There are few things more beautiful in the world of beer than a perfectly crafted Franco-Belgian saison, and that’s a fact. It’s a style of subtleties—two people can both love the same saison, but for completely different reasons. Perhaps you look at a golden, cloudy saison with a puffy shock of long-lasting foam, inhale, and are enticed by a complex blend of hard-to-place spices and herbal influences. Perhaps you like your saisons tart and fruity, expressing their brettanomyces or lactobacillus to the fullest. Perhaps you like your saisons barrel-aged or fruit-infused. They’re all perfectly valid expressions of a style that works very well as a template for experimentation, which is exactly what you find in many American breweries.
As such, when we began gathering together the best American saisons we could lay our hands on, what we found was a huge degree of variation and uniquely produced beers. We had saisons infused with sour apple, peach and even cantaloupe. We had saisons aged in barrels of all description. And we had resplendent examples of classic Franco-Belgian dry saisons, no less complex and mind-blowing than their fancier cousins. We got the best of both—of all—worlds on this one.
You may be asking why we only went after American-made saisons, and it’s a valid question for this particular style. Paste’s style rankings have always had a prominent focus on the American craft brewing industry, and we have no intentions to change that. We know that the likes of Saison Dupont are classic for the genre, and it simply doesn’t seem necessary to rank what we all know is great. Likewise, there are so many Belgian breweries making impossible-to-get saisons that going down that rabbit hole would simply result in a list where every comment is “Y NO FANTOME, BRO?!?” We still expect most of the comments to end up exactly like that, but hey, at least we tried.
Rules and Details
As previously mentioned, this was a tasting and ranking of only American-made saisons. No Belgian or otherwise non-American beers were included. If you’re wondering why a brewery such as Hill Farmstead is missing, it’s probably because we tried and they either don’t ship beer or don’t want to participate in tastings. Or we forgot. But the former is more likely. Tastings were conducted over the course of two days, completely blind. Tasters included beer writers, brewery owners and beer website operators. Thanks to Spiegelau for their superior glassware. We’re hoping to get some more styles in the future.
The Field: Saisons #35-21
Most of these saisons were solid—like our recent tasting of 39 wheat beers, the overall quality level was quite high. In total, there were probably only two or three beers that we unanimously found objectionable for one reason or another. Many of these were solid, classical interpretations of the saison style that were simply lacking some x-factor or unique quality that would have helped them stand out or separate from the pack.
As has become our norm in beer tastings/rankings, the following beers in “the field” are simply listed alphabetically—they are not ranked, because these rankings are meant to be a celebration of the best beers, not a condemnation of beers where something may have gone wrong. We include them just so you can see everything that was part of the tasting. Once again, these are not ranked.
Aspen Brewing Co. Belgian Farmhouse Saison
Boulevard Brewing Co. Spring Belle
Clown Shoes Date Night Saison
Crux Fermentation Project Impasse Saison
DuClaw Brewing Co. X-10 Saison with Cantaloupe
Epic Brewing Co. Sour Apple Saison
Golden Road Brewing Saison Citron
Great Divide Brewing Co. Colette Farmhouse Ale
Jailhouse Brewing Co. Reprieve French-Style Ale
Lost Abbey Red Barn Ale
North Coast Brewing Puck
Orpheus Brewing Lyric Ale
Terrapin Maggie’s Farmhouse Peach Saison
Victory Brewing Co. Helios Ale
Next: #’s 20-1, a winner is crowned