August 30, 2014
Feb 7, 2013
11:51 AM

First Draught: a saison from Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Oast House Brewers

This saison pairs well with just about any food (Image: David Ort)

New breweries seem to sprout up in groups. The once-dry Junction now has two; new ones are opening in Muskoka and now Niagara has a few. Last November, Oast House joined Silversmith Brewing Company in the growing club of breweries in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Farmhouse Saison is a notable selection from Oast House’s small portfolio of beers.

The two beers in Oast House’s Farmhouse series (the second one, the Biere de Garde, will be released soon), are bottle-conditioned for at least two months. This treatment gives the saison a cloudy haze that lends a glow to the dark straw colour. The aromas and flavours twist together spicy notes like clove and cardamom with fruity notes of orange peel and banana. There is a good deal of European-style hops in the background that leads smoothly into the refreshing, dry finish.

Historically, the saison style (originating from the French-speaking southern half of Belgium) was made in the early spring and stored for summer consumption during the busiest time of year for farm workers.

That said, I think saison’s ability to pair with just about any food helps it break free from the seasonal typecasting more than other hot-weather beers like wits and weissbiers. The bottle-conditioning provides a lively carbonation that cuts through the grease from fried foods; the fruity, herbal and floral notes contrast with darker meat flavours; and the slight hop bitterness keeps spicy food in line. 

I look forward to sampling more of the brewery’s offerings, like the Barnraiser Country Ale and the Crop Duster Belgian IPA.

Appropriately for Niagara, Oast House partners Cian MacNeill and Mike Berlis are both accredited sommeliers with winery backgrounds. The brewmaster and third partner, Kevin Somerville, helped get Niagara College’s brewmaster program off the ground.

If you can’t make it out to Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Oast House saison is also available in Toronto at barVolo, The Rhino and Indie Ale House. Other beers from the catalogue are carried by Tequila Bookworm, Wvrst and Bar Hop.

MacNeill sees what he calls the “new Niagara” as encompassing more than just wine (or even beer), but also distilleries, restaurants, food trucks and markets that are about “diversity, creativity and ambition.”

Niagara Oast House Brewers Farmhouse Saison, $11 for a 750 mL bottle at the brewery

In addition to covering beer, new restaurants and food trucks for Post City, David Ort writes about food and drink for several Toronto publications including Spotlight Toronto and his own site, Food With Legs. For more of his thoughts on food, beer and life in general, follow him on Twitter.

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