Seriously, look it up. Summer goes until late September these days, thanks to climate change or the revolution of the earth around the sun or some shit—vaccines, maybe, I dunno, I'm not a weather doctor, but I did get a calendar for Valentine's Day.
Regardless, it's a damn fine thing for those of us who haven't even gotten around to eating the season's first lobster. There's a reputedly excellent lobster-rollery in my neighborhood, even, but I haven't mustered the courage to investigate "market price" yet. The intimidating financial aspect here makes me wish I were impoverished or imprisoned in colonial New England; there was such a lobster glut back then that the only way to prevent nature's most delicious crustaceans from rising up and taking over was to turn them into peasant food.
And though I'm more temperamentally suited to prison or penury than to hard labor, I think I might have flourished as a Wallonian farmhand during the pre-refrigeration era, as well. I would happily trade toil for saison, the farmhouse ales originally brewed in the winter to be served to the summer help in Belgian fields. The style was interpreted broadly, as it was defined as much by seasonality and intended audience as by brewing process or ingredients, but the original saisons tended to be very dry, moderately hoppy, and designed for long-haul drinking. Saisons were also united by their reliance on a specific yeast type related to that used in red wine production.
Brasserie Dupont Saison, which has been around for 170 years, is the iconic commercial version. At 6.5 percent alcohol by volume, it's a bit sturdy for on-the-clock drinking, which is probably just as well given its price tag: $12 for 750mL of excellent beer is a fair deal, but it's pretty dear for simply hydrating the staff.
Kansas City's Boulevard Brewing makes one of the finest American versions. Their Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale debuted in 2009, which doesn't exactly make them domestic saison pioneers, but it positions them comfortably ahead of the style's current popularity surge. The price is also a bit nouveau lobster—a little north of $10 for the big bottle, around the same as Dupont—but at least it has the decency to pack a firmly after-work ABV of 8.5 percent. It's also a fantastic beer.
Tank 7 pours a deep gold with orange highlights and a fluffy white head. I'm not typically too concerned with a beer's appearance—I promise we're not going through this bullshit every day—but this one's notably attractive. It's also the very rare gem that displays aromas of malt, hops, and yeast in near-equal measure. Once you're done sniffing around and get down to business, it starts off juicier than expected, with peppery grapefruit notes leading into the lush, bready malt interior before a spiked tail of re-emergent cloves and slightly bitter orange from the Amarillo hops. Fit for a king, or a peasant.
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Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and has visited all of the other New England states, including, come to think of it, Vermont. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain.
Image by Jim Cooke.
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