Life

Craft Beer: Open saison for Irish takes on Belgian farmhouse beers

Co Wicklow brewery O Brother's Huck saison is crisp and refreshing with a wonderful smoothness and depth of flavour
Paul McConville

AS remunerations go, it's well on the generous side. The origin of saison beer lies in the brew concocted for summer farm workers in the French-speaking parts of Belgium who were each entitled to up to five litres a day. It's surprising then that the term 'There'll not be a cow milked in Charleroi today' never caught on.

Like many modern beer styles, it has evolved quite a bit from its origins – just as well, considering many saisons can be anywhere between 6 per cent and 7 per cent abv whereas the refreshments served the farm hands of Wallonia weren't much more than 3 per cent.

 

The one consistent thing about traditional saisons is their inconsistency. Each farmhouse had their own recipe which was brewed in the winter to keep it cool and served to the thirsty seasonal workers – or saisonniers – in the summer.

Brewed in an umistakeable Belgian style, a good saison will usually have a cloudy appearance and slightly tart taste. The varying flavours owe much to the fact the local yeasts are usually used, offering a range of tastes.

Saison Dupont, produced in Hainaut in Belgium, is probably the most well known beer of the style, and it was even named best beer in the world in 2005.

So while, many Irish brewers are busy knocking out red ales and IPAs (and sometimes combining the two), it's refreshing, in more ways than one, to see some have a stab at a saison.

Bullhouse in Newtownards have given the saison an Irish twist, using Comber spuds in the brew while O Brother brewery based in Wicklow have picked up the Belgian baton too.

Huck is a dry saison, which pours golden and cloudy. It uses Belgian Saison yeast strains to get that authentic taste of the famed farmhouse beer and it achieves this fantastically. It is crisp and refreshing, and the combination of malts, including Vienna, Munich wheat and Pilsner-style grains, gives it a wonderful smoothness and depth of flavour.

There is a subtle sweetness and hint of fruit as well as a hint of pepper and spice. It comes in at 6.9 per cent, so if you have been thatching the rooves of farmhouses in Wallonia all day, you may want to think twice about taking up your full five litre allowance.

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