Saison Beer Recipe

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Saison (meaning “season”) originated in Wallonia—the southern and predominantly French-speaking region of Belgium—as a refreshing and nourishing drink for farmhands and seasonal harvest workers (les saisonneirs) to drink in the summer. Farmworkers would consume upwards of five liters of this beer per day, as water sources were of questionable quality.  Given the volume of consumption, alcohol was only 2-2.5 percent, which made the beer refreshing and prevented the hired help from getting too plastered on the job.

Most saisons are a light golden/orange color, with a very dry finish, and either a crisp sourness or bitterness (or sometimes both).  The farmhouse breweries used their own grains, often a mixture of barley, oats, rye, wheat and spelt (due to the higher tax rates on malted barley). Each brewery also had a unique strain of yeast. This, combined with limited knowledge of sanitation, gave the saison a distinct dryness and sour flavor. Hops, known to help preserve beers, were used fairly generously in making saisons and were typically split between early bittering and late aroma additions.  Spices such as ginger, coriander, peppercorns and orange peel were commonly used, too. The beer was then aged in oak barrels for four months to as long as several years to allow the yeast’s sourness time to blend with the hops’ bitterness. While versions given to farmhands were lower in alcohol, export and specialty versions could have alcohol content from 4-9 percent.

The best modern examples of the style are found in Belgium and France, with Saison Dupont being one of the most well known.  However, several local breweries have offerings in this style, including RedRock, Squatters, Epic and Hoppers (seasonally). Give those a try, or make one of your own at home—it’s easier than you think!

Saison (All-Grain) Ingredients:
8 lbs Belgian Pilsner Malt
1 lb Wheat Malt (red)
1 lb Amber or Brown malt
6 oz Acid Malt
1.5 oz Kent Golding Hops 5.8% AA (60 minutes)
0.5 oz French Strisselspalt Hops 2.3% AA (20 minutes)
1 oz French Strisselspalt Hops 2.3% AA (1 minute)
Wyeast 3711 French Saison

Procedure:

Mash at 148ºF for 75 minutes
Ferment at 75-85ºF
OG:  1.049 FG: 1.007 IBU: 30 ABV: 5.5%

Saison (Extract) Ingredients:
6 lbs Light LME
1 lb Wheat DME
8 oz Caramunich 60
6 oz Acid Malt
1.5 oz Kent Golding Hops 5.8% AA (60 minutes)
0.5 oz French Strisselspalt Hops 2.3% AA (20 minutes)
1 oz French Strisselspalt Hops 2.3% AA (1 minute)
Wyeast 3711 French Saison

Procedure:
Steep grains in one gallon of water at 150ºF for 30 minutes. Remove grains, add extract and bring to a boil.
Ferment at 75-85ºF
OG:  1.053 FG: 1.010 IBU: 25 ABV: 5.6%

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