A Saison for Every Season
My cousin is a homebrewer. Not the kind of homebrewer whose products are shots in the dark usually resulting in undrinkable shlock. He is a homebrewer who in two short years is making top-notch renditions of several traditional beers styles on a regular basis.
My cousin and I spent Thanksgiving together tasting through a number of Belgian beers and worthy American riffs on those Belgian styles. For instance, we had sour beers from Belgium and Cali, tripel-style beers from Belgium and Missouri, and several saison-style beers from Belgium, Cali, Colorado and Missouri. It was a good night.
As we tasted through our bounty of beer I couldn't help but notice that the true Belgian saisons in the group were utterly impressive. Even though we were dining at 8,500 in chilly Woodland Park, Colorado, I wasn't compelled to opt for the heavier beers that most might gravitate toward when the leaves have fallen and snow is on the ground. No, I stuck with the saisons after we'd tasted through the entire gamut of beer in front of us.
Saison beers are made with pale malts and usually have a decent dose of Belgian (and sometimes English) hop varieties, but the hoppy influence is far less than what you would find in an American IPA - these hops are for balance and preservation, not for assualt (not to insinuate that I don't love me some American IPA-ness). Traditionally these beers were brewed via fairly warm fermentations in the spring to supply a simple and refreshing beverage for Wallonians sweating in the summer heat. As an aside, Belgium's region of Wallonia (http://www.eurotunnel.com/uk/inspiration/ideas/wallonia/) is an oh-so-enticing short trip away from Paris, so next time you're in the neighborhood...
But I digress. Why were those saison beers we had on Thanksgiving so impressive? Three reasons. First, each had a degree of spicy, even peppery, character that worked to help warm our chilly bones.Continued on the next page