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Saison & Biere de Garde at Farmer's Cabinet

Farmer’s Cabinet reflects owner Matt Scheller’s style for old-world décor and comfort. He features an incredibly diverse selection of European beers, including beers crafted in-house and foods from exotic entrees to artisanal cheeses.

During Philly Beer Week in June 2011, Dan Shelton, accompanied by his wife Tessa, and Beer Ambassador Kevin Brooks presented a Saison & Biere de Garde Seminar at the Farmer's Cabinet in Philadelphia. As chief facilitator for this forum, he presented American-brewed Saisons matched against some of the most renowned Saisons and Bieres de Garde in Belgium and France. Shelton is well known in brewers’ circles as one whose palate is as sophisticated as his opinion is strong. He presides over Shelton Brothers Importers, a family business which seeks out the finest artisanal beers throughout Europe and Asia – beers worthy to serve the most discerning palates in North America.

Members on the panel included: Brian Ewing of 12% Imports, Terry Hawbaker, In-house brewer for Farmers Cabinet (formerly of Bullfrog Brewing), Jean Broillet of Tired Hands Brewing - Ardmore, Ryan Michaels and Gerard Olson of McKenzie Brewing, and Audrey Saint-Leger, representing Jenlain and Pietra of France.

The seminar focused on the two styles of beer:

Saison – Beer of the Season, brewed using a selection of wild yeast and cultured yeast. Saison was then cellared for several months, bottled in a very strong bottle, i.e., a champagne bottle, that would not explode under the high effervescence. This was 3-4% ABV, but gradually increased to 6-7% in the 1970s. Saison was crafted in two variations: those that were spicy, herbal, fruity and touched with wheat; and those that were hoppy, such as Saison Dupont. In this latter style of Saison, the hops would slow down the acids of the yeast, and would keep the sourness from becoming overwhelming.

Biere de Garde – according to Belgian brewer Yvan de Baets, Biere de Garde” is not a style of beer; it’s a family of beers.” This is a beer that came out of France, and was meant for keeping. It was made in the cold months; then laid down to keep.

Saison and Biere de Garde are two beers that have endured through a long history of European strife. These beers were born in an area that pummeled by two World Wars. Brewing equipment was confiscated and melted down for wartime supplies and equipment. By the end of the fighting, only a handful of these brewers were left.

These styles are again expanding throughout Belgium, France and the USA. The seminar featured beers from both European and American Brewers, and were accompanied with light fare served on slabs of slate and earthenware dishes: Riboiola, Fiove Sardo, and Salami Tuscano with Fig Almond cake; Oysters with orange rind, and pickled fennel on sea salt; Squash blossom, herbed Goat Cheese, smoked paprika, and Tomato confit; and Corn Fritter and roasted Red Pepper Saison Couli.

Among the list of fifteen artisanal beers poured that evening were these world-class beers: Cuvee de Jonquilles of France, McKenzie Saison Vautour and McKenzie Irma Extra of Pennsylvania USA, Saison Dupont of Belgium, Jandrain-Jandrenouille IV of Belgium, and Stillwater Stateside Saison Barrel Aged of Maryland, Blaugies Saison D’Epeautre of Belgium, De Ranke Saison de Dottignies of Belgium, Hof Ten Dormaal Blonde of Belgium, Fantome Hiver of Belgium, Thiriez XXtra of France, Cazeau Saison of Belgium, Busted Lawn Mower Saison of Pennsylvania USA, Jenlain Ambree of France, and Tired Hands Handfarm of Pennsylvania USA.

“American brewers want to brew beer that is consistently good, rather than consistent,” said Jean Broillet, explaining the strides American brewers have made in creating Saisons that can rival the world-class Saisons that grew out of Belgium and France.

Cheers!

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