AS AMERICAN CRAFT BREWERS march in tandem from one Belgian precedent to the next–tripels, saisons, wits, pale ales, and most lately sours–it is the drinker’s delight to explore each new interpretation alongside them. But in this increasingly muddled field of imitations, homages, inspired twists, and shady marketing double-speak, it’s also worth returning to the source for reflection and refreshment.
One such storied origin is Saison Dupont, a classic farmhouse ale produced under this brand since 1950 and situated on a farm with nearly two centuries of brewing history. Yet only in recent decades has Dupont achieved its international status, largely through the evangelism of Michael Jackson, beer hunter extraordinaire, and Vanberg & DeWulf, pioneering American importers of Belgian delights. Once nearly extinct, Saison Dupont has blossomed in the international market and now stands as one of the most quintessential Belgian ales–approachable for newcomers yet still satisfying to veterans of outré lambics.
The beer’s color is a hazy yellow, halfway to honey gold, with fine bubbling, a medium sudsy head, and a prickly bouquet: lemon, grass, white pepper, the palest of malts, and a light bit of alcohol. As it warms a spiciness emerges that increasingly resembles what a wheatless Witbier might be like, including clove, some hints of banana, and bits of mineral water. Hops are delicate and subdued, complicating nothing. On the palate the beer is highly effervescent and minimally malty, spotlighting the dance of the leading citric tartness and following musty undertone without first having to outshine a malty shadow.
A brief bit of cider vinegar sourness peeks in late before Dupont’s distinctively dry and complex yeast character asserts itself. High fermentation temperatures ensure it has plenty of room in the well-attenuated finish–dry, rich in carbonation, and swept clean by tart phenols. Dupont hints briefly at a brettanomyces kind of funk, but purportedly uses none and is ultimately too orderly for any such wild yeast strains. Capable of pairing with virtually any dish, Saison Dupont is also excellently refreshing on its own and a true archetype in the style.
Served: 750 ml bottle