Fall isn’t just a hard-to-peg, transitional time climatologically. It’s a shoulder season that can often have beer drinkers scratching their heads. When one day is sunny and warm and the next a winter preview, how are we supposed to stock up on appropriately timed suds if the weather itself can’t make up its mind? While those all-purpose stouts, porters, brown ales, and pumpkin ales have their place in this quandary, there’s one other beer style that fits the season more than any other: the Saison.
Occasionally still referred to as farmhouse ale (as it was traditionally brewed on the farm), this beer style originated in Belgium where it remains super-popular. Saisons are known for their yeasty, fruity, sometimes bottle-conditioned flavor—often with some added funk from the use of wild yeasts like Brettanomyces.
Generally regarded as a summer beer in Belgium, Saisons are—in our late-October opinion—most imbibable in early-to-mid fall before those frigid days arrive and your strongest ales come to your aid. ‘Til then, it’s Saison season. Here are some of our favorites to enjoy this very fleeting moment.
1. Allagash Saison
Portland, Maine’s Allagash Brewery puts out reliably superb, perfectly-timed beers year-round, and its Saison is no exception. This Belgian farmhouse-style ale is brewed with a base of malted rye, two-row malted barley, oats, and dark Belgian candi sugar. It gets a boost from the addition of Bravo, Northern Brewer, and Cascade hops—and its spicy, funky, yeasty flavor from being fermented using a classic Saison yeast strain.
[$12; four-pack, allagash.com]
2. Blaugies Saison D’epeautre
In the fall Saison or farmhouse category, it’s hard to beat a bona fide Belgian-brewed ale. Blaugies Saison D’epeautre might not have the stateside name recognition of Saison Dupont, but it’s no less memorable. This 6% farmhouse ale is classically brewed with malted barley, hops, and yeast—with an added flavor kick from the addition of spelt grain.
[$12.99; 750ml bottle; brasseriedeblaugies.com]
3. Ommegang Hennepin
Just outside of Cooperstown, Brewery Ommegang resembles every bit as much a Belgian countryside brewery as a hidden gem in upstate New York. Specializing in Belgian-style beers, its signature old-world Saison is Hennepin—a dry, crisp beer with tastefully added tones of ginger, coriander, grains of paradise, and orange peel in the mix.
[$11.99; four-pack; ommegang.com]
4. Off Color Apex Predator
Off Color’s Apex Predator is a 6.5 percent ABV Saison perfectly suited for early fall drinking—though it’s available year-round. Brewed with Pils malt, flaked wheat, and Sterling and Crystal hops, free rise fermentation using traditional Belgian Saison yeast adds an added touch of funk. The result: a fruity, slightly dry beer with hints of lemon zest, tropical fruits, and just a bit of a barnyard finish.
[$10; four-pack; offcolorbrewing.com]
5. Fantôme Saison
Another iconic Belgian Saison, Fantôme Saison is known for its effervescent, crisp, almost sparkling wine-like flavor. This 8 percent ABV Saison from Brasserie De Blaugies Fantôme carries fruity flavors of orange peel, lemongrass, various tropical fruit flavors, and a nice hint of spice to round everything together nicely.
[$17; 25 oz bottle; fantome.be]
6. Goose Island Sofie
Goose Island is renowned for its legendary Bourbon County Stout—which we recommend indulging in a little later in the year. Fall, in the meantime, is perfect for Goose Island Sofie. This 6.5% farmhouse ale is brewed with Amarillo hops, 2-Row malt, Pilsen malt, and wheat. It’s aged in wine barrels with orange peel to give it a fruity, slightly peppery, pleasantly sour flavor.
[$12.99; four-pack; gooseisland.com]
7. Lift Bridge Farm Girl
Farm Girl. If there’s a better beer name to foreshadow a rustic, yeasty farmhouse ale, it hasn’t been christened yet. Brewed with wheat, oats, and golden malts, this beer is crisp, easy to drink, and accented with hints of citrus, banana, tropical fruits, and a nice kick of peppery spice.
[$9.69; six-pack; liftbridgebrewery.com]
8. Saison DuPont
There’s a reason that many seasoned bartenders call this one their go-to Saison. This 6.5 percent ABV, top-fermented beer is commonly brewed in the winter at the Belgian brewery before being fermented yet again in the barrel. A great beer to cellar and bring out during the early fall, it’s well-known for its yeasty, sweet, thirst-quenching flavor.
[$11.99; 750 ml bottle; brasserie-dupont.com]
9. Boulevard Tank 7
Kansas City’s Boulevard has gained renown in the beer world for out-of-the-box, creative brews. Its take on the classic farmhouse ale is beautifully realized in Boulevard Tank 7—named after one of the brewery’s numbered vats. Exuding notes of citrus zest and lemongrass with a crisp, dry pepper-like finish, this drinks flawlessly on a cool fall day—rain or shine.
[$11.49; four-pack; boulevard.com]