Saison

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So right now I’m getting ready to brew my saison as soon as the yarrow arrives and I realized it’s been awhile since I’ve done a style rundown. I find it interesting to look at a style and why it got it’s start, and how it has evolved over the years. Saison is one of those really interesting beers because a years ago it was a nearly extinct style.

Saison literally means season and was a beer brewed by farms in Belgium for workers in the summer. Hence it’s other name, farmhouse ale. Saison isn’t just any ole summer ale though. Saisons are usually considered unique to Belgium although apparently there is a French style too. They were brewed in the winter and cellared till summer. Traditionally Saisons are around 3% abv, but the American revival of this style tends to be around 5% or higher. The reason why it was traditionally brewed at a low abv was that it was brewed for farm hands during the summer and fall. Not only did the workers remain more sober while drinking lower abv beers, but lower alcohol beers are much cheaper to brew. When farm hands were entitled to a certain amount of beer from their employer you better believe the employer was trying to cut costs.

According to the modern thought of craft brewing a lower abv beer should have less flavor. Saisons though managed to pack flavor in a small package. They did this in multiple ways. First off saisons have more hops then their maltier Belgian parents. Also farmers often provided more flavor to their beers by adding fruit, or cutting the beer with lambics. An interesting effect of this process is it gave the beer a tartness that makes it much more refreshing.

While historically saison refers to any number of summer beers brewed in Belgium the definition has become much more standardized in modern times. According to the BJCP a saison should have a aroma dominated by fruity esters. It should poor a pale orange color, and have a light to medium mouth feel. The flavor should be lightly bitter and refreshing with a light malt flavor that supports the other flavors in the beer. A modern saison often times has a tartness to mimic the older version and is usually a dry beer. Most modern saisons are medium to high alcohol content.

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