Brasserie Au Baron - Cuvée des Jonquilles
Serving Temperature:45-50° F
This Bière de Garde represents a relatively rare “blonde” variant of the style—we’re accustomed to our BdG’s favoring amber coloration, so we were pleased when we came across this unusual version, as blonde BdG’s are pretty tough to come by. Use caution when popping the cork—we’ve got a live one here! Make sure the beer has had time to settle in the fridge for at least a day or two after shipping. Even after settling, expect a pop from the cork. The ample carbonation means the beer will turn up fairly hazy in the glass, showcasing a straw/butterscotch color. Begins with a mousse-like, brilliantly white head that changes textures over time, becoming more dense and ever-present as a steady stream of carbonation emanates from the nucleated stem of our tulip-shaped sampling glasses. Is it inappropriate to use a tulip glass for a daffodil beer? Well, not to worry, we don’t actually have such a dainty dilemma, because despite the name (‘jonquilles’ means daffodils in French), the beer is not brewed with daffodils. Instead, the floral reference is a nod to the bucolic country setting where this beer is made. Flowers or not, there is quite the bouquet to enjoy. Ah, fresh farmhouse ale—there’s something so refreshing and inviting about that aroma—we can imagine how welcomed these beers would be by the farmhands who got to take their share at the end of the day. Expect notes of wet hay, fresh cut grass, and gentle yeasty spiciness. There’s a healthy flutter of clean citrus notes and subtle candi sugars, along with notes of pear, while a sweet malty backdrop balances the impression of dryness. The flavor profile offers a generous peppery spice, fruit and earthiness, along with notes of noble hops. Fruit remains pear-focused, like the aroma, but an unexpected green grape character sneaks in and shakes things up. Look for a bit of a wheaty twang to introduce a touch of tartness amidst the soft yet deep maltiness, adding another layer of complexity to the profile, along with delicate Franco-Belgian yeasty phenolics. The beer finishes on the earthy side, a bit dry and rather plantain-like, with a pleasant linger of red apples in the fade.
In summary: remarkably approachable, yet anything but pedestrian. Subtle and sophisticated. A deliciously well-crafted bière de garde here; a beer that the French should be extremely proud of. Try with a Waldorf salad or lobster tail.
Note: this beer will age well, flavor-wise, but it’s quite carbonated as-is and this will increase over time due to the bottle-conditioning, so we suggest drinking this within 6-months, definitely using added caution if you wait longer; pop the cork with care, and have a deep glass immediately at the ready to catch the foamy overflow that may result.
Literally just a few paces from the Belgian border in the small country town of Gussignies, France (population: approx. 300), Alain Bailleux and family, who are Belgian by blood, established a quaint little restaurant in 1976 that they named “Au Baron.” Focused on classic, grilled, Avesnois-style food and friendly service in a laid-back atmosphere complete with a fireplace, Au Baron serves hungry patrons from Gussignies as well as the surrounding Hogneau Valley area.
In 1989, in a tiny and very tight area near the kitchen, they built a brewery more deserving of a term like ‘nanobrewery’ than ‘microbrewery.’ (The cramped quarters, small output, and attached country eatery reminds us in many ways of the nearby Brasserie de Blaugies, just a short drive to the northeast in Dour, Belgium.) From this super-small, family-run operation boasting old-style copper brewing equipment, they produce three exceptional, hand-crafted, artisanal farmhouse ales: blonde, amber, and brown.
Michael Jackson heralded Au Baron (alternately known as Brasserie Bailleux) as a “revivalist” brewery, and we can’t agree more. Though saison (Belgian) and bière de garde (French) are still very closely related styles, Bailleux’s beers straddle the line more so than most – in some ways a metaphor for the brewery’s position right on the border between the countries, and a trip back to an earlier time when the biggest difference between the styles was quite likely just the name.
Finding these beers is a very tall order even in France, and they’re even rarer here in the U.S. as only a trickle finds its way to our shores each year. It’s our distinct pleasure to offer our members Au Baron’s extraordinary blonde offering (and flagship beer), Cuvée des Jonquilles.
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