This content was originally published by The Hop Review, a digital magazine that joined the Hop Culture family in March 2020.
This piece was written by Nick Costa.
The Style Guide v. VII: Saisons
Summer is flying by, and with the cooler than average temperatures we have been experiencing here in Chicago (except for the last couple weeks), some might argue if it ever arrived at all. Yet I am not ready to turn in my Session IPAs and Hefeweissens for Browns and Porters. So, for this edition of The Style Guide we are going to explore Saisons, also know as the Farmhouse Ale. A beer historically brewed for summer farm laborers, the Saison is still bright and crisp as a summer beer should be, but brings a lot more complexity than some of the other season staples.
First brewed in the French speaking Wallonia region of Belgium, the Saison was brewed during the slower winter months with the excess grains, herbs, and spices from the previous season’s harvest. These brews were lower in alcohol than todays iterations, this kept the farmhand’s senses sharp while providing hydration and sustenance to get the workers through the long days out in the elements.
Because the beer was brewed with excess materials unique to each farmhouse, the style’s guidelines are pretty broad. Typically the Saison is lighter in color, pale gold to a copper orange, but as U.S. craft brewers have resurrected this style over the last decade, darker shades are becoming more and more prevalent. While there is not a consensus on color, the big aroma is always present. Big and complex, the aroma is full of fruity esters with hints of lemon and orange, with earthy and peppery undertones.
The flavors of the saison mirror its bouquet. Fruit and spicy, but never sweet. Bitterness is moderate, but due to the typical use of European hops, hop flavor takes a back seat. Saisons are light to medium in body, but always highly carbonated, almost champagne like, and have a crisp dry finish, making for one thirst quenching beer.
There are plenty of great local saisons available throughout the cities breweries and bottle shops, so grab a couple and enjoy summer’s fleeting days while you still can. Below THR was recommended a handful that represent the style beautifully.
Brasserie Dupont Saison Dupont
While the guideline of the Saison are not as cut and dry as some other styles, Saison Dupont is the one to calibrate your senses to everything that a Saison should be.
Moody Tongue Steeped Emperor’s Lemon Saison
Our latest Beer of the Month is bright, crisp with hints of lemon zest and spice. Check out a full breakdown here.
Brewery Ommegang Hennepin
With the addition of ginger and coriander this brew has a spicy kick you won’t find in most Saisons. Full bodied, but still thirst quenching and refreshing. Pairs great with spicy foods.
JOLLY PUMPKIN BAM BIERE
Meyer lemon with that Jolly Pumpkin funk. Your tongue tingles from the high carbonation and slight bitterness. Truly unique, yet fits the saison’s rustic roots perfectly.
THR also recommends
Off Color Apex Predator, Solemn Oath Hexafoos, New Glarus Spotted Cow, Penrose Devoir.