We are constantly looking for inspiration and that demands deliberate tasting sessions. Sometimes we stumble on things that need to be shared and we do that here.
For this edition one of our brewers reminisced about sipping a great beer in front of his caravan on a sunny spring day in Belgium. Yes, the circumstances undeniably helped to turn this into a very pleasant drinking experience, but the beer we recommend here is undeniably good: Saison 1858. Our brewer claims to have witnessed “deliciously fresh citrus, coriander and hops” jump from his glass. Plenty of reason to make this saison by the Belgian Brasserie du Bocq a “fantastic beer to enjoy in the sunshine”.
Clearly no coincidence, since saisons were traditionally designed to be fantastic beers to be enjoyed in the sunshine. The style originated in the countryside of Wallonia when farmers brewed beer during the cooler parts of the year in order to supply their seasonal labourers, “saisonniers”, with a thirst quencher during the warmer months of the harvest period. The beer contained so little alcohol (probably around 3 to 3.5%) that these saisonniers were allowed to consume up to a couple of litres a work day.
As a result of its objective (refreshment) and its production (by farmers), the definition of a saison is rather loose. Each farmer brewed in whatever way he liked and with anything he could lay his hands on. That flexible approach lives on in the way modern day brewers create their saison, a style which has seen a heart-warming rise in popularity in recent years. Point of departure for many present-day brewers is the Saison Dupont. Which means they try to produce a dry, fruity, slightly hoppy beer, cloudy but light in colour. Experiments are taken from there and hence percentages might vary and herbs and other additives might pop up in the taste of your saison.
The Saison 1858 we recommend here did not spring from the revival of this style. People might know the brewery that produces it, Brasserie du Bocq, for its Belgian classics Deugniet and Blanche de Namur, but it is originally a typical saison brewery. In rather classical fashion, its first beer production was part of the agricultural practice of the region of Wallonia. In the winter of 1858, farmer Martin Belot first started to brew the beer he would offer those assisting him with next summer’s harvest.
The family Belot started to produce new beer styles in their ever more professional brewery, which they named after the adjacent little river. Increasing demand for their brews resulted in more and better beer, which in turn yielded serious(international) awards. Obviously, the Saison 1858 was one of their prize-winning beers. It scooped a golden medal in the “saison/biere de garde” category during the World Beer Awards of 2013.
It is the perfect season to judge for yourself we say. Only downside: it does not seem to be very widely available outside Belgium. On the bright side: another great reason to pitch your tent in this great beer country during sunny holidays.
Happen to be in Amsterdam instead of Belgium? Do not despair: holidays or not, our bar is open every day.