Although I am still looking for more Pumpkin beers to complete my beer review from a couple of week-ends ago, this time of the year is also known for Saison beers and that’s just what I am going to share with you today. First things first, let’s define a Saison beer. Historically, these beers were brewed in the fall so that they could be ready for consumption by farmers during the hot summer days. For this to occur, these beers needed the right amount of alcohol for preservation yet needed to be “watery” enough for quenching farmers in the summer because water was usually in shortage during such time.
So in essence, Saison beers, as we know them today, were popular in the summer time whereas now we drink them in the fall, immediately after the harvest. I don’t know for a fact if Saison beers tasted like nutmeg, clove and cinnamon but I know that today, if you’re going to brew a Saison beer, it’s safe to feature these spices that consumers have come to expect and/or the hops and grassy flavors of crops and harvest. Saison beers should also have a good share of hops which were a great preservation contributor in those times. Today, I’ll review 3 Saison beers; Muskoka’s Harvest, Rickard’s Cardigan and St-Feuillion’s Saison.
I like these guys! Muskoka’s Harvest keeps on giving. It poured a nice copper with orange hues and decent head that left behind great lacing. The smell is everything “Saison”; Malts, grassy, grain, fruits, hops and some caramel.
The taste lives up to the smell and what I like most about this beer is that unlike the route of other brewers who spice things up with their saison, Muskoka chose to go down the purist road which is to feature a wonderful blend of earthly flavors such as the grain, malts, grass and hops. As per mentioned on their web site, “It’s our way of celebrating another prosperous growing season”. The mouth feel is gorgeous and stable right through ‘till the end.
Price: 8.95$ / 750 ml
Beer type: Ale
Brewery: Muskoka Brewery Company
Country / Region: Muskoka Ontario Canada
This beer has a beautiful clear amber color with red hues. The head of the beer is at least 2 fingers thick and reduces slowly lacing the glass. As for the smell, this is where it gets interesting. Folks, I am not kidding around when I say that the first thing that came to my mind when smelling it was my Quebec style Sheppard’s Pie with ketchup. Lots of ketchup! Say what you want, but I smelled it again and again. I bought a 6 pack so I had the opportunity to smell it 6 more times and I also asked 2 other people if I was nuts and they too, confirmed the ambiguous smell of Sheppard’s pie. So what is it that makes it smell like Quebec Sheppard’s Pie with ketchup? I’ll break it down the best I can, there is a blend of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon that coincide with a ketchup spice blend. Also, the brown sugar that is added to Cardigan brings out the caramelized onions and meat and, of course, more ketchup. The corn also contributed to the sweetness and the harvest feel of the taste. It’s not a smell of tomatoes that comes out, only sweetness.
The taste of the beer exceeded my expectation. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want it to taste like Sheppard’s Pie and it didn’t, but I was pleasantly surprised by the taste. Being a product of a large scale brewer (Molson) I didn’t think Rickard’s Red could make a commercial Saison that would blow my socks off. The taste is just so much more than you’d expect from a Molson product. It has a nice spice blend and caramel malt, finishing with a little alcohol kick. Good job Molson!
Price: 12.95$ / 6x 341 ml
Beer type: Spiced beer
Brewery: Molson Breweries of Canada
Country / Region: Toronto, ON., Canada
Saison pours an orangey haze with generous off white head. The head is very bubbly and stays for quite some time. The smell of the beer is rather sour-y; green apples, yeast, lemon rind and grapes, but a touch of spices (clove and nutmeg) and hops also come through.
The taste of this beer is well rounded. The carbonation keeps giving and helps maintain the freshness to every sip. The taste of the fruits described in the smell come through very well and the malt and hops play their equal part in bringing together the taste of this beer like a symphony of flavors. This is a well done brew with a great surprise; it doesn’t taste too much like a farm house or an intense hoppy beer. Perhaps it’s the carbonation that “airs” out the taste and maintains its balance but one thing is certain this beer is all about balance.
Price: 2.95$ / 340 ml
Beer type: Saison / Farmhouse
Country / Region: Belgium
In conclusion, all three beers are great and different. Kudos to (Rickard’s) Molson, a mass brewery, for making their Cardigan with a rich portfolio of spices, kudos to St-Feuillion for brewing a well rounded beer with great carbonation and kudos to Muskoka for making a traditional saison beer where less is more is a golden rule.
Cheers, don’t drink and drive.