Biere Des Ours and Speciale Noel

By Lisa Variano

Since the fourteenth century the Village of Binche, in the Belgian Province of Hainut has been the home of Belgium's most elaborate celebration, the Shrove Tuesday Carnival. It was here in 1549 that Mary of Hungary, regent of the Netherlands and Sister to the king of Spain held a great festival to celebrate the Spanish conquest of Peru. Each year this week long gala includes copious amounts of fabulous food, entertainment and of course, great beer.

La Brasserie Binchoise which occupies an 18th century malt house is situated on a hill top overlooking the massive towers of a fortification built to protect the town of Binche in the 12th century. The naturally brewed ales of La Binchoise are well suited for special occasions, with many of the champagne like qualities of finely crafted Belgian beers.

The Beer and Tavern Chronicle recently presented two of these beers, Biere Des Ours and Speciale Noel to the judging duo of Ethyl and Lucy for evaluation. Here are their findings.

Biere Des Ours which is French for Beer of the Bears, is a double fermented, bottle conditioned ale brewed with a full pound of locally produced honey per case. A hazy honey gold with a brilliant white head, the ale had a lively effervescence that the judges deemed appropriate for it's style. Appearance was therefore awarded three and one half pints.

Lucy easily picked up a warm honey fragrance accented by hints of fresh orange and lemon. Ethyl also noted a light floral bouquet with a touch of perfume from the higher alcohol content(8.5%). The combination reminded her of the blooming honeysuckle that Lucy, in her gardening negligence, was allowing to overrun the trailer. After a brief spat, initiated by the honeysuckle crack, the ladies were favorably impressed by the aroma which was given four pints.

The judges were delighted by the complex flavors of the honey ale. After sampling it several times they agreed that it had a distinct beginning, middle and end, a veritable parade of taste sensations. The first impression was described by Lucy as a nip of alcohol. Following closely was a gentle honey sweetness that faded away as a slightly tart fruitiness cleaned up the finish. Both Lucy and Ethyl felt that the flavor was so unique and refreshing that they awarded it a full five pints. The total score for the Biere Des Ours, twelve and one half pints out of a possible fifteen.

The second ale, Speciale Noel is also bottle conditioned, unfiltered and double fermented. Like the Bier Des Ours it is bottled in champagne bottles with cork stoppers. A deep garnet ale crowned with a mocha colored head, the appearance won instant praise from the ladies who gave appearance four pints.

A heady blend of vanilla, hops, clove, and malt, the aroma reminded Lucy of Ethyl's famous four alarm fruitcake.(It's rumored that the fruitcake was so drenched with rum that the friction from the plastic wrap caused it to burned for three days). Ethyl agreed that the combination was very festive, after a short discussion aroma was given four and one half pints.

Ethyl described the mixture of flavors as a rich dessert cart in a bottle. Hints of caramel, vanilla, dates, and molasses combined with a full bodied mouth feel and a lingering warmth to earn the Speciale Noel a five pint rating from the judges, bringing the total to thirteen and one half pints. Even though the holidays are long over, Ethyl and Lucy felt that the Speciale Noel would be well suited for any celebration. Lucy declared that it would be the perfect beer for her annual Mardi Gras gala.

Dafoe International, importers of Brasserie La Binchoise ales plan to provide discerning beer enthusiasts with a variety of exceptional products in the near future. For availability in your area contact them at (810) 334-3223.

Biere Des Ours

Appearance - 3 1/2 pints
Aroma 4 pints
Flavor - 5 pints
Total - 12 1/2 pints

Speciale Noel

Appearance - 4 pints
Aroma - 4 1/2 pints
Flavor - 5 pints
Total - 13 1/2 pints