Saison Dupont is held up as the textmy blog-defining’ beer of its style. It’s a near-untouchable beer, something that no other brewer dares to replicate, and a beer that many drinkers, including myself, call one of their favorites. Brasserie Dupont is based in farmhouse buildings that date from 1759, to which a brewery was added in 1844. Originally, like the other farmhouse brewers in this region of Belgium, they only brewed in winter using whatever ingredients were available at the time. The beers were matured in wood and would’ve been low-alcohol, dry, and tart or funky, meaning they were refreshing for the farm workers, but didn’t leave them falling over in the fields. The current Dupont beers are inspired by those old brews and still have an aromatic bitterness, a dryness, and a striking yeast depth, though they are now brewed to be stronger, with the recipes shifting in the 1940s and 1950s.
Visit to Brasserie Dupont Photo Gallery
The brewery and processes are a fascinating mix of modern and traditional; Brasserie Dupont want to keep their traditions going alongside new technology and techniques. For example, their up-to-date brewhouse still has a fired copper from the 1920s (literally a giant flame-thrower blasting out), which creates a hot spot and a caramelization that you can taste in the beers. Their yeast is also very important; it’s from the 1950s and has a phenolic and fruity quality and has to be looked after properly. They have unusual shallow square fermenters that are only filled to a depth of around a few feet, meaning there’s less pressure forced down on the beer—and this creates more fruitiness. The yeast also has an impact on the secondary fermentation: the beer is bottled and then left in a warm room for six weeks, where the 26fl-oz (750-ml) bottles lie on their sides, creating more coverage for the yeast as it can spread across the full length of the beer and not just accumulate at the small base (these large bottles are the ones you want to buy, if you can).
Dupont’s Saison is the beer I specifically want to drink and learn more about. In 1990 they were only brewing it a couple of times a year, but now it’s hugely popular, thanks to the attention thrust upon it from American craft brewing. It’s been brewed to the current recipe since the 1940s, when Saison was suffering from a lack of popularity, and that new recipe increased the alcohol to 6.5% ABV and it’s been there ever since. (If you want to sample their version of an old-style Saison, then try Biolegere, which is a 3.5% ABV beer that’s gloriously dry and bitter and endlessly refreshing.)
Saison Dupont is golden in the glass. It has a deep bitterness, a grapefruit-y kind of pithiness, and a rich, round malt flavor that comes out initially, but then it dries right out. There’s a deep hop flavor and the spicy yeast drives right through the middle with its phenols and fruitiness. It’s a complex and beguiling beer, a mix of bitter, sweet, spicy, and dry, and those qualities make it one of the world’s greatest and most versatile food beers (talking of food: the brewery also makes some cheeses on site and they’re very good).
Pouring what has become the gold standard saison.
Locally the brewery is better known for Moinette, which is essentially a stronger version of the Saison using the same ingredients and process, only to a higher gravity—this was also introduced during the period when Saisons weren’t popular. It’s also worth knowing that the beers improve with time in the bottle and leaving them will lead to a drier beer with more yeasty aromatics—around a year from sale is ideal.
Saison is different today to how it was when it was a true farmhouse beer, something light and refreshing. New Saisons look to Brasserie Dupont as the quintessential example and, given that the beer is no longer needed as a seasonal product, the shift simply reflects the ever-changing beer world. You really should go to Brasserie Dupont. The tour is great and the brewery is fascinating to look around, especially to see their mix of traditional and modern techniques, all still within the original farm buildings. And the beer is among the best you’ll find anywhere in the world.
WHAT: Brasserie Dupont
HOW: Tours take place on the first Saturday of the month and are run in French, Dutch, or English. The €15 cost covers the tour, three tasters, and a six-pack to take away. There’s a store onsite selling beer and merchandise (open Monday-Saturday, 9am—6pm). See www.brasserie-dupont.com for more info.
WHERE: Rue Basse, 5, 7904 Tourpes, Belgium In de Verzekering Tegen de Grote Dorst
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