"The term 'farmhouse ales' conjures up romantic images of simple country beers brewed on self-sufficient farms as a matter of necessity." ~ Phil Markowski
But what are they? Let's find out.
What is it? "Saison" means "season" in French, and originated in the Wallonia region of Southern Belgium in the 19th century. Brewed in the winter and stored till summer, these farm-brewed beers provided summer beverages for farm hands and grain used from brewing for livestock during the winter. Commonly referred to as farmhouse ales, saisons can range in flavor from earthy to spicy to tart with funky fruit, and everything delicious in between.
Because of their humble beginnings, early saison recipes are hard to come by, allowing the wildly creative flavor profiles to run rampant throughout the style. Craftbeer.com has a great outline of their characteristics - ranging from pale to light brown in color, highly carbonated and with a beautiful balance of hops and malts that is often over run by "funkiness" or fruit notes. In modern saison brewing, the secret is in the yeast, and the Home Brewers Association has the scoop on the different strains and how they affect flavor.
What's next? Drinking saisons, of course! Check out this list of great ones from Beer Advocate, or peruse Paste Magazine's blind tasting of 35 different brews. Funkwerks has more great info (and great beer), and this review from Derek Wolgram has some good choices from the West Coast to get you started. Want more info? Check out Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition by Phil Markowski. Cheers!
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