24 Beers of Christmas – December 9th: Tooth and Nail Valour
‘Tis the Saison… This entry from Ottawa’s own Tooth and Nail Brewing Company is one of the many superb beers they’ve come out with in the short time since they opened their doors back in October 2015. Valor is brewed in the famous Belgian style known as a Saison. The Saison originated in Wallonia, the Southern, primarily French-speaking region of Belgium. Its heritage can be traced back to the region’s rural farmsteads in the 18th century, where typically low-strength beers would have been brewed during the cooler months to serve as provisions for field farm workers throughout the growing season. Though there would have been few unifying characteristics from one community’s product to the next, these rustic ales went on to inspire the modern Saison style we know and love today.
It wasn’t until the 1920s that the Dupont Brewery created the blueprint for what we have come to recognize as a Saison today – well sort of. You see, the Saison is a style that seems destine to continue to evolve, as it has over the past three hundred odd years. In the last decade, stylistic guidelines around Saisons have changed a fair bit, now allowing multiple strength ranges (table 3.5%-5.0%, standard 5.0%-7.0% and super 7.0%-9.5%) as well as pale and dark hues as differentiators. Many brewers have begun producing versions using wild yeast varieties, including Brettanomyces bruxellensis to produce beers with a characteristic funkiness, almost barnyard flavour to them, which may indeed be a better approximation of what many pre-Dupont Saisons would have tasted like.
Tooth and Nail have already demonstrated a prowess in the brewing of Belgian-inspired beers. And it’s really no wonder, as their well-travelled brewmaster Matt Tweedy has some experience brewing in that country, including at the famous Cantillon Brewery. Valor brings together all of the characteristics you’d expect out of a Dupont-style Saison, including yeast phenolics, light medium mouthfeel, effervescence, dry finish and not too mention a nice fruit, herbal and citrus hop presence. Brewed using alternative grains such as wheat, oats and rye, there is a noticeable cereal quality to the beer with a slight grain spicy astringency.
Style: Alternative Grain Beer (Saison) – 6.0% ABV, ? IBU
Food pairings: Scallops, Triple Cream Brie, Fruit sorbet