Start with Sour Saison

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START WITH

SOUR SAISON

Craft beer culture has an unapologetic fascination with food and beer pairings, usually accompanied by lengthy debates—like whether spicy food actually benefits from a hoppy IPA—or elaborate explanations as to why a seasoned pot of steamed mussels comes to life alongside a Belgian tripel. But what’s often overlooked is a crucial step in enjoying beer with food: Finding the best beer to drink before you tuck into the main course.

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A place traditionally reserved for drinks like sparkling wine, citrusy cocktails or chilled rosé, aperitifs hold an enjoyable, yet purposeful, place in the dining ritual. Sure, they help you settle in, relax, and catch-up with friends before the main event, but they also play a critical role in the dining experience: The right drink will gently open up your palate, stimulate your taste buds, and prep your senses for the entrée. Bucking some rather tired and conventional wisdom, beer can also be an ultimate aperitif, especially one that’s slightly acidic. Which is why we say, “Start with a Sour Saison.”

“Sour Saison’s high carbonation, acidity and dry finish make it an easy replacement for sparkling or dry wines—it’s the perfect introduction to a meal,” says New Belgium’s sensory specialist Lindsay Barr. “That added benefit of acidity—like most wine—literally makes the mouth water when the first sip is introduced. So, the beer signals celebration while enlivening the palate without over-fatiguing the consumer before the meal really begins.”

Although they haven’t broken through to the aperitif mainstream, sours and saisons each have a long culinary tradition. With roots in Belgium, the two genres are well-established as a perfect pairing beer and have earned a familiar presence at the Belgian dinner table throughout the years.

“Sour Saison’s high carbonation, acidity and dry finish make it an easy replacement for sparkling or dry wines—it’s the perfect introduction to a meal,” says New Belgium’s sensory specialist Lindsay Barr. “That added benefit of acidity—like most wine—literally makes the mouth water when the first sip is introduced. So, the beer signals celebration while enlivening the palate without over-fatiguing the consumer before the meal really begins.”

Lambics—a hallmark of Belgian sour beer culture from the country’s Zenne Valley—involve a centuries-old tradition of acidifying and blending beers in oak casks, sometimes for years. Saisons, on the other hand, originally hailed from the rustic farms of Belgium’s bucolic Wallonia countryside. The style’s low alcohol and high-effervescence made it a refreshing “break beer” for farmhands sitting down for a mid-day lunch.

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New Belgium’s Sour Saison, a new year-round offering in the brewery’s prestigious Belgian Reserve collection, blurs the lines of both traditions, resulting in a truly unique beer that’s prime for teeing up fine dining.

At its heart, Sour Saison is a traditional saison, brewed with a classic saison yeast strain, which imparts notes of clove, white pepper and coriander. The saison is then blended with sour Felix beer from New Belgium’s towering French oak foeders (the same sour base beer used for notable favorites like Le Terroir and Eric’s Ale). The sour offers a welcomed bright, citrusy tartness, as well as an enjoyable rustic touch. The result is an extremely vibrant sipper that starts tart and effervescent, featuring perky notes of citrus and spice, and finishes clean and satisfyingly dry. It’s nothing short of mouthwatering. Also, the beer’s subtle alcohol warmth serves an important dual function.

“The alcohol produces a warming mouthfeel that settles social interaction on a physiological and psychological level—like a socializing blanket,” notes Barr.

As a delightfully tart beer that opens up the senses and gets the social mojo going, Sour Saison is the next chapter in aperitifs.

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Sour Saison

New Belgium Sour Saison is a traditional barrel-aged sour ale artfully blended with a rustic, champagne-like Farmhouse Ale.

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