The crazy, fake bunch of hoodlums that held me captive for a week, forcing me to slam Oskar Blues GUBNA like I was in Cancun for Spring Break are back and they want me to pick a beer for the hot Texas summer.
Being born and reared in Texas, trust me when I tell you, it can get pretty hot. Sometimes, I feel like I am literally cooking in my own sweat; I am the primary ingredient in a veritable Jeff au jus. They don’t call it the panhandle simply because it looks kind of like a pan-handle. Ok, maybe they do, but you get my point: it’s freaking hot. And how do you beat the heat? With a beer that loves hot weather just as much as us, Texans (I am saying that last part with a good ol’ Texas draw).
If stranded on an island for a week with only one beer to drink, this week I would pick: Brasserie Dupont’s Saison Dupont Vieille Provision.
Saison DUPONT is a classic Belgian farmhouse ale. These beers were literally born in the farmhouses of Wallonia, Belgium so the name just stuck. Originally brewed in spring to last through the hot summer season (saison is French for season). Because of the lack of refrigeration, these beers had to be sturdy enough to hold up to the heat, but refreshing enough to replenish farmers working in the fields. These people were actually working. Imagine if all they had to do was sit on a patio, and enjoy.
Historically, saisons lacked distinct guidelines, or identifiable characteristics. Each farmer would brew his own version of the refreshing summer beverage to provide hydration without the threat of illness. But through the years they have evolved to what they are today. There is still a broad spectrum, but at least vaguely defined. Perhaps Michael Jackson, esteemed beer writer summed it up best: “Saisons usually have a citric, peppery, quenching, quality, due variously to hard water, heavy hopping, spicing or deliberate souring. They are usually amber to orange in colour, and often very quite dry.”
In any other beer style, the high fermentation temp would draw worry with what the possible bi-products would do to the flavor, but with saison, they are not only expected, but desired.
Saison DUPONT is referred to as the classic definitive example because it doesn’t take any attribute too far, but what it does, it does perfectly. It is made exclusively with pale malt, the water is hard, the hops are mainly Kent Golding, with some Hallertauers, and the yeast is crazy. The pale malt provides the color and some residual malty taste, but the flavor and aroma of this brew is most attributed to the hops, and yeast.
Pop the cork on a 750mL bottle of thick green glass and pour this fantastic beer into one of their signature glasses or one of your favorites. Either way, be sure to retain some of that rocky white head that brings with it all those glorious saison aromas. Kent Goldings hops are intensely resiny and also lend a candy-like sweetness while a touch of Hallertauer gives a very floral, earthiness.
And it is impossible to forget the yeast. Typical ale yeast works best between 60-70F, and works slower and less efficiently at lower temps. Saison yeasts work best at temps ranging from 75-95F(Saison Dupont is known to hit temps of 95F in the brewery). For this reason, scientists believe it may have been derived from a strain of red wine yeast to fit brewing conditions. In any other beer style, the high fermentation temp would draw worry with what the possible bi-products would do to the flavor, but with saison, they are not only expected, but desired. These temps aid in creating a slew of bright citrusy fruit esters, and spicy, peppery phenolic aromatics and flavors, which are balanced by the soft malt character, a touch of sour, the resiny, earthy and slightly sweet hops, capped by a dryness that keeps you coming back for more.
Saison Dupont Vieille Provision is truly one of the most remarkable beers in the world. It is complex, friendly and refreshingly dry. It is approachable to the newcomer and praised by the aficionado. Now… I’m not saying it’s my favorite, but if a group of crazy scoundrels threw me onto an island and told me that I had to pick a new beer each week, this would definitely be on my list.
Jeff Fryman is a Home Brewer, Cicerone and dutiful employee of the Common Table in Dallas’s Uptown. We appreicate his knowledge that he shares with craveDFW.