Monday, April 27, 2009

The Season of the Sun

It's been a long, cold winter (when isn't it in Alaska?), but spring is finally here. Nighttime temps are staying above freezing and daytime temps are starting to flirt with 50 F on the sunny days. The snow is almost all gone, with just patches left in the shady areas. In a few more weeks, everything will be green and blooming, the king salmon will be heading into the rivers, and the tourists will begin their annual migration north to Alaska to deposit their money in the pockets of hard-working Alaskans. At least that's what we all hope, though given the economy this year...

For most Alaskan brewers, this means putting some of their more challenging brews on hold and gearing up to brew mass quantities of the more pedestrian stuff that the tourists demand. Like many other Alaskan businesses, our brewers have to make hay while the sun shines. By that I mean make their profits during the hectic summer season.

Anyway, given the season of spring, I though it was appropriate to try a new saison this weekend. As a style, saisons are some of the most unpredictable and artisanal brews produced in Belgium. And given some of the other funky styles that nation is known for, that's really saying something! Saisons (which means "season") were originally farmhouse beers, brewed in March to last through the hot summer months, when brewing was impossible in the days before refrigeration. As such they had to have enough alcohol and hops to last, yet still be thirst-quenching for the farmhands who would be drinking them through the summer months. Bottled in left-over wine bottles, they would have been bottle-conditioned, with the living yeast continuing to work throughout the months of cellaring.

This old-fashioned style of beer had almost died out in Belgium, when it was "discovered" by the late, great beer writer Michael Jackson, who almost single-handedly brought them on to the world stage. One of the six or seven Belgian breweries still producing classic saisons is the Brasserie Dupont, which is also still a working farm. Saison Dupont Vielle Provision is their flagship brew, but they also produce several others. One of these is Foret. I drank a 750ml bottle of this beer on Saturday, while watching the Red Sox spank the Yankees.

Foret is an organic saison and shares the bitter finish of Vielle Provision but is spicy and earthier-tasting. The cork came out with the resounding "pop" that I always associate with a saison, but the beer was not too lively, pouring with a beautiful white head of pin-point carbonation. It had a wonderful malty aroma with hints of spice and fruit. The beer has a wonderful long, bitter finish, exceptionally refreshing. This was easily in the top ten beers I have had this year, and I can't wait to pick up another bottle. If you get a chance to try this or any other of Brasserie Dupont's exceptional beers, don't miss out.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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