Friday was quite a learning experience. While saisons are not my favorite style, I recently brewed one since I had a lot of leftover ingredients with which to make it. The leftover ingredients were from a Belgian Tripel that I made to celebrate when I found out that my wife was pregnant, along with some bottled yeast from Heavy Seas Red Sky at Night Saison that I recultured.
Saisons are traditional Belgian beers that were brewed in the early spring and designed to last until harvest time to offer to the workers as part of their compensation. Saisons are a tough style to explore, since there are not many commercial examples, and the ones that do exist are a touch on the expensive side. However, it is also rare that there is one offering that is considered the paragon of the style, and in this case Saison DuPont is widely claimed to be the premier representative of the style. I swung by 3 Sons Dogs and Suds again and claimed a bottle of Ommegang Hennepin and Saison DuPont Vielle Provision. In my few experiences with Belgian beers I noticed that they had a similar 'slick' mouthfeel. I expected the same from the saisons that I bought. I was wrong. Both examples were very tart and acidic, and, while fruity, were not overwhelmingly sweet. In fact, they both finished quite dry and refreshing. I can see how this beer would have been a staple for Belgian farmhands come harvest-time.
The Saison DuPont has a fresh aroma with a hint of herby hops and citrus, along with a slight straw and yeasty scent. It poured a pale straw color with some haziness from the yeast and a huge frothy head. The flavor was tart and acidic with some lemon flavor. The finish was quite dry and refreshing. This would make a great summer beer. It is also presented beautifully in a 750 mL bottle with champagne cork.
The Hennepin had a similar aroma and flavor, however it poured crystal clear, although it was also bottle-conditioned. It also had a large white foamy head. It's color was slightly darker than the Saison DuPont. It had less of a yeasty flavor and aroma.
Both of these beers were very good, and surprising. If you need a fresh, crisp summer beer with unique flavor I would recommend one of these saisons. I can definitely see a couple of Belgian farmhands pouring themselves a glass or two in the afternoon to restore themselves and be able to keep working until sundown. I might just do the same to help me get through posting this. It's sweaty work, all that typing and clicking.