By Madeline Stefan

We’re four weeks into our six week series. This week we’re exploring Saisons.

Before we jump in, though, how about a quick history lesson? It’s interesting — I promise.

Saison is french for season. These ales (or top-fermenting beers) originated in Wallonia, the french-speaking region of Belgium, where farmers sourced local ingredients to brew batches that would last them through the summer. So they would keep, those Saisons were stronger than typical table beers, but their dryness allowed them to yield a refreshing taste that satisfied the farmers during hot summer months. A strong and super refreshing beer? Count us in.

Because many farmers brewed Saisons in small batches for their own consumption, using whatever ingredients they could find, these beers have remained, through their evolution, to be characterized as highly unique, artisanal, and funky.

Today Saisons look a bit different than they did in Wallonia way back when. Popularized in the 1920’s by Saison Dupont Vieille Provision, Saisons as we know them today are loved for their expressive yeast character that is responsible for the balance you can taste between fruit and spice notes.

The yeast strains used in the brewing process of this type of beer are unique in that they ferment at very high temperatures — yielding a lot of peppery phenols. Because this yeast is often left suspended in the beer, the appearance of a Saison is often hazy.

Saisons are yeasty and bright, often carrying a tart, mild fruit flavor along the lines of what you would taste in berries, an apple or a pear.

Other key parts in the make-up of a Saison are flavors hilariously described as leathery, horse-blanket and barnyard. Often called Farmhouse Ales in the U.S., Saisons are noted to be earthy, intensely rustic and often display an acidic and sour funk.

One specific type of Saison that proudly displays these funky flavors is a Brettanomyces Saison. Brettanomyces is a type of wild yeast (you’ve seen it if you’ve ever noticed the sort-of white powdery dust on fresh grapes) that gives these beers an intense funk when used for fermentation.

At Legion, we’ve brewed a Brettanomyces Saison and named it Midwood Funk You Up. This super funky beer was fermented entirely with Brettanomyces that produced berry and stone fruit esters with an added bonus of that barnyard funk. It really is a flavor you need to experience for yourself.

As I mentioned earlier, the sentiment of resourcefulness of the Wallonia farmers has carried through in the evolution of the Saison. Today, emphasis is still placed on the use of indigenous ingredients and adjuncts, making these beers a product of their environment.

At Legion, we took that indigenous sentiment to heart when brewing Razzie Fresh, our Raspberry Saison. Our brewers pureed over 350 pounds of fresh Raspberries sourced from western North Carolina and added them in near the end of fermentation. As a result, this beer was tart and highly attenuated (attenuation in beer lingo references the percentage of sugars that the yeast consumes during fermentation. In the case of most Saisons, the yeast consumes a large percentage of sugar, making them highly attenuated).

If you find yourself scanning our beer list and see a Saison, don’t let the barnyard funk deter you. Our expert brewers ensure the yeast in each brew, whichever type it may be, work to support the flavors of the beer and enhance its character as opposed to appearing as an off flavor.  So, next time you’re in the taproom, give  a Saison a go!