In Europe, especially Belgium and France, farmhouse breweries are famous for their refreshing ales made with saison yeast. Traditionally these were low-alcohol brews designed for daily consumption by farm workers during the harvest. For me, Saison Dupont, now more widely available in Boise, sets the standard. American versions often pump up the volume, with alcohol levels more than 6 percent. This week, we have a very different take on the style from Dupont, along with two exciting entries from Oregon.
Dupont's Biere de Miel
Flavored with honey, this brumous, copper-colored ale is topped by a thin, cream-colored froth that leaves a nice lacing. Earthy, herbal aromas are colored by floral honey and a spicy bit of brett. Round fruit flavors dominate the palate, where sweet malt is balanced by tangy citrus with spice kicking in on the finish. This is an intriguing brew, but you feel a bit of heat from the 8 percent alcohol--I'll stick with their saison.
Upright Brewing's Four
Sometimes less is more. This Portland, Ore., brewery has produced a worthy saison that is both light and flavorful. Four is a hazy, straw-colored pour that mixes pale and wheat malts. The aromas are a combo of orange blossom, herbs and grass, while the flavors are clean and refreshing with lip-smacking tartness backed by biscuit, bright citrus and lemon zest. With its soft carbonation and dry finish, this brew is definitely a food-friendly choice.
Upright Brewing's Six
A thick, tan head with good persistence covers this cloudy, coffee-colored ale. The rye in the blend definitely comes through on the nose, along with hints of citrus and papaya. That rye is still there on the palate, but it lurks more in the background behind flavors of chocolate, tangy cherry and creamy malt. Touches of earth and smoke come through on the finish. This beer makes for a good winter warmer.