Friday, July 19, 2013

Sonia from Sonar is a Sucker for Saisons at Summerfest

Sorry for the extreme alliteration, but I just couldn’t help myself! Today’s topic is, you guessed it, beer! Confused? That’s ok. I am going to tell you about Saisons (pronouced say-zohns) and craft beer.

Last weekend I attended the Drink Craft Beer Summerfest: A Celebration of Farmhouse Ales in downtown Boston, MA.

The event featured 24 breweries and 80 different types of Farmhouse Ales.  Needless to say, I tasted a lot of beer. And unlike some stuffier wine events, there wasn’t much spitting going on. However, I persevered with water bottle and grilled cheese in tote, and tasted every single beer!

So What is a Craft Beer?
You’ve heard of a microbrew right? Beer brewed by small, independent breweries providing innovative and exciting new beers. Craft Beer is the same idea.

However, the term microbrew fell out of favor in recent years for a couple reasons. First, to be considered a microbrewery, a brewery must be of certain size and produce a limited number of barrels.  However, breweries that saw success as microbreweries, and gained popularity, quickly out grew the legal limits of a microbrew. Think of Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams) and Sierra Nevada who started out as microbrewers and are now nationwide brands. However, even large breweries can continue to create interesting, small batch beers. The term no longer made sense.

Shortly thereafter, another term arose: Craft Beer. The exact origins are unknown but The Brewers Association snatched it up and provided a definition. “An American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional.”

Small: Meaning 6 million barrels of beer of less.
Independent: At least 75% of the craft brewery is owned by the brewer him (or her) self
Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (which represents the greatest volume among their brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance flavor.
And What are Farmhouse Ales?
A Farmhouse Ale, aka Saison, was literally beer brewed in farmhouses in Belgium. A farmer would use ingredients he had around the farm and brew the beer during the colder months (no refrigeration yet) to consume during the summer months. It is also thought that brewing during the winter months provided the farm staff with something to do, since they couldn’t really farm during winter. The brew was then consumed by the seasonal staff during the summer, or as the French say “les saisonniers" and voila! A Saison was born.

Saisons are typically light bodied and crisp with an intense fruity aroma. After that it’s up to the brewer.  They can flavor it with pepper or orange rind, or use malt and herbs. Saisons are often bottled in 750 milliliter bottles with corks, just like wine.

So what were my favorites?
I’m glad you asked! After tasting 80 beers, 4 stood out in the crowd. But before I reveal my top picks, I just want to state that I didn't get any free beer or kickbacks from these breweries. My opinions, as well as those on Sonar travel, are always objective and independent! These were simply my favorites. In alphabetical order they are:

A  Belgian-style Saison Brewed with rye malt, spicy yeast and homemade Belgian Candisugar 
Straw-gold rustic Saison on lees. Spicy, fruity yeast profile with pedigreed noble hops.
Farmhouse ale with rye malt, Belgian yeast, and four different varieties of peppercorn.
EntrepĂ´t series Cabernet Sauvignon barrel aged saison

So this summer when you’re searching for the perfect seasonal beer, pick up a Saison by a craft brewer!

Last but not least, I have to give a shout out to the amazing food vendors on hand. I ate at all three and all three were delicious! Roxy's Grilled Cheese, Chicken & Rice Guys, and Grillo's Pickles

And just for fun, here is Dino Ferrari, Sonar Travel's official mascot, enjoying some Sgt. Pepper!

If you liked this post, or want to share your thoughts about craft beer, please leave a comment!

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