Brew Review

Brewed For Battle: Saisons

At what point does one elevate from merely drinking beer to being a full-on beer snob? Answer: when you feel compelled to tell other people what to drink. And the inevitable result of this peculiar ailment is the beer argument.

In the spirit of all great beer-related discussions, we present Brewed For Battle; a new series of Chow Bella blog posts that pits a selection of brews from a given style up against each other and lets the taste buds of one layman battle them out. Multiple beers go in. One beer comes out the victor.

This week's battle: Saisons.

This seasonal summer beer may sound French in name, but the style actually originated in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium. Traditionally, saisons were brewed at the end of the winter season to last through the warmer months before refrigeration was common. Thus, the beer had to be sturdy enough to last for months but light enough that it could remain thirst-quenching and refreshing in the summer. They're now brewed year-round in tiny, artisanal breweries whose buildings reflect their origins as farmhouses -- hence the saison's alias, farmhouse ale.

Saisons are complex brews; most are fruity in aroma and flavor, contain lots of spice and earthy yeast tones, and are moderately tart. They also tend to be semi-dry with many only having touch of sweetness.

Zach's Pick: Fantome Hiver Heralded as one of the top crafters of saisons in the world, Fantome's head brewer Dany Prignon changes his recipes every year but always manages to produce something special. Hiver -- Fantome's winter saison -- faithfully recreates the season with a beer that smells and tastes like winter potpourri.

Jonathan's Pick: Saison Dupont If Saisons were developed to be consumed by hard-working farmers, I think I may need to become a hard-working farmer. Saison Dupont seems, at first glance, to be a simple saison. The complexities however, are nearly endless. There is an inherent sweetness that is counter-balanced by an earthy taste. Refreshing and subtly complex, Saison Dupont also refuses to disappoint with 6.5% alcohol by volume.

Shannon's Pick: Dupont Foret Having never experienced a saison, I was at a complete loss as to who I would chose, so naturally I went with the one with the unicorn on the label. My love of unicorns lead me in right direction. This organically produced Belgian Saison Ale has all the right things going for it. Right out of the bottle, this smells like liquid gold($4.50 for one 11.5oz bottle it better taste like it too) A light carmel color with just the right amount of carbonation. The crisp notes of honey, unicorn kisses, and apple mix well with the right amount of skunk, almost like a light and refreshing mead of sorts. Not at all what I expected. And at 7.5% abv this beer has the power to unexpectedly get you loaded.

The Layman's Choice: Dupont Foret This week's layman was none other than Jessica Bradfield. A nacho connoisseur with admits to drinking cheaper beer. Why did she pick the Dupont Foret?

"The Saison Dupont tastes like farmer sweat, and the Fantome tastes like pennies. But the Foret? The Foret tastes like magical honey unicorns."

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Jonathan McNamara