Lepidopteran Saisons: Summer’s Hottest Craft Beer Trend

By Andy Sparhawk

Two years ago it was black IPAs, last year it was white IPAs, but what will this summer’s craft beer trend be? Well if you asked me a month ago, I would have said India session ales (ISA) following the previous years’ trend of hops, but with an easy drinking twist. Brian Yeager introduced CraftBeer.com readers to the ISA style in “7 India Session Ales for Summer.”

ISAs are definitely a contender, but I think summer’s craft beer trend won’t be all about hops as in years past. Instead, I think it will showcase—drumroll please—bugs.

Bugs!? Let me clarify. By bugs, I mean Lepidoptera, the fancy schmancy term for the order of insects that includes butterflies and moths. And by showcase, I don’t mean that these winged creatures are by any means used in the production of the beer.

celestrinaCelastrina Saison

Celastrina Saison, introduced to us by CraftBeer.com’s Thomas Appel, in “Odell Brewing’s Celastrina Saison Supports Butterfly Research,” was created to “help and support conservation efforts to protect the Hop Azure or Celastrina hummulus, a tiny, rare butterfly who make the wild hops that grow around Colorado’s Front Range their habitat.”

At first, I chalked up Celastrina to another great community-oriented deed by a craft brewer, until I saw second instance of the Lepidopteran saison, this time from New Hampshire’s Smuttynose Brewing Co.

luna_mothLuna Moth Hoppy Saison

Sumttynose’s summer saison is named after one of the largest moths in North America, the Actias Luna, which only lives for about seven days. In the Northeast, Luna Moths may have one (maybe two) complete life-cycles before the final moths go into hibernation for the winter.

Similarly, Smuttynose only gets one pitch of saison yeast each season for their Farmhouse Ale. But this year, the brewery decided to reuse the yeast for a small batch release. The limited ability to regenerate yeast for multiple brews is not unlike the moth’s limited opportunity to reproduce during the summer. Read more about Luna Moth on Smuttynose Brewers Notes blog.

The Summer of the Saison

While I might be pushing this Lepidopteran saison trend a bit—yes, I know two is not exactly a trend—I’m not alone in saying that the saison might be the beer of the summer. In a recent New York Times article, “The Perfect Summer Beer May Be the Saison,” author Clay Risen writes that the saison style might even satisfy the hop heads out there.

“While craft-beer experimentation doesn’t always translate into broad appeal, the saison varieties are all crowd-pleasers: some are hoppy; others are malt-focused; some are made with peppercorn and spices: and still others with fruit or wildflowers,” explains Risen. “The goal, is a refreshing and drinkable ale. What more could you ask for on a hot summer day?”

So there you have it. Perhaps the flutter of the tiny Hop Azure or Luna Moth might combine with the building interest in the saison style to eventually become the titanic, world-wide trend of Lepidopteran saisons? Maybe not.

I just wish there was a name for that type of effect.


Andy Sparhawk, the Brewers Association's craft beer program coordinator, is a Certified Cicerone® and BJCP Beer Judge. He lives in Arvada, Colorado where he is a homebrewer and avid craft beer enthusiast. On occasion, Andy is inspired to write on his experiences with craft beer, and if they are not too ridiculous, you might see the results here on CraftBeer.com.

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