The competition is still young, but the Belgian Saison Dupont (2-0), fresh off a win, has joined Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale (2-1) and Samuel Smith India Ale (2-1) as the only beers to win two rounds. Now, the farmhouse ale tries to become the first beer to win three times as it takes on Fuller's London Pride and Sierra Nevada Kellerweis.
Beer 1: Saison Dupont (2-0) 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: Fuller's London Pride As the flagship beer of Fuller's of London, this bitter is obviously best when drawn from a cask, and better when drawn from a keg. Nevertheless, when served as a pale ale in a bottle, it's still quite nice. It pours out amber in color, and on the nose it suggests mild, earthy hops and notes of tart dried fruit. The taste leans heavily toward the malts, featuring flavors of caramel as well as apples. Throughout its finish, the beer is medium-bodied and very dry.
Beer 3: Sierra Nevada Kellerweis This hefeweizen hails from the granddaddy of American craft breweries, Chico, California's Sierra Nevada. And it's a beauty, reminiscent in many ways of classic German weissbier. It pours out a cloudy orange-yellow with a thick head, and the nose is redolent of banana, citrus, and clove, with a pleasing undertone of grains as well. In the mouth it's medium-bodied and crisp, with vibrant orange, lemon, and banana flavors and very mild bitterness.
Our Dish I'm trying something new tonight, this time a stovetop variation on a French cassoulet. After browning some herbal chicken sausage in oil, I cook some onions, garlic, and carrots until softened. After this, I add some white beans, tomatoes, and thyme, and cook for about 20 minutes. I was going to top it with toasted bread crumbs, but discovered at the last minute that we were out. (Note: if you want to make a traditional cassoulet, you really need to try harder than this.)
Tasting the Saison Dupont This is almost unfair to the other beers: the warm, herbal flavors in the cassoulet are an absolutely ideal match for the herbal, citric flavors of the Saison. What's more, the strong acidity in the beer allows it to play back and forth with the food, refreshing your palate at one moment while allowing the flavors and textures of the food to shine through at others.
Tasting the London Pride I love London Pride, and with a mild, agreeable dish like this, the pairing is quite nice. The sweet malts in the ale offset nicely with the herbs and oils in the food. Unfortunately, it's not the most acidic of beers, so it doesn't refresh the way the saison does. But I would recommend the pairing again in the future.
Tasting the Kellerweis The story of the Sierra is similar to that of the London Pride: its sweet notes work well with the food, but it isn't acidic enough to be refreshing to the same extent as the Saison. The fruit flavors of the beer recede when confronted by the herbs in our dish. Again, it's not a bad pairing, but it's not spectacular either.
The Decision Not a difficult choice this time. Once again, Saison Dupont (3-0) outshines the competition, both in terms of its overall flavor and its ability to pair well with food. I can't say a bad thing about the London Pride (0-1) or the Kellerweis (0-1), but neither one measures up in terms of its affinity for food. The Belgian farmhouse beer is officially on a roll.