Saisons are one of my favorite beer styles.
Meaning “season” in French, historically, Saisons were rustic, farmhouse ales brewed as low-alcohol provision beers for the seasonal farmworkers in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium.
Typically a Belgian ale yeast is used, providing citrusy, fruity notes (think orange or lemon) and peppery spice notes. Hop flavor and aroma are low to moderate, but generally have a spicy or earthy character. Additionally, cereal grains other than barley (like wheat, oats, rye and spelt) are often used, giving this beer a rustic quality.
Even with the above characteristics in mind, multiple variations of the Saison style exist, both in color and alcoholic strength.
Although the now-characteristic example of this style – Brasserie Dupont’s Saison Dupont – is 6.5% abv, Saisons were initially brewed to “table” strength, 3.5–5% abv. (Those farm workers still had a job to do!).
Brooklyn Brewery’s ½ Ale is a Session Saison, harkening back to those traditional provision beers at only 3.4% abv (approximately half the alcohol by volume of a more standard-strength Saison).
Need a great daytime refresher (even if you’re not laboring in the fields)? This is one of my go-tos.
P.S. Wondering what the adjective “session” means when describing beers? We’ll delve into that in an upcoming story!