Saison, a Belgian Ale

Saison, a Belgian Ale with many tasty variations

In the not too distant past Saison was in danger of becoming just a memory. Luckily, the style was rediscovered, mimicked by brewers around the globe, and triumphantly resurrected. Today Saison is a hot and prolific style in no danger of fading to the pages of Beer history. I for one am beyond pleased, as this is one of my favorite styles. These Beers have their home in the southern, French-speaking portion of Belgium along the French border. Saison is French for “season” owing its name to the fact that these Ales were traditionally brewed in late autumn for consumption in the following summer.

Saison is typically cloudy and golden orange in appearance, although brown examples can be found. Saison, like so many styles has no clear definition. Saisons are spicy, fruity, and slightly tart with citrus and earthy hop notes. Many examples of Saison are brewed with spices such as coriander seed, dried orange peel, and star anise, as well as a selection of aged hops. Aged hops are used to impart subtle hop notes. A Saison should not be hoppy and fortunately even US producers that typically employ a heavy hand in regards to hops take a more measured approach with their Saisons.

Most often, Belgian Saison is sold in 750ml “Champagne-like” bottles and finished with a cork and wire cage to secure it. The alcohol by volume ranges from 5-8% while the stronger versions often show no apparent strength, relying upon tremendous balance.

Saison is wildly versatile and enjoyable on its own or with a wide range of dishes. Pale golden versions are often nicely paired with steamed mussels while darker Saisons with rich malty notes work well with braised meats and even caramelized fruit. Lightly colored and zesty Saisons work remarkably well with soft and semi-soft cheeses. Luckily, we have a wide range of Belgian labels to choose from, as well as a great variety of Saison style ales brewed in the US and Europe.

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