In his book, Beer Companion, Michael Jackson commented on the budding interest in the Belgian style of wheat beers in the U.S. and elsewhere, and wrote that “perhaps an acute traditionalist will bring back the use of figs as a fermentable material.” This one’s for you, Beer Hunter. Darbyste is named after John Nelson Darby, preacher of temperance and father of Dispensationalism. His parishioners were said to be oddly moved by a ‘soft drink’ they insisted was just fig juice. A variant of the Belgian “Wit” or “Blanche” style, but a little drier and considerably more flavorful, Darbyste is a saison made with wheat and fermented with fig juice. It hits the glass cloudy and medium amber in color, with a permanently present ecru head. On the nose, expect fruits with lots of tartness and funkiness. Not surprisingly, the aroma smacks of figs, with notes of raisin, pear and red grapes rounding things out. Some sugar on the nose as well. On the palate, things get quite interesting. According to Michael Jackson, himself a fan of this beer, “the figs are not evident in the flavor, which is light, lemony and dry.” Clean, fresh fruits blossom and grow as it warms, offering up sweetness atop a backdrop of relatively tart, unripe fruit. Expect a bit of a surge from your salivary glands with this one; it really is like you’re biting into some under ripened stone fruits. A brettanomyces-style funkiness shows up pretty early and hangs on, with a moderate acidity working in the finish to balance the sweeter, juicy fruit notes. Giving it a good swirl in the glass after it acclimates to the room a bit conjures up some herbal, earthy hop aromatics—very nice. What we like most about this beer are two things: it’s got a big, chewy, beery middle—so often fruit beers drift from tasting like beer—and it’s ripe with flavor yet stays at a manageable alcohol content, making it pretty easy to polish off a bottle. This beer will maintain its quality for a decent length of time in the bottle, but being of modest ABV, your best bet is to enjoy this one within six-to-eight months of receipt. Fruity, funky, flavorful and sessionable; can’t beat a combo like that. Darbyste is delicious with ultra soft cheeses like triple-cream Explorateur, which we just happen to be featuring in our Gourmet Cheese of the Month Club this coming September—think about adding on a few months worth of selections from that club—it’s a great way to enhance your upcoming rounds of beer from The Rare Beer Club—beer and cheese are a natural pairing. Check out www.cheesemonthclub.com for more information.