Where Snake Handler is big, intense and loudly American, Saison Dupont is subtly complex, soft-spoken and distinctly European. Newly-legalized at a mere 6.5% ABV, itís a beer that perfectly illustrates the absurdity of Alabamaís now vanquished 6% law.
Saison is one of my favorite styles. Also known as Belgian farmhouse ale, its roots are in the Belgian countryside where farmers brewed house beers using whatever ingredients they had on hand. Unusual yeast strains fermented at high temperatures were common. Sometimes spices or fruit juices were incorporated. The beer might be lightly or heavily hopped. Versatility is one of the hallmarks of the style.
Saison Dupont has been brewed in Belgium since 1844. It features a trademark house yeast strain that produces a lightly spicy, earthy, mildly tart finish on the beer. It offers an aroma dominated by white pepper with a little lemongrass thrown in. Itís quite hoppy but with spicy and herbal noble hops, not the citrusy and piney American hops you may be familiar with in classic American craft beers like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
It is bottle-conditioned, which means it is naturally carbonated with live yeast in the bottle. It continues to mature and grow in complexity over time. Itís actually one of an elite handful of beers with relatively low alcohol content that can be cellared for up to five years (perhaps longer) and emerge a stellar brew. Beers usually need especially high alcohol contents to endure long term cellaring (anything over 9% is a pretty safe bet).
Itís also a fantastic partner for great food. This is a theme I intend to belabor in this column: beer pairs better than wine with food. Hear me now and believe me later. The lightly acidic character of Saison Dupont makes it the perfect complement to a garden salad with a vinaigrette dressing. And the spicy, herbal character of the yeast would go well with just about any Thai dish featuring lemongrass. Or the delicate Saison flavors would be a nice accompaniment to grilled fish with a squeeze of lemon. Iím barely scratching the surface here. Experiment and see for yourself.
Danner Kline is the founder of Free the Hops and co-organizer of the annual Magic City Brewfest. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org