Two Glorious Dutch Beers for Headily Hot Weather
“Utepils”The Norwegian word for ‘to sit outside on a sunny day enjoying a beer’
It’s been heavily, heavingly hot weather recently and we’re in The Netherlands – like Belgium and Germany a nation of golden or bear-brown beer rather than one of wine.
So the drink of preference in this country in a steaming summer is a honey-coloured, ice cold beer. And the best we’ve yet found is the Brand Saison. It’s light, fruity and dry, a little tangy, with a very intriguing, nicely bitter aftertaste which the makers describe as ‘velvety’ and a reasonable amount (not too much) of froth, and also of body, and of carbonation.
Invented by the home brewer, Bart Engel, Brand Saison is a creative mix of summer malted spelt and traditional hops, fermented with yeast from Belgium where this type of beer, the saison, comes from originally. It deservedly won the Dutch brewery, Brand’s, competition in 2015. The brief for the competition was to produce a Belgian saison-style summer beer. The saison beer was originally a low-alcohol beer, brewed in winter, and given a longer life with some additional hops. Then it was drunk by farm workers who killed their thirst with it during the hot work of the harvest.
Serve Brand Saison beer cold, and appropriately in deference to its Dutch creator, in a tulip glass. According to a specialist US website, Craftbeer.com, saison beer pairs well with seafood (mussels), brie, and, somewhat randomly, lemon ginger sorbet. We thought it went well, as served at The Nymph hotel in Brielle, with crusty bread dipped in tomato tapenade and aïoli. Or you could take a leaf out of Erchen Chang’s book:
“Whenever I travel to Europe or I’m on holiday, I sit and eat french fries, drink beer and watch people. It has to be thin fries and really cold beer. The time is the guilty element.”Erchen Chang, co-founder of Bao, responding in the FT to the question, ‘what is your guilty food pleasure’?
Our waiter summed me up, correctly, as an infrequent beer drinker. Incorrectly, he thought this inexperience would result in not liking the bitter aftertaste. He recommended the Brand Weizen, made by the same brewery. This is a mild, blond beer with a nice taste of vanilla but not much else to say for itself – although its softness might mean it pairs well with a curry.
But our vote was strongly for the beautiful Brand Saison. Best drunk in a heatwave.
More about Saison beer and some others to try
As I mention above, Saison beer was produced to slake the thirst of sweating harvesters on farms all over Europe. Every brewer had his own recipe, his own secret ingredients which would change according to what was locally available at the time. The machinery used would be basic…rusty maybe, so spices such as coriander, cumin, sage, peppercorns or ginger were often pressed into service to hide unwanted flavours and maintain the dryness whilst it was aging in its oak.
The tartness of the Saison is one of its characteristics and it’s achieved thanks to the yeasts used which are very active and ferment at high temperatures.
Obviously a Saison beer can’t be too alcoholic – it wouldn’t do to doze in haystacks or commit accidents with a slip of the scythe so this beer will be less than 4%.
- Brew By Numbers, Citra Saison 01/01 – light, dry and citrusy made using citra hops. Brew By Numbers produces a number of Saison beers, as well as a Belgian Blond.
- Saison Dupont – a fluffy head, and a fruity flavour, pair it with cheese or charcuterie
- Brooklyn Brewery Sorachi Ace – packaged in a Champagne sized and style bottle, this Saison uses just one type of hops, originating from Japan, Sorachi Ace. Buy in the UK from Beersofeurope.co.uk.
- Burning Sky, Saison Reserve – made in the Sussex countryside from foraged ingredients including gooseberries. Crisp and tart, every year the flavour changes slightly thanks to the wild yeasts in the oak ageing foudres.
- Birrificio del Ducato, New Morning – a base of barley and flaked wheat and rye, this bracing beer also includes camomile, ginger, green pepper and coriander. Available in the UK from harveynichols.com.
Music to drink to
I don’t think I will ever write a post on German beer, so I’m taking this opportunity to include the drinking song in The Student Prince.