by Nathan Hak Beer journalist at Beerwulf.com
Saison DupontThe reference beer for all saisons
More and more beer lovers have been discovering saison-style beer in recent years. It’s a seasonal icon, with a history dating back to the 18th century. The current Saison Dupont has been brewed since 1950 and has remained pretty much unchanged. Saison Dupont is thirst-quenching, with a spiced, fruity character. The aftertaste is nice and dry with tones of citrus. Just what you’d expect from a seasonal style icon. A fantastic beer to enjoy in the autumn!
It’s the special yeast more than anything else which gives Saison Dupont it’s typical character. It’s an iron-rich, hungry yeast which really gives this beer its soul. It’s cultivated under strict control and and carefully guarded.
Cooling techniques were still in their infancy in the 18th century. Summer temperatures affected the reliability of fermentation, which is why the precursor to the Saison Dupont was only brewed in the winter for drinking in the summer. This makes it a seasonal beer - in French, saison. To make sure it was still good by the end of the summer, extra hops were added. Hops served mainly as a preservative, though it undoubtedly also added flavour to the beer.
The beer was consumed by farm labourers, which is why it was also known as farm beer. Nowadays, Saison Dupont is available all year round.
Back to the specific yeast, the soul of the Saison Dupont. This yeast is able to ‘eat’ many of the sugars present, which produces the typical dry aftertaste of this Saison.
In addition, the temperature of the main fermentation process is fairly high for the Saison Dupont: about 31o degrees Celsius. Some have even claimed to hear of fermentation at 37 to 38o degrees Celsius. For the top fermentation, the temperature is usually around a maximum of 25o degrees Celsius. Fermenting at high temperatures increases the risk of unwanted flavours in the beer, or even that the yeast won’t survive the high temperatures resulting in a damaged brew. The yeast used in Saison Dupont can survive these temperatures, however, which produces a high quantity of esters. These give a nice fruity, spiced aroma to the beer. Taste carefully and you might even detect a note of refreshing acidity in the Saison Dupont.
Aperitif with an orange glow
With Dupont, the wort of the saison is cooked in a 1920s copper kettle over an open flame. This partly caramelises the sugar in the wort and lends the beer an orange glow.
The relatively generous use of hops results in a hoppy, citrusy aftertaste. Because the aftertaste is dry, the refined hoppy bitterness comes to the fore. These qualities make it the ideal beer to enjoy before dinner as an aperitif.
Style icon as inspiration
Saison Dupont is an inspiration to many brewers, making it a true style icon. But there are plenty of tasty alternatives to explore!
Like Bruut Saison, for example, a Dutch interpretation. The citrus aromas come strongly to the fore in this beer; it’s unpretentious and the extremely dry aftertaste makes it a good example of the style - as does its thirst-quenching character.
In the US, the Saison Dupont has been enthusiastically received, which is why there are so many American Saisons on the market. They’re often called Farmhouse Ales, which refer to the farms the beer originally came from. A good example would be the Sorachi Ace from Brooklyn Brewery. Sorachi Ace refers to the type of hops used, which give this saison a wonderfully fruity aroma. The aftertaste is dry, but slightly less so than that of Saison Dupont.
One Dutch brewer who’s been inspired by American brewers is Walhalla Craft Beer. The Walhalla Osiris uses American hops: it’s the Cascade hops that give the Osiris its strong fruity aroma. The dry aftertaste and bitter kick makes it a good example of the style - a nice combination of American fruitiness and classic saison characteristics.
See four additional Saisons below, new to our selection.