Growing up on a farm in southwest Scotland, I learned the values of hard work at a very young age. Us Kirkpatrick kids were always put to good use on the farm and soon learned that the worst thing we could say to our dad was ‘I’m bored’. Big dates in the farming Calendar such as lambing, shearing and silage time usually culminated with a beer, particularly during the summer. This was my first indication that beer, agriculture and hard labour are intrinsically linked.
The term farmhouse ale comprises of two basic groups; biere de guarde and Saison, the later coming from the French word meaning season. Both can trace their roots back to the farm breweries of northern France and the Wallonia area of southern Belgium respectively. Saisons were traditionally brewed by farmers at the beginning of winter to quench the thirst of farm workers toiling the fields in the summer months. Ingredients consisted of whatever the famer could source in the surrounding area leading to a hugely diverse and extraordinary family of beers.
As farming became more mechanised at the turn of the 20th century the requirement for a large workforce became superfluous and little by little the farm breweries disappeared. Now only a few remain. Whilst modern interpretations diverge from the traditional ‘old saison’ they retain many of the Original nuances. They are light, dry beers design with refreshment rather than sustenance in mind. They are typically hoppy and can incorporate spices and wild yeasts to which generates vinous characteristics. With such variation Saisons shouldn’t be thought of as a style rather a family of beers with, in a word, extraordinary character.
My first memory of Saison was on a summer’s day in 2009 whilst on a weekend trip to Belgium. Having left home and moved to a recession hit London at the end of 2008, my corporate job discontentment prompted my wife to organise a short trip to Belgium. Overlooking the hop fields of Pompering drinking the peppery Saison DuPont took me back to my childhood and a million miles from the drudgery of city life. It would start my fascination with this extraordinary family of beers and four years later prompt me to start Savour.
It has never been my intention to brew numerous variations of every beer style under the sun so if you’re looking for a massively hopped IPA or barrel aged imperial stout then you’re in the wrong place. What I do hope to do is brew our own interpretation of this fantastic family of beers and introduce them to as many people as possible. They provide a fantastic alternative to the massively hopped beers that saturate the market today. Try not to characterise or compare them to the style guidelines rather as an extension to an exceptional family of beers.