A Tale of Two Saisons, Pt. 1: Stone

(Originally appeared on the Tipsy Techie website in June 0f 2014. I’ve found myself craving this beer on hot summer days after yard work or a good hike. Still recommended.)

I have a confession to make. I’m not a big fan of saisons. I know that admitting to such a thing in some craft beer circles would mark me as a pariah for whom hanging is too good for. Because of my aversion of farmhouse ales, trips to the store during the spring and summer months tend to be disappointing. I find myself reverting back to my stand-bys.

However a few weeks back as I was perusing through one of my favorite shops, I spied the telltale demon head trademark of Stone Brewery peeking up out of the top of a six pack. Eager to try anything new from Stone, I picked up the pack.

“Stone Saison,” it said.

“Doh!” I replied.

But I hesitated putting it back. Being a Stone completist, how could I turn it away? Even though the sting from Crime was still fresh in my mind, I decided to give it a try.

I poured the bottle into a tulip glass and watched as the color went from a pale orange down into crisp yellow towards the bottom. As I finished pouring a nice compact head formed at the top. I held the glass up to the light and saw a faint haze within the beer. Also, the carbonation was quite strong.

I then brought the glass up to my nose. It was far more subtle then I expected from a saison. There were no hop aromas, but spice combined with lemon was prominent. Underneath those spicey tones the slight sweetness of the malt could be detected.

Encouraged by the subtley of the smell, I took a drink. “Tart”, is how I would describe my first impression. There was a strong tartness of the spices mixed with citrus. The body was on the lighter side of medium. Next came the sweetness, which wasn’t overpowering and then the bitterness of hops.

As I drank more, it occurred to me that the spice flavor was somewhere between cloves and white pepper with a bit of something floral. Lavender, perhaps?

The aftertaste is where most saison’s lose me. The typical unfiltered moutfeel combined with funky yeasts turns me right off. Stone’s saison, on the other hand, didn’t have any of that. The unfiltered quality of most farmhouse ales had been minimized, there wasn’t any cloying bananna-like yeast notes. The thing which stuck out most in the aftertaste for me was the hops. The bitterness of the hops linger far after the drink is done. As a result, I found the beer to be quite refreshing.

After I polished off the beer, I decided I needed to have another. A saison had never before formed that sort of relationshp with me. As I craked open another tube, I wondered, “Could this saison be the gateway to finding joy during the farmhouse ale season?”

… to be continued

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