Saison is the French word for season. The style began as a pale ale brewed for farmworkers in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium. It was typically brewed in the cooler, offseason and stored for consumption in the summer.

The original versions were lower in alcohol (usually around 3%) than today’s saison and served as a safe way for the farm workers to hydrate. In fact, the workers were known to consume up to five liters per day!

Today’s saisons run the gamut on alcohol content and it’s not unusual to find examples in the 7% range.

Thanks to the Belgian yeast, Saisons typically feature a fruity or spicy character without much hop bitterness. The taste is often referred to as peppery or ester-y.

Visually, the style is light straw to golden in color, with some cloudiness to be expected. The head retention should be quite good with a dense white head.

The malt bill is usually made of wheat and pale (or pilsner) malt. In addition, noble hops, like Saaz, Styrian Golding, and Hallertau are typically used in saison brewing.

Brewing considerations

Unlike most beer styles, Saison benefits from a higher-than-normal fermentation temperature. In fact, some yeasts for the style work in the 85-degree range. The higher temperature helps create the esters that give the beer its characteristic flavor.

Furthermore, Sugar and spices are also quite commonly used. The added sugars help increase the alcohol content and spices help increase the flavors. Fruit can also be used to increase both flavor and alcohol. One common approach is to add fruit juice, which has been frozen, to the wort as it cools.

Commercial examples

  • Boulevard Brewing Tank 7
  • Great Divide Collette
  • Saison DuPont
  • Brewery Ommegang Hennepin

Here are some some recipes, including some for saison.