Saison means a lot of different things to a lot of people. Here’s what it means to me:
Saison is refreshing and flavorful.
Saison is refreshing. It’s refreshing because it’s dry. You sip it, you taste it, and it cleanses your palate. Because it’s dry, It ends up being a great beer style to accompany dinner, or just a snack. Because saison is dry, it ends up being a great beer while doing yard work, or just about anything physical.
Saison is flavorful. Every ingredient can have an impact on your experience of a saison. You can enjoy a saison that has a delightful crackery malt character. Your saison might have an expressive yeast profile. A saison can be fruity or citrusy as a result of hops. Saison can have a mineral character, the aroma of wet stones, seashells, or even salinity. Saison can have acidity from bacteria, or smell like a dusty country road due to Brettanomyces. And I think that because saison has such an agrarian history, saison can have fruit, spice, or herbs. Saison can be all of these things at once, or just a couple.
I don’t care what saison “was” or “should be” because I’m only concerned with what is “is” and “can be.” It’s the diversity and range that this beer “style” covers that makes it interesting to me. And it’s the reason we work in the realm of saison - perhaps at some distant edge of what saison is, and can be.
I like saison with acidity, expressive yeast character, complimentary fruits, hops, spices, and herbs, and salinity or minerality. I like what happens when a mixed culture of yeast and bacteria is let loose in an oak barrel. And I like that our interpretation of saison might evolve and change over time.