Saison & Farmhouse Ale
Also known as "Farmhouse Ale" in the U.S., Saisons originally served as summer refreshment for Belgian farm workers and are golden to light amber bottle-fermented beers with a yeasty character and plenty of carbonation. Special ingredients such as spices can contribute to the individual character of a saison, so it can contain sour, fruity as well as peppery flavors.
Beer Style Facts: Saison & Farmhouse Ale
- Appearance: Light yellow to amber. Often slightly cloudy.
- Aroma: Typical notes of saison yeasts are spices such as pepper or coriander. There are also fruity hints of orange and other citrus fruits. Some light malt aroma may also be in play. The taste is crisp and dry, but always in balance. All of the aforementioned characteristics can be found there as well. Distinctly hoppy bitterness in places. Refreshing.
- Alcohol: 4-8%.
- Classic beer: Saison Dupont
Saison & Farmhouse Ale: Probably the most complex beer style
We're not quite sure exactly where the Saison originated. What is clear is that it can be located in southern Belgium, Hainaut region in Wallonia, near Mons, and in the adjacent French part. And it is also clear that it is a rustic style of beer that was brewed from winter to spring and was the preferred refreshment of field workers during the hot summer days. Each farm brewed its own Saison at that time and that is how the more international term Farmhouse Ale is derived. Therefore, the beer style is also very diverse and in principle there are hardly any rules how a Saison should be brewed.
Saison: Typical ingredients
In addition to barley and wheat, spelt or oats can be used as grains, while European hop varieties such as Saazer, Hallertauer or Tettnanger are used as hops in the classic versions. One of the biggest differences, however, can be the yeast. This is very flexible and tolerant, can even ferment at over 32°C and produce phenolic aromas of pepper, orange, and depending on the type, a slight acidity. As was also common in the past, nowadays a Saison is more and more often stored in barrels. This allows the beer to have a complementary acidity and, through the Brettanomyces yeasts, a portion of funkiness and taste even more complex and unique.
Farmhouse Ale: One Beer Style, Many Traditions
Farmhouse Ales have a long tradition and history in many parts of Europe. In addition to the aforementioned widespread use in Belgium and northern France, farmhouse ales are an important part of the beer cultures in large parts of Scandinavia and the Baltic states. In Lithuania and Estonia in particular, breweries have survived to this day that brew exclusively Farmhouse Ale according to the original model. Some of them even use the yeasts that have been handed down from generation to generation. Many of these beers were brewed with locally available grain. Some recipes even included different herbs, which puts the beers close to gruit beer.
Who's brewing Saisons and Farmhouse Ales?
Saison is a style of beer that sometimes doesn't buck the IPA hop trend. Still, there are plenty of craft beer breweries that brew a lot of farmhouse ales, some of which have made a name for themselves through their creations. One that certainly deserves mention is the U.S.-based Hill Farmstead, which has modernized and perfected the style.
In Germany, there is also Kemker Kultuur from Münsterland, a real farmhouse brewery that offers a considerable number of authentic farmhouse ales. We recommend you try Kemker's Stadt Land Bier - as this very approachable saison has already won over and delighted many lovers of the beer style!
One of, if not THE, Belgian classics is Saison Dupont. But Brasserie Fantôme and Saisons de Brasserie Blaugies are also among the absolute best breweries when it comes to style Saison.
Foodpairing with Saison
Due to the diverse flavor development of a saison, there are also a large number of dishes in food pairing that go very well with a Farmhouse Ale. Great seasonal combinations are:
Dishes with fish or seafood, preferably seasoned a bit stronger.
Salad with goat cheese, blood orange and radicchio
Lamb meatballs & hummus
Veggie tacos with shiitake mushrooms and spicy salsa