The saison beer style originated in farmhouse breweries along the border of France and Belgium's Wallonian region. The rustic ales were part of the compensation offered to the seasonal workers or "saisoniers" who would bring in the region's harvest. Since beer was often safer to drink than water, the brewing of saison was an integral part of the local economy. Each farm would brew the beer during the slow winter months and then store it for use over the course of the summer. Larger farms would have their own breweries and smaller breweries would often utilize a community brewery. The grain from leftover from each batch would make ideal feed for livestock, furthering the beer's utility.
Modern saisons are brewed year round and they're generally a bit stronger than their historical progenitors, but the emphasis remains on light and refreshing beers with rustic notes such as pepper, clove and often a gentle tartness. The beers we chose here represent the best of what we've found in the saison style. They range from classic examples by century old farm breweries in Wallonia to wild and aggressive interpretations by upstart American breweries experimenting with new hop varieties, barrel aging, and wild yeasts. Collectively they're the best saisons on earth.
Boulevard Brewing Company's Tank 7
When Boulevard Brewing Company's founder and owner John McDonald sold the company to Belgium's Duvel Moortegaat in late 2013 beer geeks across the country nearly exploded with angst at the change. We like the idea of locally owned companies, but given the results that Duvel has achieved with their ownership of Ommegang we're inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. Early indications are that the move will see Boulevard shipping their beers into new markets and the beer we're most looking forward to seeing on the shelves in our favorite bottle shops is their Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale.
Tank 7 is one of the beers in Boulevards Smokestack series, boldly flavored beers that they referment in corked and cage 750 mL bottles. Tank 7 is a supercharged take on the belgian saison style. Packed with assertive American hops and clocking in at 8.5 percent alcohol it's an aggressive take on the saison tradition mixing hoppy notes of grapefruit and peach skins along with pepper, clove and a vigorous prickly fermentation. Despite it's heft, Tank 7 finishes clean and dry.