Certain breweries can do no wrong in the eyes of beer lovers. While this list is different for every person, Brasseries Dupont is definitely on my list. When they released their Monk Stout last year, I was excited to try the new beer. Now that they’ve participated in their first ever collabortion, I had to have a taste. This week’s Beer of the Week is Brasserie Dupont’s Spéciale Belge.
Spéciale Belge is a smoked interpretation of a classic Belgian beer style known as a “Spéciale,” of which Vieux Temps, Ginder Ale, and DeKoninck are three classic examples – though not the first. These beers have a wonderful and rather recent (at least in Belgian brewing terms) history. For the 1905 Universale Exhibition in Liege, the League of Brewers in Belgium devised a contest with the intent of promoting a genuinely Belgian refreshing amber beer. Up until then, the Belgians were primarily known for dark beers, and the contest was run to compete with the growing influence of German lager, Czech pils, and English ales in the Belgian market. Seventy-three beers were entered into the competition, and the winner was Brasserie de Chateaulineau’s Belgian Faleau. A little more than a century later, here it is again, renewed and – dare we say – improved, a little at Dupont with American input.
Spéciale Belge is a refreshing amber beer, slightly fruity with a lightly caramelized malt flavor, and lightly laced with smoke. Because of the signature Dupont yeast, this is a rather drier take on the style. There is a bit of clove at the beginning and the end.
Spéciale Belge starts on the same note as most brews from Dupont, grassy dry hops that recall memories of rolling fields of grass crackling under the summer sun. This impression fades to a light body and tart acidity that lights up the palate. The smokiness of this beer is less robust than you’d find in a smoked porter or rauchbier and more like the light ash found in a cold hearth. Well roounded, Spéciale Belge finishes with the grassy hops and a yeasty bite.
Spéciale Belge is an intriguing beer as it will make an impression on you in two ways. First, this beer is incredibly unique. Tart and smokey,the vibrancy of the beer compels you to take another sip in search of answes. Yet your curiosity will not be quelled as this is unlike anything you’ve had before.
At the same time, Spéciale Belgeis incredibly familiar. Dupont’s signature is all over this beer and in a blind taste test, I doubt anyone familiar with Brasserie Dupont could fail to identify the brewer.
Readily identifiable but unique, Spéciale Belge really is a special beer. With a release date in early June, look for Spéciale Belge on draft and in bottles in all locations where the Dupont family can currently be found.