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When is the traditional saison brewing season?

Hello:

I was reading the label on a bottle of Saison Dupont recently and noted that it was traditionally brewed in the winter and stored for consumption in the summer months. I’ve read this from other sources as well but this time it got me thinking. Is fermenting saisons at higher temperatures a modern development to emphasize the flavors produced by the yeast, while traditionally they would have been brewed at colder winter temperatures?

I did notice Saison Dupont did not have a strong, spicy phenol character as other saisons I have tasted, mine included which was fermented at 80+ degrees.

Ideas, insights?

I usually brew mine in March/April, and then again in October but I live in south Texas where my garage is already or still 90 degrees. The warmer temps should produce more fruit flavors. I don’t find my saison to be overly spicy/phenolic.

It may also be that the farmer would be running out of stored grain by April/May and would be busy working in the fields during the summer to replenish his supply. The brewer/farmer may simply not of had the time, resources, or the need to brew in Summer.

Traditionally, the saison was a beer brewed in the in spring for consumption in the summer months. The purpose was to have a refreshing, low alcohol drink for the harvest. It’s possible that the beer Dupont is selling is brewed in winter and if you look it up on wikipedia, you’ll get the same info with the mention of Saison Dupont. Breweries are known to make stuff up to market a beer. I drank BL for years and never got super-model chics, or a flat, washboard stomach. The swear jar campaign, on the other hand, was a success in my office.

I just happened to be reading Farmhouse Ales by Markowski and the Saison history section by Yvan De Baets confirms that the info on the Saison Dupont label is most likely accurate:

“Saison’s where brewed at the beginning of winter in a farmhouse brewery in order to quench the thirst of the farmhands who worked the fields in the summer”(p. 98).

“Brewing Saison’s also served to provide work for the year round workers in the winter, and to produce spent grain that served as quality feed for the livestock” (p. 99).

He then mentions that in areas of Wallonia they where brewed in March as well as in December, in contrast to most regions where they where only brewed in November (p. 100)

So it seems they where mostly brewed in early winter in most regions - with the exception of Wallonia, where they where also brewed in the spring.

Excellent information, everyone. Thank you. I think I will adjust my brewing season accordingly and brew saisons in the early-mid winter and cellar them until summer when they will be most appreciated.

This discussion also reinforces my desire to add both Farmhouse Ales and Brew Like a Monk books to my brewing library.

Salud!

I am going to speculate here. I don’t think the high-temp needs of saison yeast (specifically, the dupont strain that is commercially available) is a function of selection after decades/centuries of brewing this style of beer during warm months. Rather, saisons were traditionally brewed with mixed cultures of yeast (both Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces, and possibly even acid producing bacteria.) As a result, the “primary” strain didn’t need to ferment out fully.

With the pure strain isolated by the yeast labs, brewers began noticing problems fermenting their saisons at normal ale temps. But, if fermented at high temps, it performed admirably, so that became the standard way to produce a saison.

There are still saisons (Fantome for instance) that have mixed fermentation with brett. And even if DuPont only uses saccaromyces, I believe they use multiple strains. I thought 4, but I could be wrong.

Definitely buy both Farmhouse Ales and Wild Brews. Both are amazing. When I bought Wild Brews I read it and was like “eh, it’s ok.” 3 years later I have read it about 20 times. Awesome book.

Saison just means “season”. They would have been brewed seasonally, using whatever was being harvested at the time. So for most cereal crops, brewing in the late fall would make sense. If you were growing winter wheat, say, you’d probably brew your beer in the spring. Either way, the idea was to have beer ready for the next year’s planting and harvesting.

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