Old and New World Belgian beers hit Canadian markets

Saison Dupont.

Saison Dupont.

Jordan St. John, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:14 PM ET

At the beginning of the year I made some predictions about what we’d be likely to see in Canada this year. I’m pleased to say that they continue to come true.

I suggested that the Canadian market was ready for more Belgian-style beers. and that we’d likely see Saisons enter the picture before the year was out. Had I known it would only take four months for that to happen, I would have been slightly more ambitious.

The good news is that there are Saisons rolling out across the country and it shows no sign of being a one-shot deal. It’s a style of beer from a period in history when brewing was only possible in the winter months. As such, it was mostly consumed during the summer, after it had had time to ferment in farmhouse cellars.

From the Hainaut region of Belgium, there’s Saison Dupont. As a historical footnote, the brewery was purchased in 1920 to prevent an emigration to Canada, which may explain why it has taken so long to spread across the country. It’s an extremely lively beer and bottle conditioned, meaning that it should be poured very gently. Your reward for that tenderness is a slightly hazy, light gold coloured brew with a substantial rocky head. The aroma is long grass and citrus, with cut hay and white pepper. The body is substantial enough to manage a balancing act between those flavours and the finish is bone dry and immediate, with a slight tartness.

From the New World, there’s Ommegang Hennepin. Contrastingly, Hennepin is named after a missionary from the Hainaut region of Belgium who actually managed to emigrate. He was one of the first Europeans to see Niagara Falls. Conceptually, the name is an excellent fit for the Ommegang Brewery who brought the style to New York state.

Hennepin is a spiced Saison, with ginger, coriander, orange peel and grains of paradise. It is slightly darker than the Dupont in colour, nearing sunlight at dusk. The spices are certainly present in the aroma, coaxing out a ripe pear character that fades on the palate. The body is slightly bigger. The finish is less dry and dissipates over seconds.

While these Saisons are complex and profound enough to stand up to any number of dishes (I recently had the Hennepin with a curried lamb burger), they are perhaps best enjoyed with a simple lunch. Some crusty white bread, a ripe pear or apple, some Roquefort or maybe ripened goat cheese.

Just because Saisons were originally enjoyed during the summer doesn’t mean that you can’t take them out on an early spring picnic and relax as the world blooms around you.

Jordan St.John writes about beer at saintjohnswort.ca. This week he’s reviewing the remainder of the Dupont beers on offer at the LCBO.


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