I have really been enjoying the tasting classes at Top Hops. So after the stout tasting last month, I signed up for their Saison tasting class which took place last night. The man running these tastings has been Certified Cicerone Justin Crider and he has made every class interesting and informative. The class got to sample 17 Saisons from Europe and North America.
First beer of the night was the Brasserie Dupont Saison Dupont. This 6.5% ABV saison from Belgium is one of the best examples of the style. The Belgium yeast is the star here bringing out those classic flavors of peppery spice and dry fruitiness.
Another fine saison from Belgium, the Brasserie de Blaugies Saison d’Epeautre comes in at an ABV of 6%. The high carbonation of this beer lent to its dry character. Crisp and refreshing with maltiness from the use of Spelt.
Saison in a can? Well Brasserie St-Feuillien Saison proves it works. This is the only Belgium Saison that is sold in cans, though it does come in 750ml bottles as well. A very standard saison at an ABV of 6.5%. Nothing stood out about this beer besides the can itself. This would be the final saison from Belgium that we would try tonight. Justin decided to focus the rest of the tasting class on American style saisons and one from a brewery across the border in Canada.
How much more American can you get than a saison called Stateside? Stateside Saison is brewed in Baltimore, Maryland by Stillwater Artisanal Ales. This brewery mixes traditional brewing techniques with modern day ideas. They use a traditional farmhouse yeast and then add a nice amount of American and New Zealand hops. The beer is then bottled conditioned. Herbal and fruity with notes of spicy cloves and pepper. A mild bitter finish from the hops keeps this 6.8% ABV beer crisp.
Another fine saison from Stillwater Artisanal Ales. The Stillwater Artisanal Cellar Door uses German wheat and malts with a traditional saison yeast for a crisp taste. They throw in a nice amount of Citra and Sterling hops for citrus and herbal flavors. White sage is added to give a spicy flavor which also helps cleanse the palate. This saison weighs in at 6.6% ABV.
This is the last one from Stillwater Artisanal that the class got to taste. Their Existent saison mixes roasted malt flavors with earth hops. The roasted malts give this saison a dark amber hue and plays well off the hops. Sweet and malty with some fruity hop character at an ABV of 7.4%. If you served me this beer without telling me what it was, I’m not sure I could identify it as a saison, but it was delicious nonetheless.
Ok so there was one last saison from Europe that the class tried before tasting the rest from North America. Duchessa is brewed by Birra del Borgo in Borgorose, Italy. This saison uses spelt instead of barley. Moderately hoppy with floral, banana, and fruity flavors. I really enjoyed this 5.8% ABV beer.
From North of the border, Le Trou Du Diable La Saison du Tracteur comes to us from Shawinigan, Quebec. This is one of the few Canadian craft breweries that is distributed in the USA due to Canada’s tough export laws regarding alcohol. Tropical fruit with a slightly minty undertone. This beer comes in at 7% ABV.
Allagash Brewing out of Portland, Maine is well known for their White witbier and their bourbon aged Tripel called Curieux. This was my first time trying their saison and it didn’t disappoint. Classic dry saison flavors, but with the American touch of lots of hops which include Cascade, Bravo, and Tettnang. Peppery with citrus tones at an ABV of 6.1%.
Grassroots Brewing is a subsidiary of Hill Farmstead Brewing. Hill Farmstead founder Shaun Hill team up with Gabe Fletcher, founder of Anchorage Brewing Co., to brew their Arctic Saison at Anchorage Brewing in Alaska. “Where brewing is an art, and Brettanomyces is king” is the motto at Anchorage Brewing and the Brett definitely shines through in this oak fermented saison. Peppery phenols with hints of apples and a slight barnyard funkiness. This saison has an ABV of 6%.
Next up for the tasting was Opal from Firestone Walker which brews out of Paso Robles, California. This saison also plays up the hop profile with Styrian Golding, Amarillo, and Hallertau Blanc hops. Hints of lemon, pepper, and stone fruit are supported by a slight hop bitterness. Tart and sour with a refreshing finish at 7.5% ABV.
Barrelworks is Firestone Walker’s barrel aging program. They focus on wild beers that can only come about through the barrel aging process. Their Lil Opal is aged 14 months in French and American oak barrels which helps refine the fruity and spicy yeast flavors. The funk and tartness of Brettanomyces yeast and Lactobacillus bacteria make their presence known. It has an ABV of 5.9%. This was another stand out of the night for me. Unfortunately this beer is only available at the brewery which is a bit far from Bed-Stuy.
Salt Lake City’s Epic Brewing throws in a lot of spices into their Sour Apple Saison. This includes ground Ginger, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, Anise Seed, Grains of Paradise, and Coriander. These flavors are supported by the tart apple and are rounded out by the Saaz and Tettnang hops. Dry and fruity at an ABV of 7.7%.
The Perennial Artisan Ales Saison de Lis had the group of tasters divided. Some enjoyed this, some hated it. I found myself in the middle and just found it interesting. This St. Louis, Missouri born saison is brewed with chamomile flowers which gives the beer a very floral, tea-like flavor which bordered on ham like qualities. A very complex flavor profile at 5% ABV.
Brewing out of Denver, Colorado, Crooked Stave brewed this limited run beer last year. The Vieille Artisanal Saison get its funky flavor from Brett infected oak barrels and is lightly dry hopped for a floral tones. Fruity and tart yeast flavor with hints of the oak. A very light saison at an ABV of 4.2%.
Transmitter Brewing is only 5 stops away from me on the G train in Long Island City, Queens. They specialize in making Farmhouse style saisons and I have not found a beer they brew that I didn’t enjoy. The B4 Rum Barrel Aged Black Saison is no exception. I’m not much of a rum fan, but that didn’t deter my enjoyment of this beer. The rum only came through as a little bit of warming heat on the end. Roasted malts gave the beer a dark color as well as its flavors of coffee, caramel, and chocolate. As with the Stillwater Existent, if you didn’t tell me this was a saison I would have never guessed. A great beer for the winter at 9.1% ABV.
The final beer of the night was the Florence from the great Hill Farmstead Brewery based in Greensboro, Vermont. Hill Farmstead is considered one of the best breweries in the United States and it is beers like this that support that notion. This wheat saison is unfiltered and naturally carbonated with tart lemon flavors and white wine vinous notes. Smooth wheat flavor with light spiciness. Hill Farmstead is tough to get, so if you see it around grab a bottle or a pint!
So this was another outstanding night of tasting delicious beers. Thanks again to Justin Crider for leading the class through a wonderful selection of saisons.