It is the season for Saison. A time to kick back, enjoy the sun and drink from the fruits of our winter labor. In other words, it's time for some serious summertime beer guzzling.
Making its debut appearance this past weekend, Drink Craft Beer's Summerfest was a community celebration of New England's best summer-friendly craft beer, from farmhouse ales and saisons to witbiers and sours.
In attendance were cult favorites such as Hill Farmstead and The Alchemist and craft pioneers like Harpoon and Smuttynose. Nearly half of the 20-odd breweries present were newcomers to the scene—upstarts like Jack's Abby and Idle Hands, whose bottles have trickled into the stores over the past year at increasing frequency. Despite my regular visits to neighborhood liquor stores, it really is hard to grasp how fast the craft onslaught has occurred until you see such a large grouping of new breweries in one room.
Many of the brewers wound up creating limited run concoctions for the event, such as Night Shift's audacious Rose Au Poivre, a Saison brewed with rosemary and rose hips and aged on pink peppercorns. This summer rose was one pretty flower. I also talked to a few brewers who had been working on special projects for the event, but had to leave them back at the workshop to continue fermenting. Shows you just how experimental and unscientific beer brewing can be.
One small production run that did make it, however—and, consequently turned out to be our favorite sip of the day—was Hill Farmstead's Vera Mae. Only the second batch ever made, sweet Vera was brewed with dandelions and what seems to be age-old magic farm dust passed down for eight generations on the Hill family farmstead. Vera's earthiness and spice was focused, crisp and delicious, and I'm sure that even Miss Mae herself, an ancestor of the current Hill generation, would have been quite fond of this summer saison.
I'd also give a special shout out to The Alchemist for their Celia Gluten Free Saison. I know what you're thinking: gluten free beer, on a list of top sips? But Celia is a Belgian-style saison that tastes like... well, a good Belgian-style saison. It's rustic and spicy with a bit of tart citrus and an earthy funk. Jennifer Kimmich, Alchemist's co-owner, developed a gluten intolerance a few years back and head brewer/husband, John, brewed up this saison especially for her. For celiacs, this is an exciting find...though you may have to go up to Vermont to get it.
Check out the slideshow for some of our other favorite sips from Drink Craft Beer's Summerfest in Boston. Did you attend the fest? Which beers were your top sips? Let us know in the comments below.
About the Author: Terry Lozoff is an event and digital marketing strategist. He currently heads up the Boston-based agency Antler and regularly blogs about beer, wine and whisk(e)y at drinkinsider.com. Terry lives in Cambridge, MA, likes to work on his urban garden and is a sucker for a good single malt Scotch.