizzaro, funky cousin of the Hefeweizen. It’s exceptionally tart, and makes me want to roll around in a field of lemon trees. It’s not spiced–instead, the four yeast strains used produce a banana-clove-like aftertaste, and the inclusion of rice creates a fresh feeling. At over 7%, which is undetectable, this is a near perfect beer. It’s balanced, perfectly carbonated, and has a complexity that makes you want to keep drinking until you realize you’ve consumed the entire bottle in three gulps. Whoops. If I’m so lucky, I’ll be spending much of my summer hanging out with Colette on a roof. Or anywhere, really.

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Saison Dupont Vielle Provision

Beer: Saison Dupont Vielle Provision
Brewery: Brasserie Dupont
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.5%

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 Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:



Sight: Light golden, cloudy body with a full, frothy white head.

Smell: There’s an appealing lemony sour smell, as well as a generic doughy smell from the Pilsner malt. The yeast also produces a slightly phenolic scent (i.e., cloves and bananas).

Flavor: Saying this is complex is an understatement. It’s initially quite sour, like sour green apple without the sweetness. It makes you pucker your lips a bit. There’s surprisingly little sweetness.

Feel: This one feels like champagne through and through. Clean, crisp, dry.

Concluding Remark: Brasserie Dupont from Tourpes, Belgium is part of Belgian beer history. What was once an old 1700s farmhouse, became a brewing facility in 1844. To date, Brasserie Dupont is one of the only operating farmhouse breweries in all of Europe.

The Saison Dupont was the first beer produced at the small farmhouse brewery in 1844. The bottle-conditioned Saison is considered to be the quintessential Saison, the role model for other Saisons worldwide. It’s complex, tangy, and full of sass. The malt/hop ratio is expertly balanced, and the Dupont is as effervescent as one would want a Saison to be. Once intended to quench the thirst of seasonal workers (les saisonniers) everywhere (in Wallonia), its continued production means that you have the opportunity to have your thirst quenched as well–whether you’re working in the field or at a computer.

Saison Dupont essentially saved the Saison style. Read about it here.

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Saison du Buff

Beer: Saison du BUFF
Brewery: Victory, Stone, Dogfish Head
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.8%

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 Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Snifter
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:



Sight: Golden, slightly hazy body. Very small white head. Reminiscent of a fancy sparkling apple cider.

Smell: Intensely orange front note, with a subtle note of parsley and pine.

Flavor: The taste doesn’t quite live up to its promising aroma. While there’s a hint of citrus and sage, its bitterness overpowers the subtle herbal taste. As it sits, the initial complexity settles to a relatively simple citrus-pine flavor.

Feel: Surprisingly thin with excellent carbonation.

Concluding Remark: BUFF (Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor) is a collaboration between three craft brewing heavyweights: Dogfish Head, Stone, and Victory. In 2003, the brewers got together with “a noble endeavor with the goal to highlight the passion and camaraderie of the American craft brew movement.” Almost a decade later, they came together to dream up the Saison du BUFF, an American take on the Belgian classic. They utilized the farmer’s spice rack in this Saison, sprinkling rosemary, thyme, sage, and parsley into the mix. It’s decent, and initially pretty complex, but it’s not as punchy or dynamic as I would want my Saison to be. While it follows the Saison tradition of mixing available ingredients, it’s a good brew, but not the best of in show.

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Jack D’Or Saison Americaine


Beer: Jack D’Or
Brewery: Pretty Things
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.5%

 Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Wine glass
Drinking Establishment: Chez 98th Street
Primary Consumer: Kerensa

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OVERALL RATING:



Sight: Pale yellow, cloudy body with a thick white head.

Smell: Initial smell is malt and a rich scent of lemony citrus. Then it smells like a Flemish sour, with an intense tangy note. Lingering smell of lemon Pine-Sol.

Flavor: The first note is actually lemon Pine-Sol. There’s an overpowering bitterness that feels uncomfortable going down. The bitterness is mitigated by a slight hint of coriander. Impressively, though, Pretty Things did not add any spice or citrus zest. The flavor that emerges is from mixing a number of hops, malts, and four yeast strains.

Feel: Thin body, slick, with moderate carbonation.

Concluding Remark: The brewers describe Jack D’Or (Jack is a cartoon of a grain of malted barley) as having a “bitter backbone,” but I would go so far as to say that it has a bitter skeleton. There is very little in here to balance the hops. In true American spirit, Pretty Things out of Cambridge, Massachusetts takes a Belgian classic and dumps a proverbial handful of hops in the mix. However, instead of appreciating their ingenuity, I’m just looking forward to opening the next Saison in my fridge (it’s a Belgian). All in all, it’s not a bad beer, but it was not what I was expecting from something labeled “Saison.” Maybe I just need to readjust my expectations of a “Saison Americaine.”

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