Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
Not too long ago as I was working my way through a case of beers from the fantastic folk at Summer Wine Brewery I was surprised and amazed at the brilliance of their lime & coriander Saison. I liked it so much that I preferred it to their dry hopped pale ale and IPA which traditionally is my favourite style of brew and vowed to delve deeper into the world of the Saison.
Now, I’m no stranger to Belgian beer, in my youth my Dad always kept beers like Duvel in the fridge, many years ago he bought me a Chimay triple (or should that be tripel) pack for my eighteenth birthday and when dining with him in Belgian restaurants he can’t get enough of Karmeliet Tripel so its fair to say I’ve sampled a few Belgian brews over the years. Potentially it may have been due to being so used to it that I don’t, or at least didn’t find traditional European beers as exciting or challenging as the new world beers that I love and regularly over-enthuse about. I’ve vowed to change my ways since going from beer drinker to beer scribbler and I can’t think of a better place to start than with a brew that has been highly recommended to me by many, Saison Dupont.
The Summer Wine Saison was not my first foray into this style of ale but never before had one set my world alight so brightly, perhaps a sign of the continuing development of my palate perhaps? Saison Dupont is part of a range of beers produced by Brasserie Dupont who brew out of a farmhouse in Torpes, Belgium. They have been brewing at this site since 1844 but it wasn’t until 1950 that they began to exclusively specialise in top fermenting beer. This is the first beer I’ve ever tasted that has been crafted by Brasserie Dupont so I’m pretty excited to get stuck in and see if my journey into the Saison can continue to meet the high standards set by Summer Wine.
'Tis the Saison
Before drinking I allow the beer to chill for a short while in my fridge, the Brasserie Dupont website recommends that this Saison is served at around 12 degrees centigrade and I don’t have a cellar. Like all of the Dupont beers this is bottle conditioned so the beer continues to mature after it has been bottled and although I hear that Belgian yeast is actually quite palatable I take care not to disturb the sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Selecting the very same Chimay glass that came with that triple pack all those years ago (at the moment its my only decent wide brimmed glass) I pour the liquid carefully at first and then with a little more joie de vivre towards the end to make sure I get a nice big frothy head as best suits this style.
In my experience Belgian beers are always quite lively and Saison Dupont is no exception and it has no trouble producing a one inch creamy white head, there is also plenty of carbonation present so that the foam has no trouble staying put. This beer has a wonderful, light golden appearance with a slight haze and produces the aroma of freshly cut grass, bailed and turning into hay in the summer sun accompanied by a whiff of orange peel. The beer is crisp and bright in the mouth but also has a wonderfully creamy body, my tasting notes say ‘light but full’ which makes no sense until you actually take another sip and it coats your tongue. The taste is of orange peel and lemon sherbert, hops and malt blended so well that you cannot tell one from the other and it becomes one glorious whole. Behind the fresh, floral flavours is an array of spicy coriander seeds and cloves, in fact the herbal quality of this beer distinctly reminds me of flavours more closely associated with Christmas but I’d rather have one of these sitting in the shade on a hot summers day.
This really is a ‘beer for the season’ and despite having so much going on it never becomes overwhelming and every flavour is balanced in perfect harmony, one never overpowering the other. Saison Dupont goes a long way to show that you don’t need to turn to new or exciting brews to find excellence but it does show that many of these new beers have a long way to go before they can exude the same class as this one.