This is the second face-off between American and Belgian beers before The Yanks take on the Belgian Red Devils this Tuesday in Salvador, Brazil. This time we’re looking at Saisons, a farmhouse style beer that has really taken off in the US over the past few years. Saison is a beer style that comes from Wallonia, the French Speaking region of Belgium. These are farmhouse ales that usually contain multiple types of grain, and may or may not be spiced.
These beers are usually fruity and spicy, heavily carbonated, and sometimes tart. They’re brewed in the winter or spring to be drank in the summer, so they tend to finish very dry so as to be more refreshing in the warm weather. Citrus flavors like orange and lemon are very common, but so are spices like coriander or grains of paradise. Brewers will also sometimes add honey or sugar to add additional complexity and to enhance the light dry finish. Finally, these beers tend to have more hop bitterness and flavor than other Belgian beers, and some saisons have a sour tartness from wild yeast or other organisms in the mash or in the fermentation.
Representing Belgium is Saison Dupont. This beer is a cloudy straw gold with a HUGE white head and almost overactive carbonation. The aroma is pear, non-specific citrus, and mix of cut grass and various herbs. The aroma has me picturing a fresh cut hayfield between a citrus orchard and a pear orchard.
The flavor is light malt; it almost has a cracker taste. There is dry orange peel, lemon, more of that fresh cut hay and herbs, and a little bit of funky yeast. All of these flavors are there with the light cracker malt being the most apparent. It all rounds out with a refreshing semi-dry finish. This is something that you really want to drink on a warm summer day.
Playing for America is Ommegang’s Hennepin, an American version of a saison that is brewed in Cooperstown, New York. This beer also comes out cloudy and dull with a golden straw color and a big rocky head that sticks to every edge of the glass as you drink the beer down. It’s aroma has a hint of honey, banana, coriander, clove, citrus, and just a hint of barnyard (I swear its a good thing) and grass.
The flavor of this beer is everything the aroma promises and more. There is a biscuit malt flavor and honey sweetness with banana, pineapple, and a tart fruit flavor that isn’t exactly lemon but also isn’t exactly any other tart fruit. There are multiple spice flavors as well including clove, white pepper, coriander, and even nutmeg. The yeast gives it a slight herbal flavor along with that same hint of barnyard from the aroma, and it all finishes wonderfully dry and crisp.
Both of these beers are excellent, and I plan on drinking one or two of each as we make our way into the heat of July. However, there can only be one winner this round and it’s the refreshingly complex Hennepin!
Once again, this one is going to the Yanks. The Belgians need to step it up at USA 2 – Belgium 0.