Picture yourself as a 19th century farm worker in Wallonia, Belgium's French-speaking region. It’s the peak of summer and you’re slaving away in the fields on the edge of dehydration. A rustle in the crops ahead causes you to look up and all of sudden, a fair maiden appears with a frosty bottle of saison ale. Believe it or not, this is exactly what used to happen all the time in the 19th century Belgian countryside… Okay, I may have embellished a little with the fair maiden and frosty bottle but the rest is actually true. Belgian farm workers were entitled to five litres of saison per working day, how cool is that?
Saison means “season” in French and they were traditionally brewed in the winter months and stored until summer. As water was nowhere near as clean in the 19th century as it is today, the workers drank beer instead to keep hydrated. The experts agree that these beers were probably much lower in alcohol (3 - 3.5%) than the modern day saison. This is probably a good thing otherwise the Belgian countryside would have been full of rowdy drunks trying catch and braai the farm animals.
Sink a Saison
Saisons have a distinctive pale orange to amber colour. They’re known for their complex fruity and spicy aromas and flavours. They have a dry finish and are highly carbonated, which leaves a beautiful trail of “Belgian lace” in your glass. Saison is a great summer thirst killer but at the moment there are not many local options around. The most widely available currently is Devil’s Peak Silvertree, which is a great example of this awesome Belgian farmhouse ale.
Devil’s Peak are also stirring up the mash tun with a range of beer/wine hybrid saisons. The first of these crazy concoctions was Vin de Saison - a chenin blanc/saison blend. They’ve also just released a sour saison/wine hybrid called, The Grapes of Wrath. Sour beers are another interesting Belgian offering which have become big business overseas, but that’s a story for another time.
Saison and food pairing
Saison is a great beer to pair with a huge variety of foods. Its complex blend of fruit and spice flavours works with both light and robust dishes. It’s also a great palate cleanser between bites because of its high carbonation. A saison is a rustic farmhouse ale so try pairing it with dishes to match. Think roasted meats with lots of herbs to complement the beers natural flavours. They also pair great with spicy foods. A good saison will amplify the heat of a spicy dish before the bubbles wash away the burn. And last but not least, grab a bunch of funky cheeses and bask in the glory that is cheese and saison pairing.
Grab a Devil’s Peak Silvertree Saison. Alternatively order some online and get them delivered to your house.
Word of the Day:
Haze: a saison will often have a hazy or cloudy appearance due to the fact the it is unfiltered.
Written by: Beer Country, two of the thirstiest guys on the planet - Greg and Karl. Follow their fire-side journey as they crack open the brew culture of South Africa, discovering awesome beers and cooking great food along the way. This hoppy adventure is coming soon to a TV near you!
- Beer Country
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