It's the season for light beer. But rather than reaching for a can of Tecate, why not stretch the taste buds with a saison? French for "season," appropriately enough, the saison is yeasty, hoppy and clean; in other words, it's not your common light beer.
The story behind this beer—and one that Randy Mosher, author of Tasting Beer, argues is not altogether accurate—is that it originated as a farmhouse ale, brewed to make the midsummer days of labor easier for farmworkers. Locally brewed saison specimens include En Suite Saison by Baeltane Brewing, a fruity and tart farmhouse ale with Champagne-like effervescence. Available at Baeltane's tap room as well as Taps in Petaluma, it rings in the summer solstice with grace.<
Recently, Taps had a hopless saison from Petaluma's HenHouse Brewing on tap, though it wasn't to my taste. Flat and slightly grey, with little to no carbonation, it carries a sourness appealing to palates that like a challenge. HenHouse also makes a standard saison, one with all the hops and carbonation you would expect. (HenHouse's beers are hard to find, but Petaluma Market is a good source; feel free to call for stock inquiries at 707.762.5464.)
Spiced with ginger, coriander and star anise, Anderson Valley's Mowkeef Bahl Hornin saison (which loosely translates to "hay reaper great drink of liquor") is the perfect poolside accompaniment to a Us Weekly and some coconut oil. Golden like the sun, it satisfies that need for something bubbly and refreshing on a hot day.