The Saison That Changed America

By: Anthony

written on: September 30, 2018

The beginning of the craft beer explosion in the US was an interesting time. Saisons were seen as a limited, special occasion beer - with breweries mostly focused on creating winter spiced beers and releasing them with the name saison. There were a few outliers, such as Allagash Saison, that began putting saisons on the map. But, it wasn't until Jack D'Or, of the, now defunct, Massachusetts based Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, took root that the style became a mainstay in the US. Jack D'Or, simply, was the saison that changed America. Like the founding of the country - Boston's beer scene revolutionized the style in contemporary beer culture.

Jack D'Or took a style that has been around for centuries and made it wholly American. Dann Paquette (co-owner of Pretty Things Beer Project) coined the term Saison Americain, mostly in jest, to describe the type of saison that Jack was. He managed to combine the best of IPAs at the time - the bitter, floral, and earthy West Coast IPA, and the spice and phenolic character of Wallonian saisons. Here, in this unique place and time in Boston, Jack D'Or became an unrelenting force - the saison that changed America. It was one of the most popular beers in Boston until Pretty Things closed its doors and Jack D'Or was laid to rest.

One of my biggest endeavors as a home brewer has been making beers that I want to drink. Jack D'Or was a beer that I always wanted to drink. There isn't much information written about the beer, outside of Dann's original writing on the Beer Advocate beer page. What I was able to ascertain was a basis for building a grain bill and hop bill. However, the yeast is elusive - as it was a blend. With the information at hand, I began to craft a beer that I hoped would do this famed beer right, one that I would enjoy drinking as much as Jack.

The requirements for this beer were simple: bitter, floral, earthy, spicy, and phenolic. The first batch of this beer I produced came close. It had the spice, the bitterness, and the floral and earthy hop aromas. The beer was quite enjoyable to drink, but it wasn't where I wanted it to be yet. Luckily, Dann & Martha Paquette - out of the blue, opened The Brewery of St. Mars of the Desert in Sheffield, England. After reaching out via Instagram messenger, I was given some wide-breadth tips for honing the recipe in - the main hops were Columbus and Nugget, aim for a light bodied beer, and that fermenter shape played an important role.

With that, I tweaked the recipe to get it closer to its namesake, added a pinch of rye, reduced the wheat, and adjusted the hop bill slightly. One big change being made, however, was selecting three strains of Belgian yeast to try and really nail the yeast character and dryness that was missing.

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