A Sour Swiss Brightens a Gray Day in May

Jim Lundstrom

On a recent lazy gray Saturday afternoon, I decided to stream an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 as a backdrop to cracking open what I expected to be a fun bomber of beer from Switzerland. For a reason I cannot explain, I chose The Brute Man episode, featuring the pituitarily challenged Rondo Hatton. It was shot by Universal cinematographer Maury Gertsman in a bleak poverty-row noir style that perfectly reflected the cold May day outside my window.

Now to brighten things up with this highly anticipated Swiss “handcrafted ale,” as the bottle label states. I’ve had some nice, soft lagers from Switzerland, and Swiss absinthe is my favorite, but this is something completely different – a limited edition ale de garde aged in oak barrels by Brasserie BFM of Jura, Switzerland with a mouthful of name, Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien. This bottle is from 2013.

Oh, wow! Liquid sweet tarts bowl me over with the first sip.

Brewer Jérôme Rebetez, who signs the label that is securely glued over the bottle cap, creates this beer using wine yeast and then aging it old wine casks, both of which give this beer its unique malty/spicy sourness.
Wondering why a cat in monkish apparel is featured on the label, I turned to the brewery website, where I learned that “Bon-Chien” (Good Dog) was the name of the brewery’s first cat, who was “holyfied” when she died in June 2006, hence Saint Bon-Chien.

If that sounds a bit cracked, well, this Saint Bon-Chien is obviously the work of a mad scientist of beer. With each sip I am transported to a happy place with tangerine trees, marmalade skies and towering cellophane flowers of yellow and green. Yes, this is a trippy Swiss beer.

The winey/sour complexity grows as the beer warms. And with a final pour I get a smudge of what looks like grape must but is actually yeast residue on top of the tawny head. I swirl it around and it gives the final sips of this exquisite beer an earthy, dusky finish, which is fitting because it is finally dusk when I take those last sips, the point being that this is a great sipping beer. It made me almost completely miss the MSTK3 crew skewer Rondo Hatton in his final role, but there will be more gray days.