One of my favorite warm-weather styles is the saison, which I have been missing the past few months. So in honor of the return of air conditioning season, I took a browse through the Belgian style section and came away with Lavery Brewing Co.’s Liopard Oir Farmhouse Ale.
Lavery Brewing Co. is the brainchild of Jason and Nicole Lavery. They founded the company in 2009 and teamed up with Jason Lynch in 2010 to put together their very own 10-barrel brewery. Both Laverys were born and raised in Erie, Pa., and have done their best to bring some innovation to the local beer scene.
The saison is a classic summer beer hailing from the French-speaking section of Belgium known as Wallonia. This beer was traditionally brewed in the spring to last through the summer until the fall brewing season, and it had to be strong enough not to spoil while still being refreshing to drink. The style was typically brewed on individual farms and served to the workers, and consequently, it varied a lot from farm to farm. The grain content often included a significant amount of wheat or spelt, and sometimes sugar or honey was added as well to thin out the beer. The sour note can be created with gypsum, acidulated malt or by dosing with Lactobacillus, a souring bacteria. The dry, slightly bitter finish typical of this beer is accentuated by the hard water typical of this region.
This beer should be served in a tulip glass if possible, as saisons should be highly carbonated and beautiful to watch. The beer will pair well with stronger cheeses like Fontina, Asiago and Gorgonzola, as well as spicier food like Indian or Thai curry. The great thing about this style is that it’s also light and complex enough to go with fish and salad, unlike the traditional pairing with curry of a good, strong India pale ale.
The beer poured a pale straw color and very hazy, but it was translucent instead of opaque. The head formed as a single finger of pure white, medium dense bubbles. This foam settled out to a thin layer very quickly, but that coating lasted for quite a while and even provided a fair bit of lacing. The aroma was strongly yeasty with a slight sour note, but not much else. I was honestly a bit disappointed, as I am used to more spice and fruit in the aroma from saisons. The body was moderately thick, and the carbonation was moderate. The way they combined, however, was interesting, with a very fine, sparkly carbonation up front, which gave way to a fairly still, smooth, thick finish without lingering. The taste was focused on a big, slightly lemony yeast character up front, with a clean, slightly bitter finish. Like the aroma, the taste was not nearly as complex as I have come to expect from this style.
Overall, this was not a bad beer, but it really wasn’t anything special. I enjoyed this beer, but I would rather save my money for Victory’s Helios in the future.