Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Beer Style Breakdown 101: Saisons

Ready to pop some bubbly?

If you missed the first class, you can borrow my notes.

Berry White was kind enough to volunteer his time and his bottle of Brooklyn's Sorachi Ace for today's demonstration.

 Pencils (and glasses) ready.

Style:  Saison 
Country of Origin:  Belgium
Also known as:  Farmhouse ale

Saisons (French for "season") first originated in the French-speaking Wallonia region of Belgium.  Traditionally, they were brewed in the winter time and enjoyed by thirsty farmers during the long, hot summers.  The farmers were allowed to drink up to five liters a day.

Pretty sweet deal.

Saisons are pale and golden in color and have a rich, sudsy head.

Hello, sunshine.

The complexity of this style really shines through its aroma and flavor.  Saisons are moderately tart, rich in spices and have a noticeable "funkiness" to them (some more in-your-face than others) that can be attributed to the yeast.  The finish is dry and slightly bitter on the tongue.  Although they possess some fruity notes, saisons are not nearly as sweet as fruit lambics (which I'll cover another week.)

My personal favorites:  Ommegang Hennepin (NY), The Bruery Saison Rue (CA), Saison Dupont (Belgium)

Saisons are a popular choice during the summer (given their history and all) but are great to sip on all year round.  This is a fun style to pair with food or to do a side-by-side tasting with offerings from different breweries.  

Try it out.  Your tastebuds will appreciate the challenge.


  1. Ommegang's Hennepin is widely available in Northern VA at Harris Teeter. No need to feel intimidated at a fancy beer store in order to grab a bottle.

    Saisons = best drank on a hot day.

  2. Have you tried Estrella Damm Inedit? I believe it may be a "saison" style beer, however I'm not positive. Anyways, it is a fabulous lightly effervescent beer with some nice citrus, spice, and floral notes. Very refreshing, and very good paired with food.

  3. Anonymous - I'm not familiar with Estrella Damm Inedit so I looked it up online. Now that I know what the bottle looks like, I'll keep an eye out for it :) It would be my first exposure to Spanish beer...thanks for the suggestion!

  4. Yummm! That is a gorgeous beverage! It really does look like sunshine! I love your beer lessons Ali :) I will be so much more prepared for this year's Great American Beer Fest with the knowledge you have passed on :)

  5. Thanks Jessi! You really do end up savoring your beer a lot more once you learn about its characteristics and history.

    We have some friends who moved to CO a few years ago and are trying to visit them during GABF one of these days/years. I've heard such great things about that festival!

  6. I tried Hennipan Saison recently because it was on tap at this bar near my work here in LA. I tried it because it was the special of the month... and I knew nothing about saisons! Pretty interesting stuff. Now I feel more educated.

  7. Ali, you guys will not regret it! The Fest is amazing and so much fun. It's like going to Disney World for an adult (who likes beer). In addition to hundreds (maybe thousands) of different beers to taste, there are also cooking demonstrations, karyoke, and lots of free junk. Tikets just went on sale, so if you were going to try to go this year, you should get them soon, before they run out. Oh, and also, you can't bring food in unless you're wearing it, so everyone has crazy necklaces made of pretzels and dinner rolls! It's amazing. If you do come to colorado feel free to email me about things to do, and I would love to meet up with you guys and have a drink and dinner. I'm quite the ambassador of Denver :)

  8. The Wind Attack - thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you went for the Hennepin - it's so easy to go with a familiar "default" beer sometimes. It's an awesome beer, plus it has some sentimental meaning to me (enjoyed a bottle of it on a beach in Mexico that we smuggled in our suitcase.)

    Jessi - that sounds fantastic. The whole "wear your food" concept sounds right up my alley. If we make it out your way, I'll definitely be hitting you up for suggestions and to sort out meet-up plans :D