Saison isn’t the ‘Next IPA,’ but it’s Trending in the Right Direction

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Today is April 8, Saison Day, a fake holiday created for the beer community because if Hallmark can pull it off why can’t we?

I often poke fun of such occasions on Twitter, but with consideration, perhaps today *is* a good time to recognize the style, full of life in its effervescence and yeast-driven flavor. In many ways, saison is an ideal beer for where we currently find the American beer industry. Its malleability presents brewers with plenty of ways to approach its final product, creating something as simple and refreshing as a table beer or as hoppy as our beloved IPAs.

Which is why, in terms of “trends,” saison may be a fun one to watch.

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Reporter’s Notebook: The Best Beer You Almost Never Had

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Trying to quantify something as “best” in beer is often a laborious task, if not a disastrous one.

Beer is subjective, offering an array of tastes and experiences, and even when writing my own analysis of best beer lists compiled by websites like RateBeer or Beer Advocate, I try to write “best” in quotation marks because I realize the results of each poll or survey aren’t necessarily indicative of what that word means to everyone. What is a top beer for me isn’t the same for you.

Except, perhaps, when it comes to one particular beer.

Never have I seen and heard such consensus to elect a single beer as best as I have with Brasserie Dupont’s Saison Dupont Vieille Provision. Or, as you probably know it, simply Saison Dupont.

This Belgian saison, which almost disappeared several decades ago, is truly the benchmark for the style. That certainly made it deserving to be the focus of a recent feature for All About Beer, highlighting Saison Dupont in the magazine’s regular Classic Beer column.

“It’s always a good idea, when you’re learning about beer, to have benchmarks,” said Wendy Littlefield, who, along with husband Don Feinberg, were responsible for first bringing Saison Dupont to the U.S. through their Vanberg & DeWulf import company.

In my conversation with Wendy, time and time again she noted the wide recognition of Saison Dupont as a pivotal beer. Not just for the style, but for the industry as a whole. It’s a beer that has launched hundreds, if not thousands, of imitators. And, as I note in the story, there was a time when it was set to be erased from history.

“There was every intention to discontinue it,” noted Mike Battaglia, brand manager with Total Beverage Solution, which now imports the beer. “Saison Dupont represents heritage, quality and history and it nearly went extinct.”

On March 12, people celebrated Saison Day, another one of those made up beer holidays meant to excite drinkers about a particular style or brand, but when it comes to this beer in particular, it seems an appropriate reason to celebrate. How often can you actually pick up a best beer at your leisure? You can walk into a higher-end grocery store like Whole Foods or your local bottle shop and find Saison Dupont, considered by many to be perfect.

“It’s hard to make a beer with that simple a recipe that also has as much flavor and character,” said Gordon Schuck, co-owner and brewmaster at Colorado’s Funkwerks. “It’s masterful.”

Learn more about Saison Dupont and how this best beer almost went away for good in my All About Beer story.

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Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

A New Start: January 2015 Beertography

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It’s a new year, but old habits die hard.

January has now gone by, which means it’s time for my monthly roundup of beertography.

Below you’ll find some of my recent photos, which you may also come across on my Instagram page, Twitter account or even Untappd. If you like these, you can find all beertography on Instagram or in my running archive.

Let’s see what January had to offer…

Aviator Brewing Devil’s Tramping Ground – Hell on Earth

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Laurelwood Brewing Workhorse IPA – Everybody’s Working for the Weekend

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Smartmouth Brewing Alter Ego – My Beer Nerd is Showing

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Genesee Cream Ale – The Soul of Upstate New York

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NoDa Brewing Hop Drop ‘n Roll – Start Your Engine

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Here’s hoping February is just as fruitful as the last few weeks. As always, you can go back to see previous beertography posts:

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

Zymurgy’s “Best Beers” Ranking and the Search for a Non-Boring Beer

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Who knew so much interesting stuff could come out of a simple “best beer” list?

First, we saw how Zymurgy’s best beers that have been around for some time may lose favor with beer drinkers when compared to all the changing options they have today. Then, it became clear that beer lovers might overvalue their adoration of Sierra Nevada brews.

The common thread between the two seemed to be the threat of becoming “boring” to consumers in an industry that is constantly shifting and adjusting products to offer beer enthusiasts.

So what’s left now is the question: what isn’t boring these days?

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Cigar City Florida Cracker

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Local beer is great, but comes with the drawback of being just that – local. That’s why it’s handy to have a middleman.

Over the fall I used LetsPour.com to order a set of great pumpkin beers from Elysian Brewing and just recently, had a special delivery of Cigar City brews, which don’t come anywhere close to the Triangle.

The Florida-based brewery has garnered plenty of attention for beers like their Jai Alai IPA and Marshal Zukhov imperial stout, but I decided to start with their Florida Cracker white ale, which has a 86 on Beer Advocate. Named after nickname given to the original settlers of Florida, this beer firmly planted Cigar City as a new, favorite brewery.
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Goose Island Pepe Nero

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In future decades, a crotchety old man version of myself will look back on my early experiences with Goose Island and think “this beer isn’t want it used to be.”

At least in present day – while putting the AB InBev takeover and the mess of its aftermath aside – it’s easy to say that Goose Island still produces some really fantastic beers. And all joking aside, if there’s one thing Ab InBev is good at, it’s reproducing the same form of quality over and over again, so maybe there’s nothing to worry about at all. Or is there?

I digress.

Goose Island’s Pepe Nero is part of the brewery’s “Vintage Ale” series, which also features well-known, Belgian-style brews like Sofie and Matilda. Pepe Nero itself is a Belgian farmhouse ale, which scores a 85 on Beer Advocate. Let’s hit the jump to see how this black saison performed.
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We made a friend! or: Guest post on Knee Deep Ryedentity Crisis and Stone IPA

Surely I can’t drink all the beers by myself? Now I’ve got some help from Friend Of The Program David Gonos. He was kind enough to take a few beer recommendations and report back. It’s all a matter of setting him on the path of righteousness – and he’s already learned a lot from doing some homework at Beer Advocate! Good man.

David headed over to his local Total Wine, so let’s grab a pint and get social. On with the fireworks … This Is Why He‘s Drunk:

Here are my analyses of two of the beers that Bryan assigned me. This first beer was tasted before I learned what to look for, how to taste it and how to describe it. I learned it recently and I can only hope I learn more as I try to become a better amateur beer expert!

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Knee Deep Brewing Company, Lincoln, California

This was the very first beer I drank as part of my “assignment.” It’s a mild, fruity beer that actually reminded me a little bit of Leffe Blond from Belgium – my favorite beer ever. Heck, even their website is classy!

An American craft beer that tastes like a beer I drank from Belgium!?! Identity crisis indeed!!!

A couple years ago, I traveled to Germany to visit Erik and Rachel, two friends from back-in-the-day. Erik was stationed there in the army and he introduced me to several beers while I was there. But a trip to Belgium with Rachel one day turned me on to Leffe Blonde – which means I like this new beer aplenty!

This Ryedentity Crisis is absolutely fantastic – and I fear it will be the best of the bunch. Eating this along with some warm, fresh crusty bread and butter would be perfect. It has a nice, soft, sweet taste that goes down well as a pre- or post-dinner treat.

(Note: I can NOT believe that I compared it to a Belgium beer, and then read that it is a saison (French for “season”), which is a beer generally associated with Belgium. This is like making a guess for a pie in Trivial Pursuit and nailing it!)

This Amateur Beer Expert Says: If warm buttered bread isn’t doing it for you, then consider drinking it with a huge bowlful of mussels cooked with garlic, butter and white wine?

This second beer was tasted after I did some reading and discovered what I’m trying to taste.
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