Mountnessing Windmill

Saison: A Rustic and Refreshing Belgian Farmhouse Ale


Saison, also known as Farmhouse Ale, is a beer style that originated in the French-speaking region of Wallonia, Belgium. With its unique blend of fruity, spicy, and earthy flavors, Saison has become a beloved choice among beer enthusiasts worldwide. This rustic and refreshing ale was historically brewed on Belgian farms to quench the thirst of farm workers during the summer harvest season. In this blog post, we will delve into the history, defining characteristics, brewing techniques, and notable examples of Saison, unraveling the secrets behind this vibrant and captivating beer style.

History and Origins

Saison traces its roots back to the Belgian countryside, where it was traditionally brewed by farmers during the cooler months for consumption during the summer harvest season. The beer was crafted to be refreshing, low in alcohol, and packed with flavour. Saison was initially brewed with whatever ingredients were readily available on the farm, resulting in a diverse range of flavors and variations. Over time, commercial breweries embraced the style, leading to its popularity and continued evolution.

Characteristics of Saison

Saison boasts a distinctive set of characteristics that define its allure and charm. Let’s explore the defining features of this vibrant and refreshing ale:


Saison exhibits a pale to deep golden color, often with a slight haze due to the presence of yeast. The beer may have a fluffy and persistent white head, adding to its visual appeal. The effervescence is often lively, contributing to a vibrant and enticing appearance.


The aroma of Saison is a captivating blend of fruity, spicy, and earthy notes. The yeast used during fermentation contributes to the fruity character, with aromas of citrus, pear, apple, or even tropical fruit. Spicy phenols, reminiscent of black pepper, clove, or coriander, add complexity to the aroma. Earthy and sometimes rustic undertones may arise from the use of traditional brewing ingredients or wild yeast strains.

Flavour Profile

Saison’s flavor profile is as diverse as its aroma, offering a delightful interplay of fruity, spicy, and earthy flavors. The malt character is typically light and crisp, allowing the yeast and other ingredients to take centre stage. The fruity esters from the yeast contribute a range of flavors, while the spicy phenols add a subtle but distinctive complexity. Saison may also showcase a slight tartness or acidity, which adds to its refreshing nature.


Saison typically features a medium to light body with a dry finish. The beer can be effervescent, offering a lively and refreshing mouthfeel. The carbonation levels are often high, contributing to a crisp and invigorating sensation.

Brewing Techniques

Brewing a remarkable Saison requires careful attention to brewing techniques and ingredient selection. Here are key techniques to create an exceptional Saison:

Grain Bill

The grain bill for Saison often includes Pilsner malt as the base, providing a clean and crisp malt character. Some brewers incorporate specialty malts, such as Vienna, wheat, or rye, to add complexity and enhance mouthfeel. These grains contribute to the beer’s light and refreshing body while allowing other flavours to shine.

Hop Selection

Saison typically features a moderate to high level of hop bitterness, balancing the malt sweetness and adding to the beer’s overall complexity. Hop varieties with noble characteristics, such as Styrian Goldings, Saaz, or Hallertau, are commonly used. The hop additions during brewing contribute to a restrained yet noticeable hop presence.

Yeast Choice

The choice of yeast is paramount in Saison brewing, as it plays a central role in defining the beer’s flavour profile. Belgian Saison yeast strains, such as Wyeast 3724 or White Labs WLP565, are popular choices. These yeast strains produce distinctive fruity esters, spicy phenols, and a dry finish. Some brewers also experiment with wild yeast strains or blends, which can result in unique and complex flavors.

Fermentation and Temperature Control

Saison fermentation is typically carried out at higher temperatures compared to other beer styles. Fermentation temperatures between 20°C and 25°C (68°F to 77°F) are common, allowing the yeast to express its characteristic flavours. The elevated temperatures contribute to the production of fruity esters and spicy phenols, enhancing the complexity of the beer.

Bottle Conditioning

Traditionally, Saison undergoes bottle conditioning, where a small amount of sugar and yeast is added to the bottle before sealing. This process creates natural carbonation and can lead to further flavor development over time. Bottle-conditioned Saisons often exhibit a lively effervescence and continue to evolve in flavor as they age.

Food Pairing

Saison’s versatile and complex flavour profile makes it an excellent companion for various food pairings. Here are some suggested pairings to enhance your Saison experience:

  • Cheese and charcuterie: Saison’s fruity and spicy character pairs beautifully with a selection of cheeses and cured meats. The beer’s complexity and dry finish complement the richness of cheeses, while the carbonation cuts through the fatty flavors of charcuterie.
  • Grilled seafood: The light and refreshing nature of Saison pairs well with grilled seafood such as shrimp, scallops, or white fish. The beer’s fruity esters and spicy phenols enhance the natural flavors of the seafood, creating a harmonious combination.
  • Spicy dishes: Saison’s dry finish and subtle tartness make it an excellent choice for spicy cuisine. The beer’s effervescence and complex flavour profile provide a refreshing counterpoint to the heat of spicy dishes, helping to cleanse the palate and balance the flavours.


Saison captures the rustic charm of Belgian farmhouse brewing, offering a vibrant and refreshing beer experience. Whether you’re savoring the classic Saison Dupont, exploring the creativity of Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, or indulging in the Belgian tradition of Hennepin, Saison provides a journey of fruity, spicy, and earthy flavors. Raise a glass, embrace the saison brewing heritage, and enjoy the captivating and refreshing character of this beloved beer style. Santé!