Saison du BUFF by Stone Brewing Co.

I say this beer is made by Stone only because this particular version of it is. The recipe is a collaboration between Stone, Dogfish Head and Victory, three of the greatest success stories of the craft beer revolution. Each brewery has made their own version of Saison du BUFF. Saison, French for “season,” is traditionally a low-alcohol pale ale, often less than 3 percent ABV, brewed by and for farmers in the French-speaking part of Belgium for harvest season. Most of the modern craft beer saisons I’ve seen have a much higher alcohol content, this one included at 7.7 percent. Saison du BUFF has a slightly hazy, pale yellow color. It’s definitely not the same urine yellow color of the big macro lagers though. The defining ingredients as far as the taste goes are parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. They should have called this beer Scarborough Fair. Because saison is a Belgian-style beer there’s that distinctive yeastiness that I usually don’t care for. But the spices help to blunt that flavor enough so it doesn’t take over. I’d say of the four, sage is the most dominant. One of the most interesting things about this beer is that the spices give it a certain gin-like flavor. If you like gin, which I do, this might just be a tasty beer for you. The “mouthfeel” of Saison du BUFF is quite similar to that of an IPA, though slightly oily, and there’s definitely some hop character to give the beer a bit of bite and bitterness once the spice flavors start to dissipate. I didn’t expect to like this beer. I was simply curious. And even though the initial sip did seem odd, as I continued to drink it, I began to enjoy it a lot. I really have no frame of reference for saisons since this is the first I’ve ever had. I’d like to try some more traditional ones to compare but judging Saison du BUFF on its own merits I’d say it’s a perfect mix of a Belgian beer and an American-style IPA. I’m going to try to find the Dogfish Head and Victory versions too and see which one is the best. I think it’d be hard to top this though because the flavor balance is so perfect, yeasty enough to still be called a Belgian-style beer, hoppy enough to be American and spice-laden enough to be unique but not overpowering the beer flavor.