Published on July 6th, 2012 | by RLn Staff0
Style Profile: The Season for Saisons
By Michael Koger
In my previous blog, I wrote about sessionable beers that are perfect for summer drinking. However, I intentionally left out one of my favorite styles, saisons, to write a whole column about them. This classic style is going through a much needed renaissance. The term “Saison” comes from the French word meaning “season.” The style originated in the French-speaking region on Belgium known as Wallonia.
Wallonia was an agricultural region filled with farms and fields. During autumn, after the harvest, saisons were brewed to be consumed both as a table beer for year round consumption and especially during the hot summers. Saisons were typically poured for farmworkers coming in from a hot day in the fields for lunch. You wanted a beer that was delicious and thirst quenching but wouldn’t get you drunk. As a result, saisons typically had a low alcohol content, and because they were brewed on farms, they gave birth to a term known as “farmhouse ales” for any beer that has a crisp but funky characteristic to it.
Saison Dupont is the classic standard against which all other saisons are compared. It comes from Belgium but is easily found in the States at any BevMo, Total Wine or other retailer of fine beers. It has a slightly dry and acidic taste to it, but is immediately crisp and delicious. The funky yeast present within Saison Dupont helps this beer stand out with little tastes of coriander and other spices. In addition to being an easy beer to drink, it’s also an easy beer to afford. You can typically find 750ml bottles of Saison Dupont for $8-$10.
The style has grown so much in popularity, that American breweries have been brewing and bottling their own interpretation of the classic Belgian style for a few years now. Ommegang from New York is best known for their Hennepin saison. In California, we have The Bruery’s Saison de Lente, released during Spring, and Saison Rue, which is released year-round. Stone Brewing, Dogfish Head and Victory Brewing recently re-collaborated on a wildly popular beer, Saison du BUFF. This beer is helped by ingredients such as thyme and rosemary to give it an extra spicy character.
Beachwood BBQ and Brewing in Long Beach recently tapped their Mandarin Dream saison which was brewed with Mandarin Orange peels and peppercorns to give a nice balance between zesty fruit and spicy pepper. Jester King Craft Brewery, out of Texas, are going more towards what might be considered a traditional saison with their Le Petit Prince Table Beer, a saison that clocks in at an easy to drink 2.80% abv.
The reason why I love saisons so much is because of how accessible they are. There really is no reluctance that people may get when approaching an aggressively bitter IPA or a viscous and boozy imperial stout. Saisons were meant to be consumed and enjoyed to escape the brutal heat of the summer. There is also a wide range of flavor possibilities. They’re spicy, fruity, and funky. The wide range of tastes and easy to drink characteristics make the saison a classic in my book.