If you’re about to open a bottle of La Vermontoise, you have in your hands one of the most underrated beers of the modern era. Sure, it’s a 3.9 on Untappd and a solid 97% on RateBeer, but ask a beer lover what the defining saison of contemporary brewing is and they will almost universally say Saison Dupont.
It’s impossible to downplay the significance of Dupont. This is especially true in the modern era, when the eagerness of beer writer Michael Jackson spurred a rush on Belgian imports in the US during the 1980s. It was Dupont that undoubtedly led this charge, inspiring upstart American craft brewers to focus heavily on recreating estery, yeast-driven Belgian beer styles and why saison is often far more understood in the US than in the UK. You can thank this rush for the likes of Allagash, New Belgium, The Lost Abbey and many more.
I love Saison Dupont, it’s an important beer to me too. But it’s not my favourite saison. My all-time favourite saisons are called Anna and Arthur, and they are brewed by Hill Farmstead Brewery in Vermont. These beers eschew that hot, yeasty Belgian character, dialling down the alcohol and fruity esters in favour of delicate acidity. In many ways they almost taste closer to wine than beer, but make no mistake, these are definitely beers. Hill Farmstead is often the subject of much hype and when it comes to these beers, I take no shame in fuelling it. Try them if you can.
Which brings us back to today’s beer, La Vermontoise – an affectionate nod to this beer’s collaborator, Shaun Hill of the aforementioned Hill Farmstead. It’s brewed in Belgium by Blaugies, a Belgian stalwart which has been making incredible traditional, farmhouse style beers since 1987. It marries the classic saison flavour that inspired a generation with Hill’s utterly modern take on the style. The kick of fruit and heat from Dupont yeast tempered with delicate acidity, toning down any boisterous edges with nuance and class. It’s a Jimmy Anderson in-swinger: full of fire and venom to start, then sending you completely the wrong way as it kisses the top of off stump. A masterclass in modern brewing.
Every year when it appears, I expect it to sell out, and every year it mingles on shelves while those in the know return to this incredibly delicious (and remarkably good value) beer. Don’t skip on it this year. I think it drinks best fresh and it must be one of the finest vintages in a while. A beer deserving of all its plaudits, as it should be considering its pedigree.
Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Pick up a bottle of Blaugies x Hill Farmstead La Vermontoise now, or sign up to our All Killer No Filler subscription box, where you'll find incredible beers like this every month plus more great writing from Matt and our food writer Claire Bullen...