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Tim Bissell Tim Bissell
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The Three Pint Stance - 06/22/2016

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'Tis the season for saison

Summer has arrived, and the best way to beat the heat is to go down into the basement and bring up the saison that you have been storing all Winter/Spring.

What? You didn't brew a large batch of saison last fall, carefully aging it throughout the colder months in anticipation of the inevitable summer swelter? For shame! If you were a Wallonian farmer in the 1700s, you would be in a tough spot. Lucky for you, saisons are now readily available for your summer refreshment.

What is a saison? Well, the short story is that it is a light, effervescent Belgian ale that is brewed in the fall with the intention of storing it for later drinking during the summer wheat harvest. Historically, there was much variation in both flavor and color from farmhouse to farmhouse, but modern saisons all tend to be on the lighter side, and are fermented warm to bring forth a fruity/peppery flavor. Most saisons are brewed with a solid dose of hops, as the style was designed for storage and the hops would act as a preservative as well as add a distinct bitterness to the beer.

When first exploring the style, I would recommend starting with the quintessential saison, Saison Dupont by Brasseire Dupont. This light and refreshing ale is everything a saison should be. It is readily available and serves as a great baseline from which to compare other saisons.

While imported Saisons may have the history behind them, there are many fantastic examples of the style being brewed right here in Maine. Allagash Saison has been available for just over 2 years now, but has quickly emerged as a standout amongst US Saisons. It is peppery and fruity with a refreshingly dry finish.

Oxbow located in Newcastle - is also known for producing authentic farmhouse ales in their rustic farmhouse brewery. Saisons and farmhouse ales are traditionally one in the same, but I hesitate to call most modern saisons farmhouse ales since they are mostly brewed in industrial parks and brew pubs. Oxbow's Farmhouse Pale Ale is most certainly NOT brewed in an industrial park. One trip to Oxbow's Newcastle brewery and you will be enchanted by both the location and the refreshing brew they produce there.

A little closer to home, the newly-opened Mason's Brewing Company in Brewer is producing a very tasty saison. You would be hard-pressed to find a better beer on their menu to enjoy out on the patio while listening to a Waterfront Concert across the river. There is something to be said about the enhanced flavor experience that can come from drinking a saison outside with the sun shining and a cool breeze coming off the river.

But don't take my word for it.


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