Last Thursday, at the beginning of my mini-“vacation” in the city, I started things off with a beer-tasting at Tria Fermentation School. The class (“The Dude on the Farm”) was led by Scott Morrison, who will soon be brewing at Philly’s Dock Street Brewing Company. His topic was farmhouse ales.
Morrison, who’s apparently “the dude,” designed a four-flight tasting of bières de garde and saisons. Each flight paired a traditional European brew with an American gloss on the style. I’d enjoyed a couple of the European beers before (including Saison Dupont), but the American brews were the eye-openers. I was particularly impressed by Southampton Publick House’s Saison, which offered an amazing lemon-y smell and flavor. I also liked a West Coast beer (gasp!), Lost Abbey/Port Brewing Co.’s Avant Garde; it was malty and delicious.
I didn’t really come away from the evening with much of an appreciation of the differences between bières de garde and saisons—except, of course, that the former are from France and the latter are Belgian. Actually, my impression is that it’s hard to pin down any real differences because there’s so much variation within the styles. What they have in common, though, is a maturation/cellaring process that’s akin to wine fermentation.