Belgium: Three Saisons for Hogmanay


What to sip for for the New Year, for Hogmanay, as we wait for the baby in the sash to kick the old bearded guy with the staff out of the room as we wait for the odometer of life to click over one more digit?

What better than saison, one of the great ale styles. One, Hennepin, from Ommegang of Cooperstown is one of my favorite sips out of central New York state and actually available at better gas stations in the Albany region for under five buck a 750 ml. [Ed.: …just imagine…] The other two are both made by Brasserie Dupont of Tourpes, Belgium. The simpler 250 ml of Saison Dupont was picked up at the LCBO for the merest farthing while the organic Forêt was at the Finger Lake Beverage Center (right about here) probably for the best part of ten bucks. Forêt says that it is made of 100% organically grown hops and barley, that it was made without pesticides or chemicals (a broad claim if ever there was) and that it was made from filtered artesian well water. That is a lot of talk. One hopes it is for the best. All three are bottle conditioned.

Michael Jackson notes in his early work The World Guide to Beer that saison is a style from south central Belgium which makes it a geographical neighbour to northern France’s slightly funkier bières de garde like La Choulette. To my mind, saison is a celebration of the finest pale malt grown south of the English channel, full of fruit and soft water, perhaps earthy where bières de garde is pungent. Let’s see if my pre-conceived notions are in fact accurate.

Saison Dupont: 8 pm. New Years In Scotland has come. Very nice. Rich and round with masses of dry palt malt. Lively antique gold ale under replenishing white foam. Fruitier on the nose than in the mouth. There is a pronounced graininess to the malt with only the slightest nod to pear fruit perhaps. The yeast is slightly soured milky. There is hop which is dry, twiggy or maybe even straw-like because it is not like twigginess of Fuggles, devoid of English green or German steel.

Hennepin: 9:30 pm. Much fruitier than Saison Dupont, not as bone dry. Golden straw under light white foam. Pear and apricot juicey with some light sultana notes later. Soft water but with a stoney aspect like Riesling. Some nutmeg spiciness to the yeast but primarily creamy. There is a bit of burlap as well but it is a hearty tone that works with the juice rather than something divergent and discordant. One of my favorite brews.

Forêt: 10:30 pm. Golden straw under white foam. Again, drier than Hennepin but a notch fruitier than Saison Dupont. The aroma is burlap and malt, richly earthy organic like early turning spring turf. Quite remarkable. Not so much morish yet pear juicey nonetheless with lots of bread crust, the mustiness (but not dairy sour) of cheese rind with a notch of the potato peel you get in a bières de garde like La Choulette Noël. Hops mainly straw but also some twig and green. A very complex beer.

All in all a worthy session of sharing with folk who say things like “ugh, that tastes weird” and “potato peel?!?!” Saison and bière de garde are not so much an acquired taste as the point of inquiring into the love of ale. There are few other food or drink experiences where the elemental or primal is so undervalued – perhaps sherry but I have bought a half bottle of sherry for many times what a double of saison would cost.

Day Thirty-One: Dangers of Blogging II

[Ed.: Read the GX40 election 2005/06 archives.]

I wrote this over at Ben’s this morning about the relative hugeness of the refusal of Federal finance minister Ralph Goodale to step aside while the RCMP conducts a criminal investigation into a possible leak of information from his department:

It really should be the only thing so far that is huge since the writ dropped. “Beer and popcorn” and a blogging fool were personal stupidities. This is a criminal investigation of a cabinet minister. Is there a problem with the non-stop accusations of the blogosphere that we can no longer tell the difference? Hey – I am going to make a post about that…gimme it back…gimme…it…back (pop!). There.

The dangers of blogging this time is to those invoved in the all scandal all the time crowd that cannot tell a big problem from a little one. So far the GOTCHA moments have been, first, an unkind (but technically correct) comment by a high placed government-side staffer about another party’s proposals on child care and, second, a resignation over a really, really stupid series of blog postings by a slightly less well placed government-side staffer who actually jumped on his sword fairly quickly. These two gotchas add up to zippo.

But Ralph’s situtation is different. For the background of the story, read Stephen Taylor’s post of 15 December. What is being alleged is some sort of leak to the marketplace allowing certain investors to make a bundle before an official announcement. Didn’t Martha do jail time for just saying something like that didn’t happen, regardless of the findings of whether she participated in it?

Lesson for blogosphere: this is what big looks like.


Last time I wrote about this, it was the day before the London bombings but London Mayor Ken Livingston’s comments again remind me of that question of how will we know if this slow war against shadows is over or even changed?

The terror threat faced by London is “fairly disorganised” and involves small groups of disaffected people, according to the capital’s mayor. Ken Livingstone told the BBC London was not the focus of a “great organised international conspiracy with orders flowing down the chain”. But he said there had been 10 attempted attacks since 11 September 2001, two of which had come since the 7 July bombs.

What is the background level for disorganized dissaffected people that you may never remove from society? Is there a difference between, on the one hand, events of terror by international criminal gangs or whatever Al Quada is now and, on the other, events of horror caused by the disorganized and dissaffected? Is that difference such that the state’s right or obligation to monitor mail and email, listen in or worse stop or will that just continue – less noticed or accepted – as well? Or is the plan to drop the hammer once every five or eleven years without real purpose or practical plan for restoration of anything, like dreamy sophomoric murderers in the unfocused post-colonial open season for disorganized dissaffection.

Day Twenty-Nine: The Dangers of Blogging

I parked this over in the sideblog during this time of the great head cold, but the question still has to be asked: was this guy the country’s dumbest blogger? Paul Wells tells us who the guy is (now was.) Forget for a moment the shameful sense of humour and the shoddy use of such humour for one’s political opponents. I cannot believe that the guy did not understand the essentially public nature of the Internet. Well, at least he has fallen on his keyboard as any good soldier who brings shame to the cause should:

A high-ranking official within the Liberal Party of Canada resigned today after he made disparaging comments on his blog about NDP Leader Jack Layton and his wife, NDP candidate Olivia Chow. Mike Klander, executive vice-president of the federal Liberal party’s Ontario wing, stepped down after photographs of Chow, the NDP candidate for the Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina, and a chow chow dog were posted on his blog dated Dec. 9 under the heading “Separated at Birth”…

Stephen Taylor, who is coming out as the star blogger of the CPC in this election, noted this important past of what was posted on the blog in question:

Before Mike Klander took down his blog he posted on December 22nd, apologizing for his offensive comments:

It would appear that more people viewed my blog than the small circle of friends it was intented (sic) for. I apologize if anyone was offended by my comments…they were meant to be in jest. Anyway, I have removed my previous posts…

How can you write a public blog when you are a political figure and not think it will be seen by a lot of members of the public – including those who do not like you? This to me is a stunning revelation. The Liberal Party of Canada should be thanking God that they did not choose to rolled out anything about the information superhighway as a core plank in their platform this time around like they have in the past.

Bad taste plus bad political savvy meeting a seriously poor understanding of the way new technology works.


Never a bad moment when the evil are detained. From The Globe:

London’s Metropolitan Police identified the man as Adel Yahya, 23. He was arrested Tuesday at Gatwick Airport as he got off a flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He was charged with conspiring with four other men, all of whom are awaiting trial over the plot to attack three subway trains and a double-decker bus, “to cause by an explosive substance, explosions of a nature likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property.”

How Much For The Ferry?

Bad news for whoever has a soft spot for the Rochester to Toronto ferry bought by that US city’s Council just this spring:

The city had set aside an $8-million cushion but had to borrow an extra $2-million from ferry operator Bay Ferries Ltd. to keep afloat. On Tuesday night, the City Council voted 7-2 to borrow $11.5-million more to keep the ferry in business next year. Bought for $32-million at auction, the five-story-tall ferry was re-launched June 30 after running for just 11 weeks in 2004…Fewer than 100 passengers had boarded the 774-seat ferry on sailings last month.

I really hope that that was a 100 person per sailing average but, still, there are big problems with spending or borrowing 21 million within the first year on a 32 million investment. To put that in context, 53 million USD is the equivalent of 13.7% of the entire budget [Ed.: watch it – there’s a .pdf under that there link] for the city for the year 2004-05.