Did you know that one of the country’s — no, the world’s — best saisons comes from Washington’s own back yard? Pale Fire Brewing opened in an old ice factory in Harrisonburg, Va., in 2015. Within months, one of its flagship beers, Salad Days Saison, had won a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival in the American-Belgo-style ale category. The following spring, Salad Days took third place at the World Beer Cup, a biennial international beer competition.
Beer lovers can debate the merits of such contests (not every brewery in the country/state/world enters, wildly different beers can face off in the same category), but both blind tastings placed Pale Fire in the top three entrants. That’s impressive, especially for a young brewery.
Salad Days doesn’t make it to the Washington area quite as often as I’d like, but when it does, it’s worth the effort to find it. This is a saison loaded with fruity esters, balanced by grassy, hoppy flavors: It’s easy to pick up banana and strawberry in the nose, but the body adds more grapefruit, stone fruit and a peppery spice, before a dry, lemon-tart finish invites another sip. You can see why judges found this beer so appealing — and why you might want to stock up, just in case you don’t see it again for another month or so.
Pale Fire Salad Days Saison. palefirebrewing.com. About $12 for a four-pack of 16-ounce cans.
Like Salad Days? Try these other award-winning American-Belgo-style ales.
Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse : The beer that finished just above Pale Fire at the World Beer Cup is a farmhouse ale with huge grapefruit-hop flavors and peppery notes.
The Bruery Mischief : This heavily hopped golden Belgian-style ale with sweet fruit notes and a dry body won the gold medal at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival.
Green Flash Le Freak : A two-time gold medalist at the Great American Beer Festival (2012 and 2015), Le Freak is a beast of a beer: Green Flash calls it “the convergence of a Belgian-style trippel with an American imperial IPA.” Dry-hopped and bottle-conditioned, it has huge orange and citrus flavors, and it clocks in at 9.2 percent alcohol by volume.