Today’s pairing has one of our favorite saisons from Japan in the Tamamura Honten saison one against the classic Belgian saison, the Brasserie Dupont Saison Dupont. Of course it might be hard for anything to live up to the Saison Dupont but we do like the Yama-Bushi saison series from Tamamura Honten, so we’ve decided to do a comparison tasting.
Tamamura Honten Yama-Bushi saison one (山伏 壱)
Package: 750mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 25
Pour – Gold, good carbonation, creamy, head stays
Aroma – Yeast, funk, citrus, wheat, sweet, nice grassy smell
Flavor – Wheat is very prominent, grainy, some yeast and grass, a burst of sweetness in the middle, creamy, dry grassy finish
First released in 2010, the saison one is a beer full of firsts for Tamamura Honten. It was the first beer in the Yama-Bushi series (which is more Belgian-inspired) by Tamamura Honten, and it was also the first beer that they brewed that was a departure from the American-style beers that they are best known for. It was also their first bottle-conditioned beer that they released.
Ingredient-wise, the saison one was also the first beer they brewed using saison yeast instead of their standard yeast they had been using for all of their beers up to that point (their standard yeast is a relatively clean one to showcase hops and other ingredients). With the hops as well, this was their first beer to use 100% homegrown hops (of the Shinshuwase variety, as we discussed here) – in the past they had used their own hops as aroma hops only, but here they used it from the start for both bittering and aroma.
A couple of more notes on the brewing process – as this is bottled-conditioned, they’ve added sugar, but strictly just for bottle-conditioning and not for any flavor reasons. They do use their homegrown Miyama-nishiki rice though, which will impart a bit of sweetness.
Of course, one thing I haven’t mentioned so far in the ingredient list is wheat – and this beer is very wheaty. There is also a nice grassy component and a slight sweetness with a dry finish, all of which make for a nice, well-rounded beer. As a wine-bottle local-to-Japan regularly-available reasonably-priced saison, I find myself purchasing this one quite often when I want to introduce someone to Japanese craft beer. Deguchiya in Naka-Meguro always stocks it, and I also see at Tanakaya occasionally, so if you haven’t tried it before and you see it it is definitely worth picking up.
Brasserie Dupont Saison Dupont
Package: 750mL bottle
Pour – Cloudy gold, also high carbonation, very very creamy
Aroma – Grassy and earthy, sweet
Flavor – Very soft, yeast, grassy, spicy, dry hop finish
The Brasserie Dupont Saison Dupont is one of those beers that is considered a classic (and kind of the representative Belgian farmhouse ale), and according to Dupont was first brewed in 1844. Of course, the recipe has undergone some changes over the years, but has stayed in it’s current form for quite some time now (by the way, that article is a very long but interesting in-depth look at Brasserie Dupont).
However, although it’s currently a very popular beer, it wasn’t always that way – in fact, before a bit of an American revival, it almost got dropped from the Dupont lineup! There’s an interesting little story about how in the ’80s, before this beer took off in America, sales were flagging, and it took some nudging from the legendary beer writer Michael Jackson to get an American beer importer interested in taking it to the US, which they did, and the rest is history.
And lucky for us, as a result, we can even enjoy that beer here in Japan. The balance and complexity of this beer is great – it’s got a great smooth texture, and aromas and flavors of yeast, grass, and spice. The hop emphasis on the finish is fantastic and really separates it from many other saisons, including the Tamamura Honten saison one.
In short, this is a wonderful beer, and even more amazing, you can find it here in Japan for about 1000 yen (I paid 1058 for mine at Tokyo Liquor Land for a 750mL bottle, and I also saw some 330mL bottles there as well). I also see this sold at various Belgian/European beer places around Tokyo, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find.
Wrapping up, the Saison Dupont is just one of those must-try beers. The Tamamura Honten saison one isn’t quite at that level, but it is quite an interesting beer in it’s own right, and something you don’t see that often – essentially a locally made Belgian saison that is quite faithful to the style but also has its uniquely Japanese characteristics. Admittedly we’re suckers for saisons but we don’t hesitate to highly recommend both of these beers.