When I first dipped my big toe into the world of beer a few years back, farmhouse saisons were what I gravitated towards. I was definitely drawn to the name first; doesn’t it sound like something that just had to be a part of my life?? Once I started tasting them, I was not disappointed. I found them to be light in body, low in alcohol, yet with a rustic quality that made them so much more complex, especially if they were made by a craft brewery. As I did some research, I learned that the complexity of a saison varies depending upon the way in which the brewmaster changes the combination of ingredients. Some achieve that depth of flavor by bringing in multiple yeasts, and others get there by using different hops or grains. I loved the idea of a saison being driven by local and seasonal ingredients, like berries in the summer and pumpkin in the fall. I came across a quote that appeared in an article about saisons that was from Ron Extract of Jester King Craft Brewery in Austin, Texas. For him, saisons are “all about embracing the farmhouse mindset, the promise of the season.” Don’t you just love that idea?? I certainly did. And then someone came along and told me that some beer snobs turn their noses up at the idea of a saison. It’s a beer that’s entry level and not refined enough. “You’ll lose your taste for it and move on.” WELL. I certainly don’t know enough about beer to call myself a snob, and I don’t believe in that kind of snobbery anyway. I don’t even do it in the cocktail world, except in the case of the ever-present vodka club, and that’s only because I think it’s a drink that does not really do justice to the flavor possibilities a cocktail can offer. Don’t even get me started. In any case, I have never lost my interest in farmhouse saisons and they are still one of the first beers to catch my eye on a menu. Whenever I order one, I’m seldom disappointed.
I decided to revolve today’s cocktail around the idea of rusticity by making a variation of the often maligned drink known as the smash. It is also considered to be an entry level option, and one from which serious drinkers should move on. I disagree. Vehemently. I think smash drinks inspire creativity, can be incredibly refreshing, and can make a whiskey drinker out of someone who is not quite there yet. I knew that I wanted my beer to be Fegley Brew Works Raspberry Saison, brewed locally in Allentown, Pa. I was drawn to its tartness, and hint of sweetness, and by the powerful flavor punch that comes from 480 pounds of raspberries! It also has that nice touch of farmhouse graininess that brought in just the perfect rustic element to this drink. I needed some bourbon next and wanted to stay local, so I chose Kinsey, which is distilled right here in Philadelphia. I added just a small amount of Chambord to intensify the raspberry flavor, and give the drink a real cocktail feel. I had some blood oranges left over from last week and I love the way they pair up with raspberries, but you can just as easily use regular oranges too. I needed a bit of sweetness so I went with a maple simple syrup, and added in some DRAM wild mountain sage bitters for just a hint of an herbal streak. They made an amazing difference. The dryness of the beer keeps this smash from being too sweet, and the bourbon and the saison work wonderfully together to provide some true flavor complexity, all of which is complemented by the fruit. Entry level and unrefined? I don’t think so. Cheers everyone. Happy Wednesday!
2 oz Kinsey bourbon
4 oz Fegley’s Brew Works Space Monkey Raspberry Saison
¼ oz Chambord
¾ oz maple simple syrup*
¾ oz blood orange juice (or regular orange juice)
2 dashes DRAM wild mountain sage bitters**
Add 6 raspberries and 2 blood orange (or regular orange) slices to the bottom of a mixing tin with the maple simple syrup and muddle gently. Add the remaining ingredients with ice and shake until very cold. The beer will foam. Strain into a tulip glass or round wine goblet (like this one from Anthropologie) over fresh ice. Add raspberries and orange slices on top. Enjoy!
*Maple syrup dissolved in warm water, equal parts
**Available on Amazon.com or at Art in the Age in Old City, if you’re local to the Philadelphia area.