Now a popular and widely available beer style, saisons were originally brewed in little Belgian farmhouse breweries for the seasonal workers (the 'saisonniers') who were hired in to work on the farm during the busy summer season. As the farm workers were entitled to about eight pints of beer a day(!), saisons were brewed to be refreshing, hydrating and not too strong, around 3 - 3.5% ABV. In recent years the strength of a typical saison has shifted upwards, and Saison Dupont, which is widely regarded as the quintessential saison, is 6.5% ABV.

Despite this increase in strength, saisons are still refreshing and thirst-quenching. Dry and clean with a crisp finish and effervescent carbonation, they are generally brewed with pale malt and sometimes wheat. Saison yeast gives this style a characteristic note of peppery spice, over which zingy hops are layered. Brewed in Belgium, home of saison beers, the classic Saison Dupont is earthy and peppery with notes of citrus fruit, and this style has been embraced throughout the brewing world: Yorkshire's Bad Seed Brewery has a saison on their books, light and spicy with a fruity character, and even Norway got in on the act with Nogne Ø Saison, which is refreshing and dry with a lingering bitterness and bold spiced notes.

The beauty of saisons is that they lend themselves well to the addition of unusual ingredients, a fact which many modern brewers have taken advantage of. Saisons are frequently used as a canvas on which brewers can experiment with diverse flavours, such as Welsh brewery The Celt Experience's saison Goddess of Spring which is aged on fresh strawberries, logan berries and raspberries. Another Welsh brewery, Otley, brews their Saison Obscura with curacao oranges and grains of paradise, but my favourite is Ilkley Brewery Siberia, brewed with local Yorkshire rhubarb which has been stewed with vanilla. Tart and fruity with sweet undertones and a hint of earthy bitterness, it's refreshing and tangy.

Saison may have originally been brewed for the heat of the summer, but you know what? I reckon that the robust, peppery spice of beers like Saison Dupont has a place in the gloomy autumn months too. How about you? Cheers!

- Rowan