Brightman: Treat yourself to Pretty Things

By Emily Brightman

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The most prominent feature of any product from Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project is the packaging. With whimsical scenes straight out of fairy tales and brews with such mythical names as “Baba Yaga” and “Sisyphus,” it’s hard to resist the kitschy charm of this small brewing operation.

Pretty Things makes it very clear that it is not a typical brewing company. Captained by Dann and Martha Paquette, Pretty Things is a “tenant brewing” business, meaning they do all the brewing themselves in a rented facility without the help of other professional brewers.

In fact, just about everything from Pretty Things is rebelliously do-it-yourself, from the actual brewing (done by Dann, a lifelong brewmaster) to the labels (done by Martha) to the packaging, promoting and shipping. Pretty Things is the renegade New England brewery, churning out some of the most delicious elixirs this side of Somerville and all while making it seem like mere child’s play.

Jack D’Or, pronounced “Jack Door,” is the flagship beer of the brewery and is made year round. This brew is called a “Saison Americain,” translated as “table beer,” though the taste is delicious no matter where it is consumed. Saison beers have slowly been gaining popularity in the micro-brewing world for their citrusy undertones and dry taste, making them an ideal summer companion but nonetheless satisfying throughout the whole year.

The Jack D’Or Saison pours out cloudy saffron yellow with a creamy white head giving it the appearance of a standard IPA, but the taste is anything but standard. The first sip is sharp and bitter with a powerful blast of hops, but a few more swigs of this golden potion reveals its underlying complexity: A big burst of citrus flavors coupled with spices and tangy fruit notes and, with four different strains of yeast thrown into the mix, a dry taste that is simultaneously refreshing and aromatic.

The most surprising thing about this taste composition is the fact that there is absolutely no citrus or spices involved in the brewing process; the brewers use only the most basic ingredients (malt, hops, yeast and rye) but merge them together with some kind of secret alchemy to create a swirling palette of decadent tastes.

With so many different levels of flavor, Jack D’Or can be a bit overwhelming but its mixture of tastes lends well to complement many foods, particularly Italian or Mexican cuisine, or any dish that goes heavy on the spices. For an added kick try swilling this delicious brew with a twist of lemon or orange; the lack of citrus in the brewing process leaves ample opportunity for the drinker to experiment with their own flavor enhancers.

Jack D’Or is a refreshing treat for the fan of micro-brews that is looking for something new and exotic, but might be a little too strong for those unaccustomed to the complexities of craft beer. Though the cartoonish label suggests a fanciful romp through sunlit forests, the reality of this strange brew is more like a plunge headfirst down the rabbit hole into a wonderland of unusual flavors.

The Jack D’Or Saison is among the more intriguing beers I have come across in my experience as a beer connoisseur and I would highly recommend it to fans of strong IPAs like Sierra Nevada or citrus-laden brews like Shock Top as Jack D’Or combines the best of both of these beers with its own mysterious elements of deliciousness. If corporate beer has you mourning the lost art of home-brewing, then treat yourself to some Pretty Things; you know you deserve it.

Emily A. Brightman can be reached at [email protected]