The perfect saison is in the eye of the beholder. The BJCP offers some guidance with respect to the dry finish and bright carbonation, but examples can vary widely in color and alcoholic strength. For me, the key is the marriage of Belgian yeast character and a crisp, dry finish. The esters and spicy phenols contrast nicely against the clean malt backdrop. It’s a tidy little explosion of flavor, and the quick fadeaway after the swallow resets your palate for the next sip. I also tend to favor the bigger end of ABV spectrum because the alcohol accentuates the peppery phenols.
Most saison recipes include candy sugar or corn sugar to create the quick, dry finish. Since honey ferments just as efficiently, it’s not much of a stretch to consider a saison braggot. Of course, if you’re going to use honey, its character should stand out in the finished beer. Fortunately, floral, herbal, and spicy contributions from the honey will complement the Belgian yeast profile nicely.
Choosing the Honey
But which honey is the right one? Let’s start by trimming down the list of possibilities. I would avoid the stronger, funkier varietals. For instance, buckwheat, avocado, mesquite, or eucalyptus honey would likely be too dominant. At the other end of the scale, the most delicate honeys might be wasted, which would eliminate clover, fireweed, or cotton.