For more than a dozen years now the first beer I drink on Christmas Eve is Duchesse de Bourgogne. It is followed by a second bottle.
The tradition started on a holiday before I was fully writing about beer, had a few extra dollars in my pocket, and wanted to expand my beer horizons past hops or lagers. The label, a portrait of the Mary, the Duchess of Burgundy, is a familiar site around the world, and is the flagship offering from Brouwerij Verhaeghe in West Flanders, Belgium.
Flanders Red is not too common a style and can be difficult to make well. The base of rich roast malts and aged hops along with ambient yeast helps give the beer its distinctive taste. The final product is a blend of 18-month old and 8-month old double, and spontaneously fermented ales that is aged in oak casks. There is also a cherry adjunct version of the beer available, as well as a low ABV “petit” offering in some markets, but I suggest sticking with the original.
I was so taken by this beer those many years ago and come back to it annually, if not sooner. It is among my favorite beers. In fact, I included it in my roundup for the CAMRA book World’s Greatest Beers.
Poured into a chalice, this complex tart ale has aromas and flavors of black cherry, toffee and balsamic vinegar. It is medium bodied and smooth, with a neat little dry finish that tickles the salvatory glands. It is artful and filled with so many layers that working through a four pack will reveal new flavors or suggestions with each one.
Suitable whenever the mood strikes, this appeals to my inner Christmas nature. It can be paired with fruit cake and roasts, or just spending a little time with this beer in the quiet of the evening helps put the holiday into perspective, almost demanding that I slow down a bit and get lost in the twinkle of the lights on the tree. I always welcome the experience.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
This beer reminds me of my favorite Christmas song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
“Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on your troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on your troubles will be miles away
Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow. Hang a shining star upon the highest bow.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”Song written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane.
Wishing you all something great in your glass, wonderful company to share it with, the peace of the season, and a very happy and prosperous new year.