Since antiquity people have celebrated the summer solstice, particularly in northern Europe. (I have attended a few of these events in my native Edinburgh, usually accompanied by horizontal rain). Pagan festivals including dancing and fire were adapted by Christians and are the origins of what are now known in France as La Fête de la Saint Jean (after John the Baptist's birth). These festivals traditionally feature bonfires around which rings of people dance and sing.
In Plessier de Roye where my brewery is situated La fête de la Saint Jean is one of the best known in the region and to help celebrate the event a festive, summery ale has been brewed and will be served on the 25th June.
The beer is stylistically close to a saison - a dry, rustic, farmhouse Belgian ale. The malt and hop grists are very simple; the real star of these beers is the yeast which in the best examples lends notes of spices and fruits and ferments very dry leaving the beer light and refreshing. Very hard water also adds a firm edge to these quenching beers.
My own take on the style, at 4.5% ABV, is by modern standards low in alcohol but traditionally these beers were not strong as they were consumed by farm workers in large volumes.
Malt-wise French and Belgian Pilsener malt make up almost the whole charge with just a dash of wheat malt. I have used Slovenian Bobek hops for moderate bittering, flavor and aroma. As for the yeast a blend of Belgian yeasts were pitched and the temperature allowed to rise to uncomfortably high levels (for a British brewer). The attenuation was as expected very high - the final gravity of the beer is around 0.5° Plato so almost diabetic.
Bottle conditioning has been achieved by krausening with a volume of a 1 day old fermentation of the same beer - this technique adds extract and fresh healthy yeast cells for the beer to come into condition or carbonate in the bottle.
The title of the beer is appropriately La (Saint) Jean. The brackets are a reference to my wife's late grandad, Jean, who, after a hard week's work on the farm, was known for his celebratory feasts complete with singing. He was apparently not a saint.
For those who live nearby there is an opportunity to taste the beer 'en pression' on the 25th June in Plessier de Roye. Look out for bottles in the usual places from the beginning of July.