04 March 2013

Too much too soon

International craft brewing's current affinity for saison shows no sign of slowing down so I guess we'll just have to weather it out. I didn't realise I was a saison hater until recently: I've enjoyed lots of them, back when they were a Belgian thing. The only one I know ever to have been brewed commercially in Ireland was lovely, and Oblivious has given me some fantastic homemade ones. But elsewhere it's not been so much fun.

In my amateur opinion, saison is a style that's all about nuance and subtlety, and the likes of Wild Beer Co.'s Epic Saison and Freigest's Sauer Power ignored that and went for bombastic, all-guns-blazing, barnstormers. Sadly this criticism can also, to an extent, be levelled at the latest one to cross my path: Wallonia by Thornbridge, recently on keg in Against the Grain. We are spared any of the more extreme burnt plastic of the other two I've mentioned, but there's also none of that mild pepperiness which good saison always has. Instead the hazy orange beer exhibits something of an aftershave spice, putting me more in mind of a heavy clovey weissbier than anything else. It's quite a decent sipper, but the dry fruit and spice flavours become a little overwhelming as it goes down.

How about keeping it simple, saison brewers? That might work.


  1. You might be asking the elm for pears, as we say in Argentina...

  2. My recent feeling is- if I want a saison, I'll get a Belgium. Anything else is just too overpowering.

    But the spelt saison was great- I had a few pints of it myself...

  3. I am not much of one for saison as a general style either, or at least not as practised over here. From what I have read, a lot of the saisons in the US are influence by Saison du Pont, which (again from what I have read) is something of an outlier in Belgium itself. It is kind of a shame that I can't get you a bottle or two of Starr Hill's current spring seasonal saison as I think it pretty drinkable really, although a bit hefty at 6%.

  4. Actually I love saisons, and I'm glad some UK brewers are giving it a go and see no reason why we might not get a few decent beers out of it, but like you I've been underwhelmed with the results so far.

    You don't improve a saison by throwing hops at it, you just ruin it. Saisons shouldn't really be bitter and hoppy, they should have a nice balance of sweet, sour and spicy.

  5. Thank you John, a good reason to brew more :). For a non belgian brewer, Dark star brews a very nice saison