New Belgium Brewing is probably best known for its flagship beer, Fat Tire, but they're so much more than that. Apart from several dependable year-round brews such as Sunshine Wheat, 1554 Dark Ale and Mothership Wit, plus a few tasty seasonals like Hoptober Golden Ale and 2° Below Winter Ale, they've also moved into the upper end of the market with their Lips of Faith series. Some of these beers are, shall we say, for hardcore beer geeks only, being firmly in the sour beer category. Others, such as the Dark Heather Saison, are much more friendly.
Saisons (often called Farmhouse Ales) are one of the session beers of Belgium. They were originally brewed on Belgian farms in the winter to be drunk during the harvest, six months or more later. As they were going to be consumed during the work day they had to be relatively low in alcohol, but since they were going to be stored for a comparatively long time they couldn't be so mild that they'd spoil.
Saisons can vary wildly in style, from sweet to tart to bitter to spicy to dry. Each brewer would add their own character to their own brew. Now that they're brewed more by commercial brewers than individual farmers the style has settled down somewhat but is still something of a moveable feast.
Although saisons are generally brewed with pale malts and are on the light side of amber, Dark Heather Saison has been brewed with darker, higher roast malts, resulting in a deep, rich dark mahogany colour. It's flavoured with cardamom, heather and black pepper. Look for floral, spicy notes with a hint of Belgian yeast, some sweet maltiness and a mild hop bite in the finish. The flavour improves as the beer warms up and approaches cellar temperature.
Jim Hughes, Head Beer Nerd, Alamo South Lamar “If I had all the money I’ve spent on drink… I’d spend it on drink.” ~ Sir Henry Rawlinson