Tag Archives: Winter

#83 – Bush de Noel

#83 - Bush de Noel

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 12 %

Bush de Noel represents the first Christmas beer on my journey. If you are going to stock up on rare winter beers for your cellar, then the winter months are the ideal time to do so, as there are many rare specials made by breweries which normally suit the cold winter months. There tends to be a good number of reasons why the seasonal winter beers are brewed, and I will run through these below.

Firstly, and probably the original reason, is that of practicality. The late summer harvest usually ends up leaving plentiful supplies of grain, and the old stocks simply need to be used. Coupled with the need to provide enough beer through the winter months, this additional brew is just common sense really.

The second reason really stems from the first, in that it gives the brewery the opportunity to make a beer that is well suited to the winter conditions. In the cold weather, there is nothing more warming on a bleak night than to be tucked up by the fire with a strong dark beer full of spices and fruit. Not all Christmas beers fit this description, but many do. The spices vary and often include cinnamon, allspice, ginger or nutmeg and variations of dried fruit. Often breweries try to replicate Christmas treats such as mince pies in the liquid form.

This also gives the brewery a third reason – that of marketing. Customers like to try new beers, and the winter months tend to give the good craft brewer a great reason to experiment. Winter beers can often vary every year as the creative brewer tries to find great new recipes that might end up becoming a popular year-round brew. These Christmas beers are then often showcased at a winter beer festival, like the one in Essen.

Brewers see these as a Christmas present to their customers. Most tend to use more ingredients in these Christmas beers, and as the beers tend to be stronger, there is a higher levy of duty to be paid to the taxman. Brewers, particularly in Germany, argue that there is not so much money to be made on Christmas beers, and therefore this is their gift for their customers loyalty. Whatever way you look at it, if you are planning a raid on the Belgian countryside to stock up, this is the time to do it !

The Bush de Noel may be small but it is potent at a steaming 12%. It has a dark red-amber colour which is attained by adding caramel malt in large quantities. The beer is also quite bitter which is achieved by dry-hopping while the beer rests. It is one of the more recognised Christmas beers and can often be found in the UK and in many Belgian drankencentrums. It has been doing the rounds since 1991 believe it or not. It was fairly pleasant, but like most beers from Dubuisson it was over just too soon, which considering its flat appearance wasn’t a major worry. It reminded me rather oddly of the colour of water that is left to rot in a car radiator for years – dark and coppery. It is strong this beer, and ideal for a winter night in, but I’m sure there are so many christmas beers better than this !

(Post-Script) – interestingly the little house on the label covered in snow is the main Dubuisson brewery on the main Pipaix road.

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Filed under 7, Belgian Strong Ale, Christmas Beer, Dubuisson

#71 – Saison Dupont

#71 - Saison Dupont

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 6.5 %

I spent the evening in the Lowlander near Fenchurch Street (now sadly closed) in London for a spot of dinner and took the opportunity to get my hands on another couple of beers that I didn’t have in my cellar. I started proceedings with the Saison Dupont – something of a classic apparently. In fact in the magazine Mens Journal in July 2005, it was named ‘the Best Beer in the World’.

Saison Dupont is traditionally a seasonal beer from French-speaking Wallonia – the saison in the title is the french term for ‘season’ – and refers to the fact that in olden days these types of beer were traditionally brewed in autumn or winter, but only for consumption during the summer months. These were your real working class beers, in that they were brewed for the farmhands to drink while working in order to quench their thirst. For that reason they needed to be low in alcohol and able to be stored throughout the winter. While our modern day farm hands would probably reel at the thought of working in the fields and drinking alcohol all day, it is worth remembering that the water in rural areas in the 1800’s was of a dubious quality.

It is also worth noting that in the past, refrigeration was the luxury not of the poor, and so during the summer the beer would likely spoil, and so Autumn and Winter were the best seasons for producing the workers’ beer. It had to be strong enough not to weaken over the next six months, yet as we mentioned before, moderate enough not to inebriate the workforce. The beers were also highly hopped so as to ensure they preserved as long as possible.

There is no official style to describe a saison beer, although of the various breweries that do indeed produce one, they all tend to try and copy the success of Dupont. The saison of the 21st century will still tend to be well hopped and dry, yet much stronger. Without the refrigeration issues faced by the traditional ‘saisoners’ most saisons are bottle fermented now, where complicated styles of yeast are added to give their beers the unique flavours, which is where the Saison Dupont leads from the front.

The beer itself certainly quenched my thirst after a long day at the office, and I can only echo the views of the masses in that this beer is delicious. It poured a cloudy amber, and smelt remarkable, with plenty of fizz and head. There were hints of citrus and other unnameable fruits to accompany the hops, and I found it hard to concentrate on the conversation with this little beer at my side. I vowed next time to drink this alone on a warm day outside and really get to grips with it.

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Filed under 8, Dupont, Saison

#48 – Barbar Winter Bok

#48 - Barbar Winter Bok

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 8 %

This was the last chance for a Barbar beer to redeem itself in my eyes – the darker version which is marketed as a brown ale that also contains 2.5% honey. The label suggests that the warrior needs to rest in winter as well, and that Lefebvre has produced a beer available in the dark months from October to February. How thoughtful of them!

At least this gives us an insight into the naming of the beer, and it is clear that Barbar refers to the warrior, or the barbarian. The general definition of a barbarian is that of an uncivilised person or a cruel savage person with a penchance for warmongering. Whatever the final definition it would seem the etymology originally came from the Greek for ‘not-Greek’, and the structure of ‘bar-bar’ as an onomatopoeic representation of a language not clearly understood ie ‘blah blah’, may hint at how the saying “well, its all Greek to me?” came about.

The label clearly defines Lefebvre’s view of what a barbarian warrior might look like, but it is fair to look back in the history of the Middle Ages and associate beer with what could loosely be termed as barbarians. Once wine became imported from the Mediterranean, beer took something of a back seat, as a cheap and readily available drink. This is no different probably now if one considers the comparison between a wine bar/bistro and a pub. I would argue that Belgian beers are definitely bridging the gap for those that want something just that little bit classier or tastier, although I would suggest that Barbar Winter Bok isn’t there yet.

This was the latter beer to celebrate the start of my prolonged period of annual leave . Relaxation of this nature however deserved a better beer. The final Barbar for me, and really can’t see what all the fuss is about. The pour promised much with an ebony gush and a thickset head that looked too good to be true. There were certainly deep and dark flavours in this beer, and it was better than the honey blonde (#19), but it just lacked authenticity – being largely synthetic in its genetics. I could have scored it higher but felt let down by Lefebvre on the brand. There are plenty of dark beers around with plenty more bite than this. More Librarian than Barbarian !

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Filed under 6, Dunkler Bock, Lefebvre