Pierre-Alex Carlier and his wife Marie-Noelle Pourtois were schoolteachers when they founded the Brasserie de Blaugies in 1988, in southernmost Hainaut near the French border. These days the brewery remains a family affair, with their sons and daughters-in-law involved in brewing and running the business, which includes a rustic tavern that serves Belgian country cooking.
Carlier says the first beers they brewed were La Moneuse, their special strong ale, La Moneuse Spéciale Noël for the holidays, and the fig juice–fermented Darbyste. However, he says, “our goal was always to brew saison because it is the style of our area, because it is in our province [Hainaut] where you will find the most farms in Belgium. Saison means harvest time for a farmer and also the type of beer to be drunk on the field during harvest time, when all the job was done by hand. Of course, the density has increased. … A lot of customers told us saison was too old-fashioned and that production of saison was decreasing.”
At about that time, Carlier and Pourtois met Vincent Cassel, an engineer and specialist in mills and grains for bakeries. He also happened to be a saison fanatic. “We decided to brew a saison with malt and spelt,” Carlier says. “The first batch was very good. We did some little changes, and the second one was fantastic. And we never changed it.”
Based on some details shared by Carlier, here is a homebrew-scale recipe inspired by—but not a precise copy of—the world-classic Saison d’Epeautre.
Batch size: 5 gallons (19 liters)
Brewhouse efficiency: 72%
6.2 lb (2.8 kg) Belgian pilsner
3 lb (1.4 kg) spelt malt
1 oz (28 g) Styrian Goldings at 60 minutes [19 IBUs]
1 oz (28 g) Styrian Goldings at 30 minutes [14 IBUs]
0.5 oz (14 g) Styrian Goldings at 5 minutes [2 IBUs]
High-attenuating yeast such as White Labs WLP566 Belgian Saison II, Wyeast 3726 Farmhouse Ale, or Fermentis SafAle BE-134
Mill the grains, mash in at 122°F (50°C), and rest 10 minutes; raise to 149°F (65°C), rest 60 minutes; raise to 162°F (72°C), rest 15 minutes; then raise to 170°F (77°C), rest 5 minutes, and mash out. Vorlauf until the runnings are clear, then run off into the kettle. Sparge and top up as necessary to get about 6.5 gallons (25 liters) of wort—or more, depending on your evaporation rate. Boil for 90 minutes, adding hops according to the schedule. Chill to about 72°F (22°C), aerate, and pitch the yeast. Ferment at about 72°F (22°C), allowing the fermentation to free rise if it wants. After about 7–10 days, once the gravity is sufficiently low and stable, crash to 36°F (2°C) and hold there for 2 weeks, then either keg and carbonate, or bottle with priming sugar to about 3 volumes of carbonation in champagne bottles.
Blaugies uses Belgian-grown hops, which are not widely available abroad. Spicier, earthier, low-alpha varieties such as Styrian Goldings will get you close—but feel free to improvise.