This week’s Canada’s Craft Beer post comes from our West Coast craft beer guy, Bryan Clegg. Bryan has outdone himself by touring four breweries to check out a classic beer style, the Saison, or Farmhouse Ale: Category 12 Brewing, Old Abbey Ales, Postmark Brewing and Bridge Brewing. And as a special bonus for you, he offers a tip on what to look for at beer retailers right now that the hops harvest is in.
This month we’re going to take a look at the Saison, also known as Farmhouse Ale.
Saisons were originally brewed in Wallonia, a French-speaking region of Belgium. The name Farmhouse is referring to the history of being brewed by farms during the slower, cold months of the year. Then when summer rolled around, these beers were served to their workers. As a result, traditional Saisons tended to have a lower ABV than modern renditions. The style guide, however, was broad then (due to the different strains of yeast and variety of spices each farm would use) and remains broad now.
For me, I consider a Saison to be a spicy beer. I expect flavours like pepper, coriander and orange zest. But outside of spiciness, I’ve come to expect anything because breweries love to experiment with the style.
So without further ado, let’s dive in!
Category 12 Brewing - Unsanctioned Saison
This is a clear golden pour from Category 12. Has a fruity aroma, mixed with a bit of funkiness that I can’t quite describe other than calling it funky. Fortunately, funk is also a hallmark of the Saison style. The taste is generally the same, fruit and funk, with a really light spice note thrown in. The spice isn’t strong but definitely noticeable. There is a lingering aftertaste, then the 6.9% alcohol makes itself known on the way out the door. Not bad overall, but not particularly memorable either.
ABV: 6.9% | Available: BC
Old Abbey Ales - Dry Hop Saison
Dry-hopping a beer means adding the hops without heat; that way the oil isn’t extracted and the hops only serve to add aroma to the beer. It works really well here, as this Old Abbey Ales Saison has a great aroma of fruitiness, hops, sweetness and a bit of bitterness. The taste is even better, with peppery spices, orange, a bit of carbonation and some sweetness leading to a light bitter aftertaste. Really smooth overall.
ABV: 6.5% | Available: BC
Postmark Brewing - Saisonella
This one from Postmark Brewing has the cloudiest pour of the bunch, which led me to expect a more wheaty flavour. The aroma is yeast and a bit of fruit. Taste is lemon, fruit with a sort of wheat backbone. There is some spice hiding in there, but it doesn’t make itself known in the way I would have expected. Aftertaste is mostly sweet and fruity.
ABV: 4.2% | Available: BC
Bridge Brewing - Dark Rye Sour Saison
As soon as I saw this Saison from Bridge Brewing I knew I had to try it. This one pours dark, nearly black with a big white head. The aroma is nice and sour, with dark fruits (instead of the usual lighter fruit type) and a nice rye body. The taste has sour and fruit. It’s actually a lot sweeter than I expected. Aftertaste is a bit of lingering tart and bitter. Really nice.
ABV: 6.5% | Available: BC
Seasonal Craft Beer Tip
When shopping at your local liquor retailer, keep an eye out for anything labeled “Wet-Hopped or Fresh-hopped.” The hop harvest is in, and breweries are currently pumping out awesome beers with those freshly picked hops. Those beers have a distinct flavour that can’t be replicated at any other time of the year. If you see one, check it out!
Bryan Clegg is the beer columnist for VanFoodies.com. Bryan has a wide and accommodating palate; whether it’s a tasty low-IBU ale or a ride on the IBU train to Hop Country, he’s happy to drink and share a story about the ride. Follow @vanfoodies on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.