Saisons are a wonderful variety of beer that not only refreshes and quenches during the dog days of summer, but saison yeast also thrives in warm fermentation temperatures.
The saison style has its ancient roots in the Wallonia region of Belgium. The farmers would take a portion of the autumn barley and wheat harvest and brew a refreshing beer for the workers to drink during the notoriously hot Wallonian summers. The saisons of yore were lower in alcohol (2-3%) and body, so workers could hydrate by drinking the beer rather than drink potentially tainted water.
The flavor profiles of a saison tend to be hard to pin down, but the overall consensus is that the esters and phenols imparted by the yeast should be the primary flavor and aroma focus. Belgian pilsner malt should be the base malt of choice with a good dose of Belgian wheat malt to compliment and add the characteristic light haze that we all know and love with this style of beer. Every farmhouse would brew their own version of this beer and the modern varieties reflect this aspect of the style. DuPont and Fantome are well known producers of saisons and their versions of saisons vary significantly. Most would agree that a good saison should be dry, fruity, refreshing, and a tad spicy.
The fermentation temperature is really key to making a great saison. You'll want to ferment this puppy long and hot. The WLP565 yeast is a strain taken from DuPont's house yeast and likes to be held in the 80-90 degree range for a longer primary fermentation range. These are quick, easy, and very tasty beers that will always earn its place in your recipe list. The below recipe is a modification I made on a 2006 BYO Magazine recipe.
Ingredients (6 gallon boil for a 5 gallon recipe):
10 lbs. Belgian Pils (Substitute 7lbs of Pilsner Liquid Extract for Extract brewing)
12 oz. Caravienne Malt
5 oz. Belgian Aromatic Malt
10 oz Belgian Wheat Malt
1.0 oz. Styrian Goldings (Pellets, 5.4 %AA) - boiled at 60 min.
0.50 oz. Saaz (Pellets, 5.00 %AA) - boiled at 15 min.
Use a standard 148-152 degree infusion mash and mash out around 165. Sparge with a gallon of 165 water. For a partial mash recipe, substitute 4 lbs of Pilsner Liquid Extract and 5 lbs of Belgian Pilsner Malt.
My personal favorite twist with a saison is to pull off the last runnings from the lauter (about 2 gallons worth) and create a light and spicy table beer. Ferment the same way as the first running recipe, it'll just be around 2-3% ABV, but darn good for drinking at the pool side during a hot summer's day.
Original Gravity: 1.058
Terminal Gravity: 1.011
Color: 11.21 °SRM
Bitterness: 35.0 IBU
Alcohol: (% volume) 6.2%