Name: Saison Dupont Vielle Provision
Brewery: Brasserie Dupont
Source: Brew on Quay
Just what the f**k is a saison, anyway?
That’s a question that had been plaguing me recently, and I decided I couldn’t answer it until I had tried this – supposedly the Holy Grail of saison, certainly the most famous example of the style, and presumably the benchmark with which I could compare all others.
Saison originated in farmhouses in Wallonia (the French speaking part of Belgium) , and was brewed seasonally (saison means season, geddit?) to last through the summer. That meant it had to be strong enough to last a few months, but also thirst-quenching and not all sticky-like.
Brasserie Dupont is in fact located in Wallonia, and on a working farm which dates back to the 1700’s, so if anyone can claim to be making real deal saison then I guess it’s them. Apparently Saison Dupont became famous in the 1980’s when an American started to import it, and it’s become even more popular in recent years – being named “the Best Beer in the World” by the magazine Men’s Journal in 2005.
Cogito, ergo sum – you could say it’s thanks to Brasserie Dupont and this particular beer that Saison is now hotter than vindaloo in New Zealand. (Feel free to correct me if I’ve got that totally wrong.)
I drank this one at Brew on Quay (but you can also buy it online at The Beer Store), with my mum (Tuatara APA) and sister (Hop Zombie). You can see it poured a hazy yellowy golden, and had an impressive head, like beaten egg whites.
It smelled like summer in a glass, but also – a bit confusingly – like a wheat beer. Belgian yeast, bubblegum, candied sugar, citrus (orange I think) and clove.
I battled through the foam to get a sip, and found that those heavy Belgian aromas came together in a way that was deliciously clean. It was a bit sweeter than the last three saisons, but with a tartness too, some spice, and a really refreshing, dry finish. As my mum put it, “it just zips out of your mouth.”
Overall I think this is a really classy drop, definitely perfect for summer, but not the “Best Beer in the World”, or at least not my favourite. I actually like the Biologique (which I should have mentioned, is from the same brewery) even better.
So did it answer my original question?
Of the five saisons that I’ve had now, the only thing they’ve really had in common is that they are dry, light, and refreshing. Maybe a little bit spicy too. The international (not from Brasserie Dupont) interpretations of the style that I’ve tried have clearly not tried to imitate the Saison Dupont (they didn’t taste like wheat beer, for a start,) so maybe there is no benchmark. I think saison is just a beer that’s good to drink in summer, and beyond that rule brewers can do whatever they like. Am I wrong? Quite possible. All I did was drink five beers and read a bit of Wikipedia… but right now I’m sick of talking about saison so I’ll leave it at that.
Stick around though! Tonight I’ll be addressing another question that’s been nagging me of late…
What the f**k is a barley wine?