Lots of people are brewing Saisons these days, which presumably means lots of people are drinking them. This is both of these things are good news. Is.
When I started rating beer around 03/04, there were about 20 Saisons in the whole World, but a look at the stats the other day revealed 1953 examples of the style on their database. Wow! What an explosion.
Over the Jubilee weekend, I was lucky enough to be back in my home city of Leicester, which even more luckily, allowed me to get to the Swan and Rushes for a brief, concentrated burst of Belgian beer indulgence.
It was also the chance to try 2 Saisons back to back, which is a beautifully rare occurrence. I even managed to take some photos, to remember the occasion by.
First up was the daddy of all Saisons (IMO), aka the blueprint by which others of the style are judged etc. Saison Dupont blew me away when I first tried it a long time ago, and it was just as good on Sunday: smooth, slightly tart, slightly sweet, and rather dry. Fresh, refreshing, bright gold/white topping and a lively personality - enough to satisfy all the senses.
Next up was a first sample of De Ranke Saison de Dottignies, which, against all the odds, and hard to believe though it is, was arguably as good as the Dupont. More of a pronounced dryness in this one, but all the same satisfying occurrences of sweet, wheat, restrained hop and malt, mit accentuated straw. Blisteringly drinkable. Electrictrifyingly engaging. Another beautiful treat on eye, nose, tongue and brain.
My brother Martin meanwhile was quaffing and enjoying a Saison Cazeau with added elderflower.
For the next conquest however, I switched to Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor, mainly because it had 'hops' in the title. Not a Saison this, but not a million miles away. But before I go on and on about beer styles and all that jazz, I need to state quite clearly that this was a delicious beer. Just as good as both the Dupont and the Dottignies. It had everything. Well, it certainly had a lot: dryness, perfectly subtle fruit hops, a nudge of alcoholic strength (it was 8%) and all bound together in perfect golden unity. A Belgian masterclass was this.
Last of the night was not a Saison either, but maintaining the theme of the evening, it was Belgian, it was dry and it was an intellectual tongue party. Mart and I both had a Lindemans Cuvee Rene Gueuze. We literally could not resist the lure of Gueuze. It. Never. Disappoints.
It didn't disappoint. Handpicking all the pleasure of champagne, cider, and best Belgian beer, you end up with something that is uniquely tasty, and that is called Gueuze. This example is not the sourest or the most unrelenting; it has a little sweetness and is comparatively easy drinking. I love it.
I also love the Swan and Rushes, and have done since my first visit it about 2001. I love the shape of the pub, the furniture, the helpful, knowledgeable staff and the beer choice. Whether real ale or continental bottles are your bag, you can always fill your boots at the Swan.
Here's to my next visit. Soon may it come.