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Just What is a Saison Beer Anyway?

By January 18, 2017Blog
Saison Beer in a glass

It seems that with the expanding popularity of craft brews and home brewing, ordering a beer requires a translator. To be sure, there has been a change in beer vocabulary in recent years, but that’s more a function of more international reach than liberties with the language.

One new vocabulary addition is that of the “Saison” beer. You’ll find a Saison on every brewpub menu, but what exactly is it?

The History of Saison Beers

The French speakers among us are rolling their eyes right now, because “Saison” is just the French word for season. Simply put, Saison beers are ones that kept for a season before consumption. This came about for purely practical reasons – in the days before refrigeration was a thing, there was a good chance beer would spoil if it was brewed in the summer months.

The Belgians, who are renowned for taking their beer very seriously, found that if beer was brewed in the cooler months and kept for “Une Saison,” there would be plenty to enjoy in the warm weather. This was crucial because farm workers were entitled to 5L of beer every day in exchange for their services in those good old days.

A Saison for Every Season

Strictly speaking, Saison beers are a low-alcohol creation (remember their history as a currency for farm workers), made with local ingredients, which typically feature a light body. Purists may argue that the term only applies to beers made in the winter for the summer, but the old “rules” of beer don’t apply in the modern age.

While we still often see Saison beers in the summertime, the advent of refrigeration and indoor plumbing means that we’re no longer limited to brewing special beers when the weather conditions are favourable. This has led to a host of brews labelled as a Saison at any time of year.

Hops Used in Saison Beers

The unique flavours that with Saison beers are derived from the varietals of hops used in their making. The family known as “Noble Hops,” originally grown in Central Europe, are most commonly employed in the making of Saison beers. The Noble Hops include Hallertauer, Saaz, Spalt, and Tettnanger, and their flavour and aroma are unmistakable.

If you’re up to trying your hand at making a Saison, no matter the season, the first step will be to order fresh hops from our farm right here in Kamloops. Once you’ve narrowed it down to the recipe you’d most like to try, contact us. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about fresh beer ingredients and tools of the trade.