I’m into another series of catching up on the cross-posting for my beer stories from Post City. They’ll be a few more coming over the next week and also some back-to-the-usual recipes and other food stories for Food With Legs.
Bottle-conditioned, in a larger format, and a not-very-hoppy saison; I think this beer from Oast House represents three of the main directions we’ll see North American craft beer move in over the next couple years. I still love The only thing it’s not is barrel-aged. I still love a high-IBU pale ale for afternoon sipping, but saison and biere de garde (the other style in Oast’s Farmhouse Series) are becoming my favourite dinner beers.
New breweries seem to sprout up in groups. The once-dry Junction now has two; new ones are opening in Muskoka and now Niagara has a few. Last November, Oast House joined Silversmith Brewing Company in the growing club of breweries in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Farmhouse Saison is a notable selection from Oast House’s small portfolio of beers.
The two beers in Oast House’s Farmhouse series (the second one, the Biere de Garde, will be released soon), are bottle-conditioned for at least two months. This treatment gives the saison a cloudy haze that lends a glow to the dark straw colour. The aromas and flavours twist together spicy notes like clove and cardamom with fruity notes of orange peel and banana. There is a good deal of European-style hops in the background that leads smoothly into the refreshing, dry finish.
Historically, the saison style (originating from the French-speaking southern half of Belgium) was made in the early spring and stored for summer consumption during the busiest time of year for farm workers.
That said, I think saison’s ability to pair with just about any food helps it break free from the seasonal typecasting more than other hot-weather beers like wits and weissbiers. The bottle-conditioning provides a lively carbonation that cuts through the grease from fried foods; the fruity, herbal and floral notes contrast with darker meat flavours; and the slight hop bitterness keeps spicy food in line.
I look forward to sampling more of the brewery’s offerings, like the Barnraiser Country Ale and the Crop Duster Belgian IPA.
Appropriately for Niagara, Oast House partners Cian MacNeill and Mike Berlis are both accredited sommeliers with winery backgrounds. The brewmaster and third partner, Kevin Somerville, helped get Niagara College’s brewmaster program off the ground.
If you can’t make it out to Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Oast House saison is also available in Toronto at barVolo, The Rhino and Indie Ale House. Other beers from the catalogue are carried by Tequila Bookworm, Wvrst and Bar Hop.
MacNeill sees what he calls the “new Niagara” as encompassing more than just wine (or even beer), but also distilleries, restaurants, food trucks and markets that are about “diversity, creativity and ambition.”
Niagara Oast House Brewers Farmhouse Saison, $11 for a 750 mL bottle at the brewery