The reasons people have for drinking beer are naturally varied. From pure thirst, a celebration sorts, with a meal, drunk through cooking, a catch-up with a mate, or even out of boredom! (Perhaps the most legitimate of all reasons on this list?)
Most beers aren’t brewed to match just one of these needs however. Pale ales, wheat beers, stouts; they can all be drunk for a variety of reasons, and are aimed at different drinkers for different reasons.
One style however, began its life with specific purposes in mind. Saisons – whilst not having the storied history of some other styles of beer – nonetheless has interesting origins. It’s birthplace, if you like, lies in the farm houses of Belgium. More specifically, in Wallonia (the French speaking southern half of Belgium).
The word itself, comes from the French word for ‘season’. And the original saisons were brewed during autumn and winter, mostly for consumption by farm workers in the summer. It’s comparable to the thirst-quenching lagers that we drink in Australia after a long day in the cricket field on a 35-degree day. On a side-note, some of those farmers were allotted 4-5 litres of beer a day.
For those thinking that maybe saisons are comparable to lagers in the flavour sense, you couldn’t be further from the truth. These beers vary in flavour from estery and fruity, to spicy and earthy, and sometimes all of the above in one brew. This comes about – allegedly – from the variety of hops, herbs and spices available to specific farmer-brewers. They made use of what was easily accessible. Saisons can also vary from light to full-bodied, and its colour profile ranges from lighter golden through to bright amber-orange.
Obviously, the Belgians have this style of beer downpat.
The St Feuillien Saison is particularly brilliant. With rich flavours and slight tang to it, it’s both refreshing and fulfilling at the same time.
The Silly Saison takes a slightly different approach to the style, offering a darker brown saison, however it’s a lighter beer than many would predict based on appearance. (It does get bonus points for having a corny-yet-amazing name).
Back home, the crew from Beard & Brau in South Australia, have their take on the traditional style. It’s a big beer alcohol-wise – weighing in at 7.9% – and has a stronger fruity hop flavour than some of the lighter saisons that exist.
What is most exciting is that these three beers are just a few of the many examples of the style that are now available to try. Considered a ‘dying beer’ for many years, there has been a resurgence of sorts amongst craft brewers.
Whilst I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Carlton or VB to release their ‘Aussie Saison’, you can now nonetheless pretend to be a hard-toiling Belgian farmhand (a mood which no doubt strikes often), and drink a solid 4-5 litres of saison after a hard day’s work…..
*Discretion is obviously very much advised*