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Beer in general is consumed year-round of course, but some styles of beer are best suited to be enjoyed during the spring, summer, winter, or fall.
As beer lovers, our goal is to seek out and test as many different styles of beer that we can, and one such beer style that is definitely a part of summer drinking is saison beer.
As with so many other types of beer, whether it’s an IPA, Sour, Stout, or any other style, everybody has a different taste. So if you are a craft beer lover like we are, and have never had this particular style of beer, have a look at our top picks for the best saison beers, and see what you think.
What Is a Saison Beer?
Saison is a style of beer that is classified as a farmhouse summer ale, and is usually highly carbonated, spicy and fruity.
Originally, these beers were intended to be an easy drinking beer with lower alcohol levels. But that is changing now as the ABV continues to increase in many of these saison beers.
Most saisons are known to have a cloudy, golden color. The grist, (grain) used is mostly a pale or pilsner malt, with occasional darker malts making for a redder hue. Usual spices in a saison include coriander, ginger and orange zest. Saisons are generally fermented at a slightly warmer temperature than other types of Belgium ales.
History Of Saison Beer
Saison is truly a beer of the people. It was invented in the 18th Century in the Wallonia region of Southern Belgium as a refresher for farmhands. It would be brewed in the winter and ready to drink by the time farmhands were working saisons were a refreshing and hydrating drink that was consumed throughout the day. Wallonia was the French speaking area of Belgium, and “Saison” is French for “season.”
Saison can be considered a farmhouse ale, which is where farmers brewed beer from grains on their own farms. This ancient European tradition provided an everyday beverage for farmers and their workers, as it was refreshing and safer to drink than water.
Farmhouse ales were created, and still are created, not only in Belgium but in America, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Estonia and Latvia. In some of these countries there are breweries that still make beer utilizing the traditional farmhouse method.
Best Saison Beers You Should Try
Although there are more saisons available throughout the county, and brewed with such a wide variety of spices and ingredients, each one has its own distinct characteristics and flavors.
Here is a list of what we think are the best tasting saison beer brands that are available today.
Goose Island Sofie
USA – 6.5% ABV
This classic champagne-colored Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale is named after the founder’s granddaughter. It is wine barrel-aged utilizing hand-zested orange peel.
A bright white foam has moderate retention and nice lacing that lasts long after the pour. The taste and aroma certainly reflects the citrus, but there is a nice contrast with spicy white pepper.
Overall it is light, and very tasty.
Funkwerks Farmhouse Ale
USA – 6.8% ABV
Funkwerks focuses on saison beer, and this one began as a test batch in the brewer’s backyard and became a multiple award winner at the Great American Beer Festival.
This beautiful orange colored beer pours a moderate white head that retains quite well. This Belgium-style saison has notes of passion fruit, tangerine, apple, pepper, ginger and spices. It is also very yeast forward.
Allagash Farmhouse Ale
USA – 6.1% ABV
Allagash loves their saison so much that for years they have been coordinating a national saison day at breweries and brewpubs across the nation. This is a classic golden brew, with a number of prominent flavors including apple, pepper, coriander, caramel, spices, plus earthy hits of barn and cork.
Like most good saisons it is well carbonated. The taste of the beer is yeasty and spicy with the right amount of sweetness.
Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale
USA – 8.5% ABV
Yep, you read that correctly: this Belgium-style farmhouse ale is a strong beer. It got its name because this beer was created in fermentation tank #7.
It pours a cloudy amber color and a white foam head that vanishes rather quickly, leaving behind some moderate lacing. This beer has an aroma of cardamom and clove, and tastes of citrus, spice, hops, soap, and caramel flavors.
This beer has it all, and is not only one of the booziest Saisons on this list, but it also one of the spiciest.
Anchor Saison Spring Ale
USA – 7.2% ABV
This famed Northern California microbrewery brings the traditional Belgian-style saison with a California twist: a locally cultured saison-style yeast and three California ingredients: ginger, lemon peel, and lemongrass.
This makes for a herbal spiciness mixed with a crisp tang. Definitely one of the best saison beers.
USA – 6.5% ABV
The classic saison, and one of the best. Created on a farm in 1950 (the working farm dates back to 1759) it was “discovered” by famed beer lover Michael Jackson and then because of his recommendation, this beer (and saison in general) started gaining popularity around the world.
Dupont Brewery uses its own house strain of yeast, of which beer fans have speculated but never figured out its origin. The color is yellow and cloudy, and the flavors range from earthy to peppery to funky. This beer is moderate in alcohol and full of flavor, and revered throughout the beer-drinking community.
USA – 8% ABV
This classic farmhouse ale is crafted at a small Oklahoma brewery that was founded in 2012. As the name indicates, the main player in this saison is hops and more hops.
The color is a cloudy golden yellow, and flavors range from earthy hops to funky to citrus. Smells off mango, peach, and other citrus, with a hint of bread. It has a large fluffy white foam that sticks around awhile. This beer is on the higher alcohol side and full of flavor, and revered throughout the beer-drinking community.
Dunham Saison Du Pinacle
Canada – 6.5% ABV
A relatively new brewery, founded in 2011, brings this modern take on the classic saison. It features both American and Australian hops and is brewed with oats, rye and wheat.
The brewing in red wine barrels adds a nice touch to a complex aroma and flavor. Complex and smooth, the taste evokes white pepper, leather, oak, and a nice barny funk.
Arthur Farmstead Ale
USA – 6.0% ABV
Hill Farmstead Brewery is a family joint, and Arthur was the grandfather’s youngest brother. To honor him, this brew was made from a mix of American and European hops, American malted barley, and both yeast and water from the property itself.
A fan of beer aficionados, it is tart but not too funky, balance of fruit and oak, and is crisp and exceptionally carbonated.
USA – 6.5% ABV
Crisp and dry, and with a manageable alcohol content so it’s perfect for summer slow drinking.
What makes this different from most other Saison beer brands is that the Belgian yeast is added after fermentation. This means that if you drink one beer today and another in six to eight months, you might have a very different drinking experience.
This beer pours a hazy, light honey color, with an off-white foam head that dissipates rather quickly while leaving some small lacing on the glass. It has an aroma and taste of lemon peel and other citrus notes, with a bit of funk mixed in.
Grisette Summer Ale
USA – 5.6% ABV
Another multiple gold and silver award winner from the Great American Beer Festival, this blissful mix of wheat malt, barley malt, and a Belgian yeast places this beer somewhere between the funk of a saison and the fruit of a hefeweizen.
The name “Grisette” is derived from the French word for “gray.” This refers not only to the color of the rocks being mined but to the factory gear worn by the young women (the grisettes) who doled out pints as the men left the mines at the end of a hard day.
Where To Find These Saison Beer Brands
If you would like to try some of these beers for yourself but can’t find them at your favorite pub or local liquor store, many of these popular saison beers are available online at Drizly.com.
You can browse their website and find a wide selection of of various beer styles, wine, and spirits, and have them delivered to you from a local liquor store, or have them shipped to you if they are not available where you live.
If you can’t find these on Drizly.com, you can also get some of these beers from the rare beer club, or another monthly beer club.
Final Say On Saison Beer
Everybody has their favorite style of beer and saisons are not for everyone. Just like many styles of beer, some people love it, and some people hate it, and for others, it is an acquired taste.
But you will never know for yourself unless you give it a try.
If you are a beer drinker who enjoys trying different styles of craft beer that you have never tried before, go ahead and give a few of these a try.
You just might find one that you like, and it might end up being your new favorite summer beer.