Belgium is a lovely country, tucked away like a fine jewel in the Western part of Europe. Flanders, the Northern section of Belgium borders the North Sea. This is a Flemish-speaking area, home of the abbey and Trappist ales, as well as lambics and gueuze.
To the south is picturesque Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium, abundant with the rolling hills of Ardennes, stately castles, and the cities of Liege, Tournai and Namur. Belgian brewing is an intrinsic part of life in this magnificent landscape, and it is no small wonder that Saison grew its roots within this region.
Saison is one of the world’s great brews. The farmhouse artisans-of-beer crafted this style as an answer to the end of the brewing season, that last breath of the frosty, winter chill. Lack of refrigeration necessitated the highest level of creativity to build a beer that would endure the warmer months – one that would “age” into fullness, “mature” into complexity, “sparkle with life” at the emergence of Summer!
These farmhouse ales exploded with refreshing character. They were resplendent with fruity notes of apple and citrus, touched with hop bitterness, sweetened with candied lavender from an angel’s wings, and dancing with yeast that gave a unique signature to every bottle. They were a part of life – a part of daily nourishment, not unlike bread and cheese.
A small dusting of Belgian breweries still continue to produce this exuberant style of quenching crispness. With the awakening of the craft-brew movement in the United States, however, the discovery of such Belgian beauties demands their endurance.
Complementary reflections of these farmhouse saisons are emerging within the artisan brewing community. Burning desires to create saison with the same level of intensity and complexity as their counterparts across the ocean is resulting in a myriad of tantalizing brews with magnificent appearance and seductive palate. Although often in a 750 ml bottle with champagne cork and wire, this is not always the case.
The Styles that Define Saison
The creation of Saison began as one great river, their characteristics meandering along tributaries, gently twisting in style from the original brew. These styles define themselves by three distinctive signatures:
One style has a deeply malty taste, with aromatic spiciness, and high carbonation that creates a party in your mouth. Examples are Saison de Pipaix from Brasserie à Vapeur in Pipaix-Leuze, Belgium and Saison Regal from Brasserie du Bocq in Yvoir-Purnode, Belgium.
The second has a more fruity touch of citrus – orange, lemon and green apple – with dry bitterness and a soft, lightly sweet finish. Examples are Saison Dupont from Brasserie Dupont Sprl in Tourpes-Leuze, Belgium and Saison de l’Epeautre from Brasserie de Blaugies in Blaugies, Belgium.
The third signature gleams with seasonal herbs, floral notes, coriander and leaves, and has a unique brew for each season. Examples are from Brasserie Fantôme in Soy, Luxembourg, Belgium: Saison d’Erezée Automne, Saison d’Erezée Été, Saison d’Erezée Hiver, and Saison d’Erezée Printemps.
Beer Fox Recommendations to Pleasurable Saison:
Avec Les Bon Vouex Super Saison – McKenzie Brewhouse, Glen Mills, Pennsylvania USA – 750 ml bottle pours hazy sunrise orange with huge, fluffy white head. Spicy and complex with citrus notes and fruit esters, slightly tart with undertones of hops. Every sip draws you deeper into the glass, desiring the joy to be infinite.
Brooklyn Saison de Brooklyn – Broolkyn Brewery, Brooklyn, New York USA – Cloudy golden straw with pillowy white head that settles to a seductive sheet with filmy lacing. Citrus notes of lemon, green apple and orange, with spices of coriander and pepper. Woven with sweet notes and crisp, smooth mouthfeel, like lingering love.
Cave Aged Hennepin – Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, New York USA - 750 ml bottle is numbered like a fine piece of artwork. Pours dark yellow with a billowy, white head. Aromas of sweetness, spices, yeast and hops seduce the olfactory nerves, drawing you into the heart of the brew. Defined spices of coriander, cloves and ginger blend with smooth, slightly hoppy taste with orange and citrus. Incredibly drinkable!
Fantôme Pissenlit – Brasserie Fantôme, Soy, Luxembourg, Belgium – hazy deep-orange peach tone with pillowy off-white head. Highly spicy with touches of pepper and slight grass and floral notes, a touch of lemon-lime citrus. Unique in its style.
Fantôme Saison - Brasserie Fantôme, Soy, Luxembourg, Belgium – Golden, completely opaque body with fluffy white head. Fragments of yeast float teasingly in the bottle. Dry and tart, with exotic spices and pepper. More intense than a tripel.
Mo’ Betta Bretta – Pizza Port and Pizza Port Brewing Company, USA – Hazy, translucent golden glow with thick, bone white head. Fruity and dry, lightly earthy with citrus palate. Carbonation plays in your mouth, floating with sensual appeal.
Saison Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale – New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colorado USA – Clear golden amber with large white head of tiny, light bubbles. Fine and complex, spiced with lavender and cardamom, and subtle touch of citrus and cloves. Complexity within a light fruit body and choice hop balance. Draws you into itself with its high drinkability.
Saison de l’Epeautre – Brasserie de Blaugies, Blaugies, Belgium – Bright, hazed golden brew with ample rocky white head. Complex with zest of lemon and herbed, dry bitterness. This has a lightly sweet ending with smooth seductiveness. Demands that you spend time immersed in its pleasure!
Saison Dupont – Brasserie Dupont sprl, Tourpes-Leuze, Belgium – Pours a hazy golden jewel with tremendous rocky head. This saison has a buttery, malt taste with fruity accents of apple peel, lemon and yeast. Light sweetness is balanced with tartness and spice, and finished with an alcohol warmth. This is a beer to be savored!
Southampton Saison – Southampton Publick House, Southampton, New York USA – 750 ml bottle pours hazy yellow with a deeper orange core and exuberant, pillowy head. Fruitiness that is both tart and sweet, like bitter orange peel and juicy middle. Has the feel of a tripel!
These enticing styles will draw you deeper into this classic style, captivating you with the endless possibilities available with select craft beer. Cheers!