This week’s installment of Know Your Styles is being brought to you by William Nordmann of the blog Year of Beer. I’m sure in William’s experiment of trying a new beer everyday of the week he came across a few Saisons last year, so this should be old hat to him. Let’s see what he has to say about Saisons:
Derived from the French word for season, it is traditionally a low-alcohol pale ale brewed in the Wallonia region of Belgium. Today the style has grown from a light everyday drinking beer to a bigger Belgian style beer with 5-7% alcohol and a tendency towards spicy flavors. This style is closely related to the French Biere de Garde, with the Saison being less malty, more spicy and without any of the Biere de Garde’s musty cellar flavor. Saison was considered a dying style until recently, when at the 2006 GABF, the Saison had a 76% growth over two years. This year, a Saison recipe is one of the options for the Brewers Association’s Big Brew Day.
For my sampling I tasted Saint Somewhere Saison Athene, La Biere des Collines saison, and a local example from Augusta Brewing (batch #1).
What you should be seeing: Saison is defined as a pale ale but the color is never light, and rarely clear. The color in all of the samples was a hazy brown or amber with the occasional bit of sediment. This is a traditional Belgian style with bottle conditioning being common.
What you should be smelling: The aroma should be a pleasant blend of fruitiness and spice. The spice should tend more towards pepper than clove and the fruit more citrus than apple. A strong aroma is common in Saisons. The Saison Athene had a great peppery aroma that could be enjoyed for a while.
What you should be tasting: Saisons are known for their spicy flavors with a light malt profile. Belgian yeast, mild fruitiness and even a hint of sourness is also a possible Saison flavor. The spice flavor can come from hops, but the addition of pepper, grains of paradise, coriander, or orange peel is common for the style. The sourness should be light from a sour mash or a little Lactobacillus but nothing strong like a Lambic or a Flanders. In the samples I received, the Saint Somewhere had a great peppery spicy flavor with some hints of yeast and fruitiness. Unfortunately the other two samples had a bland mild malt flavor with few Saison characteristics.
How you should be drinking: Get out you wide mouthed glasses and enjoy the aroma of the beer you are about to drink. Goblet, tulip or even a pint glass will also suffice.