Avec Les Bons Voeux
Brasserie Dupont — Tourpes, Wallonia, Belgium
[Strong Holiday Saison – 9.5% ABV]
Dupont needs little introduction for those with an interest in Belgian beer. In reflecting on the provenance and characteristics of classic Belgian saison in his Great Beers of Belgium, our Club's founder Michael Jackson wrote, "The most famous Saison strain is that of the Dupont brewery. 'A brewer with the Dupont yeast is touched by God,' I was told by a proud possessor." It's pretty difficult not to be enamored by the beers of Brasserie Dupont, a brewery that under the direction of 4th generation family brewer, Olivier Dedeycker, continues to offer benchmark versions of traditional Belgian ales as well as more unusual offerings such as Posca Rustica, a Gallo-Roman gruit beer we were excited to feature back in 2011.
We've had the opportunity to sample many different limited releases from Brasserie Dupont over the years-but we always make a point to keep coming back to one in particular. We're huge fans of Dupont's seasonal, limited-release Avec Les Bons Voeux: a gloriously generous "super saison" that is crisp and massive all at once. The aroma is generous and complex, and Dupont's crackling, peppery house yeast is all over this, offering phenolic white pepper notes plus a touch of clove-held aloft by pillowy sourdough, vanilla, almond and candied orange. There's an abundance of fruit, all the way from fresh apple and banana to elements more like sweet lemon. Everything about the aroma follows through in the flavor, bolstered by toasty notes, and an effervescent, lifting carbonation that lands right beside the pepper. Despite its complexity and big ABV, Avec Les Bons Voeux remains incredibly drinkable; it's a hefty, robust saison that somehow manages to stay refreshing and vibrant all at the same time!
Monk's Cafe Grand Cru
Brouwerij Van Steenberge — Ertvelde, East Flanders, Belgium
[Blended Flemish Sour Ale - 5.5% ABV]
Brouwerij Van Steenberge has been a family brewery since its founding in 1874. Today, under the direction of 5th generation brewer Paul Van Steenberge, the brewery produces some very highly acclaimed beers, most quite difficult to find (you may have come across their famed Piraat, as well as their classic Gulden Draak beers). Some of our long-time Rare Beer Club members might recall Witches' Brew: the brewery's delicious tripel that we featured some years back. This time around: we snatched up one of Van Steenberge's limited-edition, barely distributed products for our members-the highly limited Monk's Cafe Grand Cru, a very small one-off release with only about 50 twelve-bottle cases making it to the U.S. outside of the club.
Monk's Cafe Grand Cru starts as a blend of 3-year-aged and fresh tripels, before being aged for six months inside of oak casks. Right before things get bottled, a high-fermented lager gets blended in as well to bring the ABV down to a refreshing 5.5%. Pouring a caramelized amber color, it offers a ton of aromatic expressiveness: vibrant red fruits, streamlined & refreshing sourness, accompanying notes of caramel, cola, and subtle hints of brown sugar. This blended release is one of the most engaging examples of the style we've encountered in what feels like forever-and the aromatics come through with all kinds of engaging fruit, nicely orchestrated tartness, and complexity that just keeps going. There's just the right level of carbonation, along with a rich, honeyed character, plus additional layers of maltiness beyond the expected, including notes of brown sugar, figs and dates. The subtle oak influence provides a hint of vanilla and welcome tannic structure. There's an immense amount of fermentation character, fruit and caramel, plus just a ton of flavor for this modestly sized beer.