Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Two Sides of the Same Coin

I must be in a Belgian state-of-mind. The last three out of four beers I've written about have come from Belgium, and Since I'm on a roll, why stop now, I'll just go with it.

Arguably the king of Belgian farmhouse breweries is Brasserie Dupont, producer of the recently-to-become-world renowned, Saison Dupont, which is made on Dupont's working farm/brewery in Wallonia—one of the last in Europe, I might add. Saison Dupont has taken the world by storm, being named "The Best Beer in the World" by Men's Journal magazine, in 2005. I don't know about that, but it does exemplifies the idea of a Saison. It's a gorgeous hazy gold, like sunshine on a late summer afternoon, with an amazingly, stark white rocky head. It's crisp and citrusy, pushing both orange and lemon, with a spicy herbal spin to it. It's funky, too—a great balls o' funky, funky. It has a wonderful grassy tang that flattens out to a earthy flab, that's just, well, funky—and fantastic. Now, I realise I'm not the first to exalt this beer's qualities, but Dupont really has mastered the art of farmhouse brewing—across all of it's beers. From crisp and refreshing Saisons to it's funkified Pale Ale brother—the Belgian Strong Ale—Dupont, along with it's Moinette line, has nailed this farmy, homespun style of brewing.

Yeah—good old light, hazy and crisp farmhouse brews. How could you not love them? And I do—but sometimes I want something deep and dark. You know what would be great—A farmhouse stout.

Catch ya' on the flip-side.

What? A farmhouse stout? A beer that explores that same great balls o' funkiness, as a Saison with a dark, roasty nature along for the ride? You must be mad, man. Who would do that?

Brasserie Dupont would—and did.

It's not that far fetched of an idea. You see, Saison isn't really a style. In fact, it doesn't really make a difference what the Saison is made from, or it's gravity, but rather, that they are akin to the house brews of Belgian farmers brewed seasonally. Basically, Saisons are the chili of the beer world—No two recipes are the same and everyone has their own version. Some chili is made with beef, while others are made with pork and chicken, and don't forget the bean contingent—but, it's all still chili. Saisons are like that as well, they're a beery melting pot, of sorts. They have grists that range from wheat to pilsner malt to caramel malt, and anything in-between. Spice or no spice, noble or ignoble hops, it's up to the brewer. So, why not brew-up a Stout that's a nod to a Saison? Think of it as a Saison of a different season.

Monk's Stout, Brasserie Dupont's newest addition, captures all that great Saison Dupont-ness in a magically dark and complex brew. Originally brewed in the late 1950s, this version of Monk's was based off a recipe pulled from the brewing records of Brasserie Dupont, from that time period. It even pours like Saison Dupont, just with a craggy head of khaki, instead of white; and it smells like black coffee and oranges. It's crisp, yet roasty and smokey. It has hints of dry cocoa and dark stone fruits, with just the slightest hint of citrus. Oh, and it's got that funk, that uniquely Dupont funk. Yeah, I know a lot of Belgian beers are funky, but this funk is something special to Brasserie Dupont. What's even more wonderful—the funk dances with the dark malts and roastiness of this Stout, like Ginger Rogers with Fred Astaire. It's amazingly light and slaking—it's a Stout for cripes sake—Stouts aren't supposed to be thirst quenching! It's sweet and bitter and astringent and roasty and funky—and just down right good.

There seems to me, to be an inevitability to this beer. I feel like this Stout was always meant to happen— first came Saison Dupont, and now, here comes her deliciously dark and foreboding brother. It's almost as if one beer can't be, without the other—like when Kirk split in two during The Enemy Within on the original Star Trek. Saison Dupont and Monk's Stout are a beery yin and yang, the Corsican bothers of fermentation and most definitely a dynamic duo. Which means there's bound to be a little sibling competition. If Saison Dupont was "The Best Beer in the World" for 2005, my money is on Monk's Stout for 2012.

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