As the name implies, Saison is a style that is seasonal by design. It was developed in the countryside of the French speaking region of Belgium known as Wallonia as a beer to be brewed at the end of the cool season that would be consumed in the heat of summer. Like many farmhouse beers, Saison had to be sturdy enough to endure the extended time from brewing to consumption, yet needed above all else to be enjoyable at the end of a hot summer’s day. Saison is similar in many ways, including regional genesis, to France’s equivalent farmhouse style known as Bière de Garde; but like so many Belgian beers, Saison is naturally spicy from Belgium’s distinctive yeast strains, with more hop presence and farmhouse “funk” as well. The image on the label of IV Saison depicts the hop harvest, as mature hops are plucked from their bines (FYI for your next round of beer geek trivia: the term is hop ‘bines,’ not vines). With this style, we prefer not to rouse the sediment from the bottom of the bottle, pouring somewhat gingerly. Expect this beer to present as a pale-to-medium-straw color with a huge, brilliantly white head that remains indefinitely after sinking from epic heights. Note a tremendous amount of Saison’s characteristically mighty phenolics on the swirl—in this case these notes start less clove-like and more like hot plastic (while it might not sound appealing, it’s perfectly appropriate for the style and works within the overall spiciness of the beer). Note also a tartness, like SweeTARTS candy and under-ripened raspberries. The phenolics blend is quite robust, and even clove notes get into the mix as the beer warms (rarely does one find both potent cloves and more plastic-y notes in the same brew, and rarer still does such a combination actually work. Impressive.). A truly agrarian concoction, look also for notes of crushed aspirin, lemongrass, rosewater, fresh-cut grass and straw on the nose. What is most impressive is that no sugars or spices were used in brewing this beer. The vast complexities are due exclusively to the alchemy of brewer’s art and yeast. For all its pageantry on the nose, you cannot predict the flavor cascade and sensations that follow once it has crossed the lips. The experience of one sip lasts for minutes, so savor that first sip as the sensations and experience unfold. Expect an exquisitely floral opening, with faintly spicy hops in high presence and working their lemony, tea-like magic to the fullest. Unlike any traditional Saison out there that we know of, this beer integrates US hops (for dry-hopping), and does so beautifully as the hops are quite bold but not overpowering. This beer flirts with a Champagne-like character, partially owing to the high levels of carbonation that have risen in the bottle as the bottle-bound yeast have been munching on natural malt sugars in the beer and exhaling CO2. Notice the abundance of earthy yeast tones and bitter peach notes as it warms. IV Saison finishes bitter, but it’s a refined, elegant bitterness that is supplemented with a gentle tart quality and a growing spiciness as it comes to room temperature. Very complex, sit with this and admire the variation of experiences that each sip delivers. Do not pair with food until you have fully experienced this beer on its own, as you may deprive yourself the full expanse of the flavor profile. Later, consider pairing with an earthy Fontina or Camembert cheese.