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Pretty Things Jack D’Or

By Andy Murphy
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Let me start with a word of thanks to reader mbschm for recommending I check into the brewings of Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project. mbschm met Pretty Things brewer Dann Paquette at a tasting at Whole Foods near Boston and was quite impressed with the beer.

And I’m quite impressed with the Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project too; it’s a business that seems to express the blend of creativity and passion required for crafting interesting and compelling beer. There’s artistry in brewing, and a quick perusal of his website confirms there’s artistry in Dann. (And that’s before you even try the beer.) Dann and his wife (and business partner) Martha live in Cambridge, MA but rent space at the Paper City Brewing Company in Holyoke, MA. Pretty Things could have chosen to be a contract brewer, but Dann drives the 90 miles to Holyoke to brew the beer himself. Artists may have assistants, but they’d never relinquish control.

Jack D’Or is the brewery’s flagship beer, but — experimentation and creativity going hand in hand — the recipe is being tweaked from batch to batch. My bottle is “Batch Two”, bottled March 2009. I picked it up over a month ago, so the version you’ll find in stores today is “Batch Three”. Playfully called a “Saison Americain”, this take on the traditional pale Belgian farmhouse ale seeks to be an easy drinking, everyday beer — a table beer to be enjoyed with food.

The label features a character named “Jack D’Or”, or Jack of Gold. Jack is a grain of malted barley (with a huge handlebar mustache), depicted in a wooden mash tun while “conjuring himself into beer”.

But enough about style — let’s move on to substance.

Jack D’Or’s pour created a huge, lasting white head that rested regally above a hazy, golden-yellow body. The beer created a fresh aroma: lemony, floral and lightly spicy. My nose kept returning to the mouth of my tulip glass to take another nip of the pleasant, summery, warm aroma. I’m convinced I smelled coriander, but no spices were added to this beer.

As for the taste, Jack D’Or is surprisingly tart and crisp. The taste has many of the same qualities as the aroma — citrus, lightly sweet, delicate spice — with the welcome addition of bitterness from a blend of four hops. Jack D’Or has a soft feel in your mouth, well-carbonated, and dry on the finish with a lingering but energetic bitterness. I had initially reserved the yeast resting at the bottom of the bottle, but I add it to my glass when I was down to the last several sips. The result was a fuller and more bitter beer.

The beer, and the philosophy behind the brewery, seems well summed up by the “Jack D’Or poem“:

Hops and yeast and malted grain
Are rich in heart, and life, and pain:
The hops are jagged weeds of spite,
That blunt the sugars, try to bite:
But Jack of Gold does quell their sting
Uniting All The Pretty Things

So once again, a big thanks goes out to mbschm for recommending I check into Pretty Things, and I will pass his recommendation along to all of you in the Boston area. Dann and Martha’s “Saint Botolph’s Town” will be my next bottle from Pretty Things, and I plan to drink that “rustic dark ale” next weekend.

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