Beer Review: Brasserie Dupont’s Saison Dupont (Beer Review 100!)

Name: Saison Dupont
Brewing Company: Brasserie Dupont
Location: Tourpes, Hainaut Belgium
Style: Farmhouse Ale – Saison
ABV: 6.5%

The legendary template for a beer is that world class rarity – a beer that lives up to its reputation and may even exceed it.

I love the “holes” in the fluffy head.

From Brasserie Dupont’s page for the beer:

The Saison Dupont is a top fermentation beer with refermentation in the bottle. Since 1844, this beer has been brewed in our farm-brewery, during the winter time. Then this beer became a second refermentation in the barrel. During the next summer, this very thirst-quenching beer was served to the “saisoniers” which were working on the fields.

Surely therefore, our Saison Dupont is considered as “the classic” among the Belgian season beers! Coppery blond, the finest aromas and a strong bitterness transform this beer into a thirst-quenchener with no equal, just the way it was created. Our selection of yeasts is the perfect base for these typical aromas and ditto taste. A real refermentation in the bottle, which will continue for a long time in your cellar, result into this complex and particular aromatic beer..

This is something of a momentous review – Beer Review 100 at the Tap Takeover. A little over two years to get to that number, but here it is. I wanted to do something a little special for review #100, specifically a beer held in high regard by many people, one that is fairly readily available, but one I haven’t yet tried. I finally settled on what many consider the standard bearer for the Belgian Saison/Farmhouse Ale, Saison Dupont.

Another stylistic preface – Saison/Farmhouse Ales aren’t a go to for me. I don’t dislike the style, but it isn’t always my first choice. I’ve had a little over 40 over the past few years, largely because it is a fairly widely available standard style. Most of the Saisons I’ve had are American; however. The style likely originated in the 1700s in Belgian farms in Wallonia, mostly from ingredients on the farm. The beer that eventually became Saison Dupont (or a version of it) was first brewed in 1844 and with the same recipe since the 1950s. The beer gained much more popularity in the late 1970s and 1980s after Michael Jackson visited the brewery and encouraged Dupont to partner with a US importer. All About Beer has a great article on the beer, which is where I gleaned much of the information I just spouted about the beer.

The above is all well and good, but what do I think about the beer?

Anytime a beer has the cork and cage, that tells me it is special even if the science behind this capping technique is the real reason why it is capped this way. The cork pops not unlike champagne/sparkling wine (no surprise since Belgian brewing and French wine are geographic neighbors), and out flows a beautiful earthy scent. I let the beer settle after the aggravation of the cork popping and then pour the beer. It is hazy, golden yellow, and creates a very thick and fluffy head. Even tilting the glass at 45 degrees doesn’t prevent the thick head from taking up more than half of the glass. Lots of yeast and at work in the beer for sure.

More earthy, almost bready aroma from the beer as I inhale the aroma more fully. Maybe sweetness and spice, too. I wait for the head to settle before taking a sip.

That first sip is … legendary. Beautiful, complex, potent, and flavorful. Belgian ales and Belgian style ales, in my mind, are most strongly characterized by their yeast, and that is definitely the case with this beer. Dupont has been using the same yeast/yeast strain since about the 1940s so the beer has been consistently delicious, if this batch bottled in early 2019 is any indication.

The yeast evokes pure earthiness, and a saison to me is probably the most earthy style of beer – I get slight hints of lemon, some breadiness, a sweetness throughout most of the time the beer is traversing my palate. It finishes with a bit of spiciness and a pleasant dryness.

The bottle is big, 750ml so it isn’t one to drink quickly. Compared to most other styles, I probably wouldn’t let this one warm to room temperature too much. Straight out of the bottle you get so much flavor that the only real reason to wait before taking that first pleasant sip is for the head to dissipate. Once that happens, dive in and enjoy.

This is an extremely versatile beer that I can imagine pairing with just about any meal. As the global template for the style, Saison Dupont should be readily available in most liquor stores and bottle shops. I’ve seen the beer in both the big 750ml bottles and 4 packs.

Saison Dupont is an absolutely delicious beer that is rightfully the measuring stick for every saison being produced today. All the qualities I’ve had in other saisons are on bold display here – strong yeast character, clean delicious taste, and a transportative element that transcends most other beers.

Jeff Alworth over at his Beervana Blog has a great article on Saisons, which highlights Saison Dupont. It is well worth a read, as is anything Jeff has to say about beer.

Without hesitation, I can say this beer is an absolute must-have. This is a beer that absolutely lived up to the reputation it has earned over the last 70 or so years. I know, I’m really pushing the envelope here on my 100th beer review with those statements about such a revered beer.

This is a beer that is supposed to age fairly well, so I’d like to try a bottle with a little more time on it as this bottle has a 2019 bottling date.

Recommended. Link to Untappd 4.5-Bottle Cap rating.

Beer Review: Allagash Brewing’s Pick Your Own

Name: Pick Your Own
Brewing Company: Allagash Brewing Company
Location: Portland, ME
Style: American Wild Ale (Beer Advocate’s description American Wild Ale is at the end of the review)
ABV: 6%

“A complex, flavorful fruit forward beer that is artfully delicious.”

From Allagash’spage for the beer:

Pick Your Own begins as a sour red ale that’s aged in an oak foudre with Lactobacillus and Pediococcus for two years. After adding fresh, local raspberries, cherries, strawberries, and blueberries, we age it for an additional three months. The finished beer is a vibrant, ruby red with an aroma of ripe berries and vanilla. As you might expect, berries fill the flavor. Pick Your Own finishes dry with notes of bread crust and a lingering, tart juiciness.

Allagash has done more to push the Belgian art/science of brewing in America than just about any brewery that doesn’t rhyme with dome-nang. But seriously, from their White, Triple, and Saison, to their more “high-end” barrel-aged beers, Allagash is synonymous with quality and Belgian-inspired brewing, which brings me to Pick Your Own, one of their many wood-aged, funky beers I’ve been intending to try for a while.

The first, most noticeable element of the beer is the color. It is a red bordering on purple, or a blue with hints of red, or a deep red edging over into purple. No matter what you call the color, a beer this color is pretty damned intriguing to me. The second, and more overpowering element is the aroma. This beer has a funky aroma to it. As I’ve come to appreciate sour beers over the past couple of years, this aroma, with hints of berry underlying the funk, is very, very appealing. (An anecdotal point – I did *not* like Victory’s Sour Monkey when I first had it a few years ago. I revisited it last year and enjoyed it quite a bit.)

Back to Pick Your Own

The nose leads the taste and I get some funkiness initially that is immediately overtaken by the abundant berry flavors from blueberries, cherries, raspberries, and strawberries. For me, the raspberry and blueberry stand out initially with a wallop of sweet tartness – just a lovely blend of those fruits. I don’t get much strawberry in the fruit flavors, but I’m guessing the strawberry brings it all together since the natural sweetness of the strawberry probably balances out the tartness of both the blueberries and raspberries. I get maybe a hint of cherries on the finish because there’s a welcome smoothing/rounding of the beer on the backend that is absolutely divine.

I don’t know if I get much “bread-crust” on the finish (per the description above), but it is a fantastic smoothness that might be the vanilla hinted at in the description. While the complex beer has such a movement of flavors – all delicious – there’s something about that finish I found my palate chasing each time I drank from my glass. A finish I enjoyed, but was gone too quickly. Stouts are typically thought to taste better as they warm, but the last few sips of this beer were sitting in my glass for a while and were closer to room temperature and the complex flavors came more alive at that point.

Pick Your Own is a delightful beer – one of the most complex beers I’ve had in a while. Readers of this blog know I love a straight-forward pilsner and how deceptively complex a great pilsner can be. There’s nothing deceptive about a beer like Pick Your Own – it is aged for two years in a foudre (barrel), it has multiple potent fruits added, it has beneficial/good bacteria working magic for two years in that foudre before those fruits are added. And you know what? You can taste all of those elements in a progression as it seeps into your palate. In short, it is a wonderful beer to experience.

I know sour beers can be an acquired taste or even a turn-off to some. Hell, I’m living proof. But this is a beer that proves just how complex a consumable liquid classified as beer can be, how so many flavors can amalgamate into a singular goblet of deliciousness. Pick Your Own is a wonderful beer to enjoy as the night winds down, a fantastic summer desert beer. Flat out, it is a sublime and wonderful beer.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.50-bottle cap rating.

An American Wild Ale, is something like an Americanized version of the Belgian Lambic. According to Beer Advocate: Sometimes Belgian influenced, American Wild Ales are beers that are introduced to “wild” yeast or bacteria, such as Brettanomyces (Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, Brettanomyces Lambicus or Brettanomyces Anomolus), Pediococcus, or Lactobacillus. This introduction may occur from oak barrels that have been previously inoculated, pitching into the beer, or gained from various “sour mash” techniques. Regardless of the method, these yeast and/or bacteria leave a mark that should be noticeable to strong, and often contribute a sour and/or funky, wild note. Mixed-fermentation examples will display a range of aromatics, rather than a single dominant character.

 

Beer Review: La Trappe Quadrupel

Name: La Trappe Quadrupel
Brewing Company: La Trappe/Brouwerij de Koningshoeven
Location: Berkel-Enshot, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands
Style: Belgian Quadrupel
ABV: 10%

A world class beer, a beer that gave birth to a style. 

From La Trappe’s page for the beer page:

In 1991, The Koningshoeven brewery baptized her beloved Quadrupel under the approving glance of the monks. A closely guarded recipe became reality, and the first Quadrupel beer in the world was born.

Colour: Warm amber-coloured with a crème-coloured head.

Aroma: Hints of cloves and nuts, balanced by the sweet aromas of vanilla, raisins and banana.

Taste: La Trappe Quadrupel is the heaviest ale of La Trappe Trappist ales and is eponymous of this ale style. A full, warming and intensive taste. Malty with the sweet tones of date and caramel.

Aftertaste: Smooth and light bitter aftertaste.

Trappist Ales…perhaps the rarest of breweries in the world. To wit, Brouwerij de Koningshoeven is one of 14 Abbeys officially designated as Trappist breweries in the world and one of two in the Netherlands. I’ve had a handful of ales from Trappist breweries and I think this is the best of the handful I’ve had. Granted, I haven’t had the legendary and highly sought after Westvleteren 12. That said, I realize it has only been about a month since I last reviewed a Belgian Quadrupel, so that alone should be an indicator of just what an amazing beer La Trappe Quadrupel is.

As always, the look and aroma is where we begin. The beer pours a deep brownish-amber-copper. The aroma is typical of a Belgian Quadrupel – some earthiness, some vanilla, maybe even some almond/amaretto. I can smell the sweetness in the beer. Outside of some barrel aged beers, I usually don’t smell the sweetness quite as potently.

That first sip is filled with flavor, lots of sugary goodness like caramelized banana, maybe some stone fruits like figs or even warmed cherries. The finish isn’t quite as yeasty as some other Quadrupels I’ve had (I’m thinking the classic Abt 12 from Saint Bernardus) which sets this beer slightly apart from other Quadrupels but not in an unwelcome fashion.

I also get a smoother finish on the whole with La Trappe’s Quadrupel, compared to most other Quadrupels I’ve enjoyed. There’s a bit more booziness, I taste the alcohol just a bit more in this one than other Quads, from what I can recall. It has the smooth finish of what I’d expect from a barrel-aged beer, but without the barrel-aged flavor. Again, (to borrow a tech term), this is a feature and not a bug for me. This is a boozy, sweet, potent, flavor-filled beer that is big in every good way.

This is an outstanding, world-class beer that really is in a class its own. I’d say it would be a great interpretation of the style but as I recently discovered, La Trappe’s Quadrupel was the first beer with the Quadrupel name when it was first brewed back in 1991. So it is the style-namer or “Ur-Quadrupel,” if you will. I know, considering the great brewing tradition in  of Belgian styles, I thought the style was a bit older than that.

I may say this with frequency, but it is perhaps truer for this beer than any other beer I’ve mentioned or reviewed – La Trappe’s Quadrupel is an absolute must try.

Recommended link to Untappd 4.5-Bottle Cap rating.

Additional reading on this beer and Quadrupels:

Beer Review: Barrel of Monks’s Quadraphonic

Name: Quadraphonic
Brewing Company: Barrel of Monks Brewing Company
Location: Boca Raton, FL
Style: Belgian Quadrupel
ABV: 10.5%

I had to buy one of these glasses. Too bad I couldn’t take any of the beer home in my carry-on.

Beer Review: Barrel of Monks’ Quadraphonic

From Barrel of Monks’s beers page (which changes regularly):

The Quadrupel is the granddaddy of the abbey-style ales. Typically, they are dark, strong ales bursting with flavors such as dark fruit, chocolate and raisins. Our Quadraphonic is no exception to this. This dense beer hides its 10.5% well with a deep brown color and a long rich finish. The Quadrupel is a beer designed for celebration and decadence.

Although traveling for work can be a bit wearying, it can also be rewarding. You can build great new business relationships and strengthen existing business relationships. Sometimes, you’re fortunate enough to be traveling with some like-minded people who enjoy well-crafted beer, and sometimes, you’ll find a great brewery when you’re traveling. Such is the case with today’s beer from Barrel of Monks brewery out of Boca Raton, Florida. This is standout brewery because it brews exclusively Belgian style ales and an outstanding brewery because their beers (at least the two I had, including today’s beer being reviewed) are superb examples of their style.

The Belgian Quadrupel, one of the biggest of all beers and the biggest of the Belgian Abbey styles. A world renowned style that derives much of its flavor from the magic of the yeast, it is a style not many breweries attempt and a style you’ll also find aged in some kind of oak barrel. Sometimes; however, you want the beer in its pure form un-enhanced by the barrel. Quadraphonic from Barrel of Monks in Boca Raton, Florida more than amply fits that bill.

Aside from the “Belgian Strong Dark Ale” the Quadrupel is the darkest of the Belgian ales that shows in the picture above. The bartender at Barrel of Monks poured the beer perfectly, allowing for a big fluffy head that gave off a beautiful earthy scent that was extremely inviting.

The first sip is a delightful “wow” and does what a good beer should – encourages to you drink more. I found the typical stone fruit flavors to be present, hints of plum and raisin with some figginess. Those first sips tell you this is a complex beer. As it settled to room temperature, I caught a hint of cherry too. By the time the glass was empty, I was both satisfied and sad. The beer was delicious, multifaceted enough that the flavor profile evolved in subtle, pleasing ways over the course of finishing it. The sadness should be obvious – the glass was empty.

This beer is on par with the Quadrupels I’ve had in the past. Only one of those was from an actual Belgian brewery (St. Bernardus), but I’ve also had renowned Quadrupels from Brewery Ommegang (Three Philosophers) as well as Weyerbacher (Quad) and Victory (V12). I’d easily rank Quadraophonic near or at the top of the Quadrupels I’ve had since joining untappd. I expect when I do my best of 2019 beers, this will be making an appearance.

Quadraophonic is quite simply, a delicious beer. What I wasn’t expecting was for how well the big ABV of this beer (10.5%) isn’t overpowering. On the whole, that’s what makes Quadraphonic such a great beer – it has all the elements you’d expect from a Quadrupel, without any element overpowering the other.

Recommended link to Untappd 4.5-Bottle Cap rating.

Untapped badge earned with this beer

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Everyone loves fresh beer, but obviously not as much as you do. You went straight to the source. That’s a beer at 40 different venues categorized as a Brewery.

 

Beer Review: Epic Brewing’s Son of a Baptist

Name: Son of a Baptist
Brewing Company: Epic Brewing Company
Location: Salt Lake City, UT and Denver, CO
Style: Stout – Imperial/Double
ABV: 8%

From the beer’s description on Epic Brewing Company’s landing page for the beer:

Son of a Baptist is an 8% ABV imperial stout. It is not barrel aged like its father, Big Bad Baptist; instead its flavor profile was designed to highlight the complex and often unique flavors of small batch coffees. Instead of sourcing a coffee that would play well in a beer we sought out creative and innovative roasters, then asked them which beans they’re passionate about. Each resulting release of Son of a Baptist is widely different depending on the coffee selected. Some are fruity and sweet with notes of jam and chocolate, others are rich and earthy with a big roasted finish. Each limited release will return to the Roaster’s home market where the beer and the coffee can be sampled side by side.

Stouts, truly my favorite style of beer. Add coffee to the beer in the appropriate amount, and I like the beer even more since coffee is probably the beverage I drink at least as much as or more than beer. Coffee may be the most prevalent adjunct flavor element in stouts and given that large swath of coffee stouts on the market, they vary in quality. For some of those coffee stouts, the coffee overpowers the beer. In other coffee stouts, the coffee is barely noticeable. With Epic’s Son of a Baptist, harmony is achieved.

As the beer pours from the can into the glass, I realize this is one of the blackest beers I’ve ever had. A combination of the roasted malts and coffee add to this, I suspect, but the aroma hints at coffee rather than blasting your senses with the coffee.

That first sip sets the tone for the delicious 12 oz that will be consumed. The standard stout flavors of roasted malt, a bit of hops are prevalent but the coffee slides in to give a wonderful, balanced flavor. There’s an added layer of sweetness not all coffee stouts exhibit. I do tend to put a little more sugar in my coffee so I’m accustomed to sweetened coffee. Whatever the fine folks at Epic did with the coffee matches just about perfectly with the level of sweetness I try to achieve every morning in my own mug of coffee.

For a non-barrel-aged stout, Son of a Baptist packs a decent punch at 8%. The closest comparison I can think of is Founders’ vaunted Breakfast Stout, a beer I love and get quite regularly. Son of a Baptist compares extremely favorably against Founders’ brew, so I’d highly recommend seeking out Son of a Baptist.

One of my co-workers was talking about this beer for the last few days before I picked up the six pack at my favorite beer shop. In other words, he convinced me to give this one a try and I’m very happy I did.

The particular six pack I purchased used beans from Novo Coffee. There are about at least another dozen variants to Son of a Baptist with beans from other local roasters so I may have to give each of those a try.

The “Baptist” line of stouts from Epic is very well regarded. In addition to the Son of a Baptist, there’s the Big Bad Baptist, which is aged in whiskey barrels as well as Triple Barrel Big Bad Baptist with coconut aged in rum and whisky barrels.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-star rating.

Untapped badges earned with this beer:

Heavy Weight (Level 53)

You like it thick and dark. Your beer! What did you think we were talking about? That’s 265 different beers with the style of Porter or Stout.

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When a single isn’t enough, make it a double. Doubling the hops and malts in a recipe results in a higher ABV and can pack quite a boozey punch. That’s 130 different beers with the style that contains Imperial / Double in its style name.

 

Beer Review: River Horse Chocolate Porter

Name: Chocolate Porter
Brewing Company: River Horse Brewing Company
Location: Ewing, NJ
Style: Porter
ABV: 6.5%

The yellow “Coaster” is from the River Horse 6K I ran with my wife in brother-in-law in April 2016. At the end of the race, everybody got a pint of Summer Blonde. Logo on the glass is the old-school, pre-2007 logo.

The beer’s description on River Horse’s Landing Page for the beer:

We start with a brown porter brewed with dark roasted malts, and add one pound of chocolate per barrel. We then throw in some Madagascar Vanilla beans to accentuate the chocolate flavors, resulting in a decadent porter. Available February – March.

As one of the oldest micro-breweries in the state, River Horse Brewing Company is a New Jersey Brewing institution. Originally started back in 1995/6 in Lambertville, NJ, new ownership took over in 2007, and they moved to a larger facility in 2013 in Ewing, NJ. Their mascot Brewtus (a stylized cartoon hippo) appears in various guises appropriate for each beer of the line-up (with cow markings for the Milk Stout, googly eyes for the Hippotizing IPA, etc).

Although I’ve mentioned their beers and the brewery in a few posts here at the Tap Takeover, I’ve had intentions of giving one of their beers a full review for a while. Initially determining which beer from their portfolio to highlight  first was a minor challenge since River Horse brews quite a few beers I like including the excellent Oatmeal Milk Stout and Tripel Horse, which was awarded a Bronze Medal at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival. In the end, I figured I’d highlight one of the special beers they consider a seasonal and available throughout their distribution footprint.

On to the delicious Chocolate Porter…

Popping open the cap, the beer pours into the glass a silky dark brown that smooths into black when the light hits it the right way. Poured properly, there’s a small light brown or tan head. Once fully poured into the glass the beer practically screams: Drink Me!

Some porters can have a powerful (or overpowering) smoky element, which is not the case for this beer. The “one pound of chocolate per barrel” sweetens the beer and eliminates some of that bitter smoke/roast flavor. If anything, the roast/smoke is akin to the edges of a freshly baked brownie, but the overall flavor, if we’re continuing with the brownie analogy, is like the gooey, slightly under-baked deliciousness at the center of the brownie.

The texture of the beer is really smooth with only minimal carbonation; just enough that it still feels like a beer.  For me, this is a beer that works better when it is colder rather than warming to room temperature like many darker beers.  At 6.5% ABV, it isn’t too heavy, so you don’t have to take your time with drinking it for those reasons, but the decadent, sumptuous flavor makes you want to take your time with the beer you just poured. Even if you have another four or five in the refrigerator from your six pack.

River Horse’s Chocolate Porter is most definitely a dessert beer, if that hasn’t become evident at this point. In other words, if you could take the best brownie you’ve ever had and transformed what makes it so good into beer form, chances are you’d have yourself a bottle of River Horse’s Chocolate Porter. First brewed and bottled in 2015 (I think), the beer has become a highlight of River Horse’s annual lineup in February, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

If I were to build a shelf of Essential NJ Beers, River Horse’s Chocolate Porter would definitely have a spot. From River Horse’s long history in the state to the pure wonderful taste of this beer, I’ve had this in my rotation of beers since I first had and enjoyed the beer. I know I raved about Kane’s Sunday Brunch Porter a couple of weeks ago and don’t get me wrong that is a fine, fantastic porter. However, the simple elegance of chocolate makes this beer stand on its own and make it a sought after beer in the region.

Back in 2016, River Horse bottled an Imperial version of this Porter, I hope they do again and I hope I get to sample it.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-bottle cap rating.

Beer Review: Firestone Walker Nitro Merlin

Name: Nitro Merlin
Brewing Company: Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Location: Paso Robles, CA
Style: Milk Stout
ABV: 5.5%
Drank at: Revolution: A Social Brew House in Morristown, NJ

FW_NitroMerlin
From the beer’s description on Firestone Walker’s Web site:

 

Our Velvet Merlin oatmeal stout has been transformed into a mindblowing mouthful known as Nitro Merlin Milk Stout.

The new ingredient is lactose, a.k.a. milk sugar. When Velvet Merlin is brewed with milk sugar to create Nitro Merlin Milk Stout, the effect is similar to adding cream to your dark roasted coffee. The wizardry comes via “nitro,” the brewing nickname for nitrogen gas.

Exclusively on draft.

You take the sweetness of a Milk Stout, add Nitrogen to it and you have a smooth, sweet, velvety delectable beer drinking experience. Stouts are one of my favorite styles and milk stouts possibly my favorite variety of the style. I’d been wanting to try this one for a while, but with it being a draft-only beer, finding it was a bit of a challenge but find it I did. In every way imaginable, the beer exceeded my expectations.

Prior to enjoying this beer, I had and enjoyed many bottles of Firestone Walker’s Velvet Merlin Oatmeal Stout. The fine folks at Firestone Walker took an already wonderful base and embellished it to create one of the best Milk Stouts I’ve ever had. Some Milk Stouts have an underlying bitterness that takes over at the finish of the beer, not this one.

From the first sip of the freshly poured beer with its thick white head to the final sip, Nitro Merlin is a nearly perfect Milk Stout. A comforting mouthfeel is complemented with the sweet underlying roasty taste of coffee and hints of chocolate throughout.

As the description implies, the nitro injection adds a wonderful creamy, fluffiness to the beer that makes for a sumptuous beer drinking experience. Some Nitro beers are too airy or fluffy with that nitro injection drowning out the taste. Perhaps it is because those beers are bottled and not on draught, which always makes a difference. No matter how you pour it, Nitro Merlin is perfectly balanced in texture.

As both a Nitro Stout amd Milk Stout, many, if not all, others will be judged. If you see this one become available at a bar you haunt, do yourself a favor and head over to that bar and have a pint…or two.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4.5-star rating.