So yeah. What is a saison anyway?

This week is our saison tasting or is it Saison? I honestly do not know a ton about them so I went ahead and did a little research so I could talk lucidly about them. Saisons are not my favorite beer in the world generally so this brewing assignment put me a little out of my normal brewing retinue. Of course I have had Saison Dupont and other Belgian and French varieties (are French saisons automatically biere de gardes?) and a whole load of American varieties. I took a shot at what I thought might make a good saison and was actually kind of surprised. It was nice, a bit tart, refreshing as it was at the very low end of the ABV spectrum and light and fizzy in the mouth.

So saison means “season” in French, that much I remember from 4 years of French class. It looks as if they fall into the category of beers that were brewed at a specific time of the year in preparation for a particular situation. In this case, it was to give to farmhands during the summer harvest. From wikipedia and other sources, it was suggested that they were brewed in the winter for the following summer. Also, farmhands were allotted up to five liters a day. Rad. Had to keep it low-alcohol and refreshing or your workers would not get shit done, I suppose. Other sources suggest that it was also a common household beer that was consumed in the home around this time of year as well. Well, that sounds just about right now that things are getting warmer out.

The beer itself as paraphrased from the BJCP specifications should meet the following general criteria: generally fruity with a little bit of spice. Tartness and slight sourness is not uncommon (good because mine is quite tart and I like it that way) The malts are generally pilsner malt heavy and other grains can be in there. I used a little wheat malt in mine on top of a basic 2-row pale. It should be a bit cloudy with that lovely belgian head. My head is not fine enough and it is not lacing at all.

I opted not to use spices in mine but it is acceptable and common. Pepper, coriander and other similar spices are used. Hopping should be light to medium. I used Citra in mine since I am currently having a slight love affair with the hop and it left the beer with even more fruit on top of a very slight bitterness.

Well, that is what I know. I also know that the style is one of the more broadly contested and argued styles. They really can run the gamut of colors and flavors. I think that this is part of the Belgian varieties and especially in beers that were household staples. Since this is named for a time of year with a personal touch from each individual brewer, it is really hard to fit the label specifically. Sorry homebrewers, we may have to continue to make ours our own way to actually keep tradition alive.

Cheers all. See you on Wednesday night at 7pm at the Rackhouse Pub.

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