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The switch to spring beers

We all love IPAs, but what else out there can ease us into the warm spring afternoons? The answer is the saison.

On cool nights, get your last few sips of the beers that are going out – barley wines, porters and sweet stouts. These rich varieties tend to go out of favor after the temperature gets above 80.

To be clear, there is no need to get rid of these beers. Strong, dark beers generally age very well. Find a dark, cool place to store them for the summer and they will be even better next fall. Heed the warning on storage though; both light and drastic temperature changes are dangerous for beer of any style.

Now on to the saison, a farmhouse ale. Lately, I just haven’t been able to stop thinking about a light and refreshing 750 milliliter bottle of saison and how perfectly it pairs with the spring weather. I have tried something like eight in the last eight days – the perfect ratio for these fine afternoons we’ve been having. A saison is a Belgian beer, though not your typical Belgian beer. It is generally lighter in body, earthier and much more mellow. This type of beer, traditionally drunk in spring in Wallonia – the French speaking southern portion of Belgium – is normally bottled in a wine bottle and corked due to the high amount of carbonation.

Logsdon Farmhouse Ales Seizoen Bretta is a personal favorite. Check out my recent review here on The Sacramento Press site. It may be a little hard to find, but it’s worth it. Lately it has been available at both The Davis Beer Shoppe and Capitol Beer and Tap Room.

Beware that certain farmhouse ales, usually those of a lighter hue, contain what is known by beer connoisseurs as a “funky” yeast. If you want to be technical about it, Brettanomyces Bruxellensis. This yeast is most unfortunately known for having the very distinct aroma of…horsehair.

Yes, horsehair. Some people actually like a certain amount of this flavor in a beer.

If it really gets to you, let it warm for a few minutes and it will lessen. The other option is to stick to the slightly maltier varieties such as the aforementioned Seizoen Bretta, North Coast Brewing Company’s Le Merle or Hennepin, Brewery Ommegang’s Farmhouse Saison. Saison Rue from The Bruery is yet another nice option. If you find yourself really enjoying this type of beer, expand your search to include all farmhouse ales and the always haughtily enticing French country ales.

You may have heard that Odonata Beer Company has plans to return to life in the near future. Its flagship beer was a saison that received 98 out of 100 at RateBeer.com. Unfortunately, this beer is currently only available as a limited-edition reserve release, available by special request or for special events.

In other news, we are about to see the end of blow-your-mind IPA season. Pliny The Younger season is over, but there are still a couple of interesting developments to look forward to. The first is Knee Deep Brewing Company’s Hopoholic 4x IPA. It should be released on tap and in bottles in the very near future – as soon as later this week – I suggest staying glued to their Twitter feed for updates.

The second development worth watching is Stone’s “Enjoy By” series. Enjoy By 04.20.13 will be available in Sacramento after March 20. Talk to your local beer proprietor to see if it’s going to be on their tap or bottle list. This particular version of the limited-release series is a double IPA at 88 IBUs and 9.4 percent ABV. It was bottled just last Friday and is the fifth in Stone’s “Enjoy By” series, Enjoy By 02.15.13 being the most lavishly hailed so far.

Stone chooses a number of sites around the country for each limited distribution, so not every release will be available in Sacramento. Enjoy by 04.20.13, though, is going to be available in pretty much the stoniest places in the country – Colorado, Alaska, Washington and Sacramento. Well done, Stone.

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