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Beer Review: Dupont Speciale Belge

Belgian brewery collaborates for the first time
by Danya Henninger on May 17, 2012 in Beer

Collaborations between brewers have become relatively common in the U.S., but this spring Brasserie Dupont is releasing the first jointly-created beer in its illustrious 166-year history. Dupont Spéciale Belge was brewed by Olivier Dedeycker at the Rimaux-De Ridder farm in Belgium over the winter, in partnership with brewmaster Chris LaPierre of Iron Hill Brewery in Maple Shade, NJ. The special edition label will be released for the first time at Philly Beer Week, taking place June 1–10, and will then be distributed nationwide via Belgian experts Vanberg & DeWulf.

We had a chance to sample a glass or two of the amber ale during a press event at Philadelphia’s Four Seasons Hotel. Poured from a 750-ml bottle into a long tulip glass, the 5.75% ABV brew holds a prodigious white head, which takes several minutes to even begin to dissipate. The frothy top is carrier of a complex nose, slightly sour and reminiscent of “funky horse blanket,” in the words of PBW executive director Don Russell.

In fact, the first few sips are overly sour tasting, thanks to the thick head, which slides along the glass with very little lacing. But when you get past the beginning stage, as the beer warms ever so slightly, the tart flavors begin to shine. Unusual for the style — and at the request of PBW co-chair Tom Peters — Spéciale Belge includes smoked malt, which lays on top of the slightly fruity body to create a layered taste with each swallow. Thanks to the use of signature Dupont yeast, which is known for its dryness, the golden liquid is not sweet and the finish is appropriately refreshing. This is a beer that grows on you as you make your way through the quaff.

The first official tapping of Spéciale Belge will take place on Friday, June 1 during PBW opening ceremonies across from the Liberty Bell on Independence Mall in Philadelphia. The ceremony is free to attend, and tickets to the subsequent Opening Tap festival are $40 each. Look for the new collab brew in bottles and kegs wherever good Belgian beer is sold after June 10, 2012.

Photos by Danya Henninger

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