American Saisons: 5 Beers for Spring
Spring is in full swing, and with warm weather and crisp breezes come spades of seasonal brews. One of the most popular styles this time of year is the saison (“season” in French). Originating in Belgium, saisons were designed as refreshing beers to serve after a day’s work in the hot sun. Although they are technically pale ales, they are much more complex than others of that family, with elements of pilsner and hefewizen in the brew. Known for their light body and crisp finish, they also carry heavy spicing and prevalent fruit flavors. Though some of the best are still brewed in Belgium, U.S. options are gaining steam. Here are five of our favorite American saisons.
Cooperstown, NY-based Ommegang creates beers that hew close to traditional Belgians, and their saison is no different. Hennepin is lightly hopped and brewed with ginger and orange. It is on the dark side, with a rich amber hue, and sports a strong and dense head, which pairs nicely with the opening taste of hops. The second flavor is a heavy dose of citrus, mainly orange. Hennepin finishes with a strong taste of coriander — a popular Saison spice — as well as a very light, but apparent, bit of banana. It falls on the high end of the alcohol spectrum for the style, coming in at 7.7% ABV.
Heavy Seas Red Sky At Night
The saison from Baltimore, MD’s Heavy Seas Brewing is known as Red Sky at Night. This too is relatively strong, registering 7.5% AB, and has an orange tint, unlike the typical straw color of the average saison. The head is lighter than most, with the white foam evaporating rapidly. The beer opens with a strong hop note, but then immediately reveals its density, containing a multitude of tastes, including banana and pear. Hidden under those is a subtle layer of caramel, lending the beer the robust feel of a brown ale.
Dogfish Head Saison Du BUFF
For their saison, Delaware-based Dogfish Head collaborated with several other breweries. This group effort from Dogfish, Stone Brewing Company and Victory Brewing Company is a stellar offering, and — just like with everything Dogfish Head — is anything but normal. This brew relies heavily on herbs, with sage, rosemary, parsley and thyme all steeped in during the process. The beer pours a perfect straw color, with a dense head. Hops are present in the first taste, but under it come the herbaceous notes, along with a hint of lemon. At 6.8% ABV, it’s also a little lighter on the alcohol.
New Belgium Prickly Passion
The spring offering from what may be the hottest craft brewer in the country right now — Denver, CO’s New Belgium Brewing — is Prickly Passion. The beer takes a different route than most, bringing fruit, not hops, to the forefront. This concoction is brewed with the juices from passion fruit and prickly pears, the flavors of which are obvious from the get-go, as is the alcohol content. This is a strong beer, coming in at 8.50% ABV. Prickly Pear has the nice straw typical of the style, though the head that doesn’t carry as well as some others. However, it finishes pleasantly with a touch of spice and bit of peppery bite.
The lightest of our picks comes from Philadelphia’s Yards Brewing Company. Their saison comes in at 6.50% ABV, and makes for a smooth, light quaff. The beer has a hazy look to it, though it does not have the complexity that others do, drinking almost like a refreshing pilsner. There is little spice and nary a sour note, but it does have a strong hint of pear that shows through. The hops are also faint, coming more on the back end than in the opening. Alongside the hops are a grassy bite, which adds a refreshing feel. It also comes packed with carbonation, making it, and all these other beers, the perfect brew to enjoy on a warm, breezy spring day.
What are your favorite saisons for spring? Let us know in the comments.