If you’re looking for a refreshing summer beer you owe it to yourself to try a saison!
Saison has evolved over the years into a summer beer style. It is one of a handful of beer styles known as farmhouse beers.
In Belgium and the bordering region of France, seasonal farmworkers were known as ‘saisonniers’. In the romantic telling, this beer was brewed for them from what the farmer had on hand. The reality is probably a little more complex.
The word saison means ‘season’ and it was one of the terms used to describe a beer brewed in winter to be kept to serve during the summer months. This idea of a beer brewed for summer might make you imagine something flavourful and thirst-quenching, and that's exactly what you get.
When you crack open a saison you can expect a flavourful beer with fruit, citrus and spice notes on a soft malt background.
Like most Belgian beer styles, saison is lightly hopped and a great choice for people who don’t want a lot of hoppy bitterness in their beer. Spices, along the lines of star anise, coriander or sage, are often added to complement flavours in the beer. It is typically fermented to the point where there is little to no sugar left and the dry finish helps keep it light and refreshing.
As you might expect from a beer made for summer, Saison pairs really well with all things fresh off the grill!
It also works well with other fresh summer flavours. Fresh poached white fish, crab cakes, oysters or ceviche are all great pairings. It can also be an interesting counterpoint to dishes like Pad Thai that have a combination of fresh flavours, citrus and spice.
Saison also works well with semi soft cheese like brie, chevre and taleggio. If you are planning a meal you’ll want to finish with something like a blueberry cobbler. Blueberries are a little like magic when they meet with lemon and spice which makes them a delicious partner for saison.
Speaking of delicious, here are three saisons we recommend you try this summer!
1. Saison Dupont
This is a classic Belgian Saison and a benchmark for the style. It is produced in a farmhouse brewery that dates back to 1844. Interestingly, Alfred Dupont bought the farm in 1920 to keep his son Louis from moving to Canada. The family has been producing beer there ever since.
Saison Dupont is a hazy golden colour with the thick rich head that is typical of many Belgian beers. The flavour has a bit of a lemon orange citrus accented by pepper and spice notes and a clean dry finish. It is a beer that works as intended. A thirst-quenching drink perfect for a summer evening.
2. Steamworks Redemption
Steamworks Brewing is always looking to be inventive with their line of seasonal brews. Born in Burnaby, Redemption is a fruity saison that pours golden and has a characteristically foamy white head. It features a blend of saison, fresh apricot, and Riesling must, co-fermented to create a complexity and tartness that explodes with vibrant flavour.
Surprisingly, you’ll notice more citrusy notes, and even a bit of grapefruit instead of the aforementioned apricot. Where this beer is fruity, it’s certainly still crisp and dry, keeping you refreshed on warm summer days. There is only a subtle taste of coriander, so if you’re looking to spice up your life, this next beer will be more your style.
3. Viewfield Brett Saison
On Vancouver Island, Driftwood is brewing Viewfield Brett Saison. This one is a little different because it is made with brettanomyces. Brettanomyces or ‘brett’ as it is known is a ‘wild yeast’ that has long been a staple of Belgian farmhouse ales. It has a unique flavour and adds some acidity to beer, meaning these days it is found in a lot of sour beers.
Brett tends to give beer a bit of woodiness, spice and fruity flavours. These flavours are the perfect complement to saison. Brett saisons tend to be very dry with crisp acidity making them a great summer beer choice. Viewfield Brett Saison shows off all of these characteristics nicely. It has all the characteristic aromas and flavours of a classic saison with the addition of some acidity and brett funkiness.