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.
Upright Brewing Company's Four
Upright Brewing Company could scarcely have found a less likely location to house a brewery that focuses on traditional Belgian farmhouse Ales. The company situated their tiny brewery and tasting room in the basement of a bank building in Northeast Portland, Oregon. The locale might be a far cry from the Belgium, but when it comes to brewing in the tradition, Upright is authentic in all the important ways.
Upright sources their hops directly from a local farm and use a proprietary yeast which we believe to be responsible for the herbal notes that appear across their line of beers. Each of Upright's bottled saisons is differentiated only by a number. The practice is a throwback to the Belgian practice of naming a beer only by it's Belgian gravity units - a measure of the dissolved sugar from the grain.
Four is the lightest and least alcoholic of the range and it's also probably the closest to the style's roots at 4.5 percent alcohol. Historical saisons were likely even lower in alcohol. By some accounts, farmhands would drink up to 5 liters of the stuff in a day so the brewers had incentive to keep them light.
Four pours a pale yellow with a dense foamy white head. Wheat flavors lead the way with a subtly tart impression to along with the style's signature pepper and clove notes. If you're looking for an authentic table saison, you're not likely to find one better.