Words: Stephanie Grant
Images: Ali Lamoureux
Hip hip hooray! Let’s raise a glass to Saison Day! One sip of a Saison, and you’ll quickly understand why so many people across the world raise a glass to this refreshing, sometimes spicy beer. What’s incredible about this style is the vast range of flavors due to the lack of constraints on ingredients you can use.
Because of their peppery, fruity notes, they are incredibly easy to pair with a wide variety of foods, which initially piqued my interest when I read about this style in Garret Oliver’s book The Brewmaster’s Table. One pairing suggestion in particular, I’ve been dying to try—steak and Saison. Without Oliver’s recommendation, I’m not sure I would’ve put the two together. Steak, especially a perfectly marbled ribeye, seems too rich and meaty for the refreshing, effervescent qualities of a Saison.
But Oliver’s description of the pairing was the best invitation to try it myself:
“I like to slather my ribeye steaks with olive oil, cracked pepper, and coarse sea salt before broiling them to juicy medium-rare perfection. Saison has the bitterness to cut through the fat and salt, the high carbonation to lift them off the palate, peppery flavors to meet the cracked pepper, fruity notes to mingle with the juices, and earthiness to pick up the essential flavors of the meat.”
Grilling the Steak
With a thick-cut ribeye in hand and Allagash’s Saison in the other, I set out to experience this divine pairing. Anytime I get my hands on a steak—really any large piece of meat—I like to salt it in advance. Usually, I’ll let it hang out in the fridge for a day or two on a wire rack sat on top of a sheet pan. The salt pulls the extra juices out, flavoring the steak within. It also aids in getting a good sear on the steak, since the surface is usually drier after sitting in the cold air of the fridge.
Instead of broiling my steak, I went straight to the grill. We’ve been enjoying some beautiful weather in Atlanta, and I feel like spring and Saisons are an exquisite pairing on their own. Before adding the steak to the grill, I slathered it in olive oil and cracked black pepper. If you salt in advance, there’s no need to add any additional salt. I put the steak over medium heat. While not necessary, I highly recommend using a meat thermometer to get the perfect temperature. You can also use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature throughout the cook.
Grilling the Sides
To round out the meal, I added grilled asparagus and potatoes, which came together pretty quickly alongside the steak. For the potatoes, I par cooked them before adding them to the grill. I washed and cut two medium-sized potatoes into thick wedges. Then, I brought a pot of water to a boil and added one tablespoon of salt to the water. I carefully dropped potatoes into the water, returned the water to a boil, reduced the temperature, and let them simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, I drained the potatoes and allowed them to cool. Once the steak is on, I added the potatoes to the grill with olive oil and a pinch of salt.
From there, I completely focused on monitoring the temperature of the steak and turning the potatoes until they were golden brown. Don’t be afraid to turn the steak often. With the right temperature, you should have no problem getting a beautiful, crusty sear.
A Little about Saisons
Don’t be afraid to crack open a Saison to whet your palate before dinner—grill work usually demands it. Allagash’s Saison is an interpretation of a classic Belgian farmhouse-style ale. Saisons were once brewed to slake the thirst of farmers returning from a long day of toil; they were spicy, light, and drinkable. To brew this amber beer, they use 2-row barley blend, malted rye, and oats. Northern Brewer, Bravo, and Cascade hops deliver a citrus profile with light bitterness. By fermenting with a traditional saison yeast strain, notes of spice and tropical fruit accent the aroma. Citrus and peppery spice balance its pleasant malt character. This beer is full-bodied with a rustic, dry finish.
Once the steak hit the perfect temp, I removed it from the grill and allowed it to rest for 10-20 minutes. I like to add a sprinkle of coarse salt as soon as it comes off the grill. Or you can top it with a herbaceous compound butter.
While the steak rested, I tossed the asparagus in olive oil and added to the grill, cooking it until tender. If the stars align, the asparagus and potatoes will come off the grill as soon as the steak has finished resting. Crack open another Saison as needed to enjoy with your meal.