Defining The Craft is a brief look at different beer styles that will help you learn whether they’re right for you. Ultimately, words can’t truly turn you on to a solid craft beer. You have to smell, taste, and savor each sip to truly discover if it’s one you’ll come back to in the future. But the background info obtained in this post won’t hurt anything either.
What is a Saison?
A Saison, which is French for “season,” is a broadly defined pale that has taken on an ABV of anywhere between 5 and 10% in most modern versions. It is a highly carbonated brew, offering up notes of fruit and spices when added. It is influenced by the Saison Dupont Vieille Provision, a well-balanced Belgian farmhouse ale.
Saisons, or farmhouse ales, originated in the Wallonia region of Belgium during the 19th century and was given to farm workers as a form of hydration when water was not clean enough to consume. With brewing taking place in the winter months, the spent grain was used for animal feed and provided livestock with nutrients when grain wasn’t growing, thus making brewing beneficial to farm life on multiple levels. Saisons were originally brewed to have a dry flavor profile, with hops and spices added for antibacterial purposes to help preserve the brew through the winter months.
The saison style almost went extinct not too long ago, but it has experienced a major revival thanks to a popularity boom in the United States. As beer became more available and imported lagers began to rule the realm, farmhouse breweries shut down and saisons became a dying style. However, a number of farmhouses transitioned into full-time breweries and created the resurgence in saisons that make them a popular craft beer styled today.
The saison is a very complex style. Most are very fruity in both aroma and flavor with earthy yeast notes and mild to moderate tartness. They contain a good dose of spice and finish with low to medium bitterness. Some saisons tend to be semi-dry with many varieties only having a light touch of sweetness.
Below is a list of popular saisons, courtesy of rankings found on Beer Advocate:
As always, the list doesn’t stop here. Saisons are a great summer beer, just as the original design for this style intended. If you’re looking for something with a lighter taste to fend off the humid days of summer, you can’t go wrong tapping into a crisp, complex saison.