Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Beer for the Season: Saison

Written by  Jim Brown
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New Holland Brewing Company Golden Cap Saison Ale

As the temperatures start to rise, as the grass and trees get greener, we as beer drinkers often look to lighter styles to quench our thirst. A perfect example of this type of brew is Saison. The name its self is originally French for season and summer is the season we are talking about. These beers originally were brewed in the Wallonia region in Southern Belgium which was predominately French speaking. These lower alcohol pale ales were designed for the farm workers for drinking during the harvest season.
Kuhnhenn Brewing Company Skip’s SaisonAs the Saison style developed, a set of common guidelines defined the style. The typical example starts with a fruity aroma, sometimes with notes of spice, hop, and sourness. As you look at the beverage, you will notice a pale orange color, usually hazy, and a dense rocky head. The flavor picks up where the aroma leads you, fruity, often citrusy, and spicy. All this aroma and flavor are packed into a light to medium bodied beer. Flavor and light body,ideal for warmer temperatures. The alcohol content can range from 5 to 8%, but the majority stay to the lower end of that range. There are many examples of Saisons brewed in Michigan. Some of the more classic examples include GoldenCap from New Holland (Holland) and Saison St. Clair from Big Rock Chophouse (Birmingham).

When seeking out these beers, keep in mind that these are seasonal offerings and not typically available year round. As with other styles, Michigan brewers put their own mark on this style and examples of that include Zaison Imperial Saison from Brewery Vivant (Grand Rapids), New Holland’s Four Witches Black Saison, and Bastone’s (Royal Oak) Saison Noir. Other Michigan brewed (current or retired) Saisons include Kuhnhenn’s (Warren) Alsace Saison and Skip’s Saison, Arbor Brewing (Ann Arbor) Saison, and many quality brew pub products. When the temperatures go up, the Michigan Saisons go down.