Belgian beers have become especially popular in recent years. Belgian ale yeasts give these beers a most distinctive character. Recently, I introduced two versions of the Belgian style, “saison” to two groups of friends.
Randy Mosher describes Belgian beer history in his book, “Tasting Beer.” The name “saison” is French for “season”. Some say this style originated in the French-speaking part of southern Belgium, known as Flanders. Other records indicate that the style originated in the eastern region of Liege(near Germany); the region of Mons (further west) is where saisons are now made. The story goes that this beer was brewed “in season” between November and March in farmhouse breweries. This style was able to stand up to summer heat, was tolerant of fermentation temperatures above 90oF, and was consumed by the farmhands during the summertime.
Saisons have an herbal, peppery spice aroma. With a slight tang, they are very crisp and dry. Most interesting about the style is the subtle earthy flavor. The color is a hazy bronze; they are effervescent and form a mousse-like foam head when poured. Saisons are traditional for summer, but good year-round.
I shared a bottle of Saison Dupont with friends while boating on pontoons. This is a true Belgian beer—produced in the Brasserie Dupont, in Tourpes-Leuz, Belgium. It is the 2nd highest-rated saison on Beer Advocate. Using a cheese-pairing recommendation from Mosher’s book, I purchased an 8 oz. round of camembert—a soft cow’s milk cheese with a pure white edible rind; a style that originated in France. Camembert has a flavor that strengthens as it ages; it is buttery and slightly salty, and with a trace of ammonia. Samples were served in small, 2 oz. glasses—along with slices of camembert. The Saison Dupont is produced in green wine-like bottles (including a cork). Green glass is not strongly protective of light; I noticed a mild light-struck (skunky) aroma and flavor, so I was a little disappointed—expecting an impressive saison.
With the second group, I offered a bottle of Boulevard’s Saison Brett. Boulevard has three versions of saison, and this one has the addition of a special wild yeast, Brettanomyces, along with bottle-conditioning yeast—giving it a distinctive “barnyard” aroma and flavor; enhancing the earthy goodness. This beer is has the second-highest rating on Rate Beer. This is the best saison I have experienced! Again, I paired the beer with camembert; our appetizer was combined with fresh fruit including blueberries, peaches, and cantaloupe. All who tasted the saisons found it to be an interesting beer style in flavor and presentation (the 750 mL bottles). Both saisons were purchased at Gomer’s. Pick up a good bottle of saison for your next summer party!
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