I love saisons.
It’s a style of beer that opens itself up to so many unique variations, and regional expressions. For me it epitomizes the true heritage of craft beer, and what craft beer is really all about. Lending itself perfectly to creative breweries like Upright Brewing to take artistic license and do whatever the hell they want – how can you not like that?
Pathways Saison is a prime example of where Upright has used this liberating freedom , producing a blended ale that is a mixture of batches from differing vintages, and differing characteristics. Once brought together, it is aged again to reach a harmony balance.
According to their website:
“Each Pathways blend is unique, as the barrels that comprise it all have an individual profile that evolves over time. Those casks may have one of multiple brettanomcyes or lactobacillus strains, light use of fruit, or other distinct elements. Each blend does have the common goal of crafting a saison with character and balance that extends for over a year of conditioning, in which young bottles will show an attractive herbal hop profile intertwined with light malt, oak, and fermentation notes, while older bottles will lean more heavily on the fermentation notes as the yeasts and bacteria continue developing.”
When I first got into home brewing, the idea of good cheap beer was attractive. This has turned into an infatuation with the biology of brewing. Saisons like this one are a prime example of how biology plays a crucial role in the finished product. Specifically, the yeast or varieties of yeasts present are fundamental to what is ultimately poured.
One of the prime differences between a lager and an ale is the yeast. Lager yeasts are generally clean, lacking added flavours and smells created during the fermentation and conditioning process. Ale yeasts, on the other hand, can offer up a plethora of residual odours and flavours. So when it comes to saisons, or farmer ales, the yeast is absolutely paramount.
I’ve been sitting on this bottle of Upright Pathway Saison for a few weeks, and finally found the right time to give it a go. My eldest daughter Nicole picked it up at the Upright brewery in Portland, OR, and I’ve really been looking forward to it.
Visually it is a perfect saison. A juicy golden colour topped by a wonderfully rich, creamy head, that settles to a solid cover.
The aroma is distinctly saison. There is something about the scent of a proper saison that screams grapes. Probably the origin of the saison yeast, since the hops are generally non-existent due to the meger quantity, and the aging process. I could just sit and smell this all day long – it’s intoxicating.
A complex ale like this takes a few sips at different temperatures to garner the various flavours. At first it’s a bit tart and dry, with a slight alcohol on the back end. At 8% ABV you would expect a bit more wallop, but it doesn’t really play that much of a role – not sure if that is a good or bad thing. Once I had worked my way through half of the glass the mild funk, and subtle complex flavours really shone through.
Contrary to the description of the beer on the website (or maybe I was reading too much into it), it is not at all a wild yeast funk-fest. Instead, the aging process has allowed the brett and lacto to mature, making it a whole lot more palatable to the masses.
Definitely not the sort of brew that screams any given flavour, or overwhelms you. Super delicate, which got me thinking this would be magic with a platter of cheese, and pear with some mild sausage.
Bottom line, this ranks right up there with some of the best Belgian saisons I’ve had, and next time I make my way to Portland, OR I’ll definitely seek them out. Yes, it’s that good.
Well that’s it for now, gonna go quench that panda sized thirst… Cheers!