Lomaland Saison from Modern Times Beer
Saisons are the perfect style of beer, in my not-so-humble opinion. By striking a balance between the sawdusty mouthfeel of a hefeweizen and the cloyingly sweet notes of blonde ales, saisons are crisp and refreshing on a hot summer day, yet malty and robust enough for a cool winter night. Despite their universally seasonal appeal and mid-range alcohol content (usually around 5-7 percent ABV), they’re often overlooked by consumers in favor of trendier styles like sours or the current (much maligned) NE-style IPA haze craze.
This underrated farmhouse style finally got its due when Allagash Brewing Company out of Portland, Maine spearheaded Saison Day on April 8th four years ago. (Others celebrate the occasion earlier in March.) While this holiday has yet to be federally recognized—a travesty if I’ve ever heard one—it does mark the unofficial start of springtime beer drinking, which is arguably the best season to enjoy saisons, although I maintain every season is saison-worthy.
Only a handful of local breweries keep this Belgian brew on regular rotation, and the various offerings range from fairly traditional to completely unconventional in their approach. Modern Times falls on the old-school scale with Lomaland (5.5 percent ABV), one of its core cans that’s surprisingly unsurprising. It’s one of the cleaner, drier saisons available locally and always worth a try if you can resist whatever new brew its just tapped. White Labs often has a revolving menu of saison and saison-inspired brews—each with a different yeast propagation from its vault—that are best tried side-by-side for those looking to hone their molecular palates. Resident Brewing’s Golden Kiss (5 percent ABV, a Belgian/French saison), The Lost Abbey’s Red Barn Ale (6.7 percent ABV, a spicy and aromatic option) and Amplified Ale Works’ Harmonic Saison (6 percent ABV, a funky, peppery take) also embody the classic saison elements without straying too far from the style guidelines.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Border X Brewing’s Blood Saison (7 percent ABV) challenges the definition of saison with the addition of hibiscus and agave, which give it an unmistakable crimson hue not often associated with the style. Likewise, Council Brewing regularly churns out tart twists on the farmhouse variety with various Beatitude bottles, which range from passionfruit to prickly pear (4.5 percent ABV). Keep an eye out for its prized Les Saisons 2017 release in mid-May. Mother Earth Brew Company recently revealed a limited release hybrid collaboration with Orange County’s The Bruery: a dry-hopped saison with kumquats as part of its “Four Seasons of Mother Earth” series (6.5 percent ABV).
Finally, Toolbox Brewing Company is one of the most saison-savvy breweries in the area. At any given time, it offers multiple barrel-aged, blended or Brettanomyces-laden bottles and taps for aspiring saisonheads to quaff. Try the barrel-aged Grisette (5 percent ABV) for a drier finish or pick up a bottle of the Saison Rustique Framboise with raspberries (7 percent ABV) for a tart and elevated riff.