It’s never been clear to me just what makes a saison, well, a saison. This style of beer carries with it a farmhouse aesthetic, from the lovely bouquet of musty horse blankets to the fact that it was actually, traditionally, brewed for farmhands. Sometimes they’re sour, sometimes they’re fruity, but they can also be spicy, and they’re usually yeasty, always earthy, brewed in the winter but meant to be consumed in the summer…It’s not an easy style to nail down.
Fortunately, Stillwater gave me a 12-oz. education in Saisons 101 with their Cellar Door.
Stillwater, one of the many gypsy brewers claiming its stake in the craft beer world, decided to brew its Cellar Door Farmhouse Ale/Saison as a straightforward example of this famous summer style. In a nutshell, the idea was to shoot for something that you’d be able to drink like juice, but still manage to capture a harvest-worth of flavors and tastes. Essentially what anyone after 12 hours of physical labor in the blistering sun would consider as ambrosia.
Cellar Door has a clear, golden-straw body, a feature that fits nicely with the whole farmhouse aesthetic. But it didn’t stop there. The aforementioned bittersweet-ness of barn door musk immediately enveloped the glass. While it had me masochistically yearning for more, the musk swiftly gave way to the familiar brettanomyces’ banana-flavored bubblegum aromas that tangoed with notes of sweeter sage and whole-wheat toast.
Unable to contain myself, I delved into my glass of wisdom. Immediately, I was face first in the sage, relishing in the herbal sweetness that I rarely find outside of yuppie brunch entrees. The medium-bodied beverage was definitely complex, proffering a cornucopia of flavors that wrapped themselves around my tongue in a fleeting fashion—malty caramels and honey as well as the ever-present banana. With a balancing cut of lemony zest, you could definitely find yourself swigging two or three of these after pushing Bessie the cow around the field, or mowing the yard all morning long.
So if you want the straightforward yet modern interpretation of the saison, look no further than the Cellar Door. You’ll definitely know afterwards what the hell everyone is talking about. So grab a bottle, chill out, and enjoy this study session.
Brewery: Stillwater Artisanal
City: Baltimore, Md.
Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Availability: Limited, 12-ounce bottles