Allagash Saison, which used to be a year-round beer but is no longer, will be back on tap at the Portland brewery for Saison Day. Photos courtesy of Allagash Brewing

Saisons might not be as widely consumed as IPAs, lagers or stouts, but because of certain Maine brewers’ fondness for the style, celebrating them has become an annual tradition.

Allagash Brewing Co. started Saison Day in 2014, and this year, five other breweries are participating in the celebration, happening Saturday, including nearby Oxbow; Urban Roots in California; Green Bench Brewing in Florida; Threes Brewing in New York and Off Color Mousetrap in Illinois.

Allagash will have five of its own saison beers on tap at its Portland brewery and will send its beers to participating breweries. Oxbow specializes in farmhouse ales and will have a range of choices (including several of its saisons) on tap at its Portland location, as well as six Allagash beers.

The saison style – pronounced “say-zaan,” which is French for season – originated on farms in Southern Belgium and Northern France. They were brewed in the colder months and drunk in the summer by farmhands and seasonal workers.

Brett Willis, a spokesman for Allagash, said that it was difficult for him to come up with the words to effectively describe the style, but he characterizes it as having fruity and spicy notes and being dry, crisp and very refreshing.

Saisons are a type of farmhouse beer. Other styles within this family are bière de garde (stronger and amber), bière de pays (low alcohol and amber) and bière de Noël (holiday beer), all of which have fermentation-driven profiles, meaning the flavor and mouthfeel comes mostly from the yeast rather than hops or malt.


Oxbow has participated in Saison Day from the beginning and this year will be releasing Wild Rivulet, a beer that’s been aging since then. The original Rivulet was brewed with Allagash and released on Saison Day in 2014, but some of it was put into barrels and since has been maturing and mellowing in the presence of wild cultures from both breweries, said Greg Jasgur, director of operations at Oxbow. He expects Wild Rivulet to be funkier, more intense, more mature and rounder tasting than the original Rivulet.

Oxbow will also have Saison Aquatic on tap, a saison brewed with sea salt and Maine-harvested sugar kelp, first released last year for Seaweed Week, which is happening now through April 30.

Allagash employees cheer with Upward Movement, a true-to-style saison whose proceeds will be donated to the Pink Boots Society.

Of the Allagash beers made with saison yeast that will be on tap there and at Oxbow, Saison and Upward Movement are the truest to style. Saison used to be in the Allagash year-round portfolio, but it was discontinued two years ago. They’re bringing it back for this celebration and drinkers should expect notes of citrus, pear, peppery spice and a pleasant malt character. Upward Movement is a brand-new release that was dry-hopped with this year’s hop blend from the Pink Boots Society, which supports women and nonbinary people in the industry. The beer showcases notes of orange creamsicle, honeydew and pineapple, and all proceeds from its sale will go to Pink Boots.

Two of the other Allagash beers on tap, Interlude and Shiro’s Delight, are made with saison and Brettanomyces yeast. The first beer Allagash brewed with Brettanomyces, Willis said, was a happy accident about 17 years ago. During a taste-test of Interlude during the brewing process, off-flavors were detected, but instead of dumping it, Allagash decided to send a sample of the yeast strain off to a lab for testing. It turned out the unexpected flavors were from the brewery’s own strand of Brettanomyces. The house Brettanomyces is unique because, instead of the usual barnyard or funky flavors and aromas, it adds tropical notes to the beer. These aromas and flavors go well with the citrus and peppery spice notes from saison yeast.

In terms of food, saison beers are some of the easiest to pair. Willis said their crispness clears your palate after fatty or oily dishes such as cheese pizza, burgers or a lobster roll with mayonnaise. They can also stand up to strong flavors and pair well with aged gouda.

When talking about pairings, Jasgur evoked the countryside where these beers originated and suggested foods that would be produced on a farm, such as spicy arugula, goat cheese and chicken. Duckfat in Portland has prepared a spread of food celebrating Belgian cuisine for the Saison Day celebration at Oxbow, and Portland musician Kafari will also be at the Portland location, playing an ethereal jazz set.

Whether a saison is your go-to beer or you have never tried one before, Saison Day is the perfect opportunity to explore all the style has to offer.

Caitlin Enz is a Certified Cicerone® who lives in Portland. Follow her on Instagram at @hops_and_brains.

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