I decided to take an early afternoon trek in the opposite direction from the bustle of Joliet and go west, old man to Ottawa. Less traffic, wider vistas(beans, corn, beans, corn, ad nauseam.) It was a cooler day, windows halfway down. The entire trip had me in good spirits. I smiled to myself as I entered Hermans Package store because I know they always have a great selection of beer.
I didn’t have to travel far down the aisle before spotting a target. The day before, I had read an article on tasting and ranking saison beers and one of the top rated (#6) was looking down at me from the top shelf. It was Saison Dupont Belgian Farmhouse Ale brewed by Brasserie Dupont of Tourpes, Belgium. I had the requisite cash on hand and two 750s of Belgian saison beer accompanied me out the door.
Once home, I commenced scrutinizing the label on the bottle. “Cuvée Dry Hopping 2014” was down at the bottom. It appeared that I had a three-year-old bottle of beer in my hand. “Cuvée” is a term for an individual batch of wine. Therefore, we have a dry hopped batch from 2014. Up at the top was “Vieille Provision” which translated to Old Provision, probably dealing with the original recipe.
Each year that this beer is brewed, the brewmaster chooses a different hop. For this 2014 batch, he chose Challenger hops added late in the boil and for dry hopping. Low Alpha… it should be interesting. A homebrew clone recipe is here. Add the hops of your choice.
My go-to beer in this style is Ommegang Hennepin. On any given day you may find a four-pack in my fridge. BeerAdvocate has it at the top of their list for the style. Tonight we’ll see how well ol’ Henney stands up to Saison Dupont.
Let’s get started.
The beer poured with a hazy yellow color and brought up a super head of loose white bubbles on top that took their time to dissipate. Carbonation was vigorous. The aroma was barely there through the thick foam but I caught a slight whiff of something that just may be a little sweet.
The first sip was just great. All of the spicy zestiness was there but just a bit different than what I’m used to. A barely perceptible hint of hops came through. Sweet lemon zest or something like that was in every sip. Sweet but not too sweet. This is a classic saison beer.
Dupont comes close to Ommegang’s Hennepin but the differences are minute. Hennepin comes on a little bolder and maybe a hair sweeter, but this Dupont had that one flavor that I can only ascribe to yellow European beers. It’s a bit of what you’d taste in a Paulaner or Hofbrau beer… not the style, but rather that one particular Euro taste note. It may be Munich malt or perhaps the Challenger hops in this case. Just don’t know.
I have no qualms about the beer being three years old. The Dupont website assures that the beer will be good for a very long time. The beer is fermenting in the bootle. Here’s where my knowledge of beer brewing breaks down:
Adding priming sugar to the fermented wort at the time of bottling will cause another tiny fermentation used to carbonate the beer. Isn’t that the same as refermenting in the bottle? Is this market speak or am I missing something here/
John Palmer has a little blurb on the subject here but what I gather is that bottle conditioning becomes refermentation after more than a couple of weeks. Or it’s something different. I’ll bring this up at the next homebrew club meeting. But I digress…
I retrieved the second 750 from the fridge and discovered that it was vintage 2015 according to the cork. The taste was lightly different. No more Euro flavor. It was more along the lines of what I’m used to in a saison style beer. I discovered that this 2015 version used Minstrel hops.
Back to the beer. Although Saison Dupont is held in high esteem by many, I don’t think it will enter my list of go-to beers. It just doesn’t stand up to the fuller, rounder Hennepin. I’ll stick with Hennepin for quite a while until something new comes along and trips my trigger and is readily available for a comparable price.
But if you’d like to please the ladies and impress your friends, uncork a giant bottle of Saison Dupont for your next warm weather gathering. It will disappear quickly. Slightly fruity and zesty, it’d be a taste treat for all who partake.
Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale
Taste: A bit sweet with a fruity zest and a nice finish.
Smoothness: This is an easy drinker.
Bang for the buck: On the high end for the quantity.
Amount paid: $10.99 per 750ml bottle.
Get it again? Probably not. I have Hennepin. Twice as much for the same price.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Cloudy. (sniff) Beery. (sip) I was expecting more citrus. (sip) It’s not bad, a little tang from citrus. (sip)Actually that’s quite nice. (sip) I could certainly have a few sips of that. (I bet she’d sit down to share if it wasn’t for her ‘show’ on the DVR.)
Simple and True: The story of Brasserie Dupont [4:55]