I have always been a Stout drinker. I like my beers to be thick and hardy; to stick with you. The deeper and the darker the better. I love a nice hoppy beer but the malts always seemed to carry more depth of flavor. The roundness of a proper malt character just works with my taste.
When I go into a bar with a decent tap list I would immediately scan the list for Stouts and Imperial Stouts but as of late I find myself looking for Saison and Farmhouse Ales. I am drawn to the funkiness. To the layer after layer of various favors. To the subtle turns between sips. They are weird and twisted and kind of strange. I get the impression that these beers don’t always do what they are supposed to do. The yeast operating like Peter Seller’s Dr. Strangelove. They are fascinating to me right now. Luckily there are a number of breweries that are providing excellent examples of the style right now that you can try in and around Central PA.
First up is ZerØday Brewing’s Saison 28. I have mentioned this beer at least a couple times on the blog and frankly it deserves all the praise. The beer was poured into a snifter and presented with a dried grass colored haziness. The aroma is slightly yeasty with a hint of lemongrass. It’s hoppy upfront with a proper floral bitterness that is welcoming. The carbonation was as fine as to draw comparison to Champagne. The slight Farmhouse funk and earthy tones in the finish grow more pronounced as the beer warmed and disappeared from the short stubby glass. This Saison is big and weighted in at 9.9% ABV but it drinks like some sub-4.0 near beers; careful with this one. This beer is as effervescent and deep as the girl that brewed it. This beer is fantastic. I loved it.
Shut Up, Meg by Evil Genius is the most approachable of the Farmhouse Ales I’ve had as of late. It was mildly sour with a bright nose that lacked the deep earthy funkiness that can be off putting to some drinkers. A cloudy straw colored ale that was forward tasting of citrus hops and a light spice finish this beer is easy drinking and is not loaded with booze at only 6%. This is perfect for introducing someone to Saisons/Farmhouse ales. It’s very well done and plays well with the subtle end of the Farmhouse ale spectrum.
Moo-Duck Brewery’s Just for Fun Ginger Saison was a special brew made just for Harrisburg Beer Week. It is still around and available currently at the Elizabethtown brewery. The aroma is citrusy with a strong but pleasant ginger spiciness in the nose. Smooth drinking with slight farmhouse funk in the front and a long crisp and slightly sweet finish that brings the ginger flavor full circle. The funky flavors here are a little muted and make for a very easy drinking beer clocking in at 6% ABV. The ginger puts a nice twist on the style and worked well.
Last was my favorite of the four, Dean Rustic Farmhouse Saison by Spring House Brewing Company. I had this on draft at the Sturges Speakeasy and it was a great beer. In the nose I picked up cloves and a little spiciness from the yeast along with pears. The taste opens up with a farmhouse funk and again some pears and apple; making it crisp in flavor. The beer was not overly carbonated and provided for a nice dry mouthfeel. As the beer warmed the big 9% ABV became evident but was not off putting. The medium bodied beer is deep amber in color. The finish is funky as hell with focus on earth tones and a long slightly sour dry finish that I loved. This is a big beer that drinks lighter than it should; though not quite to the degree of Saison 28 above which masks the alcohol with what I assume is magic.
All four beers are very good and recommended. Dean Rustic Saison and Saison 28 get the Bearcat Seal of Approval.