of the best beers of the summer
Newell, the manager of our Chanhassen Wines
& Spirits location, shares his top saison recommendations – and the
story behind this refreshing summer beer.
Working on the farm is not an easy lifestyle, especially in the days
before electricity, central air and refrigeration. During that period the
European farmworkers’ lifestyle was controlled by the seasonal forces of
nature. If you worked on a farm it was likely you had many jobs to master.
One of the most important jobs was fermenting wine, ciders and, of
course, beer. After the harvest in fall, weather conditions were optimal for
brewing the beer they would need for the following summer. The hot temperatures
of summer allowed bacteria to thrive and made it difficult for the yeasts to do
their fermentation magic. The farmers would brew the beers, add their unique
blend of spices and store their creations until summer time. This style of beer
is called a saison and would be served to the field workers as a meal to get
them through the blistering hot days and make the work more tolerable.
Modern day saisons have a light golden color, thick white head,
refreshingly crisp mouthfeel and citrus finish. The types and amounts of spices
vary from each brewer. Most prominent in the mix is coriander and citrus peel.
The type of citrus chosen by the brewer gives each saison its signature style –
lemon peel, orange peel, lime and even peach can be used. The variety of other
spices is endless, from ginger, grains of paradise, thyme, lavender and many
I enjoy saisons that are crisp with a light citrus effect that isn’t too
bitter. My favorite of the current saisons is also the newest addition to our
store from the local Fulton brewery,
named The Randonneur.
Located a few blocks from the Twins stadium, Fulton has become one of the most
famous of the Minneapolis craft breweries. The Randonneur has an incredible
balance of spice and ale, with just the right amount of citrus that follows the
light body of this saison. A Randonneur is a bicyclist who has completed an
all-day bike challenge that goes 100 to 200 miles. This beer has a lower
alcohol content, which makes it perfect for my all-day challenge of slow
smoking a pork shoulder on the BBQ.
For a more intense flavor experience, try the saison from Stone Brewing Co., one of San Diego’s
premiere breweries, where bold flavors and innovation have always been top
priority. In 2011 they purchased a 19-acre farm in Southern California, where
they are growing the fruits, vegetables and herbs needed for their beer and bistros.
This enables us to enjoy a true farm-to-table beer experience that is truly
unique and authentically Stone.
The Ommegang Brewery in
Cooperstown, New York brews one of the most authentic European-style saisons in
the country. Ommegang brews very traditional Belgian-style beers, one of which
is the Hennepin Farmhouse saison.
This saison is very dry with a touch of citrus and has a yeasty quality that is
traditional to Belgian beers. Pair it with a triple cream Brie from France for
a memorable beer/cheese pairing. This saison is named after the missionary
Father Louis Hennepin who, in the late 1600s, was the first to document Niagara
Falls in Canada and St. Anthony Falls here in Minneapolis.
Saisons are not just for summertime field work! Try them when you’re on
the deck, on the boat, up north at the cabin or just hanging out with friends
grilling. Summer, my favorite Minnesota season, is short and so is the saison
season, so don’t delay if you want to try these fantastic summer specialties.