Saison: The Most Popular Farmhouse Style
If there is one farmhouse style that has a place in the consciousness of the greater beer drinking community, it is saison. One of the seminal titles on farmhouse beers “Farmhouse Ales” by Phil Markowski highlights saison and bière de garde almost exclusively as farmhouse styles. That definition is expanding, but still, if most people have heard of a farmhouse style, they’ve heard of saision.
In my mind, saison is defined as a very effervescent and dry beer with a pale appearance and a huge frothy white head. I always look for the slightly spicy herbal aroma of Styrian Golding or Saaz hops complemented by the white pepper and clove phenols from yeast and that fruity character that sits somewhere right between a lemon tart and a pear. The balancing bitterness and dry finish make these beers at once luxurious and thirst quenching, so I love them for a fancy dinner as much as I do at a backyard picnic.
This may be the description of a saison most often seen on the market, but like the farmers who first brewed the style, the iterations of saison are wide ranging. There are beers with dark copper hues and others that are aged in barrels inoculated with bacteria or wild yeast. Some saisons have the addition of spices like coriander, grains of paradise, or bitter orange peel. Others use herbs, hops, or grains from the farm they are grown on.
Even with all of these variances, what you can count on for saison is a dry beer with plenty of yeast character, the rest of the flavor profile is up to the brewer!
Saison BJCP Parameters
IBU 20-35 | SRM 5-14 | ABV 5-7%
IBU 20-35 | SRM 15-22 | ABV 5-7%
There are also “table” versions (3.5-5% ABV) and “super” versions (7-9.5% ABV)