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’Tis the Saison

Assessing the craft-beer craze of the moment: Belgian-style summer ales.

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Historically, saison—or farmhouse ale—was made from the leftover odds and ends of the grain harvest on Belgian farms. In the past few years, modern-day microbrewers, inspired by the success of imports like Saison Dupont, have begun to appreciate the style’s origin as an eclectic catchall. Unlike, say, pilsners and stouts, saisons aren’t bound by tradition (or consumer expectation) to a relatively narrow range of possible flavors and ingredients. And though many experimental microbrews are intense affairs meant to be consumed in small quantities, saison has always been a spring-summer drink with the not-too-sweet, not-too-bitter balance and relatively low alcohol content that make for a good hot-weather libation. Here, then, are twelve saisons worth trying.

1. Ommegang Hennepin
Made locally and widely available, it’s a deliciously mellow crowd-pleaser—and it’s relatively cheap. $8.95 for 750 ml. at Bierkraft (191 Fifth Ave., nr. Berkeley Pl., Park Slope; 718-230-7600).

2. Saison de Pipaix
Its funkiness appeals to fans of craft-brewing’s avant-garde. $17.95 for 750 ml. at Bierkraft.

3. Fantôme Printemps
Rumored to contain dandelion greens, this rare brew tastes as much like a citrus cocktail as a beer. $11 for a glass, $32 for 750 ml. at the Beer Table (427B Seventh Ave., nr. 14th St., Park Slope; 718-965-1196).

4. Bruery Saison Rue
A collision of forceful flavors—tart and fruity like other saisons, but also earthy, as if to evoke the farms where the style was born. $12.99 for 750 ml. at Whole Foods (95 E. Houston St., nr. Bowery; 212-420-1320).

5. Piccolo Birrifico Sesonette
Features cane sugar as an ingredient, which comes through, along with the more typical fruitiness, in its flavor. $9.99 for 330 ml. at Whole Foods.

6. Southampton Saison Deluxe
A sweeter, alcohol-heavy twist on the saison from the Long Island brewer. $12.99 for 750 ml. at Spuyten Duyvil Grocery (218 Bedford Ave., at N. 5th St., Williamsburg; 718-384-1520).

7. Stillwater Stateside Saison
Made by a small-batch brewer in Baltimore, it’s got great flavor: an almost Juicy Fruit–sweet banana taste with a hint of sourness. $13.95 for 750 ml. at Bierkraft.

8. Saison Dupont
A refreshing brew balancing dry hoppiness with a citrusy aroma that reminds some tasters of peaches and apricots. $9 for 750 ml. at D.B.A. (41 First Ave., nr. 2nd St.; 212-475-5097).

9. Kelso Saison
Brewed in Clinton Hill, it’s lighter in color and alcohol content—ideal for a day-into-night barbecue marathon. $9.50 for a 32-oz. growler at Whole Foods Upper West Side (808 Columbus Ave., nr. 97th St.; 212-222-6160).

10.Pretty Things Jack d’Or
Produced by a married couple in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Jack d’Or has a bright, almost melonlike taste. $11 for 22 oz. at Brouwerij Lane (78 Greenpoint Ave., nr. Franklin St., Greenpoint; 347-529-6133).

11. Fantôme Saison
Not as wild as the Printemps, but still very distinctive— sweet with a strong flavor of strawberries. $32 for 750 ml. at the Beer Table.

12. Brooklyn Brewery Sorachi Ace
A specialty batch from the city’s longest-tenured microbrewer; tastes like drinking a fresh blueberry pastry. $17.95 for 750 ml. at Food Emporium (multiple locations).


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