December in Florida doesn’t call for dark beer. With daily highs of 72 degrees, you don’t need a barleywine to snuggle up to you and line your skin with booze. Worst case, you get some rain, but that doesn’t mean the season doesn’t call for its own beer.
St. Petersburg’s Green Bench Brewing Co. sets the tone for winter in the Sunshine State. Its new farmhouse ale Les Grisettes is an allusion to not only the beer style grisette—a Wallonian farmhouse beer first enjoyed by miners—but also the working-class women who tended the taverns in the same era. Both were named for their drab wear, so it’s only fitting Les Grisettes is labeled with a slate, windswept scene that evokes the despair of winter. But inside is a bright and spunky Franco-Belgian saison that gives you the will to trudge on through to March, whatever the weather.
In true farmhouse fashion, Green Bench chucks a bushel of different malts into tun. Spelt, buckwheat, rye, and oats make for a warming blend of grains. But it’s where Green Bench breaks with tradition that Les Grisettes comes alive. Opting for 100-percent house-cultured Brettanomyces, Green Bench ups the funk level, dialing back the peppery nose many saisons go for. Les Grisettes has a pastoral hay aroma entwined with sweet candied apricots.
The tartness is big up front, smoothing out like a sheet of honey lining the inside of your mouth. The transition happens slow, carrying you deliberately from sour to sweet. Each sip goes slow along the journey, which is about the only thing that qualifies this as a winter beer. A 12 oz. bottle will disappear leisurely, even despite the effortless 4.3% ABV.
A bad day in Florida is sunnier than a good day in most other places. And winter beer is, too. Les Grisettes spells this out in each golden pour.