Sunday, April 21, 2013

Brasserie Dupont Roundup Part Deux - Saison Dupont!

So, apparently, I dun goofed.

In my excitement to bring you the latest from the Brasserie Dupont release, I neglected to check the release information for any future brews coming our way.  My bad.  And, sure enough, the one brew I was most excited to see - the legendary Saison Dupont - was the last minute entrant in the race, having just filled out his racing card and paid their registration fee with seconds to spare.   Suffice to say, I was incredibly excited to see this brew on the shelves.  What's more, instead of those small 330CL bottles that the previous three were shipped in, the Saison comes our way in a handsome corked 750mL bottle - looking very much like a bottle of vintage wine.  

So consider this an addendum to the previous post and the true cap to the Dupont release.  While I can't say that the previous three brews hit the mark for me, this brew is the one that is truly memorable - it is absolutely one of the very best of the style.   Though I encourage you to give the whole Dupont lineup a try, the Saison is definitely the one that has Matt's Beer Den Guarantee* (guarantee void in Tennessee).

Trust me - this brew is awesome.

Beer: Saison Dupont
Brewery: Brasserie Dupont (Tourpes, Belgium)
Type: Saison/Farmhouse Ale
ABV: 6.5%

Before I get started, some sad news to report.  Last week, while organizing the substantial pile of dishes on my counter into a more manageable pile for washing, a Rube Goldberg chain of events led to an unspeakable tragedy - the shattering of my beloved, wonderful Duvel tulip glass.  After all the swearing and yelling, all I could do was mourn the passing of my favorite glass.  I've said this before, and I'll say it again - if I were to make a Desert Island Discs selection for the one glass I would take with me on my beer-related travels, the answer would be Duvel.  It is both aesthetically pleasing and structurally unique, one of the most recognizable glasses in all of beerdom.  Its wide bowl allows for the brew to be swirled and contemplated; the narrowing crown of the glass encourages the formation of a sturdy head, and the outward unfurling lip makes for some quality, spill free sipping.  Almost every style of beer can be served well in this glass, and they all look splendid.  For my purposes as well, the design of the glass has another benefit, as its relatively small "Duvel" label is both small and low enough so that it easily can be hidden when sampling other beers (I try not to show the glass's brand label unless the beer happens to be made by that brewery).  

This glass has seen it all: Westvleteren 8 and 12, Ten Fidy, Orval, Peche Mortel, Oak Aged Yeti, and all the other fantastic brews of the past three years.  Sad as I was, my grief was mercifully short-lived, as fortune would have it that my friend was able to acquire me a shiny new Duvel glass, and I could not be more excited to have the old tulip back in the bar cupboard!   Cheers Brad!  And welcome, new Duvel glass - may you be ever filled with wonderful, delicious brews!

RIP Old Duvel Glass (2009-2013)...

On to the Saison, which is looking simply fantastic in the tulip glass.

Husky, grainy in colour - a hazy tawny golden brew, that sports a billowing head of about two inches that settles into a thick ring with a ton of lacing.  Pitch perfect.

Nose has definitely got that farmyard smell.  I know that probably sounds awful, but think of it more like strolling through the barley fields and glens of The Shire. Nice grain husk, lemon, herbs, a touch of sugar, and a muskiness that is quite enjoyable.  

This kind of brew has exactly the dryness and complexity that I like in a Belgian ale.  Not overly sweet, boozy or yeasty either.  Just a fantastic brew.  The citrus is so well done that it tastes like someone has squeezed a fresh lemon in the glass.  Grainy, husky background with herbs and spices.  Again, there's hardly a taste of yeast to be found.   I could drink this beer all summer long and not get tired of it.  

Carbonation is mild and enjoyable, and the beer is light and airy.  A pleasure to drink.

Simply put: there's a reason why Saison Dupont is considered one of the world's finest brews; as a saison, it is a true exemplar of the style.  Light, fresh, citrussy and funky, it's a great spring or summer brew.  And at about $7 bucks, it's not an expensive pickup.   Definitely check it out.  (Grade: A+)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Brewery Roundup - Brasserie Dupont

For the first time in what has felt like ages, I went to the LCBO and returned with an actual haul.   As in, almost a box full of new beers.  There were almost more new beers for me to buy than I was quite willing to get, but I went ahead with it anyway.  Chock this one up to some pretty good timing on my part - the store I checked out had apparently got all of their Spring Release brews in one afternoon, and about an hour after they finished the display, I showed up.  Having a slate of new beers is a rare treat that usually only happens with a fortuitous trade or a trip across the border, so I'll certainly enjoy this one.

In addition to some IPAs from New Zealand and Italy and a smattering of Belgian brews, we had ourselves a whole brewery release from Brasserie Dupont, brewer of one of the all time great beers - Saison Dupont, a light refreshing farmhouse ale that is a true exemplar of the style.  Unfortunately, the saison is not a part of this release - at least not that I can tell - but this trio does look particularly interesting.  Always like to try new stuff, especially if its from a brewery that tends to have one brew that overshadows the rest of the lineup.  Three brews make up this release, and they are quite diverse in their makeup - a Belgian/English stout, a honey pale ale, and a classic strong brown ale.  Let's get started.

Beer: Monk's Stout
Type: English Stout (according to BA, though I'd call it a 'Belgian Stout')
ABV: 5.2%

This brew had all the indications that it would be a good beer.  And by that I mean it came from a reputable brewery and the bottle looks kind of nice.  But it wasn't, and I have to say I was pretty let down by this.

Poured into a Leffe goblet.  Dark caramel chocolate in colour, with about a half inc
h of fluffy head that settles into a very thin ring.  Some not overly pleasant flakes of sediment swirl around the glass before finally settling.    Not the most attractive brew out there.

Nose isn't bad - dry roasted grain, a bit of fruit - cherry or strawberry - with a mild sweetness and a hint of Belgian yeast.  Smells like a Belgian dark ale, which is more or less what I had expected.

But boy does it not taste like one.  Extremely dry, tart, almost citric, which utterly dominates the brew, leaving little else for the taste buds to detect.   It was okay for the first few sips or so, but man the finish really drags on.  Very, very dry with a Belgian yeast component.   Mouthfeel is certainly of the Belgian variety, and is lighter bodied and a bit slick.

It was intended to be a British-Belgian stout hybrid (I think), but the end result was certainly far less than the sum of its parts.  Not a fan of this brew at all, which is a shame, as I was really looking forward to this.  Don't think I'll be drinking this again.

 (Grade: C+)

Rough start indeed.  Hopefully this next one will bring up the average.

Beer: Biere de Miel Biologique
Type: Saison
ABV: 8%

According to the brewery, this was one of the old Dupont brewery's recipes, but it went into decline and wasn't brewed for most of the 20th century, until it was re-released in 1997.  To honour the original recipe, the beer's label is the same as the original brew.   The "biologique" referes to the organic honey added to the recipe.

Poured into an Affligem goblet, just to mix things up, see if it yields a better result.  Light honey-grapefruit in colour, hazy, and with a big half inch of head that receded into a thin ring and some swirls of foam.

Nose is raw honey, honey bread, musk, herbal and floral hops, farmyard grain.

This brew is one of the few that utilizes and specifically features honey that actually tastes of honey, and not just a mild sugary sweetness.  The nice thing about this honey is that it tastes more like a wild, unprocessed honey than something out of a little bear-shaped jar.  This is helped along by a mild musky and herbal hop backing that gives this brew a pastoral flavor.  Despite the honey sweetness, it finishes somewhat dry.

Moderate bodied, mild carbonation, dry to the finish.

I liked this one, although the hops were a little off - the medicinal, herbal hops just didn't quite balance.  Maybe cellaring this brew for a few months will smooth things out.  Still, a beer worth giving a go!  (Grade: B, maybe a B+)

Beer: Moinette Brune
Type: Belgian Strong Brown Ale
ABV: 8.5%

Sorry for the crap photo, not sure why this didn't turn out properly, but for whatever reason my phone forgot to camera.  Looked good on the phone, but when I got it on the computer it was out of focus and just plain sad.

Poured into an Affligem goblet.  Bright caramel brown in colour, with about a half inch of head that recedes into a thin ring.  Nice looking brew.

Nose is very fruity and quite on par for the style - grape, plum, raisin, dates - with spices and a bit of yeast.

I've gone on a bit recently about how Belgian ales are hit an miss for me, and I think this one is one of the types that just isn't doing it for me anymore.  The fruit, spices and bready flavors are all there, but there's that strong yeast component that isn't hitting me right, and the brew is quite boozy.  Carbonation is very sharp and it feels a bit off.   Not sure if this is my own personal preferences or just a less than stellar example of the style, but in either case I wasn't too impressed with this.  (Grade: B-)

Unfortunately, none of these brews really impressed me in the way that the Saison Dupont did, which I guess makes some sense.  Since Belgian ales are so hit and miss for me, I'm less likely to be blown away by the ones I do run into, unless they happen to be of the styles I really enjoy, like saisons, krieks or a nice dry tripel.  Saison Dupont is among the finest of its class, so now all the other brews in the Dupont lineup have that much more work cut out for them in order to stand out.   The nice thing about when the LCBO gets these brews in is that the price is quite reasonable, so no matter my views on the beer, it's not too much out of your pocket to give them a try and see for yourself.