The Brooklyn Growler

"Life is all skittles and beer." — Tom Lehrer

Photodump Friday: This Is Not a Lawnmower Beer

Estrella Damm, Barcelona, Spain.

Pabst Blue Ribbon, Woodbridge, Ill.

Sierra Nevada, Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale, Chico, Calif.

Pretty Things, American Darling Good Time Lager, Cambridge, Mass.

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Pretty Things Jack D’Or Saison: From a Farmhouse to Your House

The Jack D’Or Saison from the Cambridge, Mass.-based Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project is one of those beers comes as near to perfection as possible. I had my first three days ago and have been lusting for another since.

Brewed by the self-proclaimed gypsy brewing company Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, the Jack D’Or is a golden Saison that pours with a creamy head. The smell is yeasty and lemony, while the taste is crisp and hoppy, yet spicy. The beer itself is thick and, though best served cold, gains some complexity as it warms up.

Pretty Things is headed up by the husband and wife team of Dann and Martha Paquette. Dann was formerly brewing beer at a family-owned brewery in Harrogate, England. Because the Pretty Things brewery doesn’t have a physical location, Paquette is free to move around to other breweries where he can develop whatever style suits his fancy. The Jack D’Or is being continually refined. You can see that the bottle I’m reviewing is noted as Batch 16 on the label on its neck (see picture above).

Anyway, Jack D’Or is named after the mustachioed grain of malted barley on the bottle’s label. Jack D’Or is also something of a talisman for the brewery. (You can read more about the inspiration of Jack D’Or on the Pretty Things site.)

Pretty Things refers to the beer as a “Saison Americain.” It’s an American take on beers like Saison DuPont and many Wallonian beers. Saisons are beers that are bottle conditioned and top fermented, which means the yeast gets to work once the brew has been contained in its bottle.

Saisons originated in Wallonia originally, a French-speaking region of Belgium. Like many beers of Belgium, the Saison owes a lot to the ethos of winemaking. The Belgians perfected re-fermentation in the bottle. It’s the same process as champagne (or sparkling wine if you make the bubbly somewhere that isn’t in the Champagne region of France).

Saisons are often described as summer beers. But today they can be enjoyed in any month of the year. The theory is that before refrigeration, brewing often stopped during the warmer months of the year, which meant that there needed to beers available that could retain their flavor over a few months.

In Great Beers of Belgium, beer guru Michael Jackson suggests that “a beer in that tradition would have to be sturdy enough to last the summer, and sufficiently satisfying to reward the farm-workers when the harvest was completed. Or were Saisons simply a brow-cooling aid to the gathering of the grain, vegetables or fruit: both a refresher and a restorative; a pick-me-up for the pickers? That view seems to be gaining currency.”

From the bottle to the beer itself, I just love everything about the Jack D’Or. It has a taste that reminds me a lot of a pilsner, but it’s thick like a stout. This is a heavy, golden brew that has the body of red wine. Bottle conditioning creates some really intense flavors that are pulled purely out of the simple ingredients of grain, yeast, hops, and sugar. The page for Jack D’Or mentions that no spices go into the beer. Yet there is a distinct spicy taste.

Other beers available from Pretty Things include a quadruple Baby Tree, a rustic dark ale called St. Botolph’s Town, and American Darling, which is an American Lager. (More on American Darling in a future post.)

If you’re in Brooklyn, Pretty Things beers are available at the Bell House and Barcade, or for take-away at fine merchants such as Grab and Bierkraft in Park Slope.

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