Advanced Cicerones compare: Saison vs. Tripel

sensory analysis Nov 22, 2022

In this episode, Advanced Cicerones Chris Cohen & Chris Crowe sit down to taste and discuss the differences between Saison & Belgian Tripel. We went with the beloved and archetypical pale French Saison Dupont vs. the lovely St. Bernardus Tripel, a Belgian Abbey ale.

This is a difficult comparison. These beer styles share several similar characteristics (though saison is VERY broadly defined by the BJCP). These beers are pale, fermented with very characterful yeast, highly carbonated, and are relatively dry. These are tough to pick out against each other in a blind tasting where you're only given one or the other, but there are a few giveaways you should learn. Saison yeast is the most phenol-forward of all typical beer yeasts. It makes a lot of black or white cracked pepper aroma and flavor as its dominant yeast flavor. Saison is also quite dry and features some of the most hop bitterness of any French/Belgian type ale. Tripel's yeast profile tends to be more balanced in terms of fruity esters and spicy phenols. It will often have some clove and/or black pepper, but those flavors aren’t going to take center stage like with Saison. Tripel will typically feature more pomme fruit esters — those are apple and pear aromas. In addition, Tripel usually has some banana ester, isoamyl acetate, in the mix, while Saison almost never does. Even though Tripels are relatively dry in the scheme of all the ales out there, it is not as dry as Saison and rarely features as much hop bitterness. If you're getting loads of pepper, a fair amount of bitterness, and a very dry body, it's a saison. If you're getting a mix of fruit and spice, including some banana, and the beer isn't quite bone dry or bitter, it's a Tripel. As ever, leaning on visual cues is a terrible idea here.

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sensory analysis