Matt’s Myriad of Beer Styles #1 – Saison

(First published in 2014)

Welcome to this first edition of my journey through some of the myriad of wonderful beer styles that we are so fortunate to have available to tickle our taste buds these days. I thought we’d start off with a style that I only came across in the UK for the first time in the last year or so, but which is now becoming more popular, however, it still definitely remains one of the lesser-known and even endangered styles.

Those of you who have ever visited Belgium will, I’m sure, be familiar with the style as it is much more prevalent in its country of origin. I am referring to saison. “Saison” is the French word for season and, unsurprisingly, saisons are seasonal beers that hail from the French-speaking region of Wallonia.

They were originally brewed – and are still often brewed – by farmers who brew the beer in the winter months and then store it ready for drinking in the summer months by farm workers and for a fine accompaniment to family meals. Saisons are warm fermented beers, which often contain dark malts, generous amounts of hops, have a fruity (even spicy) character and significant carbonation. They were typically of lower ABV (perhaps 3 – 3.5%), but have gradually become stronger over the years. In days gone by, there were apparently very weak versions brewed for schoolchildren, which I’m sure is a practice that will remain in the past!

The style is brewed to be thirst quenching, but to contain some unfermented sugars to help restore lost energy. Apparently, some brewers would allow their worts to acetify in order to give their beer a lactic tang, similar to the early white beers of the Flemish area, the lambics of the Senne valley and, a tad further away, the early porters in England.

Saisons are now brewed in many different countries and are often bottle-conditioned. Probably the most famous saison in the world is Saison Dupont (6.5%) from Brasserie Dupont of Tourpes-Leuze, Belgium. Examples of saisons from closer to home are Atom Enlightenment (6.2%), Bad Seed Saison (6%), Bad Seed Lemongrass & Thyme Saison (5.5%), Hop Studio Hop To Trot (4.7%), Treboom Maillot Blanc (4.8%) and Wold Top St. Clement’s Saison (2.8%). You can also find a Belgian Saison (5%) in the Revisionist range brewed for Tesco by Marstons.

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