Beer history: Saison

wheat1Saison is a French term which means “season” and originated in the southern part of Belgium. Saison beers were first being made back in the 1700’s and were strictly made for farmers. After the farming season ended, the remaining grain from the fields was oftentimes used to produce beer in the farmhouse. The farmers would also use quite a bit of hops to keep the beer from spoiling, as well as many types of herbs and spices. Since farmers would essentially use whatever ingredients they had on their farm, the style was very different from one farmer to the next.  They would also brew these in the colder months to allow the beer to mature.

Saisons were very low on the ABV scale (usually around 3.5-4%). This would give the farmers a crisp, refreshing beer during the hot summer months without getting them drunk. After time, saisons became so popular that farmers actually started using their farmhouses as small brew houses. Soon, farmers would work together and combine various herbs and spices to create some unique concoctions, and with the addition of beet sugars or cane sugar, these saisons started to spike near the 8% ABV mark.

saison beer

Saisons started to drop off the grid in the mid 19th century. Pale lagers flooded the marked and pushed this style off to the side, culminating in the death of the saison-style shortly after the 2nd World War. Some small brew houses continued brewing saisons, but the comeback was very slow. With today’s technology and America’s push for more unique craft beer, saison beers are once again prominent in the beer market.  It continues to be one of the more complex and popular styles of beer available.

Rumpkin by Avery Brewing Co.

Our love for pumpkin beers continues this week with our third beer in the Heavenly Gourd series, and it’s a real whopper.  Enticing us with a combination of pumpkin and rum barrel-aging, this colossal brew clocks in at 35 proof (seemed more appropriate than ABV) and is guaranteed to get your palate’s attention. But can all the booziness be too much of a good thing? Join us as we sample Avery Rumpkin in an attempt to answer that question on our quest to discovering pumpkin beer perfection..

Phase 2: The Legwork

Headtrip Sign

Back in April, we ran a feature entitled “Birth of a Brewery” that focused on a new brewery called Headtrip that was going to open sometime in the near future in Stow, OH. We know…that was many beers ago, so maybe you don’t remember seeing it. If you don’t, you can find it here. Well, here we are 6 months later, and we have some exciting updates to share pertaining to Headtrip’s progress since then…

Flight Boards RawHoles CutMuch has been accomplished in the way of the dirty work to get the brewery launched soon. All construction has been completed, with a second bathroom installation being completed as well. Everything has been painted, and all lighting and electrical fixtures have been installed. Mason jars with Edison-style light fixtures are gracing the new residence, giving it that old-fashioned yet modern look, and the table tops have been created from reclaimed wood. The flight boards have been cut, sanded, drilled for holes, filled (the gaps, not the glasses…have some patience, will ya?), and clear-coated.

The bar top will be complete soon, and the bar rails will be fashioned from some pieces left over from one of the Renner Brewing Company buildings Akron, OH. The tap system and the CO2 system have been installed, all equipment is in, and the custom stands for the brew kettles are ready to go as well. The inspection and the occupancy permit is done (49 people), and the official state permit has been issued, so now they’re working on final tests of their equipment so they can start brewing and building inventory.

Taproom in Sept. 17

If you follow Headtrip on social media, they’ve posted a couple teaser pictures of R&D beers they’ve made over the summer, including a Cranberry-Cherry Wit, a German wheat Lemon Ale, and a Raspberry Belgian Saison. Our mouths water just looking at the pictures….we can only imagine how great they’re gonna taste! As the opening date approaches, which hasn’t been announced yet, we anxiously await our first taste of these and their other beers as well, most of which will be kept a secret until then.

Please support Headtrip when the doors finally do open by paying them a visit. Keep an eye out for us there when you do, and be sure to tell us what your favorite brew by them is. Phase 3 will be soon to follow, so be watching!!!

the Hopostles

Photo credit: Stephanie Seagle (Steph Seagle Photography)

Pumking by Southern Tier Brewing Company

He-Man vs. Skeletor. G.I. Joe vs Cobra. Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan. The Autobots vs. the Decepticons. What do they all have in common, besides proving that we have fond memories of the 80’s? All of them are classic battles of good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, and simply put, who’s more powerful. In our second week of the Heavenly Gourd series, we pitted Pumking against his rum-guzzling uncle to see who the true king of the pumpkin patch is…

Boo’s and Booze

Have you ever substituted the cup holder in your baby stroller, normally reserved for the baby bottle, as a holder for your beer instead?  I have, and here’s the story about it…

halloween beer

It’s a yearly tradition…what can I say?  For the past 13 years, we have trick-or-treated with the same two friends.  When we started this tradition, they had one toddler and so did we. Currently, our two-family trick-or-treat group boasts 11 kiddos.  And for every one of those years, a nice cold beer has kept me more than willing to walk to however many houses it was going to take to wear the kids out.  Oftentimes, the beer runs out quicker than the kids’ energy, but hey…everyone has to make sacrifices for their children at one time or another.

T or T

The cups that hold the precious beverage have varied over the years, but it’s usually a travel coffee mug of some sort that will have a top to keep it from spilling.  Well, for some reason that I’m sure made a lot of sense at the time, I took a Solo cup along as the cup of choice one year, and still haven’t heard the end of it.  Pushing my 15 month old daughter in the stroller was a 2 handed job, something a guy like me clearly wasn’t cut out for.  But alas, there’s a cup holder that wasn’t being used!  Seemed like a perfect place to put the cup, but who would have thought that these things weren’t designed to keep beer from spilling?  One good bump on the sidewalk that I now discovered had cracks in it was all it took for my wife to almost prevent the tradition from continuing past year 2, but I guess love forgives even beer spills.

beerolanternThe kids have all been out of the stroller for a few years now, but my wife has started a yearly tradition of her own by drudging up the story about how she had to take the stroller completely apart for the first time because of me.  Evidently, it’s not kosher to have your child’s stroller smelling like beer, and therefore required a complete disassembly and thorough washing.  But in the case of this Hopostle, it’s also not kosher to do away with traditions, especially when it involves taking your barley and hops for a stroll around the neighborhood from time to time…

the Hopostles

Southern Tier Brewing Company

stbcAddress: 2072 Stoneman Cir
Lakewood, NY

Phone: (716) 763-5479


Flagship Beers: 2xIPA, Tangier, Nu Skool IPA, 2xSMASH, Gemini, Lemon Drop Sun, Back Burner

Seasonal Releases: Pumking, Warlock, Harvest Ale, Krampus, 2xMAS, 3 Citrus Peel Out

Special Releases: Blackwater Series (Choklat Oranj, Choklat, Salted Caramel, Thick Mint, Crème Brulee), Barrel Works Series (Manhattan, Sapsquatch)

The Down Low: Nestled deep in the woods just outside of Lakewood, NY, a small brewery began producing beers back in 2002 with some equipment that they purchased from a previous brewery.  Production started out small, as most breweries do, but making quality beer rarely goes unnoticed.  Distribution grew rapidly for the next several years, and so in order to accommodate the growing fan-base, new facilities and brewery equipment followed suit.  15 years later, Southern Tier Brewing Company has become one of the major players in the craft beer market, distributing to over 30 states nationwide.  A new satellite facility has recently opened in Pittsburgh, PA, and other smaller locations feature beer gardens, additional brew houses, and full service kitchens.

stbc tap handlesSo what can all the success be attributed to?  Well, to put it simply, quality.  Southern Tier makes such a variety of different brews, and most of them are done really well.  Their IPA’s, such as 2xSMASH, Nu Skool, and Gemini, are packed with enough fresh hops to satisfy even the pickiest of hopheads (guilty as charged).  Their Blackwater Series features not only some of the most unique ingredients, but the flavors from each are literal liquid interpretations of what the name implies.  Ever wonder what a liquefied Hershey Bar tastes like?  Try Choklat.  Got a craving for something minty?  Grab a Thick Mint.  Sweet tooth nagging at you again?  Salted Caramel and Crème Brulee are guaranteed to leave you wondering if you just ate your dessert or drank it.

New on the market from Southern Tier is their Barrel Works Series, a higher ABV palate-crushing experiment that manages to push the flavor boundary to the next level.  Manhattan, inspired by the mixed drink of the same name, and Sapsquatch, a maple syrup barrel-aged monster, will leave you feeling both happy and wondering out loud, “Is there anything these guys don’t do well?”

warlockWe’ve saved the best for last.  In our humble opinion, the true crown jewel of Southern Tier resides in a seasonal beer that’s held a special place in our livers for several years now.  If you know us well, you know that fall is our favorite beer time of the year, and pumpkin beers seem to be something we just can’t get enough of.  And no matter how many new ones we try, we always go back to Southern Tier to remind ourselves where the benchmark for greatness is set:  Warlock.  There are few things we love more than a nice, heavy stout as the weather starts to take a dip, and coupling what seems to be the perfect amount of pumpkin flavor with it is difficult to find.  What started as a love for Pumking, another staple in the fall by Southern Tier, morphed into a love for his more evil counterpart, a beer that only a wizard, or in this case, Southern Tier, can create.

If you haven’t tried any Southern Tier beers before, you’ve got some catching up to do.  But don’t worry…there’s plenty out there for all of us.  Just don’t come asking us for any of ours—not because we don’t like sharing, but because after you try a few yourself, you’ll be buying plenty of your own…

The Hopostles

Tripel Whiskey by Wolf’s Ridge Brewing

A great beer from a reputable brewery? Check. Nice evening to share it? Check. A buddy to share it with? Check. Shot glasses? Check.. Wait…what?? In what has gotta be a first for both of us, the shot glasses came out as we sampled a Belgian Tripel by Wolf’s Ridge Brewery called Tripel Whiskey that’s been aged for 2 years in bourbon barrels. And although the glassware choice was small, the taste was anything but…

Waste Not, Want Not

recycle“Waste not, want not.”

We’ve all heard the saying. Likely from a parent or a teacher, trying to teach a valuable life lesson about being responsible with your resources.

Three breweries in Denver have taken this concept quite literally, and through a multi-step process, are putting recycled waste water in their beer.

Forward-thinking businesses, spanning a variety of industries, have been looking for innovative ways to create sustainability as natural resources are being depleted. Consumers are taking notice, and even favoring businesses that are more interested in making a difference than making a buck.

So where do you stand? Check out the full article here, and let us know if you would consider trying a beer made with recycled waste water. Cheers!

Crasher in the Rye by Clown Shoes

Catcher in the Rye is a classic book. However, pair it with an awesome beer and it’s gonna get thrown to the wayside, treated like the red-headed stepchild that it is. Sometimes incredible beers only get made every couple of years, and when they do, our excitement gets amped up a few notches. One of our all-time favorite Clown Shoes beers that’s as legendary as the book it almost shares a name with, Crasher in the Rye is a classic worth looking into…