Sasions Are Still Cool, So Start Drinking Them

April 8 was Saison Day, a beer holiday created several years ago by Allagash as an ode to the Belgian-style farmhouse ale. As expert brewers of the stuff (you may have heard of their eponymous Allagash Saison), when Allagash says it’s Saison Day, we listen.

I remember when I started drinking saisons and was thrilled about the “new” beer style I was beginning to like. Soon, I grew confused: every saison I tasted seemed completely different from the next, with one dry and peppery, another fruity and sweet, and the next a bit spicy with hints of lemon.

And thus is the beauty of saisons: they are, at their core, seasonal —“saison” being the French word for season—and are inherently varied, each an embodiment of a time and place.

10 American Saisons to Drink Right Now

When I was tasked with planning out this recent feature for MensJournal.com (eventually headlined, “10 American Saisons to Drink Right Now”), I realized how much I like saisons and how little press they’re getting. IPAs are still dominating the craft beer market, while saisons, ever the underdog, are left to where they’ve long been destined: in the dust.

I couldn’t let this beautiful beer style go unnoticed, so, I sat down to think long and hard about what to recommend to MensJournal.com’s national audiences (you can check out those recommendations right here).  But then I faced another problem: I was writing for a crowd craft beer drinkers that spans the country, and couldn’t shout out all of the local saisons I’m currently drinking, which are really good!

5 More Saisons to Drink Right Here in NYC

In addition to the recommendations I made for Men’s Journal that span super esoteric (looking at you, Arizona Wilderness/Other Half collab) to grocery store staples (hey, Hennepin), I thought I’d share a separate list over here with a few saisons that have been standbys for me in NYC.

Interboro Saisonnier

This is one of the first brews to debut from Interboro Spirits & Ales, a brewery and distillery (New York City’s first) that launched late last summer in Brooklyn’s East Williamsburg neighborhood. Saisonnier is a perfect appropriation of the saison style: bright gold, hazy, and a little bit hoppy, the farmhouse style ale is well suited for the urban palate. (PS: watch this video about Interboro Pat and I produced last summer!)

Threes Table Beer

Threes Brewing brought table beer to Brooklyn, or at least, gave it a name and made it cool. This purpose of this simple saison is to have it with food (on the table) and enjoy its fresh flavors of wheat and light bitterness without thinking about it too much, which is exactly what happens when you order one. Try it out sometime.

Transmitter S8

They may not be boasting about it, but Transmitter has been crafting excellent Belgian-style ales (in fact, almost exclusively excellent Belgian-style ales) since they started. One of my all-time favorites from them is the S8, a light and spicy rice saison brewed with pilsner malt and flaked/toasted rice, along with a liberal amount of “new school” German hops.

KCBC Sun Wizard

Kings County Brewers Collective came out the gate with a great portfolio of approachable ales. One the OGs was the Sun Wizard, a bright yellow saison with a fruity tang and citrus bite from El Dorado, Galaxy and Chinook hops. KCBC also recently released the Beggar’s Gold, a Belgian-style blonde ale. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but I hear good things. 

Folksbier Magdalena

Folksbier has quickly become one of my favorite breweries. Their beers are simple, clean, and solid German-inspired classics, ranging from roasty-yet-refreshing dark rye ales or Berliner weisses with fruit (check out the Glow Up series; each one is fermente with a different fruit, and they are all delicious). As pretty much sums up their style, Magdalena blends new school and old school hops, high quality malts and offers slightly sweet and biscuity flavors balanced with a crisp, dry finish.

 

SAISONS POUR TOUJOURS!

Cheers,
BeerAffair

3 Brooklyn Beers Make Men’s Journal ‘Best Beers in the World’

It’s always fun to read “best beers” lists, but it’s especially exciting to see your own local breweries floating to the top of beer media’s best picks from around the globe.  In this year’s 100 Best Beers in the World from Men’s Journal, three beers from New York City-based brewers made it to the list of the world’s finest, and all three of them were from Brooklyn. Continue reading

Brewery to Watch: Brasserie Dunham

Brasserie Dunham bottle lineup at Mondial de la bière 2016.

Simon Gaudreault, co-owner of Brasserie Dunham, with a bottle lineup at Mondial de la bière 2016.

Among the 536 beers and 586 total beverages offered by more than 85 breweries present at the 23rd Mondial de la biere in Montreal, none stood more than those of Brasserie Dunham (Dunham Brewery), a microbrewery specializing in farmhouse style and wild ales located about an hour southeast of Montreal.

The brewery first caught our eye (along with our nostrils and tastebuds) at Les Terrasses Flaveurs, a beer and caprices tasting organized by Quebec-based beer and gastronomy expert, author and speaker, Philippe Wouters. The pairing experience was organized in stations, the second of which paired caprices from Au Petit Extra  with two of Brasserie Dunham’s expert creations:

First Pairing:  Spring roll with mango, ginger and tempeh, paired with Brasserie Dunham Saison Fleurs Sauvages.

This spring roll was the best either of us have ever had in our lives—no, seriously. Nothing like the greasy, crispy cylinder stuffed with cabbage and carrot that we’re used to. Refined yet approachable, this roll was fresh, delicate and grease-free, prepared more like a maki with miniature rice noodles in place of the rice and a moist,  translucent rice paper skin in place of the seaweed. The best part was the fresh ginger, first enveloped within the spring roll’s fragrant folds, then bursting to life on the tongue with that quintessential ginger zing. (We weren’t the only ones talking about this roll all weekend.)

The Saison Fleurs Sauvages label. Each bottle label is designed by a different local artist. Image via brasseriedunham.com.

The Saison Fleurs Sauvages bottle label; each beer label at Brasserie Dunham is designed by a different local artist. Image via brasseriedunham.com.

Saison Fleurs Sauvages, or saison with wild flowers (6% ABV), was a perfect pairing, equally fragrant and refined at its delicate core, with its own set of unique nuances. According to Dunham co-owner, Simon Gaudreault (who is also an accomplished wine sommelier and writer), the saison includes three types of wild flowers: raspberry (little white flowers that grow with the berry); elderflower (also little and white, often used in herbal remedies and recently, in craft beers); and berce flowers, for which he nor I could find an English translation.

Second Pairing:  Dark malt bread with smoked salmon “nuggets,” paired with Brasserie Dunham Assemblage #1.

The caprice here was essentially a small piece of rye bread toast with a shmear of butter, lox-like smoked salmon pieces, and topping of dill-weed. Like fancy lox on a bagel with a hearty crunch, the fat of the butter and salt of the salmon were cut exquisitely by the funky, dry and bitter formulation of Assemblage 1.

Assemblage Numéro 1

Assemblage Numéro 1, a wild beer blend aged in Zinfandel barrels.

Assemblage 1 is a blend of American Pale Ale and saison with honey (or more accurately, propolis) aged in Zinfandel barrels with brettanomyces yeast. Read that again. It’s delicious! Funky, rustic, fruity, hoppy…it’s all there, and it’s truly special. According to the brewery, Assemblage 1 is the first “assembly” or blend in which the effect of the barrels transcends the two base beers. Voila.

Fun fact: Dunham brewery is located in Dunham, Quebec, not far from the U.S. border. As such, the brewery has done a few collaborations with American brewers—Hill Farmstead and Cambridge Brewing Co. among them. Trust me, you’ll want to keep your eye out for these guys.

They never stop experimenting, either: in fact, on May 22, 2016, Dunham released no fewer than 22 beers for an event Gaudreault described as a bottle release that was enhanced for its attendees with games, giveaways and other merriments meant to make waiting in line less miserable. Plus, the releases were all pre-order, so no one walked away empty handed.

I’ll close with this video created for the brewery last June : “Brasserie ze film” by Alex Chabot. (Disclaimer: it’s in French.)

Cheers,
BeerAffair

Craft Brewers Pick Their Favorite Shower Beer

The shower beer can be many things: post-workout hydration, multitasking before a night out, or simply a refreshing pick-me-up while washing. For Lewis Kent, the Beer Mile world champion, shower beers are both post-race liquid trophy and pregame ritual. “After a race or a hard workout, when I come home and I’m getting ready to go out with friends, it’s nice to have a little reward,” says Kent.

Craft brewers have caught on to the concept, and a growing number of craft beers billed as “shower beers” are hitting the shelves, providing more flavorful, stimulating options to take into the tub. With warm weather approaching, now is the perfect time to indulge in these palate-scrubbing brews — from a hoppy pilsner to a lime-zested gose to a pale ale bursting with citrus — made for good, clean fun, in the shower and out. Read more on MensJournal.com > 

Civil Eats: 5 Beers From Across the Nation That Are Redefining Local

Kent Falls Brewing's Field Beer, brewed with 100% Connecticut-grown ingredients.

Kent Falls Brewing’s Field Beer, brewed with 100% Connecticut-grown grains and hops.

Brewing beer with 100% local ingredients isn’t easy. These five breweries are making an effort, one beer at a time. Read more—with perspectives from the beers’ brewers and founders—on CivilEats.com.

1. Transmitter Brewing: NY4 / Queens, New York

2. Pike Brewing Company: Pike Locale Copeland / Seattle, Washington

3. Plan Bee Farm Brewery: Flower City / Poughkeepsie, New York

4. Kent Falls Brewing: Field Beer / Kent, Connecticut

5. Ruhstaller Beer: Gilt Edge California Golden Lager / Sacramento and Dixon, California

NYC Beer Week 2016: 11 Vintages of Black Chocolate Stout at Brooklyn Brewery

BeerAffair's Cat Wolinski and Brooklyn Brewery's Garrett Oliver and Samantha Bernstein

BeerAffair‘s Cat Wolinski and Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver and Samantha Bernstein.

With NYC Beer Week 2016 in full swing, deciding on which events to attend each night becomes a bit challenging, to say the least. But on Monday, February 22, the choice was non-negotiable: Brooklyn Brewery invited select guests to attend the twenty-first birthday of the Black Chocolate Stout.

This was no ordinary birthday party. The Black Chocolate Stout holds significance at Brooklyn Brewery for several reasons. One is that the beer’s recipe was essentially the entry point into Brooklyn Brewery for Garrett Oliver,  now brewmaster, who has since risen to worldwide fame for his beer making and beer-and-food pairing prowess. Another is that at the time of its original brew date in 1994, the beer, an imperial stout, was the most radical stout many beer drinkers had ever seen or tasted. Chocolate in a beer name?! Ten percent alcohol by volume?!

Finally, and perhaps most significantly for birthday bash attendees, the brewery has held onto nearly a dozen bottled iterations of the imperial stout since its origins. Originally announcing  10 vintages would be available, it turned out that there are, in fact, 11 vintages of Black Chocolate Stout available — a surprise 2007 was available on draft — making this event even more unique than we originally thought. The icing on the cake—the figurative one, not the chocolate one— was tasting and comparing each chocolately vintage with sweet early 2000’s tunes to sip to. Continue reading

2016 Update: Girl Scout Cookies and Craft Beer Pairings

Photo via beerandbrewing.com.

Craft Beer & Brewing recommends cookies and stouts. Photo via beerandbrewing.com.

It’s always a fun time of year when the Girl Scout Cookie craft beer pairings come out. I was a Girl Scout for many years (like, the most years — all the way up to the Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting — that’s right, I am that cool) and the posts that pop up every winter leave me both salivating and nostalgic.

Craft Beer & Brewing always has a well-produced (and I trust, well-tested) list of Girl Scout Cookie pairing selections, and their 2016 rendition is no different. The key takeaway is that basically any GSC (that’s Girl Scout Cookie) will be delicious with basically any strong stout, but there are certain nuances to be attune to. Like… Continue reading

Honey in Beer Does Not Mean Sweet Beer

BBS_GrapefruitHoneyAle

Photo via BrooklynBrewShop.com.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been helping out Brooklyn Brew Shop at the Union Square Holiday Market by womaning the booth and selling beer making kits to tourists and local shoppers. Something I encounter regularly is an immediate opposition to the Grapefruit Honey Ale beer making kit, which suggests the addition of grapefruit peel in the boil and adds in a little extra honey to the brewing process. The result is, according to Brooklyn Brew Shop, a “Light and refreshing citrusy ale for those who love bright beers. This pale ale gets most of its grapefruit taste from its hops, but throwing in some grapefruit rinds is a fun way to pump up the citrus.”

Right away, though, shoppers say things like, “oh, no, he would hate that,” or “my Dad doesn’t like sweet beers,” or “this is for a guy, so that won’t really work.” The point of this post is not to combat the inherent and infuriating sexism I’ve encountered every Monday and Tuesday evening in the booth—that’s a post I’m planning for after I’ve had a chance to cool down—but the PSA I do want to announce is this:

Honey used in the brewing process does not mean the beer is going to be sweet.  Continue reading

Beer on the Table: Coney Island Brewing Company Trio

Coney Island Brewing Co.'s Hard Root Beer, Overpass IPA and Freaktoberfest.

Coney Island Brewing Co.’s Hard Root Beer, Overpass IPA and Freaktoberfest.

Recently, we sat down with three beers* from Coney Island Brewing Company: the Hard Root Beer, Overpass IPA and Freaktoberfest. It’s worth nothing that this tasting took place before Coney Island opened its new brewery and taproom on Surf Ave. last month, and these beers tasted completely different than the fresh-brewed beers we tasted on site.  Continue reading