Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien

The Crew at Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes (Courtesy of the BFM website)

by C. C. Hansen

Frazzled from grading papers and making plans for distant climes, Eleanor and Chauncey decided to have someone else make their dinner. In typical fashion, they debated take-out vs. eat in. After half an hour, eat-in won. Then the question was: where to go? Criteria included an option to enjoy a Manhattan, pub or brasserie with a kitchen, non-scuzzy surroundings, non-challenging clientele, and not too far of a drive. After hoping to come up with someplace new, after another hour of brainstorming, the pair decided that, actually, one of their usual haunts was probably the best place on that particular evening. So, We’re Pouring is what they decided.

Right off the bat, they had to give up their Manhattan option. Just beer, and maybe one or two choices of white and red wine at We’re Pouring. The menu is adequate, and the beer selection extensive, but the last couple of times Chauncey and Eleanor have been to We’re Pouring, the Hazy IPA selection has been poor. No problem for Chauncey. An issue for Eleanor.

When Bob the Bartender came around to ask, What’s your poison? Eleanor decided to go with Citradical, from Riip Brewing of Huntington Beach. Turns out, it was a hazy pale ale, not — as she had assumed — a hazy India pale ale.

When Bob turned to Chauncey, he panicked and froze. “What do you recommend on the first column?” he asked Bob. Chauncey could see that there were some sours, and that style is what he’d been “studying” for a while. (See the SCCB Blogger’s column on “Sour Beer Genies“)

Bzzhrtslaltkd,” is what Chauncey heard Bob say.

“Okay, that’s what I’ll have then,” said Chauncey without missing a beat.

“Good choice. It’s my favorite right now,” affirmed Bob.

Eleanor was a little bit disappointed with Citradical. “Explodes with radical citra bodaciousness!” the Riip website insisted, Eleanor wasn’t sure. (“Citra,” by the way, is the name of a hop, which “has a strong citrusy profile,” says the Hopslist website, adding, “It has an extraordinary flavor profile of grapefruit, lime and tropical fruits.”)

Chauncey took one sip of the Bzzhrtslaltkd and was in heaven. “Wait — did you hear what Bob the Bartender called this beer?” Chauncey whispered to Eleanor, offering her a sip. “It actually tastes like a Manhattan, doesn’t it?”

“I see why you would say that,” responded Eleanor. “But it’s too sour for me. How did you know that guy’s name is Bob? And isn’t he more of a server than a bartender?”

“Whatever!” Chauncey exploded, exasperated. “Okay, I don’t know his name. But I really want to know what this beer is called.”

Eleanor and Chauncey squinted at the menu board. “Do you think…?” they both said at the same time.

Chauncey wondered, “Does that say red wine sour?” Eleanor nodded. “So it’s Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien?” said Chauncey in mangled French, pronouncing Abbaye like kumbaya. “Is there really a St. Good Dog?” Eleanor shrugged.

Another server happened to sweep by their booth. “Everything good here?” he asked. If Chauncey had to give him a name, it would have been Doug.

Is this a “Biere de garde vieillie en barriques de grands vins rouges” or a Flanders Red Ale from Switzerland?
(Photo courtesy of the BFM website).

“Yeah,” answered Chauncey. “Hey, do you know anything about the brewery that makes this beer?”

“Is that the red wine sour?” queried Doug. Chauncey nodded. “Looks like the brewery is BFM. I don’t know much about them, per se, but all our beer comes from Southern California. Or maybe some from farther north. But all California.” Doug moved on to the next table.

After a few more minutes, Bob came to check on Eleanor and Chauncey. He took Eleanor’s order for the actual Hazy IPA on the board, “Pause for Effect,” from San Diego’s Modern Times. In answer to Chauncey’s question about BFM, Bob speculated, non-committally, “I think it’s somewhere in Europe.”

“The plot thickens,” Chauncey told Eleanor, raising one eyebrow conspiratorily after Bob went to get her “Pause for Effect” and a “Row 2/Hill 56” from Russian River for Chauncey.

Seconds later, Bob came back and informed Eleanor that “Pause for Effect” had tapped out, but Bottle Logic’s Grapefruit IPA, “The Greyhound,” in Bob’s words, “Drinks like a hazy.” Eleanor concurred and thanked Bob for the suggestion. When Bob brought Chauncey a Russian River “STS” pilsner in a really tall, skinny glass, he lifted his other eyebrow. “But I asked for the simcoe pale ale,” he whined.

“Oh, that’s tapped out, too.” Fortunately for Chauncey, Russian River’s pils is one of his favorites, with all kinds of jewel tones on the nose, kind of like a whiff of hard candy in a crystal bowl, circa 1966.

Once the couple paid their bill and got home, Chauncey started DuckDuckGo-ing like a fiend.

From the Beer Advocate he learned that the Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien is classified as a Flanders Red Ale. “Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien is a strong [as in 11% ABV] sour ale of mixed fermentation, aged during a year in old oak wine barrels,” Chauncey read. “The oak aging and the action of wild yeasts confer this beer’s astonishingly wide range of aromas… On the palate, the blend reminds one of fruity red wines with a pronounced balsamic sourness.” Couldn’t that be a way to describe the addition of red vermouth and bitters to whiskey? wondered Chauncey.

He further gleaned that BFM stands for Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes, located in the town of Saignelégier in the Jura mountains of Switzerland. Wikipedia informed him that “the brewery is known for making beers that stray outside traditional beer style guidelines and use unorthodox ingredients” and that BFM was founded in 1997 by a young oenologist called Jérôme Rebetez.

Wait, thinks Chauncey. Jura. That sounds familiar. Don’t we have a friend who married a woman with a vineyard on the French side of the Jura, in the department of Savoie? At the top of this post, as well as below, is a photo from that beautiful part of the world, taken by Chauncey’s daughter Franny, who attended a wedding there many moons ago. Amazing the things that an expertly-brewed beer can bring to mind, isn’t it?

Somewhere in Savoie. (Photo by Franny)

À votre santé

— The So Cal Craft Beer Blogger
(pictured above in Switzerland, “back in the day”)

Instagram: @socalcraftbeer

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