Saisons, or farmhouse ales, are a style of beer that almost became extinct.
They were traditionally brewed at the beginning of winter for warmer-weather consumption in Belgium and parts of France. Belgian and French farmers, hence the name farmhouse ales, brewed these rustic low-alcohol beers for the field workers’ refreshment after a long day in the fields.
Saisons were tough to find in the marketplace until the past few years, when creative American brewers brought the style back into popularity.
The experimentation of American brewers has led them to take the Saison style in new directions by adding different locally sourced ingredients, which can make the beer even more complex.
Saison, as a style, is tough to define, as there are many different interpretations of it. Each is unique, and Saisons are known for a dry finish, rustic quality and are gold to amber in color.
Aromas can vary from peach and passion fruit to orange and litchi.
Most Saisons will also exhibit a characteristic spiciness in the flavor, which can include black pepper, ginger, coriander and vanilla notes. Their flavor profile combines fruitiness and spice and can be very complex.
American brewers have brought their creativity to resurrecting the style and have brewed some quite interesting interpretations.
Some will have a malty sweetness with bubblegum or banana flavors — like some Hefeweizens. Others will have some earthiness and leather notes, while some will exhibit a hint of tartness in the flavor profile.
Saisons are not for everyone, but if you’re getting a little more adventurous, try one, and you will experience a unique, refreshing and complex beer.
Life is short. Drink craft.
Rob McFerren is the owner of Wolf Creek Restaurant & Brewing Co.