A Mermorial Day to Remember

Party-Gyle by | May 2013 | Issue #76

On Memorial Day, we honor the brave soldiers who have died serving in the US military. But the holiday has also come to mark the start of a new season, which we might boil down to the three S’s: sun, seersucker and Saison. So take advantage of this spare Monday—it’s a great chance to create lasting memories over good food, drink and conversation.

Saison is rooted in this turning of the seasons, as its French name conveys. Originally a Farmhouse Ale brewed primarily for the seasonal farm workers in Belgium, this “seasonal” beer was meant to hydrate and refresh the workers in an age without potable water. Saisons are still characterized by their refreshing quality, along with a distinctive yeast character and often moderate hopping, as hops helped preserve the beer over time. Most modern brews of this style are modeled after the example set by one Belgian brewery, Brasserie Dupont. But there are numerous creative liberties and delicious twists that brewers can give the style, as they have always done, which is why embracing the ale at your Memorial Day party can lead to a great tasting.

Another way to celebrate the changing of the seasons is to break out the backyard grill. Use Saison (or just the warm, farm-tending season) as your compass, and build your party menu around it. Maybe you know a nearby farmer that you can buy a few choice products from. That would be appropriate. Even more so, your backyard itself could provide a few accompaniments to the party meal, like herbs or vegetables that are easy to grow. Even if you’ve never gardened before, this is a great time of year to give it a go. Get a few large pots and buy tomato seeds, or chop up a bed of dirt with a dowel or hoe. Invite your friends to come early and get a little dirty helping out with this chore. Let them plant a few pots of peppers and zucchini—you know, the ones they’ll enjoy grilling later on in the season, on Labor Day. Heck, have them help weed your garden. You’re hosting, after all.

Because of the fruity, spicy and spritzy character of Saisons, I don’t recommend a standard, rich menu of hamburgers and hot dogs. Instead, try grilling some juicy pork chops marinated in garlic, spices and herbs overnight. You can also fare well with chicken, popping some boneless thigh meat onto kebabs, or grilling some savory chicken sausage.

Change, renewal and refreshment is the ultimate theme, so break from old routines and create some new favorites. Maybe that means focusing on veggies over meat; lightly grilled asparagus, green beans and sugarsnap peas all make incredible party snacks—hit them with lemon juice once they come off the grill. If you’ve planted a few weeks in advance, you might even have radishes and carrots to pull up and serve by this time.

It’s hard not to recall the memories planted at a party like this, as your backyard will continue to flourish all summer long. Chances are, your friends will be eager to come back to see their handiwork at your next shindig, too. Though water is plentiful, cap off the night with a toast of sparkly, farmhouse summer ale, and kiss the winter goodbye.

• Start partying early, around 3pm or so, to make best use of sunlight and because Tuesday, it’s back to the grind
• Have your friends bring a few packs of seeds of what they’d like to eat at your future summer parties
• Name your party “Saison du ____” (your last name/name of your “farmhouse”)
• If you or a friend homebrew, come up with a recipe after your Saison tasting session that incorporates your favorite aspects, and maybe some spices or herbs from your garden

Saisons to try
New Belgium Prickly Passion Saison: Blending passion fruit and prickly pear juice into a Farmhouse Ale, this Saison will sate your taste for fruit punch with its bright, cheerful tang.

Cigar City Cucumber Saison: Fresh cucumber is balanced by the citrusy hops in this brew from Tampa, Fla.

Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project Jack D’Or: Held together by a backbone of bitterness, this dry, spicy rendition of the style contains no actual spices or citrus.

Funkwerks Tropic King: With Rakau hops from New Zealand, this peppery Saison sings of honeydew melon, ginger and zest.