Merry Christmas one and all. We’ve come to the end of the 12 Beers of Christmas 2013, and have saved the best for last.
Introduced in 1970 as an in-house end-of-year gift to employees and good customers (the name translates as “With best wishes”), Avec les Bons Voeux was too good a beer to keep under wraps for long. Although pegged as a winter seasonal, it’s actually produced year-round in limited quantities, and is available across the U.S. in about 20 states, imported by Vanberg & DeWulf.
From the brewery that gives us one of the world’s great saisons, Saison Dupont, Avec les Bons Voeux is of the same family, but packing a heavier punch. In the nomenclature of the day it might be termed an Imperial Saison, but for those who disdain the nomenclature of the day, just call it a strong saison.
This corked and caged brew is unfiltered and a hazy orange in the glass, giving off absolutely alluring aromas—sweet and fruity—lemon, apple, plum, apricot, with perhaps the faintest whiff of anise. The taste follows through, but the sensation is of a highly effervescent brew that scours the mouth, adds some minerality, pepper and a trace of funk, and finishes as dry and tart as champagne. But keep your champagne, I’ll have the Dupont.
After a raucous day of tearing into Christmas gifts and then tearing around the house playing the Lazer Tag game we’d given the grandchildren, we popped open the beer as a dinner aperitif. If strong, it still works perfectly in the role.
We’re not against letting youngsters sample alcohol—better than treating it as some forbidden bugaboo (that then becomes irresistible to try before they become of legal age). My oldest granddaughter, Abby, tried both a martini and the beer. Her succinct review of the beer: “Better than the martini.”
Everyone else found it most appealing, and all too easily drinkable for a beer of this strength, so tread carefully.
We took a break with dinner–pasta and meat sauce with sausages and meatballs as the main course, another amazing Lynn Bedell spread. For this the more local Berkshire Brewing Company’s Holidale Barleywine Style Ale did the trick.
After a visit to nearby relatives for more present-opening and dessert, it was back to the house to collapse, most of the gang watching or dozing in front of the newly-acquired “Elf.” Me to the keyboard, along with the evening’s digestif and nightcap of another Avec les Bon Voeux. (So much for the plan of cellaring the beer.) It worked perfectly—is working perfectly—in this role, too, as well as a fitting end to this year’s survey of a dozen beers for Christmas.
So, avec les bons voeux, à la prochaine mes amis!
Name: Avec les Bon Voeux
Brewer: La Brasserie Dupont, Tourpes, Belgium
Availability: Year-round, broadly across the U.S. in about 20 states
For More Information: www.brasserie-dupont.com or http://belgianexperts.com