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.
Brooklyn Brewery Sorachi Ace
Saisons are the classic summer beers of Belgium's French-speaking Wallonia region (like Saison Dupont, one of 'Men's Journal's' 25 Best Beers in the World). The name saison literally means season – a beer made in the winter for drinking during the summer harvest – but brewers now make this style year-round. These beers are full of bright summery citrus and spice flavors and are light and refreshing, as easy to drink as a pilsner. All these characteristics have the potential to clash – bringing out too much bitterness or overpowering the flavors – with many types of hops.
With this in mind, Brooklyn Brewery's brewmaster Garret Oliver chose to showcase the Sorachi Ace hop. This is an often overlooked Japanese hop originally created for Sapporo beers, the light, usually flavorless stuff you find in your run-of-the-mill sushi restaurant. Sapporo this is not: The bright lemon character of Sorachi Ace subtly shines in Brooklyn's saison. With just a touch of spice and a mellow dill-like flavor, this is a beer for hot days. We enjoyed it recently with a Greek salad and pork souvlaki, but it would do just as well with sushi or a wide variety of shellfish. [brooklynbrewery.com]