Welcome to “Ask a Beer Pro,” a monthly feature where we ask Greg Engert—the craft-brew maven behind D.C.’s Birch & Barley and ChurchKey, as well as the forthcoming Bluejacket brewery—to help us discover new suds to try. Got a question? Tweet it @churchkeydc and @firstwefeast.
At the confluence of fleeting winter winds and warming summer breezes stands springtime, a sort of two-headed season that I find perfect for farmhouse ales. These rustic, dry, and cleansing brews, typified by saison, combine an invigorating effervescence with nuanced complexity. They’re a thinking-(wo)man’s thirst-quencher—sturdy, heady, and exquisitely refined.
Originating in the farmhouse breweries of Wallonia, the saison style has taken American craft beer by storm, and few breweries have been able to resist the allure of trying their hand at it. A handful have even made farmhouse ales their raison d’être, playfully experimenting with a style of brew that has always encompassed a myriad of manifestations. Whether blond or brown, heavily bittered or refreshingly tart, well-hopped or gently spiced, saison has become synonymous with possibility.
Do whatever it takes—and it may take some doing, as these brews can be elusive—to taste the following American farmhouse ales. Now is the perfect time to enjoy them, as it’s the very season during which they were once exclusively brewed (summer’s heat caused many problems for brewing, forcing farm-brewers to craft provisional ales in the spring to be consumed in the warmer months).
Here are five saisons to seek out now, from five superb farmhouse specialist.
Written by Greg Engert (@churchkeydc)