Beer: Seizoen Bretta Brewery: Logsdon Organic Farmhouse Ales Style: Saison ABV: 8 percent
Because it is so appropriate, we begin this review with a short history lesson. The saison is a light, drinkable ale that originated in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium. French for "season," saisons were brewed seasonally, usually in the winter months, for drinking in the spring and summer. Most of the beer went toward quenching the thirst of farm workers, who were entitled to up to five liters(!) per day(!!!) during the harvest months. The farmsteads on which they were brewed gave saisons their nickname, "farmhouse ales," though today, most versions of the style are made in modern breweries.
Most versions of the style.
Logsdon Organic Farmhouse Ales gets back to the roots of saison in several ways. Housed on a picturesque 10-acre estate in Hood River, Oregon, the brewery makes use of organic, whole leaf hops grown right on the farm. Livestock roam the fields. A nursery of "schaerbeekse" (cherry) trees imported direct from Belgium will soon begin providing fruit for sour kriek ales. And all the brewing takes place in an actual, factual barn, making Seizoen Bretta one of the few true farmhouse ales.
This new-old-school brewery is the brainchild of Dave Logsdon, one of the rock stars of the brewing community. Not only was Logsdon the co-founder and head brewer at Full Sail Brewing, but he also helped start Wyeast Laboratories, a major provider of yeast and bacteria for brewers across the U.S. The man knows his beer.
Logsdon beers just became available in Arizona, and as of this writing six different beers can be found in beeswax-dipped 750 ml. bottles : Seizoen, an unfiltered saison; Seizoen Bretta, the Seizoen made with brettanomyces yeast; Peche 'n' Brett, the Seizoen Brett aged in oak and loaded with organic peaches; Kili Wit, a witbier; and Cerasus and Far West Vlaming; a pair of Flanders reds. Only one of these, however, won gold at this year's Great American Beer Festival: Seizoen Bretta.
As you would assume from the name, Brettanomyces is a major player in Seizoen Bretta. A form of yeast that forms naturally on the skin of fruit, Brett is considered a fiend in the wine community for same reason it's beloved by many brewers: it's funky. The flavor of Brettanomyces has many descriptors - hay, barnyard, horse blanket - that may sound odd but work in mysterious and wonderful ways in the right beer.
Seizoen Bretta is one of those beers. Poured the highly-carbonated brew into a tulip - the beer is bottle- conditioned with pear juice, giving it high, natural carbonation, and the flared glass will provide support for the frothy head that's sure to form. Pear, citrus, mushroom, horsehair, subtle breadiness and hints of floral spice swirl in the aroma as the bubbles pop.
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Seizoen Bretta is bit sweet for a saison, with sugary pear syrup, lemon zest and stone fruit leading the flavor. The brett does its best to balance, adding an earthy, musky quality without being overtaken. Incredibly fizzy, the beer expands in the mouth like a balloon, providing the tongue plenty of attention before a fairly sweet, alcohol-free finish.
Complex, drinkable and affordable, Seizoen Bretta is a prime example that traditional brewing never goes out of style. Bottles are available on Arizona shelves now, but I think I'd rather go work on Logsdon's farm so I can get my five-liter allotment.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.