Spring has sprung and it’s time to transition into some crisp and refreshing brews. To kick off the season, I have rounded up some beers to help power through those spring chores or perfect for sitting back and relaxing with friends on a sunshiny day.
Craft beer is all about diversity, which is reflected in the assortment of beer styles produced by breweries during the spring season. Let’s kick things off with Saison (seh zohn) and Session beers. Saison, French for season, is a pale ale that is generally around 7% ABV (alcohol by volume), highly carbonated, fruity, spicy, and often bottle conditioned. Historically, in the 15 and 1600s, they were farm house ales made in the cooler winter months and stored for summer use when the seasonal workers came to work the farm. These workers were called Saisonniers and were entitled up to five liters of beer every work day. Remember, in those days, water harbored bacteria and fermentation was a sure way to eliminate the risk. Back then, no one kept track of the ABV, but most agree they were probably 3 to 3.5 percent evolving to 4.5 to 6.5 in the early 20th century. Today, you are more likely to find them between 7 and 8.5 percent. Saison is generally a Belgium style brew utilizing Belgium style yeast to give it that crisp, fruity and clean finish.
A session beer can be of many styles but is typically characterized by refreshment, drinkability and low alcohol. Because of its low alcohol content, a session beer is more suitable for drinking over an extended period of time. In 17th century England, where pubs were the norm, men would meet there after a hard day’s work; they would have a session of beer before going home. With session beers, they could have multiple beers, within a reasonable time period or session, without overwhelming the senses or reaching inappropriate levels of intoxication. (Yep, they could drink and enjoy beer without getting drunk). Today most session beers do not exceed 5.5 %.
Stone Brewing’s Saison is a modern take on a Belgium classic. It checks in at 6% ABV, is very clean, dry and has a lavender floral nose. They use lemon zest, lemon thyme, grains of paradise, lavender and habanera peppers, all grown on its southern California 19 acre farm. It has a crisp peppery finish with a little heat.
Selkirk Abbey’s Rye Saison ale, that they call Saint Augustine, is a 6% ABV version where the yeast talks over the malt and hops. The rye adds a musty, sour rye flavor to this classic style. It pours a golden yellow with an off white creamy thin head with a dry finish.
Stone Brewing’s Go To IPA funnels an abundance of lupulin-borne bitterness into a “session” IPA. They employ a new technique called “hop bursting.” They add an irrational amount of hops to the final phase of the brewing process which coaxes out the extreme flavors and aromas while imparting a burst of pleasant bitterness. Tropical fruit aromas from the Mosaic and Citra hops explode from the glass.
These are just a few to kick off your spring “brew” training. Now get out there and try one for the team!