‘Tis the season for saison drinking…


Story by Mikey Lowe

Last year the only thing more explosive than the Australian pale ale market, was the number of releases of Berliner-weisse, sours and saisons. I could barely keep up with the fruity, acidic, mouth-puckering goodness that was unleashed upon the beer scene. But I did manage to get some reading done in between beers.

When Garrett Oliver writes, you pay attention. It’s not that he’s spent years as a brewmaster for Brooklyn Brewery, and is a guy who knows a thing or two about booze and food flavour matches. It’s more to do with his ability to paint you a picture, and I loved the way he described brewing in the flat farmlands of Wallonia, the French-speaking region of southern Belgium where saison beers were first made. Oliver writes that the artisanal brewers of the Wallonian province of Hainaut first produced these ‘seasonal’ beers for the farmhouse table. They were “light, brisk, refreshing, and sustaining… (whose) nutrition were as important as milk or bread.”

The season in question falls at the end of the colder months, and the beers they made were built to last. Oliver writes that “as mild March weather breathed life back into the countryside, the brewing season drew to a close. The beer brewed in March has to last through the heat of summer, through the early autumn harvest, and into the next brewing season, which generally started in October.”


And in the way that acid in wine helps them to age, the high acid levels of these beers were what helped them last through the summer.

These romantic beers were largely brewed from pale malts, sometimes with oats and a dash of sugar. Additives were common including spices and botanicals added to the kettle. “These beers have their own distinct personalities, but most have a sunny orange colour; explosive carbonation producing impressive rocky head; bright, spicy, fruity aromatics; a refreshing hop attack; and a dry, slightly tart finish.”

This year I plan to swarm saisons like a colony of bacteria on room temperature meat. They’re great beers — I suggest you too head out for greener pastures and entice your tastebuds with scrumpdiddlyumptious delights. 

Suggested saisons for summer

So we’re right in the middle of summer, and the sour edge of a saison is a sure way to keep things cool. But if you’re new to saisons, where do you start? Here’s a few to get you going.

Stillwater Stateside Saison
Combining the old world style with a modern take, this effervescent and balanced saison from the United States is a great introduction to sour beers.

Nomad Long Trip Saison
The guys from Nomad Brewing on Sydney’s North Shore have said they wanted to create an accessible and sessionable saison with this brew —it’s got hints of coffee and wattleseed thrown into the mix, too.

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