Saison is a French word which means season. Saison therefore is a light, refreshing ale which was originally brewed in farmhouses in Belgium. Belgian Saison Ales were named so because they were traditionally brewed in the autumn or winter. The Ales were consumed during the late summer harvest by farm workers. The farm workers were allocated four to five liters of Saison Ales throughout the work day during the harvest season. Saison ales did not share identifiable characteristics, so as to belong to a given style, rather, they formed a group of refreshing summer ales where each farmer produced his own distinctive version of Saison ales.
Belgian traditional Saison Ales had low alcohol content of about 3-4 percent ABV and were brewed in Wallonia, which is inhabited by French speakers in the South of Belgium. But currently the beer is brewed in many locations around the world. It had a lot of similarities with the Biere de Garde style which was brewed in France. Modern Saison ales have an alcohol content o f 5-8 percent AVB. The alcohol content made the ale strong in order to prevent spoilage during its long storage but also not so strong until it incapacitates the workers.
Saisons are basically founded on pilsner malt with adjuncts such as candy sugar or honey where the latter is common. Vienna and Munich malts are mostly used up to ten percent as they contribute to color and complexity of the ale. Wheat malt is also used sometimes in some Saisons. Some of the ales also contain hops, herbs and other spices. The hops are supposed to balance with the malt but not dominate the flavor of the beer. The yeast used in the ale contributes to flavor as this is usually enhanced by sour mash or Lactobacillus. They also add acidity to the beer. Hard water or gypsum is usually used as they enhance the bitterness of the ale and give it a dry finish.
Saison Ales have a soft malt character which is a result of Pilsner malt, hops, yeast and adjuncts that are incorporated during the processing. This makes it complex in taste and its mouth feel and flavor are also boosted. The fruity spicy and peppery helps to enhance the flavors of any hot or peppery dish, thus good in food pairing. Some have a distinctively yellow orange color, highly carbonated with a crispy quenching finish.
Saisons are presented in corked champagne bottles. Secondary fermentation is usually carried out as this ensures that they pour with a dense rocky head. Most of the breweries that produce these ales have origins as farms.
The following are Belgian Saison ales that are popular among consumers:
1.) St. Feuillien Saison – Brasseries St. Feuillie
2.) Saison Dupont – Brasserie Dupont
3.) Fantome Pissenlit – Brasserie Fantome
Finally the crispness, tartness, golden to deep amber color, the aroma, the body and fruity nature of the Belgian Saison ales are due to the various ingredients that are incorporated in their production, and this traditionally varied from one farmer to another but in modern production, standardization has been employed, thus consistency.