Wednesday, December 14, 2011

500. Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien 2006

Our 500th beer. Dag. Well, I guess it’s time to go fancy. Described on the label as a Swiss Ale de Garde aged in oak barrels, this bottle of Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien was brewed by Jérôme Rebetez at Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes in Jura, Switzerland. Which also makes this our first Swiss beer, unless I am mistaken (and upon checking, I’m not, although I did make a sweet Switzerland joke here).

Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien pours a hazy and slightly muddy caramel, although chestnut might also be appropriate. It also has some red hints to it as well. The head is thin and white, and barely hung around long enough for this picture. A thin ring is maintained around the edge of the glass by the tiny white bubbles wending their way through the beer. The nose is tart and sharp—it made my mouth water just from smelling it. There is also some dark fruit behind the acetic sharpness, and a touch of alcohol. When we first opened it, there was a brief perfume-y spiciness that dissipated quickly. As it warms, the vinegar becomes more pronounced, but also merges more with the fruit to offer a delightful olfactory treat. Flavors start sweet, sharp, and dry—a pleasant combination of yeast, oak, and age. The acetic acid sharpness is balanced by the residual sweetness in the body, taking on an almost sherry quality as the beer warms. As the initial vinegar tang wanes, the beer further dries on the palate in the middle, allowing both oak and alcohol to emerge in the finish; nonetheless, the sharp tartness continues to linger on the palate well after the other flavors have disappeared. The initial tart bite is enough to bring a slight flush to my cheeks after a couple of sips, allowing the sharp initial snap to blend with the gentler lingering sour flavors and creating a delicious harmony. The alcohol is well-hidden but evident; there is, after all, only so much you can do with a lighter-bodied 11% beer. Elli thinks it would be improved by lowering the alcohol a bit, which I agree with, and that the lingering vinegar sharpness is annoying, which I don’t. Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien could also use an increased complexity of flavors beyond the acetic tartness. While the acidity is subtle and complex, it does get a bit one-dimensional by about two-thirds of the way through the bottle, and added warmth tends to further flatten the other characteristics. Nonetheless, a solid and interesting beer—some of the 2010 just turned up at Belmont Party Supply, so I may have to buy a bottle of that to salt away for future posterity. And here’s to 500 more!

From the Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes website: “L’Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien, Strong sour ale, 11% vol. est un réel OVNI, c’est une bière brassée en l’honneur de l’ancienne chatte de la brasserie, sanctifiée lors de sa disparition. Cette cuvée aux reflets rouges-ambrés est mûrie pendant de longs mois dans des fûts de chêne ayant déjà contenu du vin ou des eaux-de-vie. Ces fûts donneront des arômes très complexes à cette bière. En bouche, elle rappelle la trame d’un vin rouge fruité avec une acidité très marquée.”

ABV: 11%
No. on bottle: 00276
Brewed: 2006
Blended: April 2007


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