Saison is a style of beer that developed over time in the Wallonia region of Belgium, brewed on a small scale in individual farmhouses (this is why you will sometime here these referred to as farmhouse style ales). It was traditionally brewed during the winter months and given to seasonal farm labours during hot summer months. Before the introduction of refrigeration brewing wasn’t done during the hot summer months due to the higher risk of the beer spoiling during fermentation.
Saison as a style is a tough one to pin down. It was brewed in farmhouses across the region with each farmer brewer taking a slightly different approach to the brew or recipe. Really, it was brewed with whatever the farmer had to hand so for modern brewers there is no singular historical recipe to revive. In general, Saison is a dry pale ale with high carbonation and a light body. Some can have a yeasty character, Brettanomyces or lactic sourness or can have fruit or spices added. Most importantly, yeast derived flavours is the hallmark of a Saison beer with a fruity and spicy complexity. I guess you just know it when you taste it.
So why am I recommending these summer ales as we turn towards winter? Well, as it gets colder and more blustery outside my mind turns to some warming hearty food like roast chicken, roast pork or spicy sausages. Saison is such a great match for herb roast meats with the high carbonation and fruitiness freshening the palate and the spicier elements in the beer compliment the flavour of the dish. Farmhouse ales for farmhouse food.
Dupoint Saison is great example of the style. This is the beer that popularised and rejuvenated the style in the 20th century. Light and dry with complex fruit and spice flavours.
Grunt from Hope Beer adds lemongrass and bergamot to the brew along with some spicy Sorachi Ace hops for a fresh and spicy take on Saison.
Those looking for a bit more new world hops in their Saison should check out Rascals Pacific Secret. Made with New Zealand and Australian hops Pacific Jade and Vic Secret (hence the name) to give a fruity, citrus and herbal hop flavour to that funkier Saison character.