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.
The Bruery Saison Rue
A beer that smells like a horse blanket may not sound appealing, but this fragrance, common to beer with wild yeast, is the scent of a category of beers that is seeing surging popularity. The sour beer, a funky, slightly acidic, fruity category out of Belgium, is now hugely in fashion among geeks and the beer-curious. If you fall into the latter category, we have the beer to start: The Saison Rue from The Bruery is a subtle, well-balanced intro to the strange, but rewarding style.
The Bruery is a family operation out of Placentia, California that is known for its adventurous and off-beat beers, like this sour. It brews this beer with a traditional, non-sour Belgian yeast strain and add rye for extra body. Only after this fermentation has completed do the brewers pitch their sour yeast strain called Brettanomyces (or Brett). Then, the Brett is allowed to sit tight and work its magic for another month before bottling.
The result is crisp, peppery ale with undertones of plums, mild herbal flavors and an earthy, mouth-puckering funk. There are so many different flavors that you could pair it with almost anything, but we'd recommend that you first pair yourself up with someone else before cracking the $14, 750 mL bottle – its 8.5% alcohol can pack a punch. [thebruery.com]