Last time around, the Belgian farmhouse ale Saison Dupont (1-0) took over the competition with a solid performance. Today, the battle heats up as the saison faces two new beers: Pilsner Urquell and the West Coast IPA from Green Flash Brewing.
Beer 1: Saison Dupont (1-0) If I were pressed to choose my single favorite beer, the farmhouse saison from Belgium's Brasserie Dupont might be the one I'd pick. There may not be a perfect beer, but this is awfully close. It pours out a dull, cloudy yellow with a thick, stubborn pillow of foam. The aroma is a delicate blend of lemon, apples, peppery herbs, and mellow hops. On the palate, it combines a full body with excellent acidity, bringing delicious fruit flavors to a dry, snappy finish.
Beer 2: Pilsner Urquell If you want to know where the modern notion of beer began, well, this is where it began: the Czech Urquell is the world's first pilsner beer. And it's a classic: golden color, subtle aroma, and a luscious sweet, malty flavor. The hop bitterness really shines through on the finish and with food, as it works with the carbonation to cleanse the palate.
Beer 3: Green Flash West Coast IPA If you don't already know my opinions of American IPA, see here and here; opinions aside, though, I rather like this IPA from Green Flash Brewing. Hailing from God's Country (which others refer to as northern San Diego County), the hop notes in this beer are predictably dominant, but smoother than in many similar beers, and they don't crowd out the nice herbal notes either. In other words, if you're used to boozy hop bombs from California craft brewers, you might be pleasantly surprised by this one.
Our Dish I decided to go simple tonight, and make spaghetti puttanesca. There are numerous explanations for this dish's name (loosely translated, it means "whore-style pasta"), but I lived off of it when I was still single. It combines dried red pepper and a number of salty ingredients (olives, capers, anchovies) with tomatoes; as such, any beer will have a good bit of spice and salt to contend with.
Tasting the Saison The Belgian ale steps right up to the plate against the dish. Which is a great thing; it takes a lot of heft to refresh your palate after the puttanesca. Interestingly, the citrus flavors in the beer don't clash with the flavors in the food. Instead, they leap to the fore once the salt and spice in the dish have receded.
Tasting the Pilsner The Pilsner Urquell does its best, but puttanesca is too much for it. The beer brings good acidity and doesn't clash with the food, but it's not powerful enough to be really refreshing.
Tasting the IPA Ouch. As Ron Burgundy once said, "I immediately regret this decision." If you think that spicy pasta doesn't go well with a beer that tastes like grapefruit, well, you're right. But it's more than that: the hops in the beer actually accentuate the spiciness in the food. So the beer is pretty much the opposite of refreshing.
The Decision This was a pretty easy decision to make: Saison Dupont (2-0) is once again on top. I like the Pilsner Urquell (0-1) and Green Flash IPA (0-1) a lot as beers, but neither one comes close to pairing well with this food.