Saison is a French term which means “season” and originated in the southern part of Belgium. Saison beers were first being made back in the 1700’s and were strictly made for farmers. After the farming season ended, the remaining grain from the fields was oftentimes used to produce beer in the farmhouse. The farmers would also use quite a bit of hops to keep the beer from spoiling, as well as many types of herbs and spices. Since farmers would essentially use whatever ingredients they had on their farm, the style was very different from one farmer to the next. They would also brew these in the colder months to allow the beer to mature.
Saisons were very low on the ABV scale (usually around 3.5-4%). This would give the farmers a crisp, refreshing beer during the hot summer months without getting them drunk. After time, saisons became so popular that farmers actually started using their farmhouses as small brew houses. Soon, farmers would work together and combine various herbs and spices to create some unique concoctions, and with the addition of beet sugars or cane sugar, these saisons started to spike near the 8% ABV mark.
Saisons started to drop off the grid in the mid 19th century. Pale lagers flooded the marked and pushed this style off to the side, culminating in the death of the saison-style shortly after the 2nd World War. Some small brew houses continued brewing saisons, but the comeback was very slow. With today’s technology and America’s push for more unique craft beer, saison beers are once again prominent in the beer market. It continues to be one of the more complex and popular styles of beer available.