Styles of beer: Saison

One of the biggest questions that keep me up at night is “What beers am I going to brew?” This seems like an easy decision to some– brew a pale ale, an amber ale, and something light to appeal to those who don’t like beer. Brew an IPA for the beer geeks. This doesn’t work for me though; I’m looking to start a brewery that does not offer the standard, go-to beer styles, but at the same time I want my beers to have great appeal and success in the marketplace. I am a beer geek at heart– I’m not going to brew something just because it’ll sell.

My first thought is to make a saison. The saison is a versatile style, a style that covers many styles. When I think of saison I’d want to brew, I think of a saison in the model of Saison Dupont Vieille Provision or Fantome Saison– a dark golden, spicy, complex, dry, effervescent beer with a rocky head. This is a beer style that could appeal to the most serious of beer geeks and those who only drink beer on the warmest of summer days. Most saisons made today are moderately high in alcohol, from 6% to about 9% by volume. The best examples I find are in the 6.5 – 7% ABV range, as they are thirst quenching and still sneakingly potent.

If I brewed a saison, I wouldn’t exactly be a pioneer of this style as far as American brewing is concerned. There’s quite a few breweries producing this style in small quantities as a seasonal. The Lost Abbey and Ommegang are the only breweries I know of in the U.S. that brew a saison year round (Red Barn and Hennepin, respectively). I do think it would set me apart, especially if it is the beer I intend it to be.

From time to time, I’ll post about the other beers I’d like to brew. I think you’ll find there won’t be a whole lot of consistency in the types of beers I’ll be producing– they won’t all be Belgian styles, and many won’t adhere to styles. I love drinking IPA’s, sour beers, pilseners– I’d be better off telling you the styles I don’t like than the ones I do. It is important to me that I brew beers I’ll enjoy drinking on a regular basis.

I admire Jolly Pumpkin a great deal in that they brew extraordinary, unique beers and their sense of self comes from being out of the ordinary. I also admire Russian River because they are able to brew just about any style of beer and it doesn’t dilute their reputation as a great American Wild Beer brewer or as a brewery that makes some of the best hoppy beers available. Both breweries have proven that as long as the beer is excellent, the beer will sell.

To me, success as a brewer would be to be thought of in the same vein as these excellent brewers.

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