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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

A Festival of Saisons

In the manner of men everywhere, I like lists. One of my favorite ideas for lists is: if you had to limit yourself to just five styles of beer for the rest of time, what would they be? I once asked a well-respected writer this question and he said: "saison." A man after my own heart.

This weekend, the Cascade Barrel House will be the site of a little one-day fest that would leave Stan totally satisfied. There are only 16 examples here (which is, obviously, more than you'll drink, anyway), but they represent a lot of what the style has to offer in terms of diversity. Fortunately, Cascade is offering Saison Dupont, the standard against which all others are compared. They range from the very small (3.5%, Buckman La Petite Morte) to the booming (8.4%, Double Mountain Bonne Idee, vintage). Then things get wild. Among the notable entrants:
  • Hatter's Riddle (Block 15), dandelion and two secret ingredients.
  • The brett pack: Amarillo Saison (Breakside) and Saison de Lente (Bruery).
  • The black pack: La Petite Morte, Saison Minuit (Cascade), Existant (Stillwater).
  • Saison Fume (Cascade), a smoked saison.
  • Thai-son (Green Dragon*), ginger and lemongrass.
  • Frederic's Lost Arm (Oakshire), green oolong tea.
  • Cellar Door (Stillwater) finished with sage.
  • Cider Saison (Two Rivers), a "saison style cider." Yup, no idea.
As you can see from this list, the grist and spices don't make the saison. What does, of course, is the yeast. Generally very-well-attenuating, saison yeasts can produce amazing flavors, ranging from exotic tropic-fruit to peppery esters. Add some funk or spice and you can draw these out. (Once, all saisons were infected.) I have had exactly two of the beers on the list (Dupont and Upright), so everything else will be a new experience. Fortunately, I'll be in town, and this is one fest I can experience with my mouth--not my eyes as I read about it afterward.

Fest Details
"The festival runs from Noon to 10pm and also features live music by Black Lodge and Left Coast Country . Admission is free - to drink, either bring a 14 ounce plastic festival mug from home (like the ones sold at Oregon Brewers Fest, Holiday Ale Fest or other such events) or purchase a plastic Cascade mug for $3. Sorry, no glass allowed. Beer costs $1 for a 4-oz taste, or $4 for a 14 oz mug (there may be a few double token and/or taster only kegs). The event takes place on the production side of the Barrel House. Minors are allowed, but not encouraged."

Saisons
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No idea what the difference is between Green Dragon and Buckman Brewery. I thought they were one in the same.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Someone will probable give a better answer or correct me...but my understanding is the Green Dragon is the Oregon Brew Crew brewing on the small pilot system. And Buckman has the professional brewers on the large system.

Morgan said...

Saison style cider is a cide rmade with saison yeast, unknown in cider making.

Jeff Alworth said...

Anon, thanks. I wondered if that was it.

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