One of the more interesting beers in my opinion has to be the Saison. It is one of those beers that you can have 10 different Saisons and they could all taste entirely different. There is one thing that all of them should have in common though, “Funk”. It’s a term that brewers use to describe a good Saison. We’ll get into that but first a quick history on them.
The 101 on Saison
Saison’s are a Belgium style beer. The word actually means season in French. The beer was made in a French-speaking part of Belgium. These were their versions of Pale Ales which were brewed for the workers during the harvest season.
The way to look at Saison’s are they are a refreshing brew for the summer time. Historically each farm had their own flavor to the Saison because these brews were made in the farmhouse. That is why these beers are also called Farmhouse Ales. Also historically these beers were in the ball park of 3.5% for alcohol. Today you see that a lot of them around 5%-7.5%.
What’s cool about Saison’s are that they don’t have a lot of rules. Usually in a Saison you’ll find that they will have spices in them: coriander, paradise seed, ginger, bitter orange, sweet orange. Typically the malts that you use will be a pils malt with a little bit of wheat as well, doing this gives a light golden color to the beer. The hops are typically a bit strong because they would act as a preservative for long storage. Today brewers add their own interpretation to the Saison and the, “Rules” turn into, “Loose Guidelines”.
The last thing about Saisons are that the yeast that you use is meant to give the beer some funk. The yeast is at its prime around 85 degrees. A Saison yeast prefers around 72-85 degrees. Fermenting at a high temperature will bring out some weird funky flavors, aka the “FUNK”. You get fruity esters and some spicy flavors that are hard to replicate if you don’t get up that high.
I’ve heard of people actually taking a space heater and space heating their Saisons or they put an electric blanket around it. Personally I end up usually wrapping the fermenter with tin foil then take a blanket or a towel and wrap it up again.
I wanted to give two quick examples of a Saison recipe to get you on your way with making Saison. We have the converter to help with converting LME to DME to Grain on our blog as well. These recipes show a trend in the types of ingredients that might be used as well as a general direction. I found both of these recipes on beertools.com.
Saison Recipe #1
3 lbs Pils DME
3 lbs Wheat DME
1 lbs Honey
8 oz Aromatic Malt
1 oz Northern Brewer (60min)
1 oz Styrian Goldings (5min)
1 oz Sweet orange peel (5 min)
.5 oz coriander Seed (5min)
1 gram Paradise Seed (5min)
WLP 565 Saison Yeast
This recipe is going to have a pretty big smell to it. The coriander and the paradise seed are going to come out first with a spicy nose, blended with a citrus nose from the orange peels. The hops are going to be pretty earthy for the most part. If you wanted to give this recipe a bit of tang, I would add some acidulated malt to it. Also another suggestion is to take out the honey and just use some honey malt to it. If honey malt is too sweet for you use some flaked rye to give a bit of mouthfeel and a bit of spiciness.
6.5 lbs Light LME
1 lbs Light DME
2 lbs Candi Sugar
1 oz Styrian Goldings (60min)
.5 oz Willamette Goldings (60min)
.5 oz Kent Goldings (2min)
1 oz Dried Ginger Root (15min)
1 oz Bitter Orange Peel (15min)
I like this recipe because they have the ginger root in it and that’s why I chose this one. This is going to be a fairly big beer. The ABV is a little high for me but if you are into that style of beer then this may be a better fit for you. One thing I would like to say is if you choose to bottle this one, let it bottle condition for a bit (2-3 months) other wise you really end up risking that it is going to taste, “hot”.
Saisons are pretty neat beers to make. If you are into the types of beer where you like to show case your abilities with matching together flavors and smells you really might want to consider making a saison.
If you have a killer Saison recipe that you would like to share, feel free to share and as all ways please leave your comments and questions in the space below.