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Saison Dupont "Vielle Provision" Belgian Farmhouse Ale, Brasserie Dupont, Tourpes, Belgium


DonRocks
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Poured into a 20-ounce pilsner glass for the first and last time, a slow, side pour produced about 10 inches of head, and 1/2 inch of beer at the bottom of the glass.

Purchased with trepidation for $6.49 for a .375 ml (12.7 oz) bottle at the original Lost Dog Cafe in Arlington, this beer smells and tastes like it's in good shape, but I was shocked that the carbonation is mostly visual (this has happened to me before with "flat" Champagnes that are otherwise perfectly drinkable). This isn't flat, mind you - there are innumerable tiny bubbles - Champagne-like - that roar, and then canter their way to the top when swirling the glass - but the carbonation does not tickle the palate at all, and I could have sworn that this beer is supposed to be a little bit more petillante, isn't it?

The head is extremely frothy, and the froth remains persistent in patches clinging to the sides of the glass even ten, fifteen minutes after being left all alone as the level of the beer receded.

It has a pale golden hue, yeasty aromas, a sweet, malty mid-palate, and a slightly (but not overtly) sour finish. It's clearly an artisan product even though it has fairly wide distribution. At 6.5% ABV, it's certainly not a session beer, but it drinks lighter than it is - always a good sign to me, both with beverages and cuisine. It takes a good while to get through a single bottle, but mainly because there's so much complexity to search for, that you want to take your time and ponder things. "Active" beers such as this one can do funny things in the bottle, and this particular example had about 1/8 ounce of slightly darker-brown, throwaway sediment at the bottom of the bottle which is expected and normal.

Incidentally, I went into the new Lost Dog Cafe in Merrifield a few weeks ago, and it's much more modern looking - hopefully with increased business and volume, the storage issues will go away at *all* of their stores (based on my terrible past history with storage issues at Westover, this Saison Dupont was perhaps a foolish purchase). This chain is surely making a ton of money, and there's no good excuse for them to sell so many beers in such poor condition. I'm like the little dog that keeps sauntering back, tail wagging and tongue lagging, even though the poor thing keeps getting kicked by its owner.

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So you'd buy the beer again, just not pour it into the glass? What stores do you think take good care of their beers? I've always wondered how long something can sit on a shelf before negative issues surface.

I would pour it into a tulip glass (or whatever they've designed for it); not a pilsner glass. I suspect the specifically designed glasses for Belgian ales are more than just marketing. With bottle-conditioned ales, ambient temperature determines shelf time - it could be as little as days for touristy stores open to the outside (and I'm thinking of the old Mills in Annapolis), or as much as many months in air-conditioned stores not getting too much above the 70-degree mark. This is assuming, of course, that the beer was properly treated along the various distribution routes - not always the case, for sure: sometimes, beers and wines will be ruined by the time they reach the retail store.

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