Greetings, beer lovers, and welcome to another installment in the continuing saga of craft beer. Today we’re going to focus our attention on N’Ice Chouffe, a winter seasonal beer from Brasserie D’Achouffe of Belgium. As I sometimes do, I’m going to use this review as a soapbox to comment on the State of the Brewnuion, if you will. Witness my notes from February 13 of 1999 that I entitled

Adventures in Beer Hunting:

Had to take a ride into CT today, so I naturally stopped at a few liquor stores to browse the beer selections. The first had only a few micros, but they did have Tequiza so I grabbed a six to give it a whirl. Next we headed off to a store in Groton I had been to before, selection was reduced and they had a LOT of out of date stock on hand, but I hit the jackpot with two bottles of Belle Dock Barleywine, this beer hasn't been brewed in years and never will be again, as the brewery has closed. Wish they had had more.

Down the street we found an A&P liquor store, more mostly dusty bottles but
I picked up a six of New England Oatmeal Stout with a best before of January
(no year notched) but not much dust on the bottles. I fumbled through their
cold singles and found a 1994 EKU 28 (I took a chance for a buck) and a lone
bottle of Amstel, not the light but the lager that was recently introduced
but that nobody seemed to have.

After two more stores turned up nothing, I found Yellow Front Wine and Spirits (or something like that) in New London, loads of great beer there,
scored Black Douglas, N'Ice Chouffe, Merlin, Long Trail's new Irish Stout, Old Jock, Harvey's Historic Porter, New England Raspberry Wheat, Freeminer
Deep Shaft Stout
, and some other goodies, there was even more stuff I wanted so I'll definitely be going back. A great store for anyone in the area.

The first takeaway here is that this was the very first time I scored a bottle of N’Ice Chouffe. The second is that I didn’t take any notes on it, but foolishly took notes on Tequiza instead. The third is that the liquor store in question was (and still is) Gordon’s Yellow Front Wines & Liquors at 177 Colman Street in New London. If you’re in the area, go there. The last point worth making is that craft beer moves so well today that I rarely come across old dusty bottles anymore, and I have a much easier time finding N’Ice Chouffe.

From the label:

N’Ice Chouffe, limited edition, brewed only once each winter by Brasserie D’Achouffe in the heart of the Ardennes Forest of Belgium. Brasserie D’Achouffe began brewing this intensely complex bottle conditioned ale in 1993. This deep dark winter warmer is rich in taste, spicy, full of complex fruity, berrylike, vinous flavors that are complimented (sic) by malt overtones. N’Ice Chouffe is brewed from: water, malted barley, hops, thyme & dried orange peel and a lot of dark candy-sugar. Beer enthusiasts may wish to cellar this bottle immediately for enjoyment in the years to come or serve at 60 degrees F as an after dinner drink.

Interestingly, I did indeed cellar the bottle I’m reviewing this evening for a year. It has a suggested best by date of June 2016 on the label; I bought it in December of 2014. The beer has an alcohol content of 10% by volume so should age even beyond the year I saved mine. It’s a bit steep in price at $15.99 a 4-pack. That might keep me from buying this beer as often as I’d like, but it won’t keep me from buying it.

Interestingly enough, Chouffe beer has its own song. Click the link to hear it.

Nice Chouffe pours to a ruddy brown color with a medium head formation and a dark malty nose laced with savory thyme. Taking a sip, the beer is dark malty up front with delightful nutty notes, subtle hints of chocolate, yeasty fruity goodness and a note of raisin. The savory thyme quickly balances all that out though and the beer finishes rich with spice. There’s plenty of warming alcohol too. The citrus barely pokes through at the end and that’s the only place I really detect it.

A truly wonderful winter beer and, really, a nice chouffe indeed. Great for sipping on a cold evening, with only a half star demerit for the high price.