We’re not telling you anything you don’t already know when we say the weather sucks. But we would like to enlighten you about an excellent elixir that’ll brighten these oppressive evenings and warm your deadened, draft-chilled soul.
In the tidy hamlet of Achouffe, tucked away in the Belgian Ardennes, stands Brasserie d’Achouffe — a brewery apparently staffed by squat, long-bearded gnomes. You can see them on the bottle of N’Ice Chouffe — a limited-edition ale brewed only in winter — crouched over a glowing campfire, warming themselves in the village square. They needn’t have bothered with the kindling and matches; this hale and hearty ale is enough to drive the chill from all but the stoniest-hearted imbiber. A strong, bottle-fermented ale, brewed with thyme and curaçao peel, N’Ice Chouffe is big and assertive, but sacrifices nothing in the delicate shading of its unique flavors.
It pours dark reddish-brown, capped by an off-white head as deep and recalcitrant as the dirty snow banks outside. The aroma arises as sugar and spice, commingling with faint fruit and herbal notes. The first sip is dry up front and a mite tart. Then there’s a shift: amid the roiling, creamy carbonation, a hint of earthy sweetness — molasses, raisins, dark chocolate, cinnamon — emerges. Just as quickly, it’s gone again as the faint hops and citrus peel reassert themselves for a pleasant, piquant finish. The warmth comes slow and mellow, a by-product of the beer’s well-hidden 10 percent ABV.
A rich and rewarding ale like this can stand alone, of course. But paired with savory cheeses before a meal, or with sumptuous sweets such as chocolate-and-rum balls after, N’Ice is twice as nice.
Available for $8.95 for a 750-ml bottle at Downtown Wine & Spirits, 225 Elm Street, in Somerville. Call (617) 625-7777.