Grisettes. What are they? Where do they come from? And most importantly, what do they taste like? We keep seeing this style of beer hit the shelves and yet, there is so little information out there about them.
Let’s start at the top. Grisettes originated in French Wallonia (The Walloon Region), more specifically in the Hainaut province of Southern Belgium. You may be familiar with multiple municipalities in the region including Chimay and Silly who are both profound beer producers in their own respects.
The Hainaut region is highlighted in this map of Belgium.
With Hainaut being one of Belgium’s most heavily mined and factory rich regions, the Grisette style evolved to serve the laborers of the mines and factories. Regarded as the “working class beer” much like the Saisons were for farmers and livestock laborers, Grisettes were typically “low alcohol, light bodied, saison-like golden ales of no great distinction,” according to Phil Markowski in his Farmhouse Ales book.
Your typical Grisette dress.
Grisettes often were even lower in alcohol than their Saison cousins and were made from a grist including wheat and malted barley. The name finally found it’s place from the French word for “gray” referring to both the bland factory dress worn by young women or “Grisettes” who would serve the beer and from the men that exited the mines covered in soot and mined stone.
Other than that, the style is fairly open. Lots of breweries have tried their hand at Grisette and they’re all a bit different. Try one out for yourself beside a saison and you’ll see the minute differences between them. Different Brett and Saccharomyces strains bring subtle nuances to the flavor and aroma.