Updated on August 9, 2023
I wax poetic about lagers from time to time. And you’ll likely catch me enjoying a West Coast IPA or even a pastry stout now and then. But, if you ask about my single favorite style of beer, I’ll likely respond: “Saison.”
It was almost certainly my time spent in Amsterdam, during my early drinking years, where I harbored a love for traditional Belgian and Dutch saisons. The style is supremely drinkable, utterly perfect, and invitingly approachable for non-beer drinkers.
Plus, several notable American breweries share my reverence for the style and have brewed their versions. What continues to charm me about these saisons is that, while there’s a unifying set of characteristics, each brewery imparts its own personality into a saison. A farmhouse ale from Oxbow tastes different from an Ale Apothecary saison. Which in turn tastes different from a Suarez Family saison. And so forth.
Sure, beer drinkers on Instagram or Reddit aren’t exactly clamoring for farmhouse ales in the same way they are milkshake IPAs or fruited sours, but we’ve seen the likes of The Referend, Casey, Holy Mountain, and Forest + Main gain serious notoriety among passionate craft beer fans.
So, why not dive into the funky and wild world of saison?
What’s a Saison?
French for “season,” saison is a traditional, pastoral ale that originated in the farmhouses of Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium. Low alcohol, a light body, and high carbonation characterize the historical style. Expect an ester spice taste and supreme dryness.
However, one of the beautiful things about saison is that the style is relatively open to interpretation. So, brewers might lean into the hoppier side of things, drawing inspiration from beers like XX Bitter from De Ranke. Or, brewers could channel the lambic producers of Belgium for a more complex, wild interpretation of the style.
“Saison is such a beautifully romantic beer family in that it doesn’t have those formal parameters that judges like to confine other beer ‘styles’ to,” shares Forest + Main’s owner Gerard Olson. “I take a lot of inspiration from Yvan de Baets’ essay in Phil Markowski’s Farmhouse Ales. A saison for me can be so many different things, but I want it to check a few boxes, many of which de Baets lists at the end of his essay. It should be very dry, quite hoppy, have a very expressive yeast character, and have a sort of rustic edge—whether that’s coming from a mixed fermentation, mysterious yeast cultures or processes, or just that magic that seems to infuse the best saisons, a reflection of the time and place they are produced.”
Saisons were, historically, beers of necessity. Brewed for farmers to quench their thirst in the warmer months, saisons should approach balance and high drinkability. And, while the style is typically low in alcohol, American interpretations have seen the ABV creep up. Still, saison drinkers should find a light tartness and a dry finish.
Olson from Forest + Main sums it up elegantly: “The most honest saisons reflect the specific places (and times) they are made.”
What’s the Difference Between a Farmhouse Ale and a Saison?
The specifics tend to get muddied in personal preference and opinion, but most brewers would agree that while saison refers to a specific style, farmhouse ale stands in as a sort of catch-all for any ale that’s “saison-ish.” You’ll find grisettes, low-ABV Belgian sours, some pale ales, and table beers within that guideline.
However, if you’re looking to dig deeper, some think both saisons and farmhouse ales have narrower definitions.
“I side with early Shaun Hill and present-day Marika Josephson in thinking that a beer that purports to be a farmhouse ale ought to, at the very least, have something to do with a farm, with local agriculture,” shares James Priest, owner of The Referend Bier Blendery. “I would also appreciate it if the brewing of saison necessarily meant that the season in which it was brewed was permitted to influence the beer’s character.”
Marika Josephson, owner of Scratch Brewing Co., continues the sentiment, “I think it’s important to preserve the notion of farming for the sake of small farmers and investments in small-scale agriculture, so I think that the term “farmhouse,” when used to describe beer, should specifically refer to beer made with ingredients farmed by the brewery. That beer doesn’t at all have to be based on the guidelines for a “saison.” I think that what’s important for a farmhouse beer is that the ingredients are grown by the brewery; that if the brewery can’t grow the ingredients, they source them as locally as possible; that they look to their own indigenous water and yeast; and that they try to serve their community first and foremost.”
25 of the Best Saison Breweries to Try Right Now
Below we’ve rounded up several of our favorite saison producers in the country. You’ll find a mix of readily accessible options, some likely available in your local craft beer bottle shop and a few that will be tough to find.
Plenty of fantastic breweries are trying their hands at the style; these are just a select few. So, if you have a personal favorite, let us know! Breweries are presented below in alphabetical order.
The Ale Apothecary
The Ale Apothecary is a genuine farmhouse brewery. Co-founders Staci and Paul Arney launched the brewery with a passion for exploring the native agriculture of Oregon and tapping into the roots of brewing culture. Paul brewed his first beers on a manual brewhouse, using water from the Tumalo Creek behind the Arney’s property, capturing yeast from the environment, sourcing malt and hops from Oregon, and foraging for adjuncts in the woods. The Ale Apothecary’s beers might not fit neatly into the saison category, but the process and final product reflect the seasonality and intentionality of those early farmhouse ales.
Allagash Brewing Co.
For exceptional American interpretations of Belgian classics, look no further than Allagash. Not only are they delicious, but they’re also widely accessible. From spontaneously fermented sour ales to crisp and clean saisons, Allagash never misses. Nearly every beer from the Portland, Maine-based brewery is perfect.
The eponymous Saison was a genre-defining beer, and Allagash continues experimenting within the farmhouse ale category. “As a brewery, we’ve gotten plenty of range out of the style,” shared Jason Perkins, Allagash Brewmaster. “There’s Allagash Saison, brewed with a traditional saison yeast to be super dry with a peppery and tropical aroma. We also have saisons like Darling Ruby, a grisette brewed with grapefruit juice and zest.” When asked about his favorite example of the style, he was quick to honor the Belgian tradition, “If you’re asking for a hallmark saison, that would be Saison Dupont for sure.”
Birds Fly South Ale Project
Birds Fly South is loud and proud of its love for all things funky. The Greenville, SC, brewery may offer a healthy lineup of clean beers (decadent stouts and hazy IPAs galore), but the brewery always comes back to its center. Saisons and farmhouse ales are beers of passion for Birds Fly South. All of their funky offerings feel like genuine celebrations—like the brewers were joyful brewing and bottling this particular beer. And enjoying a beer like Saison Is Dead or Skin & Bone is truly a marvelous experience. Long live saison!
Brewery Ommegang is one of a couple of breweries you’ll likely find on the shelves of any old bottle shop. The Cooperstown brewery isn’t among the “hypest” breweries around, but Ommegang manages to produce some spectacular Belgian-style beer. Not least of which is their lineup of saison. Hennepin is a classic, but if you find a specialty one-off or seasonal ale, we recommend scooping it up.
Grand Rapids, MI
The Grand Rapids brewery feels as though it were transported directly from Belgium and placed in Michigan. Located in a refurbished funeral home, Brewery Vivant produces excellent farmhouse ales that pair perfectly with its rustic, cozy food menu.
Staples like Farm Hand lead the way. Grown with Michigan wheat, this beer is a deliberate recreation of traditional saisons. Vivant’s yeast lends a light tartness, but it’s dry, rustic, and easy to drink. It might not have the mind-blowing complexity of other American saisons, but Farm Hand succeeds in its simplicity; it’s a beer to drink after working the fields.
On the other hand, Tropical Saison and Citron Saison are more modern interpretations of the classic.
Burial Beer Co.
Burial Beer Co. is among the many North Carolina breweries producing exceptional farmhouse ales. Although where others might lean into the delicate side of saisons, Burial is rough and metal. That doesn’t mean they take any less care in presenting their beer. On the contrary, Burial can and bottle designs are iconic and evocative. And the liquid inside is gorgeous.
Casey Brewing and Blending
Glenwood Springs, CO
Casey Brewing & Blending has found a way to make saisons and farmhouse ales exciting for even the haziest of boys. To be fair, they didn’t set out with that intention. Founders Troy and Emily Casey simply did what they knew how to do: make an exceptional product.
The Glenwood Springs-based brewery and blendery uses nearly 100% Colorado ingredients when brewing their beer and a carefully constructed house culture consisting of saison yeast, Brettanomyces, and lactic acid bugs during fermentation.
The Casey team is patient; they allow fermentation to do its thing over extended periods in open-top oak fermenters. Whether fruited or not, the end product is luscious and communicates the care of making each beer.
Fair Isle Brewing
Shepherds of wild yeast and spent hops, Fair Isle abides by three words sustainable, patience, and terroir.
All words that apply to saisons and farmhouse ales.
Spend mere moments chatting with Fair Isle Brewing Co-founder Andrew Pogue and R&D Brewer Matt Rowe, and it’s almost like they’ve opened up a door at the back of your wardrobe. But instead of walking into Narnia, you take a step into this Seattle-based brewery’s own magical backyard.
A brewery that specializes in mixed-culture saisons, Fair Isle’s philosophy honors the beautiful malt, hops, and ingredients (some foraged and almost all local) of the Pacific Northwest.
For instance, Bobbi, a dry-hopped saison, pairs Fair Isle’s love of farmhouse ales with a nod to the hops that grow close by in the Yakima Valley.
“As a brewery, we wanted to have our version of that so when customers come in and ask for an IPA or something hoppy, we have a gateway to introduce them to our saisons,” says Pogue. “Bobbi is [that beer] when someone wants something hoppy that satisfies that niche but also adds something to the picture and starts a vocabulary around our process and flavor profile.”
Eugene goes a step further, leveraging spent hops, while Leila includes malted Purple Egyptian barley to show off local Washington malts.
Fonta Flora Brewery
Fonta Flora has quickly proven to be one of the best breweries in the Southeast. An authentic farmhouse brewery, Fonta Flora brews with local agriculture to craft unique beers loaded with a sense of time and place. But the beauty of this brewery is their willingness to opt for simplicity over complexity (without sacrificing quality, mind you) from time to time.
Forest + Main Brewing Company
Come for the fantastic can art, stay for the phenomenal saisons, pale ales, and ESBs. Forest + Main is one of the best farmhouse ale producers in the country and has nailed the canned saison, a format that has boggled many brewers.
The brewers even cultivate yeast on the cherry blossom tree in front of the brewery, imparting a specificity to their beers. Few breweries achieve such intentionality and, honestly, fun in their beers as Forest + Main.
“Most all our saisons are pretty low in alcohol, have lots of European hops, and are mildly funky and acidic,” says Owner Gerard Olson. “But beyond that, they seem to have a personality that wants to hang out in the sun with some pals enjoying a slow afternoon.”
Hacienda Beer Co.
Baileys Harbor, WI
We first fell in love with the Baileys Harbor brewery for their surprisingly balanced hazy IPAs, but we’ve come to regard Hacienda as one of our favorite Midwest saison breweries.
Beers like L’Ete and Smallish are restrained and highly approachable. And they pair with just about any food. Hacienda’s beers have begun popping up in various bottle shops, so keep your eyes peeled for some funky Wisconsin goodness.
Holy Mountain Brewing
Surprisingly, some of our favorite saison brewers tend to be huge metalheads. It could be that endless search for balance—a ripper of a guitar solo matches perfectly with a delicate, effervescent farmhouse ale. Whatever the case, Holy Mountain crushes it.
The Seattle brewery produces some stunning examples of the style. Holy Mountain’s beers are rustic and historic, ideally suited for modern palates. The funk profile is balanced and a bit floral, softening that harsh exterior.
We’ve sung the praises of Homage Brewing in the past, but it bears repeating that Homage makes stellar Belgian-inspired ales. Founders Matt and Lauren Garcia have taken notes from some of the best natural wineries in California, imbuing their base saisons with lovely acidity and terroir evocative of our favorite Piquettes or Sparkling Zinfandels.
Hill Farmstead Brewery
Greensboro Bend, VT
The enigmatic Shaun Hill helms Hill Farmstead, widely regarded as perhaps the best American saison brewery. The remote Vermont farmhouse brewery is a mecca of Belgian inspiration lovingly translated to the American landscape. Hill even trademarked the term Farmstead ale to preserve his intentionality with this style. Plus, he launched a side brand Grassroots Brewing to explore the world of Farmstead ales further. You honestly can’t go wrong with any of the offerings from Hill Farmstead. And while they might be difficult to find beyond the brewery’s walls, I recommend taking every opportunity to try these beers.
Jackie O’s Brewery
They are plentiful and poetic; tart and complex; mixed-ferm and regular saison. Jackie O’s makes everything in the saison barrel. Bob for whatever you want and prepare to be wowed.
Jester King Brewery
No conversation about the American saison is complete without mention of Jester King Brewery. The Austin, TX, farmhouse brewery has produced some of the country’s best farmhouse ales for years. Moreover, many of their bottles are relatively accessible. So, while people highly covet their specialty releases, their widely distributed saisons are affordable and damn delicious. Truly, if you see a Jester King beer, you can’t go wrong.
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
Another brewery nearly synonymous with the American saison, Jolly Pumpkin has been making delicious funky beer for over a decade. And, like Jester King, Jolly Pumpkin is ubiquitous. Everyone has tried Bam Bière. But it never gets old. And, rather than rest on its laurels, Jolly Pumpkin continues to innovate within the category experimenting with hoppy saisons and fruited sour ales.
Our Mutual Friend Brewing Company
Started by friends Bryan Leavelle, Andrew Strasburg, and Brandon Proff in 2012, Our Mutual Friend (OMF) is the place where you drink beer with friends you’ve known for twenty years. Or you make friends with someone you’ve never met before. It’s the place where the friends of your friends introduce you, and you become friends.
Known for their saisons and sours, OMF is a tiny operation with big brass brewing balls.
And we’re not the only ones who think so. Just this past October, during the Great American Beer Festival Awards Ceremony, OMF racked up a gold in the Brett Beer category for Saison Trystero, a 6.6% ABV Brett Saison, and a silver in the Mixed-Culture Brett Beer category for Biere Ovale.
Oxbow Brewing Company
I firmly believe that Oxbow is one of the unsung heroes of American saison. Nestled in Vacationland, Oxbow (like Allagash) brews some stellar interpretations of Belgian farmhouse ales. The brewery’s explorations in fruit and funk have resulted in some of our favorite sour farmhouse ales. Plus, how can you ignore that beautiful font work on their labels? Don’t sleep on Oxbow.
Perennial Artisan Ales
St. Louis, MO
Usually, when we’re talking about Perennial, we’re drooling over the brewery’s decadent pastry stouts. But you shouldn’t overlook that the St. Louis brewery also whips up some darn tasty saisons. Beers like Distant Land and Saison de Lis are elegant approaches to saison, while Prism offers the brewery a chance to play within the style. Whether the flavors lean more floral or embrace the hoppier side, Perennial is a saison brewery worth seeking.
Scratch Brewing Company
Scratch Brewing is one of the most special breweries in the United States. The farmhouse brewery forages many of the ingredients in its beer, making delightfully floral, woodsy, smokey, and funky offerings. The Ava, Illinois-based brewery has progressed the American saison in myriad ways, and it’s encouraging to see folks still excited about the style. If you spot a bottle of Scratch, we recommend snatching it up.
Side Project Brewing
St. Louis, MO
Side Project is another one of the American breweries that has managed to build excitement around saisons and farmhouse ales. With Side Project, there’s a sense of history and reverence in all of its beers. And while the brewery can pump out decadent, hype-worthy stouts, it can also produce delicate, beautiful grisettes and saisons.
Suarez Family Brewery
Suarez Family makes unique beers. In addition to beautifully simple lagers, Suarez produces “country beers,” the brewery’s interpretation of farmhouse ales. Beers like Big Night or Triangular Nature are subtle and complex, with vibrant fruit flavors running against a crisp and dry finish. Like many others on this list, a Suarez beer feels wholly special to the brewery.
The Referend Bier Blendery
The base beers vary from tart Berliner weisse to refreshing witbier. While many, if not most, of The Referend’s beers could fit into the broad farmhouse ale category, there aren’t many “true saisons” from The Referend.
Mont Sainte-Victoire is the brewery’s most faithful representation of a saison, so we’d highly recommend exploring all of the variants within this family.
TRVE Brewing Company
Yet again, we find a brewery devoted to both metal and saisons. There must be a pattern here. Whatever the reason, Denver’s TRVE Brewing manages to brew impeccable saisons that are lively and refreshing, with plenty of depth of flavor. A beer like Seven Doors is crisp, dry, and exceedingly drinkable, while Melissa makes you stop and revel in the tart sensations.
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