Ahhh, the first proper weekend of springtime. I could feel the sigh of relief from across the country yesterday when we not only got some blue sky but a warming sun as well. And on a Saturday too! Blossom on the trees, lawnmowers in the distance and everyone clock watching to see when they can open a beer. Yes ladies and gentlemen: the British winter is officially over.
When you think about seasonal beers, first thought probably goes to the heavy, dark beers of winter. Next up the new American wave of spiced and pumpkin ales that come out around Halloween and the harvest festivals of autumn. For me though, there is a particular kind of beer that welcomes in the first warm days of spring and that's the saison.
Aficionados will be saying "but that's a summer beer". Yes, I know the history. Saisons were originally brewed in the winter and spring months in Belgium, to be drunk by the seasonal (saison being French for 'season') farm workers during the summer. While original saisons were quite weak and probably had very little in common with each other (bar the seasonality) modern saisons are quite distinctive.
The modern saison sits somewhere between a weissbier and a pale ale. It is fruity with a tinge of gingery spiciness like a weissbier, but nowhere near as much of either making you more likely to go back for a 3rd or 4th bottle. On top of that the saison has more hops which earns it the quality of a pale ale. And, just like the bursting blossoms of springtime, saisons tend to be fizzy little buggers as they are partially fermented in the bottle. After much research I can recommend opening your saison outside or over the sink - you never quite know how much springtime you're going to get in your bottle.
When you combine the fresh, fruity flavours and the exhilarating whoosh of the bubbles - for me that's the epitome of what a spring day beer should be. Pure refreshment after the first hard day of gardening, cleaning or DIY this year. So, if you're interested, here are my top 3 saisons to help you put some spring in your step:
- 01/11, Brew by Numbers. I've only tried a handful of BBNo's 30 or so saisons. With number 11 they have added stewed quince which adds sweetness without an overpowering flavour.
- Of Love & Regret, Stillwater Artisanal. The cool label is a good start, and fortunately the beer is great too. The refreshing aroma comes from the addition of spring meadow flowers like dandelion and chamomile.
- Yakima Saison, BRUS. This one is definitely at the pale ale end of the spectrum with more hops than fruitiness, making it ideal for those looking for a gateway saison.