A real thirst quenching Belgian delight: Saison
Why not reading about beer while brewing? Grab one of our educational materials to read until you can grab a glass of beer! These articles will lead you through the path of making beer with useful brewing tips.
Although most beer buddies and laic savvies know well that Saison is a refreshing type of beer, its name comes from Wallonia (a South Belgian rural region) and means (not so surprisingly) "season" but many of them don't know the reason behind naming. It doesn't mean that different kind of beers are being brewed in every season, it means this beer has a seasonal nature. It is brewed in wintry months and in early Spring (usually from December to March) and drank in the "active" months (from May to September). Frequently, it's called Farmhouse Ale that alludes its roots - it was produced in rural craft breweries for local people. At first basic ingredients were simple, locally produced and easily supplied. Of course, that has changed particularly after the World War II due to developments and modernization of breweries. Now, in the era of homebrewing and brewing machines you can freely experiment with the recipe and brew your own Saison.
Okay. But first, how can we specify this beer?
The purpose of drinking this beverage was quite simple at the beginning: to appease the thirst of workers. It had low alcohol content to avoid being drunk. From 1950 various types of Saisons have appeared for example the "super Saison" of DuPonte Moinette (8.5% alcohol) and its brown version at the end of the 80s, the Moinette Brune. Nowadays the Saison Dupont Vielle Provision is the most common type. Like the majority of Belgian beers, Saison characterized by complex and special flavours, even though it's not essentially spiced. Its character comes from malt, hops and most of all: the yeast. It hasn't been skipped the attention of USA, numerous small breweries make their own Saison (Southampton, Lost Abbey, The Bruery, Jolly Pumpkin, Ommegang).
Given that in modern interpretation Saison beers are diversified in their alcohol content (3.5-9.5%) and in their colour (from light yellow to black), it's hard to give a description that includes all agents of this category. Maybe the simpler way is to think about Saison as a big family, an umbrella concept where "normal" versions have 5.5-6.5%, "table" versions have less than 5% and "supers" have above 8% alcohol content. Stronger Saisons have darker colours and malts dominate them, while in lighter ones hops are dominant.
If we would like to define "normal" Saisons, by all means, it could be something like a refreshing, well-fermented, medium bitter (IBU 20-35) and moderately strong Belgian dry ale. Often intensely fizzy, unfiltered and maturated in bottles. Most of the time it contains grains other than malt. Fruity esters (that has been produced by yeast) give its special character. Acidity is optional - even it can be more dominant than the bitterness. Hoppiness is reduced but it can be prominent due to the higher carbonate and sulfate content of water.
Fancy making some Saison for summer with your automated home brewing system? Let's see some brewing tips!
- make a well-fermentable mash and ferment it with Saison yeast strain at good fermentation schedule
- saccharification temperature must be low (63 C°)
- ferment it with a relatively high mash liquor-malt ratio, around 5.4-5.5 PH
- if you would like to start from higher specific gravity (above 1.065) it's worth completing the malt extract with monosaccharide (invert sugar, honey, glucose)
- when using any unmalted grain (such as corn flakes) it's important to take a peptonizing rest (10-12 minutes at 52 C°)
- yeasts to use: both Whitelabs WLP565 Belgian Saison or Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison are perfect (don't forget to make a starter before brewing)
- choose hops with low cohumulone content (below 25%)
- ferment it for at least 6 months