You can’t mess with Saison. Seriously, don’t even try. You meet a frothy glass of it in an alley, promptly throw down your wallet, bow your head, take a few cautious steps backward, and run.
And, just recently, a new player has stepped out of the alley and onto the scene. Harpoon Brewery has teamed up with Jeff Wallace, the NYC Whole Foods Beer Buyer (and an avid homebrewer), on a new collaboration called “Saison Liaison,” which will only be available at Whole Foods Markets in NYC that carry growlers.
Saisons are my favorite beer style, made even cooler by the fact that they nearly disappeared from the world, only to be resurrected again in the last few years, and especially embraced by the American craft beer scene. Saisons are traditionally farmhouse-style ales, meaning they were brewed in the spring when weather conditions were right. Brewing in the summer was a gamble and threatened to produce a slew of nasty bacteria that thrive in the heat, and want nothing more than to sink their little teeth into your sweet brew of fermenting goodness and hold a right microbial orgy.
Of course, that all obviously changed with the dawn of refrigeration. Sorry, microbes.
Saisons are also one of those styles that brewers can tinker with and truly leave their stamp on. By adjusting their blend of spices, as well as selecting their signature yeast, Saisons lead to some room for creative sashay. They’re flavorful, zippy, complex, and wholly unique; kind of like an impromptu bluegrass gathering where twenty musicians show up and make harmony.
And so it was with both a slight trepidation and boyish eagerness, I swung open the lid on my growler of Saison Liaison. Pouring a hazy, orange color in the glass, there was some minimal, but surely present, lacing.
On the nose, notes of banana bread and orange marmalade rose from the glass. It had a silky mouthfeel, and a bit of hop bitterness on the mid-palate, but it left me longing for a tart zip or jolt of some jazz. The musicians, while present, need a little more soul in their performance. This is Saison, baby, push that pedal down! Get your hands dirty!
A moderately long finish with hints of yeast and clove left me wanting something quirky, something surprising. But I kept hitting the glass for more, so that’s always the barometer: are you going back for more? And I was.
Was it a flourish of creativity? No. Was it a memorable romp through the dazzling alleyways of Saison town? No. But will it wash away your cares while you pluck your banjo in the sunshine? Yes.