One of my vivid memories from childhood is dad coming in from cutting the grass on a hot summer afternoon and cracking open a cold one. The beer was his trophy, borne out the of sweat and toil, the sun and the heat. I couldn’t fathom at the time why anyone would want to drink a beer after all that work when certainly a Coca-Cola or any number of sugary-sweet drinks would suffice. But there he was, drinking a beer.
While my father was content with any store-bought, run-of-the-mill pilsner, what he would have wanted if he’d have known about it was Saison Dupont’s Farmhouse Ale. From one of Belgium’s few active, farmhouse breweries – they have a variety of homemade cheeses for pairing – their saison (or “farmhouse ale”) is one of their most popular offerings.
Staying true to saison tradition, they brew these particular beers in the winter for drinking the following summer. So the saison has become the quintessential summer beer. It's made a hearty comeback in the States recently. The saison is now the beer for the farmer coming in from a hard day in the fields as well as the suburbanite grilling out on a hot, summer afternoon.
Indeed, it’s hard not to close your eyes and smell the fresh grassy fields in the bouquet. Light, floral, and earthy notes pervade throughout. It’s difficult to read “farmhouse ale” and not think of acres of waving wheat, cows, dirt, and country living. But don’t conflate country with simple; this is a beer working on many different levels.
For the saison, context is everything: it’s meant to be imbibed after a hard day’s work with sweat dripping off of your forehead.”
The Saison Dupont has a medium body with copious amounts of carbonation that contribute to a big, frothy head that delivers throughout the pint. While there are hints of bitterness up front, it settles around the back of the palate with a fruity, dry finish. It’s smooth and satisfying at once. It has a rich, amber color that is typical of saisons. At 6.5% alcohol by volume, it is on par with other saisons in its class. Novice beer drinkers will note its simplicity for being better than the average pilsner, while sophisticated palates will be surprised by its complexity of flavor and finish.
The rustic charm of the Saison Dupont is that it doesn’t try to be anything that it’s not, which is atypical of beers these days. It doesn’t try to be a fusion of styles, or a new take on an old classic. Rather, it stands on its own merits, which is a refreshing take in an over-populated, look-at-me novelty market. It’s not bourbon-barrel aged; it’s not chili infused. It’s a damn solid beer that lets tradition and fine beer making do the talking.
As such, the Saison Dupont farmhouse ale is perfect for summer nights with friends. I made sure to take it out on the back porch to enjoy it, as my Dallas afternoon yielded it’s typical triple-digit heat index with 60% humidity – a July day that would make hell proud. After a 4.5 mile run, with a band of mosquitoes buzzing around my head and a chorus of locusts nearby, I had all the accompaniment I’d need to take on this brew. For the saison, context is everything: it’s meant to be imbibed after a hard day’s work with sweat dripping off of your forehead.
Pundits consider the Saison Dupont Farmhouse Ale the benchmark for fine saisons. In the pretentious, cutthroat beer world, this beer is still making the grade because of its simplicity and honesty. Some might even call the Saison Dupont virtuous because a hard day’s work is still a valuable commodity, no matter the age. It’s yet another bit of evidence that while “progress” may get a hat tip, tradition still gets a hero’s welcome.