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'Tis the Season for Saison, and Early Winter Craft Beer Events

Area Man Drinks Beer discusses the resurgent saison style, and previews some upcoming craft beer events in West Roxbury & Jamaica Plain.

By Mike Loconto
Area Man Drinks Beer blog
Twitter: @Neighbeers

The holidays are here, and that means holiday parties. Or holiday shopping. Or just another excuse to get together with your friends for a few drinks. Here is a quick rundown on three upcoming craft beer events in West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, my thoughts on the burgeoning saison style, and a worthy cause for homebrewers and craft beer lovers in southwest Boston.

@Neighbeers Night at Porter Café

This year, Area Man Drinks Beer is getting in on the holiday fun and so can you. Join me on Tuesday, December 11 at Porter Café for @Neighbeers Night. In the spirit of the season, I’ll be sharing my ONCEMADE project Release #1 beers with anyone who is interested. The ONCEMADE project, brought to you by the designers of the Pintley app, teams up with craft brewers to create one-time-only brews that push the envelope on traditional beer styles while incorporating local ingredients.

Release #1 features two Massachusetts brewers: Everett-based Night Shift Brewing, and the tenant brewer Backlash Beer Co. Each brewer created a saison, a resurgent style sometimes know as a farmhouse ale.

A Brief Diversion on Saisons

Saison (say it with me now: ‘say-zone’) originated in the French-speaking region of Belgium, and was traditionally brewed as summertime refreshment for farmers after a day’s work in the rolling fields of Wallonia. Saison Dupont and other Belgians have endured as classic examples of the style, but American craft brewers have taken to the style recently and in large numbers. The Somerville-based Drink Craft Beer blog, in fact, hosted Summerfest: A Celebration of Farmhouse Ales, earlier this year to celebrate the explosion of saisons in Massachusetts and New England.

Somerville-based Slumbrew’s Caitlin Jewell recently remarked to me that she thought Massachusetts brewers are at the forefront of the saison renaissance. I tend to agree, with many examples crossing the spectrum on flavors and strength, from the low-alcohol Notch Saison to the stronger Slumbrew Flower Envy, Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project Jack d’ Or and Backlash Convergence, to the ethereal range of Mystic Brewery’s creations (including the outstanding Vinland One, which I have praised before for it’s use of indigenous yeast harvested from a Massachusetts plum).

Consuming saisons is not necessarily limited to the summer despite their historical use. For instance, Mystic Brewery’s Three Cranes Cranberry Saison was brewed for the Thanksgiving holiday, using tart Massachusetts cranberries to enhance the dry finish characteristic of the style. The Notch Valley Malt BSA was brewed as a fall seasonal, using a blend of Saison Dupont yeast, American hops and local grains grown in Northampton and malted in Hadley at Valley Malt. Matt Osgood ReviewBrews recently ran a great article in Dig Boston about the Valley Malt BSA; you can read it here.

For the ONCEMADE release, two very different beers emerged despite the common saison style and a fermentation process that included sour elements associated with Brettanomyces yeast and aging on Massaschusetts raspberries in rum and red wine barrels. Backlash created the Wild King, a pale saison, while Night Shift’s Wild Queen is a stronger red saison. You can read more about these creations on the ONCEMADE website, or just join me on Tuesday and taste them for yourself. I only have two bottles of each beer (thanks to a generous donation of an extra set, in the true holiday spirit, by Night Shift Brewing – cheers, fellas!), so get there early: the corks will pop at 7:30 p.m. After that, it’s a pay-as-you go pint night with Porter’s 15 taps and 50+ bottle selection and an opportunity to socialize with some other craft beer fans from the area.

Here are two other upcoming events to keep on your radar:

Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project at Streetcar Wine & Beer

Somerville’s ode to outstanding beer, the Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, will be gracing the equally inimitable Streetcar Wine & Beer in Hyde Square, Jamaica Plain next week. The brewers will appear for a 5 – 7 p.m. tasting, and will hopefully bring some of their new creations from the Once Upon a Time Collection of historical beers. Pretty Things launched four (!) new OUAT beers this week, so let’s hope they will bring some of the new brews to Streetcar later next week. The OUAT East India Porter was one of my favorite beers last year, and their Jack d’ Or is now a standard among restaurants serving better local craft beer.

Porter Café “Commuter Ales” brewer nights

Last year, West Roxbury Main Streets began a new effort to bring neighbors and craft beer fans together in local restaurants like Masona Grill and Porter Café. In January, Commuter Ales returns to Porter Café with a series of local craft brewers visiting the pub for tastings and beer specials. The series begins on January 15 with Jack’s Abby Brewing of Framingham. Jack’s Abby recently won a bronze medal for its Smoke & Dagger black lager in the smoked beer category at the Great American Beer Festival. Porter carries Smoke & Dagger in half-liter bottles, and currently features the rauchbier (smoked German lager) Fire in the Ham on draught. Porter’s New American kitchen will pair specials with the featured beers. You can check the Porter website (or this blog) for more information about future dates and brewers, which are tentatively slated to include Pretty Things, Slumbrew and Maine’s Allagash among others.

Support a Start-Up: Boston Homebrew Supply

The Jamaica Plain Patch recently featured Josh Sattin, a Forest Hills resident working to open Boston Homebrew Supply. I have been a very infrequent homebrewer (three batches in the last decade), due in part to the lack of quality access to supplies in the area and the corresponding inability to talk in-depth and face-to-face with brewing experts about different ingredients and methods. Most homebrewers take to the Internet to order kits and supplies, and the nearest brick & mortar supply shop is Modern Brewer in North Cambridge. A fundraising campaign for Boston Homebrew Supply recently closed, but keep an eye on the BHS Facebook page for other opportunities to support this small business and great addition to the southwest Boston craft beer scene.

We have a rich craft beer constituency in West Roxbury, Boston and beyond, and I want to provide it with a voice and a forum through this blog. Send me your thoughts on the blog, event postings and ideas for future stories or reviews at neighbeers at gmail dot com or through twitter @Neighbeers. And comments below, good or bad, are always appreciated.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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