Beer Review #7: Onkel Albert Altbelgisches Saisonbier

Translated from the French for season, Saisons originated in Wallonia, in the southern (and French-speaking) region of Belgium.
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The beers were brewed in the fall/winter months in the farmhouses and stored in the farm buildings through spring until the guest workers arrived for harvest in the summer. Everything that was left over, whether it was barley, wheat etc, at the end of previous years harvest, was picked from the fields, thrown in the mash tuns, boiled and fermented with the yeast from the day.

All this happened in a time when it was dangerous to drink well water and instead of simply boiling the water the landlords provided beer to their workers to keep them healthy. Originally, saisons were brewed to have a lower alcohol content (~3%) and it is said that the men were entitled to 5 liters of beer per work day to stay hydrated and strong.

The beers varied from farm to farm and from farmhouse to farmhouse. Phil Markowski (The Oxford Companion to Beer by Garrett Oliver) says that these brewers were farmers and not brewers, therefore “the fact that they were not sold commercially is reason to believe that these Saisons were probably made with little mind to repeatability” (711)

At 5.8% ABV Onkel Albert Altbelgisches Saisonbier pours a clear, pale yellow color and is very carbonated. The head rises finger wide and with large pores and dissolves quickly.

In the nose there initially are notes of sweet wheat-malt. The aroma is yeasty, slightly peppery and a little alcoholic/acetone-like (but not unpleasant), however also fresh and hay-like.

The first sip is dominated by sour, fresh, but dry yeast notes with a hint of pepper. The mouthfeel is slightly creamy and perhaps a little too dull. The carbonation is less than assumed when pouring. The finish, however, is pleasant, floraly and bitter leaving a good dry and slightly tart fruit aroma.

Conclusion:

A successful “German” Belgian Saison which perhaps could do with a bit more fruit flavors and complexity, but all in all a highly recommended, refreshing and quaffable beer!

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