Brew Blog: Mudbug Beer

Recently, my business unit scheduled a weekend "team building exercise." I know what you're thinking - ropes courses, name tags and "sharing sessions." Nope. My team (god bless them) rolls a little bit differently. We had a crawfish boil. No, we're not hiring.

Our IT staff hosted and cooked for the event, scheduling it over the full course of the day so as to accommodate the odd schedules of our shift-working colleagues. All we had to do was show up, hang out, and eat mud bugs. I decided that some sort of contribution was appropriate, and so told the guy doing the boiling that I would show up with beer for everyone.

A total lack of planning found me at Spec's on the day of the event, trying to decide on an appropriate selection of beers. I quickly settled on an array of lighter-flavored brews. Fuller, more robust bottles seemed like they'd clash with the crawfish. I wanted something crisp and easy-drinking, yet still flavorful enough to stand up to a spicy boil.

Southern Star Bombshell Blonde, Lefthand Good Juju, Oskar Blues Mama's Little Yella Pils, Real Ale Lost Gold IPA, and Saison Dupont found their way into my cart. I figured that would cover an array of tastes, so that everyone could find something they liked.

By the time we showed up to the party, nobody was eating crawfish, anymore. They were all just sitting around drinking Bud Light and trying to have un-awkward backyard conversations. I tried to interest everyone in a beer, but only had one taker. He selected a bottle of Saison Dupont, and declared it the most interesting beer, and one of the best, he'd ever tried. Be thankful for small victories.

It was actually my first time trying Dupont, which is funny since I've been going through a small saison obsession over the last few months. I understand that it's widely considered to be the definition of the style. I suppose I'm drinking backward, then.

Backward or forward, Saison Dupont is an intriguing beer, from the pour to the finish. Cloudy gold and wildly carbonated, it produces a thick, gauzy head of foam that replenishes admirably through the glass. A funky, heady, spicy mix of aromas makes you take notice. Pears and citrus mingle with coriander and pepper. The smell of rising bread is in there, too, along with some dry hay and a little bit of a plastic smell that could get out of hand, yet doesn't.

That last couple of sentences almost make me wonder why I picked this beer for that Bud Light-drinking crowd. Then again, I'm certain that it would have played off the crawfish perfectly. Grassy, grainy, and brightly spicy, with just a touch of sour, it would cut through the fatty-sweet and spicy-hot crawfish while echoing their flavor in some ways as well. For such a bright, punchy beer, it also has significant depth and nuance.

The funk, in particular, is beguiling. I liken the pleasure of the funk here to something I once heard as a description of certain cured meats as being on "the good side of rot." It's not a flavor that you think you'll like. It tastes almost off, but just enough to be really interesting. It sits insinuatingly under the surface, underscoring the other flavors without overwhelming.

The final result, somehow, is a beer that is at once crisp and delicate, and earthy and robust. Perfect for crawfish. I think I just gave myself an excuse to organize a boil. After all, I still have a bunch of beer picked out for just such an occasion.

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Nicholas L. Hall is a husband and father who earns his keep playing a video game that controls the U.S. power grid. He also writes for the Houston Press about food, booze and music, in an attempt to keep the demons at bay. When he's not busy keeping your lights on, he can usually be found making various messes in the kitchen, with apologies to his wife.
Contact: Nicholas L. Hall