“Saison” is the French word for season. It is also the name used for seasonally brewed Belgium farmhouse-stlye ales. The first saisons originated in in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium.
Historically saisons did not share identifiable characteristics to pin them down as a style, but were rather a group of refreshing summer ales. Each farm brewer would make his own distinctive version.
Saisons were traditionally brewed in the autumn or winter for consumption during the late summer harvest for farm workers. Because of the lack of potable water, saisons would give the farm hands the hydration they needed without the threat of illness. Farm workers who were entitled to up to five liters throughout the workday during harvest season (not a bad deal, eh?). In order to properly preserve the beer to prevent spoilage during the long storage, saisons were typically strongly hopped.
Today they are brewed year round in a few different countries.
Whereas traditional saisons were typically around 3.5% alcohol, modern-day saisons — generally bottle conditioned — have an average range of 5 to 8% abv.
“Saisons usually have a citric, peppery, quenching, quality, due variously to hard water, heavy hopping, spicing or deliberate souring. They are usually amber to orange in colour, and often very quite dry.” — Michael Jackson.
The Best Beer in the World. Period.
Alcohol content by volume: 6.5%
With its luminous orangey-blond color and huge, rocky head, this beer just looks great. But wait till you taste it: Like other saisons, Dupont’s is made with a secret mix of herbs that give it an addictive earthy taste and an agreeable bitterness. At 6.5 percent, it’s also got a mild kick, which balances a range of citrusy, malty flavors that even wizened beer connoisseurs struggle to describe. “Impossibly delicious,” says legendary brewmaster Garrett Oliver. Saison Dupont is the “desert island beer” of many men (Oliver and present company included). Pop a cork, guys — we think you’ll feel the same way (brasserie-dupont.com).
“The Saison Dupont is a top fermentation beer with re-fermentation in the bottle. Since 1844, this beer has been brewed in Brasserie Dupont’s farm-brewery, during the winter time. Saison Dupont is considered “the classic” among the Belgian season beers! Coppery blond, the finest aromas and a strong bitterness transform this beer into a thirst-quenchener with no equal, just the way it was created. Brasserie Dupont’s selection of yeasts is the perfect base for these typical aromas and ditto taste. A real re-fermentation in the bottle, which will continue for a long time in a cellar, result into this complex and particular aromatic beer.”
Modern saisons brewed in the USA tend to copy the yeast used by Brasserie Dupont, which ferments better at blood warm temperatures (85 to 95 Fahrenheit) than the standard 65 to 75 Fahrenheit fermenting temperature used by other Belgian saison brewers.
Many of you may remember my first experience with the saison style ale was this past May while I was visiting Chicago for the National Restaurant Association show. I enjoyed both the Goose Island Saison as well as the infamous Saison Dupont. Since then I have tasted many other brands, both U.S. and Belgium. Perfect ale for the summer time. GO FORTH AND FIND ONE (or two or three).
The following are the most notable Beligum brands:
- Brasserie Dupont, Saison Dupont
- Brasserie Fantôme, Saison Fantôme (and numerous other Saison-style products)
- Brasserie Lefèbvre, Saison 1900
- Brasserie Du Bocq, Saison Regal
- Brasserie de Silly, Saison Silly
- Brasserie à Vapeur, Saison De Pipaix
- Brasserie Des Géants, Saison Voisin
- Brasserie Ellezelloise, Saison 2000
- KleinBrouwerij De Glazen Toren, Saison D’Erpe-Mere
The following are saisons brewed in the United States:
- Boston Beer Company, Boston, MA: “Samuel Adams Saison”
- Clipper City Brewing Company, Baltimore, MD: “Red Sky at Night”
- Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, DE: “Dans Saison”
- New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, CO: “Saison”
- Old Dominion Brewing Company, Ashburn, VA: “Saison”
- Brewery Ommegang (Owned by Duvel), Cooperstown, NY: “Hennepin”
- Surly Brewing, Brooklyn Center, MN: “Cynic Ale”
- Victory Brewing Company, Downingtown, PA: “V-Saison”