“Saison the day” because it is the time of year that the saison styles of beer truly come into bloom! Saison Day is being celebrated here in the US on Saturday, April 8th so be on the lookout for these refreshing brews at your local beverage store, pub or brewery!
In French, the word ‘saison’ translates into season, which is very fitting because this ale can be as complex as the four seasons themselves. So, what exactly is a saison and why is there a dedicated day for them? Let’s explore this antique ale and see how it has made a comeback into the modern market of craft beer.
The saison has completed quite the journey landing itself into today’s beer vernacular. It’s roots were spawned in the early 1700’s within small farmhouse brewing operations. Dating back to the French-speaking region of Wallonia in Belgium, this beer can be viewed as a romantic, yet industrious type of brew. This style of ale and it’s working characteristics are as unique as it’s upbringing. The colors and aromas it possesses are as quaint as it’s homeland of Belgium, yet it’s variants of fruitiness and sometimes spicy finishes surround the palate in earthly tones just like the farmlands they were brewed upon.
The saison was a staple during the pre-industrialized era across the farms of Wallonia. The farm owners are thought to have brewed the saisons in the winter so that they could ferment during the cold months and then be ready for consumption in the scolding summer sun. The batches often contained a high percentage of hops due to the wide time span of storage. Besides the hint of alcohol, the original brews centuries ago were essentially the Gatorade of it’s time. It is believed these ales had low alcohol by volume (ABV) so the farmers and their seasonal workers could have something to drink without stumbling and bumbling through the crops!
Fast forward a couple centuries and farming became industrialized. With better machinery, higher quality water, and refrigeration, these summer brews almost evaporated out of people’s minds throughout the 20th century as competition and other options of beverages became available. It wasn’t until the 1990’s and beginning of the 21st century did the rebirth truly begin.
Now that we know the beer’s backstory, what is a saison in today’s standards? Well, yeast is extremely important when creating this style and as previously mentioned, this beer is extremely intricate due to it having a wide range of accepted personalities.
Appearance wise, these beers typically have colors ranging from pale orange to a light or even deep golden yellow. The beer is usually hazy due to minimal filtration and there is a thick head topping off your glass.
The aroma of a saison is frequently very fruity with very little malt notes. You may even get a nice kick of spice when giving your next saison a whiff. You’ll harvest a low alcohol scent and most likely a low level hop smell.
Once you quit gazing and sniffing the wonderful drink in front of you and actually take a drink, you’ll experience something quite invigorating that finishes with an herbal yet dry feel. A combination of spicy, earthly, and fruity flavors will dominate the saison’s refreshing character.
In terms of how many you can throw back, well, back in the ol’ Belgian days, these farmhouse ales initially had a low ABV, but most of today’s versions can range between 5 and 8%. Of course, some breweries (especially in the US) have experimented and made these brews into imperials with ABVs going over 12%! If you are interested in having a nice meal with your saison, look to pair it with roasted chicken, grilled fish or a fresh green salad. A nice light summer dish will go hand-in-hand with your satisfying beverage.
Saison Day 2017
To pay tribute to this wide-ranging style, it is no surprise that dozens of breweries and pubs across the country are celebrating on April 8th. Many are joining forces with Allagash Brewing to celebrate their designated Saison Day! For all our New England folk, keep an eye on events this Saturday going on at Lost Nation Brewing in Morrisville, VT, Oxbow Brewing in Portland, ME and Two Roads Brewing in Stratford, CT. If you simply want to go on your own adventure, visit your nearest beverage store in search of saisons such as Ommegang Hennepin Farmhouse Saison (7.7%), Firestone Walker Opal (7.5%), Great Divide Colette Farmhouse Ale (7.3%) or Saison 1900 by Brasserie Lefebvre (6.7%).
Go ahead, seize the day with a nice saison or two!