At Agrarian Ales Brewing Company, we are naturally drawn to farmhouse styles of beer, such as saisons, because of their unique background and brewing style. Saison beer has a spirited history of being developed from the ingredients and resources that were available to local brewers. For this reason, it has garnered a reputation for being a product of its environment. We believe it’s important to be familiar with the history of saisons in order to fully appreciate their value.
History of Saisons
Saisons are a type of pale ale that were originally created in farmhouse breweries located in Wallonia, a French-speaking region of Belgium, during the 18th century. Saisons would typically be brewed in the fall, fermented in the winter, and consumed during the summer and harvest. Clean water was often unavailable in these rural areas, so developing a drinkable beverage was vital, especially for the seasonal farmhands who helped during the harvest. This meant that the original intent for saisons was to be a thirst-quenching beverage for farmers and seasonal workers to use during the hottest months of the year.
Common Flavor Characteristics
Saisons are one of the original “artisanal beers” as they were unique to their brewer and the ingredients that their brewer had on hand. Although this has lead to a wide variation of beers under the saison label, there are still similarities that distinguish saisons from other types of beer. Most have a distinct flavor combination of spicy, fruity, and earthy. These flavors are due to the high attenuation, carbonation, and moderately sulfate-rich water.
The Belgian yeast and hop flavor typically found in saisons are two of the main factors that contribute to its characteristic spiciness that is pronounced yet not overpowering. The hop flavor typically ranges from low to moderate and isn’t as vibrant as other Belgian beers. During the brewing process, it’s also common for additional spices to be added that enhance the flavor. These spices often include peppercorn, coriander, ginger, anise, and orange zest.
Although saisons are known for being a refreshing beverage that was created for farmers to enjoy throughout the summer, you shouldn’t expect for it to be overly sweet. Typically, it has a medium tartness that can be attributed to the mixed nature of the yeast, spices, and the fermentation process.
The mouth feel of saisons is relatively light and has an element of playfulness that is brought out by the carbonation that is a byproduct of fermentation. The amount of carbonation in a glass of saison is one of the elements that gives consumers a refreshing taste that is smooth and easy to enjoy.
Being in the style of traditional farmhouse breweries, we love what a glass of delicious saison beer brings to our customers. It may have been brewed as a warm-weather beverage, but it can now be enjoyed throughout the year for almost any occasion.
Feeling adventurous? Try pairing it with traditional farmhouse food. You’ll discover that the spices and seasonings mesh extremely well together. If you prefer to enjoy a glass of saison while we do the cooking and pairing for you, come visit our brewpub.