Saison Style Beer, once nearly impossible to find outside of Belgium, is taking the world of American craft beer by storm. The New York Times jumped on the Saison bandwagon way back in 2013 with an article entitled, “The Perfect Summer Beer May Be the Saison,” and suddenly, everyone was talking about the style, from Esquire to The Men’s Journal.
These days, craft beer drinkers can find fantastic Saison Style Beers just about anywhere in the country!
If you’re not familiar with the style, the Saison originated in a French-speaking region of Belgium called Wallonia, where they were brewed in barns during the cooler months. Usually low in alcohol, the beer was bottled and saved for summer, to be consumed in the fields by sweaty farmhands in dire need of a cool drink.
Even the word ‘Saison’ is French for ‘season!’
Today, you can get a deliciously refreshing Saison anytime of year, and they don’t all come with that traditionally low ABV!
Plenty of American breweries have adopted the old-world brew, and some of the very best are scattered across the Pacific Northwest.
Because these beers are typically made with local grains and yeast, they represent the flavors of the places they come from. So, if you really want to experience a Saison, it’s best to visit the brewery where it was made. That means it’s time for a road trip!
Grab a few buddies (and a designated driver) and prepare to discover 10 of the Best Saison Breweries in the Northwest!
First Stop: Holy Mountain Brewing - Seattle, Washington
No need to draw straws to decide who drives to this first destination. Once you’re in Seattle, you can take the bus straight to Holy Mountain Brewing Company, where they’re so dedicated to beer that they haven’t even bothered to make themselves a website.
Grab a glass of local favorite Demonteller Saison, or enjoy a pint of Witchfinder Saison if it’s on tap. If you’re lucky enough to be there during the release of a one-off limited edition, by all means try it! You really can’t go wrong at Holy Mountain.
Second Stop: Fremont Brewing - Seattle, Washington
After Holy Mountain, hop on a bus and head to Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood for a stop at the legendary Fremont Brewing. Hooray! Still no driving!
Fremont is legendary in the Northwest craft scene, and rightfully so. Their IPAs are fantastic, and their The Rusty Nail series of Barrel Aged Stouts are among the most sought-after beers in the country!
But give all that a miss and order a glass of Fremont Brett French Saison. This funky brew took a top 30 spot in Paste Magazine’s Saison Blind Tasting! While you’re there, try their Harvest Ale Farmhouse Saison, or anything else from their Wild Ale program, for that matter.
Third Stop: Dwinell Country Ales - Goldendale, Washington
Finally, the real road trip begins! And this first hop is a doozy. Drive over the Cascade Mountains and head south through the Yakima Valley — the largest hop-producing region in the country! But don’t get distracted; you’re heading all the way down to the tiny town of Goldendale, home of Dwinell Country Ales.
This crew does nothing but Farmhouse Style Beers, and they’re so good at it that Craft Beer and Brewing Magazine named them one of the Top 3 Small Breweries in the Country! But they’re so small, that most people haven’t even heard of them.
Their tiny batch beers, made exclusively with hyper-fresh, local ingredients, are constantly rotating, but any Saison they have when you visit is bound to be delicious. And if they’ve got bottles of Plain Sight Apricot Saison or Taproot Carrot Flower Saison in stock, grab as many as you can carry.
Fourth Stop: pFriem Family Brewers - Hood River, Oregon
Now, jump back in your car with your carefully stored stash of bottles, and head west through the spectacular Columbia River Gorge! Cross the bridge into Hood River Oregon, and find your way to pFriem Family Brewers.
pFriem (pronounced ‘Freem’) is known for their classic-style brews, and the aptly named Double Saison is among their best! With a whopping 9.5% ABV, this beast doesn’t exactly adhere to the traditional Saison model, but it is delicious!
It even made Beer Connoisseurs’ list of the Top 100 Beers of 2018! While you’re there, sample a few of the more unusual Saison Ales pFriem makes, like Black Saison with blackberries and peppercorns, and Kumquat Farmhouse Ale with, you guessed it, kumquats!
Fifth Stop: Farmhouse Ales - Washougal, Washington
Not so many years ago, you could have stayed right in Hood River to sample Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, but they’ve since moved to the Washington side of the river. So, head back across the bridge and continue west along the mighty Columbia River Gorge through increasingly unbelievable scenery.
When you get to Washougal, head straight to the Logsdon taproom and order a Peche ‘n Brett Farmhouse Saison with peaches. This deliciously funky brew took Gold at the World Beer Cup AND Silver at the Great American Beer Fest, and rightfully so! But don’t drink too much, because you still have to try their Oak Aged Bretta and flagship Seizoen Farmhouse Ale.
With a lineup like that, it’s no wonder Bon Appetit named Logsdon one of their 10 Great American Farmhouse Breweries!
Sixth Stop: Upright Brewing Company - Portland, Oregon
Eventually you’ll have to tear yourself away from Logsdon, which is sad. But the good news is, you’re right across the bridge from the craft mecca of Portland, Oregon! Head over the river and get your Saison-loving self to Upright Brewing Company!
Oregon Live named this crew the #2 Brewery in the City, and their well deserved fame is built on a Saison foundation. They’ve produced well over 100 Saison Style beers, and they show no signs of slowing down.
Snag a sip of their beloved Seven Farmhouse Saison, or get citrusy with their equally popular Saison Vert with black limes. And, if you really want to try something unusual, sample a glass of Special Herbs Farmhouse Saison with Peaches. It’s aged in a mix of gin and wine barrels!
Seventh Stop: Breakside Brewing - Portland, Oregon
As you’re heading out of town, hit up any of Breakside Brewing’s three Portland-area taprooms. This crew might be better known for hoppy IPAs and bold Stouts, but they sure do know their way around a funky Saison!
In Paste Magazine’s blind tasting, their Bon Vivant Saison placed in the Top 10!
And, with over 50 Saison Style Beers in their catalog, there will probably be one or two more you’ll want to try. Like Oui Chef Saison with Fennel, or the classically flavored (and appropriately named) Classique Saison.
Eighth Stop: De Garde Brewing - Tillamook, Oregon
You could spend weeks in Portland and still not have time to sample all the delicious beers, but this is a Saison Road Trip! That means, it’s time to head for the coast and de Garde Brewing in quaint Tillamook, Oregon.
De Garde does nothing but spontaneously fermented Wild Ales. They never add yeast, instead using the natural microbes on the Oregon breeze to ferment their brews. And expect plenty of local fruit, like the nectarines in their Nectarine Premiére Saison. Or, reach for something more classic like Petit Desay Saison!
No rush here, you’ll probably want to hang out for awhile and find out why Willamette Week says de Garde “Might be the world’s quirkiest brewery!”
Ninth Stop: The Ale Apothecary - Bend, Oregon
It’s time to cross back over to the east side of the mountains and boogie on down to Bend. And when you get there, ignore the hordes of tourists and head straight to The Ale Apothecary!
You can’t visit the actual brewery (where they make everything by hand with hyper-local yeasts and ingredients) because it’s in an old barn up in the forested hills, and it’s not open to the public. But, swing by their funky little taproom and sample as many of their equally funky brews as you possibly can. After all, there’s a reason Thrillist included The Ale Apothecary in their “10 Oregon Breweries That’ll Blow Your Beer-lovin’ Mind!”
All the beers are hyper-limited and mostly seasonal, so you never know what you’ll find, but treat yourself to anything from the UNVRSL Saison Series and you’ll be smiling in no time. No luck? Reach for a Witchfinder Saison, Dreamscape Saison, or just about anything else in the house. All The Ale Apothecary does is Wild Ales, and all of them are fantastic.
Tenth Stop: Crux Fermentation Project - Bend, Oregon
Fight through the crowds of hopheads slugging back pints of Crux’s (admittedly fantastic) IPAs, and order a glass of their flagship Crux Farmhouse Saison.
It’s funky, earthy, and oh so tasty! If you’re lucky, you might have a chance at something from their BANISHED Saison series, like In the Pocket or Bretted Farmhouse Saison. GET SOME.
You’re probably running out of space in the car for bottles by now, and you might have to abandon one of your friends in Bend. That’s okay. They’ll make it home somehow.