Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chris' BDS: Brasserie Dupont Speciale Belge

Type: Belgian Pale Ale
Origin: Tourpes, Belgium
Price: $10.85/750mL
ABV: 5.75%
NSP: 3.97
website (doesn't appear to be a Speciale Belge specific site)

I'll preface this review by introducing the inaugural review of a new series here at Non-Snob: the presidentially (i.e. Brendan)-monikered Balls Deep Series (BDS for short).  Each of us will select a single brewery and go after everything that brewery offers.  I have selected Brasserie Dupont, for no other reason than they're really fucking good at making beer.  I've also got a head start, having already reviewed Avec Le Bons Voeux and Foret.

Had this one in the cellar for a while and thought, hey, it's Thursday, let's drink it.  Apparently it's Dupont's first ever collaboration- with Iron Hill Brewery, based in the Philly area.  It was the featured beer of Philly Beer Week because, as the bottle says, Philly has helped "spotlight Belgian brewing culture" in one way or another.  "Speciale Belge" refers to a specific style of beer, a low-booze Belgian amber.  This version was slightly modified by the folks at Iron Hill using a smoked pilsen malt.  No, I didn't know any of that before Googling it.

It's a very pretty beer, especially since I know it's not an IPA (if it was the color would scare me), with a perfect marshmallowy head.  And the smell is equally attractive- nice and Belgian-yeasty with a lot of fruity sourness.  There's also a light wisp of smokiness in there, and some good caramelly sweetness.  Each individual piece of it is pretty remarkable, and all of it together is amazing.  Dupont may produce the best beer noses on earth, and this is no exception.

I guess I should taste it instead of just sitting here smelling it.  The first shot is yeasty and tangy, then immediately followed up by the smoke from the pilsen malt.  A lot of smoked beers end up making you feel like you've been drinking them out of a heavily-used ashtray, but this one manages to avoid that particular pitfall, as the yeast comes back in and flushes most of the smoke out.  It ends up clean, and the finish is right in line with the nose- well-balanced, with yeasty, fruity sourness, some sweetness, and a touch of smoke.  

I had absolutely no idea what to expect with this- I didn't even know Speciale Belge was a style of beer until I wrote this review.  But Dupont's never failed me before, and they certainly haven't here.  Without the smoked malt this would have been delightful, but Iron Hill's idea to add that in was a stroke of genius.  This is a deliciously refreshing, complex beer, and it once again reminds me why Dupont's one of the all-time great breweries- and also that even the great ones can benefit from some teamwork now and then.

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