Hidden in the midst of Los Angeles Beer Week was a very small but very special event. It featured two brewers (neither from Los Angeles), and highlighted a beer brewed not just outside of LA but outside of the continent. It took place at a newly opened bar I had not yet heard of, tucked into an open-air back room that, according to its owner, had not yet been fully completed. Few of my fellow beer-friends were present, yet in this foreign space with foreign people was something deliciously familiar.
I refer to Saison Dupont, one of my absolute favorite beers. This is the beer you pick up when you don’t want to make a decision, the beer you gift to friends, and the beer you should absolutely have tried yesterday if you haven’t already. And I’m not alone in my esteem for this quintessential brew. “For a saison-style beer it’s the perfect beer. It’s a desert island beer,” says Tomme Arthur, co-founder and brew master of The Lost Abbey. Arthur has recently collaborated with fourth generation Brasserie Dupont brewer Olivier Dedeycker to create Duex Amis, the collaboration saison using the recipe of Saison Dupont with the twist of American hops. It’s the type of collaboration beer fans get giddy about – and the reason I found myself in the open-air back room of the new Phoenix bar on Third Street.
“I got an email from a representative at Total Beverage and they were looking into a project with Dupont about a collaborative beer and they asked if I’d be interested,” says Arthur. “Of course I said hell yes.” Duex Amis translates to “two friend,” an appropriate title not only because two highly respected breweries with two highly respected brew masters collaborated together; in a way it’s representative of a beer-laden hand shake between the old-world European guard of brewing and the boldness of new American styles and hop usage. Which is why Arthur, who founded Lost Abbey in 2006, was cautious when approaching a collaboration brew with Brasserie Dupont, founded in 1844. “They don’t do collaborative beer, this is not something that they actively participate in,” says Arthur. “How do we bring some sense of American brewing without overstepping our bounds?”
The collaboration took the form of a traditional Saison Dupont with the addition of American hops. “We changed some of the hops as a matter of really showcasing the yeast itself – the American hop project was my contribution. They said to bring whatever American hops I wanted and let’s see what we can do with it,” says Arthur. Brewed in January, the beer is being released in kegs as well as 750ml bottles this month. It contains Amarillo, Simcoe (both found in The Lost Abbey’s annual Carnevale beer), Mosaic, and German Magnum for bittering. “I think they nailed the essence of the beer, it has a lot of qualities that we see in a regular classic Dupont and a little Americana to it without being over the top,” says Arthur.
To promote this new beer, Arthur and Dedeycker took on a nine-day cross-country tour of the US. It was Dedeycker’s first visit to America. I asked Dedeycker about working with Arthur on the brew. “I was really excited to work with Tomme Arthur given that they do great things of course, and he could find very interesting things to do with a collaboration,” says Dedeycker. “Tomme was in charge of the selection of American hops, [because] I don’t know anything about American hops. He shipped the product to us and we didn’t open it until he even arrived at the brewery.”
“I watched Olivier and his head brewer the first time they smelled the Amarillo and Simcoe and their minds were blown,” says Ryan Sweeney, co-owner of The Phoenix, who was present for the collaborative brew at Brasserie Dupont. The beer then, as described by Dedeycker, takes on new notes to the point where the brewery, for the first time in a long time, smelled noticeably different during brewing. But the result of temporary aromatic fluctuation was worthwhile. “It’s a refreshing beer,” says Dedeycker, “the selection of hops that Tomme chose gives a lot of grapefruit and citrus that you’d never find in our beer… a refreshing acidity.”
“They’ve been doing this for a long time,” says Sweeney about the Dupont legacy. “To be willing to take American hops with an American brewer and really change it up – it’s pretty amazing. You’re watching a change in history.”
As the Arthur and Dedeycker gave tasting notes at the head of a long communal table I observed a growing report between them, true to the Duex Amis name. After all, these two brewers had traveled to foreign places with foreign languages, stood in unfamiliar rooms among unfamiliar people to make this collaboration a success. Across continents and among open-fire kettles they worked together in the pursuit of great beer. So if Duex Amis doesn’t represent the propagation of community that can and does transpire thanks to a crazy phenomenon we call beer, then at least take comfort in the fact that it also happens to taste fucking delicious.