As a beer style, Saison began as a pale ale brewed in the cooler, less active months in farmhouses in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium, and stored for drinking in the summer months They were served to farm workers who were entitled to up to five litres each workday.Brewing outside the summer months was common for all brewers before the discovery of refrigeration, due to the likelihood of the beer spoiling while fermenting in the summer, the height of airborne bacteria activity. Farmers possibly also brewed during the cooler months to provide work for their permanent staff during the quieter period.
After brewing, the beer was stored until the summer when the main consumers would be seasonal workers ("saisonniers").
Historically, saisons did not share enough identifiable characteristics to pin them down as a specific style, but rather were a group of refreshing summer ales made by farmers. Each farm brewer would make his own distinctive version. Although most commercial examples now range from 5 to 8% ABV, originally saisons were meant to be refreshing and it is thought they had alcohol levels ranging from 3 to 3.5%.