Saison Season is Open

Illustration: Saison Season.

We’re going to spend the next few weeks tasting saisons.

Last autumn, we played a bunch of porters off against one other and learned a lot in the process. Now that spring is in the air, we’ve decided to turn our attention to a brighter, lighter, more refreshing variety of beer which we still find somewhat mysterious.

The aim of this project, insofar as it has one, is to come up with a short-list of British saisons we can recommend wholeheartedly, but perhaps also to answer a nagging question: can any of them really compete with Saison Dupont, the Belgian original that arguably defines the style, on taste and value for money?

So far, we have bought bottles of:

  • Brew by Numbers 01/08 Saison Wai-iti and Lemon
  • By the Horns Vive La Brett
  • Celt Hallstatt Deity
  • Ilkley Siberia Rhubarb Saison
  • Partizan Saison Lemon and Thyme
  • Partizan Saison Lemongrass
  • Siren Ratchet Blended Saison
  • Wild Beer Epic Saison
  • Wild Beer Wild Goose Chase

And (offered, not asked for…) we will also be including free samples of:

  • BrewDog Electric India
  • Burning Sky Saison à la Provision
  • Hop Kettle Ginlemlii (thanks, @landells!)
  • Adnams/Magic Rock The Herbalist

If there are any beers you think we absolutely must include, let us know in the comments below, but we only have budget to place ONE more online order, so a lot will depend on which single retailer has the widest range available.

Of course that means that this will not be a comprehensive taste-off of every single UK-brewed saison — what are we, the British Board of Saison Classification? — but hopefully the pool will be large enough to draw some useful conclusions.

25 thoughts on “Saison Season is Open”

  1. Both Buxton saisons are great, plus redchurch east end saison and beavertown quelle saison also good.

  2. Beavertown quelle, wild beer solera and Buxton saison

    Btw careful when opening Ratchet…mine was a gusher!

  3. I’ve heard great things about the saisons & other unusual Belgie & USstyles from North Norfolk nano’ Poppyland Brewery.

    The website…
    http://www.poppylandbeer.com/buying.htm
    says that their beers are stocked by a few online beer shops including –
    http://www.beersofeurope.co.uk/
    http://www.therealaleshop.co.uk/ (shop on the same site as the farm where Martin’s barley is grown, Wells-Next-The-Sea)
    …but sadly both seem to be out of the Poppyland saisons at the moment.

    I’ll do some digging!

    Also, aren’t Elgood’s now producing some Belgian styles, poss Saison, as well as the Lambic-esque ones?

    1. Was going to suggest Poppyland too, but yes, they can be a fiddle to get hold of unless you visit Cromer!

  4. Marston’s are producing a Revisionist Saison, now available in (some) supermarkets – it’d be worth sticking that alongside some of the weird beard creations.

    I’d have thought Luke Robertson’s post put a bomb under the whole idea of ‘saison’ as a style and Saison Dupont as its archetype, but I guess the market is where it is.

    1. Phil — we’ve been trying to get hold of the Marston’s revisionist saison but our Tesco has a very limited range, and their press office didn’t answer an email we sent them, so, to date, we’ve had no luck.

        1. They vary a lot – I thought the black IPA was pretty good – but mostly they haven’t been beers I’d buy twice. I’d characterise the saison as well-made but blandish and generally not very interesting or memorable. But that’s why a blinded comparison with more well-regarded saisons would have been interesting.

  5. Be interested to see what you make of the Partizan Lemon & Thyme. It was the most unsaisony thing called a saison I’ve tasted. I thought it was pretty horrible but then again taste in beer is a very personal thing.

    Agree the Buxton saisons are excellent as is the Burning Sky.

  6. First stop to check and I see 75cl of Saison Dupont for £4.50 (if you buy 2+) on Beer Merchants. May be hard to beat on “value for money”. 🙂

    Beer Merchants has 50cl of Weird Beard Saison 14 at £3.50 – equiv to £5.25 for 75cl – which isn’t mahoosively wallet wrenching. (Tiny discount for 6+ is of little impact.)

    My 75p is to get yourselves a bottle of that Weird Beard Saison 14. Enjoyed it when I had it very fresh from the brewery. It was very nice IMO, and mostly about the saison yeast – not drowned in loads of hops or odder ingredients. Tragically smashed a bottle as it fell out of the van the other day that I was hoping to try after 2 months to gauge changes. Ho hum!

    The more hop heavy Andy Parker / Weird Beard “Lord Nelson” was pretty awesome. Probably getting a bit difficult to find now though.

    Meanwhile something I’ve not tried but have an eye on is this chap who’s little brewery in Berkshire is focussed entirely on Belgian styles: Savour Beer – been meaning to visit but time has been against me so far. Fun to throw in a bit of an unknown though.

    I’ve had some good beers branded as “black saisons” in the last few years. However this is, I guess, a different kettle of fish (mashtun of malt?). Then again your list already has a collection of flavoured creatures in it. Where draw that line? 🙂

    I find the black saisons often don’t exhibit enough “saisonniness” – perhaps the malt profile drowns out some saison yeast’s estery nuances. (Back when I had time for homebrew I was inspired to do one myself and was happy with the result.) Does Dupont Monk’s Stout count as a saison?

    1. the weird beard saisons were indeed decent but for my money didn’t bring anything new to the table vs dupont (with the notable exception of Andy’s collab which is very similar to 8-wired saison sauvin though not quite as exceptional as mikkeller nelson sauvignon but a much more equitable price)

      Savour’s saison Progress is(was?) fairly decent though appears to have been discontinued now.

      black saisons are interesting…as with black IPAs they aren’t always close enough to the base style to justify the tag and very few UK attempts

      1. “didn’t bring anything new to the table vs dupont”

        Do we require that all beers do this? I’m quite happy drinking an accomplished rendition of a style that doesn’t bring new things to my table, push boundaries, or defy tradition. 🙂 [I’ve nowt against beers that do try and do all of the previous.]

        I guess a factor is: does it justify the extra £1.50/16.7% it costs to buy 1.5 litres of Saison 14 vs Dupont? Does it require bringing something new to the table to do so… or is it simply good that you can enjoy a a beer that is a good rendition of the style made by a tiny brewery from London and have it _only_ cost that much more?

        Another pondering: if you were to buy a case which would you buy? I rarely buy a whole case of a beer for personal consumption. And when I do I must admit I usually go for solid & reliable old school beers like Orval and Duvel… whilst I rarely buy UK beers in amounts of more than a couple of bottles of a given beer.

        1. That’s probably true for us, too, on the whole. We’ve bought entire cases from Thornbridge and BrewDog, but not from many others. If we ran a brewery, we’d probably want at least one beer in the range that might sell in volume such as, e.g., Camden Hells.

  7. +1 for the Lord Nelson, I’ve tried a number of the ones you’ve listed and it was by far my favourite of the bunch. Not sure how much of it is floating around but I managed to get a few bottles last month.

    As others have mentioned the Beavertown Quelle is worth a look as well.

    Interesting reading John’s comments as I agree that Partizan Lemon & Thyme didn’t taste much like a Saison but I actually quite enjoyed it, just a difference preference in taste I guess.

    Looking forward to reading your thoughts.

    1. Much as we’d like to try it, if it’s not in regular production, then it won’t fulfil our need for something we can recommend to other people. (That might also be true of several on the list above, which we’ll cover in the blog posts when we write them.)

  8. Saison a la provision or any of their seasonal saisons, really has to be in the list. Possibly the best in the uk, and a good attempt at historical authenticity.

    Partisan saisons have often been hop led, or adjunct led. Can split the crowd.

    Kernel has a saison too that may be worth checking out. A bit too authentic for the crowds that like their saisons to be citrus fruit/hop bombs. Availability may be tricky.

  9. To go at bit off piste, Anarchy do a smoked saison which seems to be quite widely available. Never tried it myself.

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