Belgian Saison

Glassware: Tulip
  • Belgium
  • Ale
  • ABV = 5.0 – 7.0% (Normal to elevated)^
  • IBU = 20-35
  • SRM = 5-14
A gold-coloured Belgian ale with dominant fruit, spice and hop flavours, a grainy, rustic malt character and a very dry finish.

Like a drier, hoppier, and more bitter Belgian Blond Ale with a stronger yeast character. Can be similar to a Belgian Tripel, but often with more of a grainy, rustic quality from the use of non-barley cereal grains.

(Note: This style description is for the pale, standard strength Saison)

Appearance:

  • Colour^ = Light gold to amber
  • Clarity = Poor to good; often unfiltered

Key Aromas & Flavours:

Aroma
  • Malt = Low; grainy-sweet
  • Yeast = Moderate to high; citrusy esters (orange, lemon) / Moderate; spicy, peppery phenols (not clove-like)
  • Hops = Low to moderate; spicy, floral, earthy, or fruity
Flavour
  • Malt = Low to moderate; soft, grainy-sweet
  • Yeast = Moderate to high; citrusy esters (orange, lemon) / Moderate; spicy, peppery phenols (not clove-like)
  • Hops = Low to moderate; spicy, earthy
  • Perceived Bitterness^ = Moderate
  • Balance = Towards the fruity, spicy, hoppy character; bitterness does not overwhelm these flavours, as malt is there in support
Aftertaste/Finish

The finish is very dry and the aftertaste is typically bitter and spicy

Mouthfeel:

  • Body = Light to medium
  • Carbonation = Very high; effervescent
  • Alcohol warmth = A light alcohol warmth is expected

Characteristic Ingredients/Processes:

  • Malt = Pilsner malts, plus other grains such as wheat, oats, rye, or spelt; sugar syrups and honey may also be used
  • Yeast = Belgian ale yeast
  • Hops = Continental or English hop varietals (Saazer-type, Styrian Goldings or East Kent Goldings hops are traditional)
  • Other = Not typically spiced, but spices are allowed if they provide a complementary character

Historical Development:

A provision ale originally brewed in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium, for consumption during the active farming season. Originally a lower-alcohol product so as to not debilitate field workers, but tavern-strength products also existed. The best known modern saison, Saison Dupont, was first produced in the 1920s. Originally a rustic, artisanal ale made with local farm-produced ingredients, it is now brewed mostly in larger breweries yet retains the image of its humble origins.

Less common variations – lower- and higher-alcohol products, as well as darker versions with additional malt character – appeared after WWII. We will not explore these variations here; see BCJP’s style guidelines for more information.


Commercial Examples:

Saison Dupont, Fantôme Saison, Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale


^Sourced from the Cicerone Certification Program’s International Certified Beer Server Syllabus.
All other information is sourced from the BJCP 2015 Style Guidelines.


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