Today’s Brew: “La Fin du Monde,” an Ale for the End of the World

la fin du monde label

A few nights ago in Buffalo, N.Y., thunder cracked and rolled more sudden and booming than anything I’d heard since the days when I was very young, and I’d sit on my porch for every one of these summer storms, wondering (and thrilling) at the chance that by my proximity to the metal railings on all four sides, I would be fried.  I chose to watch the storms in (what I thought was) an open-air metal deathcage, because, at six or seven, I felt my mortality more acutely.  I stood, for fifteen or thirty minutes, on the very edge of an ending world.

So, when the thunder cracked, and when the whiteblue lightning flashed so bright that it lit my lonely blind alley like a dozen halogen studio floods, I felt that old thrill – and I knew exactly which beer to drink.

Most connoisseurs will talk about pairing beers with foods.  Well.  I’m more interested in pairing beers with emotions, psycho-spiritual states.  Consider Charles Baudelaire:

I have cultivated my hysteria with delight and terror. Now I suffer continually from vertigo, and today, 23rd of January, 1862, I have received a singular warning, I have felt the wind of the wing of madness pass over me.

The correct beer to pair with these feelings – hysteria, madness, richest melancholy – is of course Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde.

Named in honor of the European explorers who found North America and thought they’d reached the very end of the world, this is a tripel-style Belgian gold, Canada’s most highly decorated beer – for very good reason.

No aroma more immediately captures the word bittersweet.  You’ll catch coriander, yeast, alcohol, and cream as you put the tulip glass to your nose.  The head is rich and abundant; it’ll give way to champagne-style bubbles and lacing.  The first taste is of yeast and coriander – which combined here taste like sadness of the best vintage, the sadness of old monks who’ve seen the woes of this world  – and this taste yields to honey, intriguing malts, and warming alcohol.

This one goes down creamily – it’s a rich brew, opaque grainy gold.  If you do have time for a last meal before the world ends, pair this with mussels, a plate of pungent bleu cheeses, or braised beef.

Ideally, one should drink this beer alone, in a vast castle.  If not, one could settle for an outdoor café in a chilly European town, a small town, with many churches and burgher houses, a place at once modern and Medieval, where the cobbles of the street remember the blood of flagellants and martyrs and wars.

Failing that, find a metal-railinged porch and an unforgettable thunderstorm.

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