Saturday, April 20, 2013

Brewery Roundup - Brasserie Dupont

For the first time in what has felt like ages, I went to the LCBO and returned with an actual haul.   As in, almost a box full of new beers.  There were almost more new beers for me to buy than I was quite willing to get, but I went ahead with it anyway.  Chock this one up to some pretty good timing on my part - the store I checked out had apparently got all of their Spring Release brews in one afternoon, and about an hour after they finished the display, I showed up.  Having a slate of new beers is a rare treat that usually only happens with a fortuitous trade or a trip across the border, so I'll certainly enjoy this one.

In addition to some IPAs from New Zealand and Italy and a smattering of Belgian brews, we had ourselves a whole brewery release from Brasserie Dupont, brewer of one of the all time great beers - Saison Dupont, a light refreshing farmhouse ale that is a true exemplar of the style.  Unfortunately, the saison is not a part of this release - at least not that I can tell - but this trio does look particularly interesting.  Always like to try new stuff, especially if its from a brewery that tends to have one brew that overshadows the rest of the lineup.  Three brews make up this release, and they are quite diverse in their makeup - a Belgian/English stout, a honey pale ale, and a classic strong brown ale.  Let's get started.

Beer: Monk's Stout
Type: English Stout (according to BA, though I'd call it a 'Belgian Stout')
ABV: 5.2%

This brew had all the indications that it would be a good beer.  And by that I mean it came from a reputable brewery and the bottle looks kind of nice.  But it wasn't, and I have to say I was pretty let down by this.

Poured into a Leffe goblet.  Dark caramel chocolate in colour, with about a half inc
h of fluffy head that settles into a very thin ring.  Some not overly pleasant flakes of sediment swirl around the glass before finally settling.    Not the most attractive brew out there.

Nose isn't bad - dry roasted grain, a bit of fruit - cherry or strawberry - with a mild sweetness and a hint of Belgian yeast.  Smells like a Belgian dark ale, which is more or less what I had expected.

But boy does it not taste like one.  Extremely dry, tart, almost citric, which utterly dominates the brew, leaving little else for the taste buds to detect.   It was okay for the first few sips or so, but man the finish really drags on.  Very, very dry with a Belgian yeast component.   Mouthfeel is certainly of the Belgian variety, and is lighter bodied and a bit slick.

It was intended to be a British-Belgian stout hybrid (I think), but the end result was certainly far less than the sum of its parts.  Not a fan of this brew at all, which is a shame, as I was really looking forward to this.  Don't think I'll be drinking this again.

 (Grade: C+)

Rough start indeed.  Hopefully this next one will bring up the average.

Beer: Biere de Miel Biologique
Type: Saison
ABV: 8%

According to the brewery, this was one of the old Dupont brewery's recipes, but it went into decline and wasn't brewed for most of the 20th century, until it was re-released in 1997.  To honour the original recipe, the beer's label is the same as the original brew.   The "biologique" referes to the organic honey added to the recipe.

Poured into an Affligem goblet, just to mix things up, see if it yields a better result.  Light honey-grapefruit in colour, hazy, and with a big half inch of head that receded into a thin ring and some swirls of foam.

Nose is raw honey, honey bread, musk, herbal and floral hops, farmyard grain.

This brew is one of the few that utilizes and specifically features honey that actually tastes of honey, and not just a mild sugary sweetness.  The nice thing about this honey is that it tastes more like a wild, unprocessed honey than something out of a little bear-shaped jar.  This is helped along by a mild musky and herbal hop backing that gives this brew a pastoral flavor.  Despite the honey sweetness, it finishes somewhat dry.

Moderate bodied, mild carbonation, dry to the finish.

I liked this one, although the hops were a little off - the medicinal, herbal hops just didn't quite balance.  Maybe cellaring this brew for a few months will smooth things out.  Still, a beer worth giving a go!  (Grade: B, maybe a B+)

Beer: Moinette Brune
Type: Belgian Strong Brown Ale
ABV: 8.5%

Sorry for the crap photo, not sure why this didn't turn out properly, but for whatever reason my phone forgot to camera.  Looked good on the phone, but when I got it on the computer it was out of focus and just plain sad.

Poured into an Affligem goblet.  Bright caramel brown in colour, with about a half inch of head that recedes into a thin ring.  Nice looking brew.

Nose is very fruity and quite on par for the style - grape, plum, raisin, dates - with spices and a bit of yeast.

I've gone on a bit recently about how Belgian ales are hit an miss for me, and I think this one is one of the types that just isn't doing it for me anymore.  The fruit, spices and bready flavors are all there, but there's that strong yeast component that isn't hitting me right, and the brew is quite boozy.  Carbonation is very sharp and it feels a bit off.   Not sure if this is my own personal preferences or just a less than stellar example of the style, but in either case I wasn't too impressed with this.  (Grade: B-)

Unfortunately, none of these brews really impressed me in the way that the Saison Dupont did, which I guess makes some sense.  Since Belgian ales are so hit and miss for me, I'm less likely to be blown away by the ones I do run into, unless they happen to be of the styles I really enjoy, like saisons, krieks or a nice dry tripel.  Saison Dupont is among the finest of its class, so now all the other brews in the Dupont lineup have that much more work cut out for them in order to stand out.   The nice thing about when the LCBO gets these brews in is that the price is quite reasonable, so no matter my views on the beer, it's not too much out of your pocket to give them a try and see for yourself.

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