Every couple of years, a new or old style pops out of nowhere and becomes one of the biggest trends in the beer industry.
We’ve seen barrel-aged beers, beers brewed colder than they should be, oh and even beer with caffeine. One style that was a big trend back in 2010 was the saison-style wheat ales. Saisons, known as farmhouse ales in the USA, are a style of beer that originated in Belgium. Originally brewed in late autumn or early winter, it could sit and age at the brewery without the worries of it going stale — this was before refrigeration was accessible for the masses.
Once the farmers started hitting the fields in the spring and summer, bottles of saison would be given to them to keep them refreshed, as beer at the time was still much safer to drink than the best water in the area. Not only that, farmers were guaranteed an allotment of five litres of saison ales per day. Oh how would I love to drink five litres of saison while working on the farm in this day and age — but then I wouldn’t be able to drive the tractor.
After the popularity of saisons soared a few years back, breweries all over North America started to brew their own version of the farmer’s beer. Many release the beer as a seasonal beer, around the time of European summer (around now), around Canadian summer in June, or just as a permanent product. Winnipeg’s Half Pints, like the old farm breweries in Belgium back in centuries past, brew their saison during the wintertime. However, unlike in Belgium, they actually release it during the Manitoban winter as well, as there’s no way in heck that it’s going to be 20 C in March here!
Half Pints introduced their saison, called Saison de la Ceinture Fléchée, back in February 2012 right before Festival du Voyageur, as a tribute to the fur trade, the Francophones and Métis populations that have helped make Manitoba the province that it is. To me, nothing says middle-of-February like poutine, an ice glass of Caribou, live folk music, snow sculptures, good beer and yours truly yelling out "OU EST LA POUTINE?!" (Where’s the poutine?!) at 2 a.m.
Saison de la Ceintre Fléchée is a farmhouse saison that pours cloudy orange but oh my … the saison is incredibly foamy, when you pour this into a glass, be patient, as there’s a bit too much carbonation taking place, or you could drink it straight from the bottle, but then you will be burping for a few hours afterwards from all the gassiness in the beer. Don’t let that scare you off as Belgian ales are a bit heavier than the standard lagers and ales! For the aroma, I get an essence of Belgian yeast, a bit of a sweet candy-like sweetness, fruity scents of lemon and pear and a great abundance of the Wheat City’s default grain, wheat!
Now that the beer has settled down a bit, it’s a great time to taste this brew! The first things I notice are that the wheatiness of the aroma is consistent here. Also, the zest of pear and lemon are even stronger. It has a bit of a bite to it, and a bit bitter to the tongue, but this is certainly a refreshing beer — the kind of ale I would enjoy after working 35 C days in the fields at dad’s farm in Pipestone.
Saisons aren’t everyone’s pint of beer, but if you are a fan of Belgian-style witbiers already, meaning wheat ales like Rickard’s White, Labatt’s Shocktop, Hoegaarden and Unibroue Blanche de Chambly, then I know you will fall in love with saisons like Ceinture Fléchée as it has a common wheaty goodness to it. Best enjoyed after a hard day at work and shared with friends and family! Half Pints’ Saison de la Ceinture Fléchée costs $5.67 for a 650 mL bottle, 5.5 per cent ABV and can only be found in Westman at the Liquor Mart at 10th and Victoria.
Oh boy, the MLCC has really been bringing out new beers to Manitoban beer drinkers this year! I just can’t keep up. Here’s two of the newest beers to check out. Phillips Brewing has another new India Pale Ale for those hop heads out there.
Amnesiac Double IPA
A strong, bitter Double India Pale Ale, 8.5 per cent ABV and tastes of pine — a hopfest of hops. One thing I noticed in the beer was a vague taste of dill pickles. Available for $6.25 for a 650 mL bottle at Russell and the 10th and Victoria Liquor Mart in Brandon.
Muskoka Detour Session Ale
Session ales are supposed to become the "next big thing" in the beer scene. Session ales are beers lower in alcohol content, close to being a light beer, but still full on flavour for those who want to sample beers but not feel the alcohol kick. Detour is Muskoka’s take on an India Pale Ale but lowered in alcohol content to 4.3 per cent. Available at the 10th and Victoria Liquor Mart for $2.73 per 355 mL bottle.
La Messagère au Millet by Bières de la Nouvelle-France
A gluten-free beer described as a limpid and crystalline pale ale, with a bouquet of honey, reminding a touch of citrus fruits. $15.14 for a 6-pack of 341 mL bottles.
Anderson Valley Hop Ottin’ IPA
A personal favourite of mine, a true West Coast style India Pale Ale, brewed with a liberal amount of West Coast hops. Absolutely delicious, but India Pale Ales have a real best before date as liberally hopped beers go stale much sooner than most beers. $1.98 per 335 mL can.