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What is a Saison?

By Charlotte Knowlson

The world of beer is full of ever-evolving styles with complex histories and tongue-twisting terminology to try and get your head around. With so much alien vocabulary plastered over bottles and cans, it’s sometimes difficult to predict how a beer will actually taste. One such style which commonly raises questions is the Saison.

The Saison originated in Belgium. Farmers in the region of Wallonia would brew beer during the quieter and cooler winter season and store it in their farmhouses until the busy summer season, to be drunk by the ‘Saisonniers’, or seasonal farm workers. This is why you will often hear Saisons called ‘Farmhouse Ales’, alongside the closely-related Belgian Grisette and their French cousin the Biere de Garde. Brewing and cellaring the beer over the cooler months allowed for more control over fermentation, as well as providing work for farm hands during the quieter seasons.

But what does it actually taste like? Saisons are typically effervescent, dry and light, with a hazy golden hue. They have a delicious, subtly spicy character due to the yeast used, but also thanks to the common additions of coriander and orange peel. A hay- or straw-like quality is often present, and some examples even border on tart and funky. Because of the dry and subtly spicy quality in a typical saison, it pairs excellently with a range of different foods; try a saison with roast chicken, white fish, or goats cheese.

Some of our favourite examples of Saisons are from Burning Sky brewery - we regularly stock a variety of their seasonal Saisons, often infused with fruit and spices, or jazzed up with a brettanomyces and lactobacillus. For a more traditional Belgian Saison, you can’t go wrong with Saison Dupont. Look out for Little Earth Project and Yonder too!  If you’ve never tried a saison before, you’re missing out. Pop in to The Epicurean and grab a bottle!

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