I went on a bit of a spiritual journey this summer.
Normally (aka previous summers) my beers of choice have been pretty regular: a cold Pils, a nice session IPA, or even a solid Helles or lager from time to time. I think this goes for most of us beer people: if we’re outside relaxing, we like to have a few beers, not go BJCP on everything we drink, and enjoy the bliss that the heat of the sun and a cold beer brings, as the summer sunshine comes and goes far too quickly here in the Great North.
In my frequent browsing one May morning of my local LCBO’s shelves, I discovered a trend: There are a lot of local Saisons being made. I had never really explored the Saison before, mostly due to the fact that prior to this summer, there weren’t as many being made locally that my LCBO carried (and granted, I probably didn’t look very hard at this style). Wish I’d discovered them sooner! (For those who don’t know what a Saison or Farmouse ale is, click here.)
Something I really love about summer is that I seem to remember the new beers I had contextually – the scene, my mood, the music playing when drinking it. I think the environment really contributes to a beer drinker’s happiness in the moment, and in my blog writing, helps me to remember what I’ve had. With that in mind, i’ve decided to tell you about my top five Ontario saisons – in no particular order – with some extras! See if you can enjoy them the same way I did!
Sawdust City 7 Weeks of Staying Up All Night Picnic Table Saison
Where I had it first: Bar Hop during that massive July heatwave
What song was playing: I Got A Name – Jim Croce
I list this first because, quite frankly, it is fucking stellar. Came to me in a glass at Bar Hop around 5PM, where I sat with a couple hours to kill waiting for a friend of mine (and writing ideas for articles for this blog). It had been a particularly stressful and hot day that day, and I’d seen this beer praised on social endlessly.
Notes of the inclusive pink peppercorn and lemon zest are immediately evident in the aroma, as well as a pleasant (yet thin) yeast ester that is present in the flavour, too. Very light-bodied, fruity, and with medium carbonation, this is a complex beer I discover something new in every time I drink it. I literally drove to Gravenhurst to get some. You should too. No word on if it will be back for next summer. Update: it’ll be back next summer. REJOICE.
Oast House Saison
Where I had it first: My backyard on a weekend when I had nothing to do but cut the grass
What song was playing: I Don’t Want To Know – Fleetwood Mac
Anyone who wandered into the LCBO this summer saw a corked bomber bottle of this on the shelves, emblazoned with the comforting and familiar Oast House branding. I enjoyed this while doing nothing but listening to the Spotify playlist my family had prepared for our little backyard relaxation sessions where we sit around and drink while playing with the neighbour’s cats that they leave out all the damn time.
Extremely faithful to the style, this one is incredibly balanced with an alcoholic spiciness in the flavour, a funk that is not easily forgotten in the aroma, an extremely light malt body, and a distinctly low-carbonation mouthfeel that made this entire bottle very, very easy to drink (and very hard to share).
Left Field Sunlight Park Saison
Where I had it first: Steamwhistle’s Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival
What song was playing: Something by Plaid on Flannel, i don’t remember
Victoria had implored I give this a shot after she drank gallons of it at one of the SOBDL events prior, and mentioned it was the best thing she’d had in a while. A bold claim, so I had to investigate for myself. By the way, always attend this festival – it is, in my opinion, the best one of every summer.
Dominated by citrus (grapefruit zing with lemony sweetness) in both aroma and flavour, this stands out as having a fairly grassy hop profile – while not overbearing, it certainly is there; complemented by a ever so slight tartness and the higher carbonation on this list. Mandie & Mark picked a great name for this beer, as it is quite literally the defining qualities of a summer afternoon – sunny, grassy, and ever-so-refreshing. “More-ish” is how I describe Sunlight Park.
Amsterdam Howl Farmhouse Ale
Where I had it first: Out of a growler on the first hot summer weekend of the year on a patio
What song was playing: Higher Ground – Stevie Wonder
I only had one pint of this because my mom drank the rest, after proclaiming it was her favourite beer in the known universe. So there’s that. It won an award in 2014 and came back this year!
Spicy. Alcohol is the forward profile of this saison, with lots and lots of yeast complexities and a very (nearly overbearing) funk, thanks in part to the 2 Brettanomyces strains inclusive in this beauty . As i got through my glass, I was greeted by a medium grain maltiness and a low-yet-notable floral hop character. If you’re a Brett fan, you’ll love Howl. If not, suck it up, because you’ll still like Howl.
Muskoka Moonlight Kettle Summer Saison
Where I had it first: A hot brew day in Mathew’s apartment
What song was playing: Matt screaming in the background of the Jays game about the beer he was making
When Matt (the guy I write this blog with) and I get together, there’s a lot of fawning over beers. The rule at his place is as long as you bring beer, you may take whatever is in his two fridges full (“why are there vegetables in the beer crisper?” he loudly asks his lovely and tolerant girlfriend, Deb.) So, I picked the Moonlight Kettle series beer – i’m told now has it’s 2nd installment, an APA.
Colouring on this saison was definitely the darkest I’d seen, with an upfront yeast and clove presence in the thick white head (which, i must say, had the best retention and lacing of this bunch). Very complex with a very present malt backbone, Moonlight Kettle was the heftiest beer in this bunch alcohol-wise, but hid it beneath beautiful carbonation and farmhouse funk.
Honorable mentions include Bellwoods Farmhouse Classic, Collingwood Saison, and Cameron’s Into The Shade Saison.
Disagree with my analysis or picks? Sound off in the comments!