PERHAPS THIS beer was merely amber once, but age has seen it deepen, darken, and take on a rhubarb cast that presages its earthy density. Its potent aroma strikes early with toffee malt and dried berries (e.g. prune), succeeded by an herbal prickle, slightly spicy hops, and sprinkle of musty yeast. The flavor unfolds in kind: at first sweet and earthy like a rustic cider with some woody depth, almost cloyingly chewy without being full-bodied, it then shifts towards juniper, herbs, and a savory undertone of malt vinegar before a slightly tannic finish. Hops are present in the mix, with bitterness coming less from alpha acids than the drying touch of herbs and earthiness so particular to this style.
Indeed, Ambrée is a tastefully authentic and matured manifestation of the Bière du Garde, conjuring daydreams of bucolic lowlands and rustic pantries from older epochs. Less fusty or barnyard twingy than some of its peers, the beer is still a delectably striking experience, rich yet somehow none too filling. The eggshell head froths when summoned by swirling but otherwise is restrained, and slightly elevated effervescence mingles with a touch of the 8% ABV fume towards the finish, though neither sensation is too pronounced. No doubt this would be a champion with rustic fare like Moules–frites or Coq-au-vin; also consider experimenting with gorgonzola and spinach-stuffed mushrooms or dolmades.
Served: 750 ml bottle (best before 26.11.15)