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Sunday, January 24, 2021

The best Belgian beer for toasting the New Year

New Year’s Eve is synonymous with champagne, not beer. Let’s face it: Showing up at a friend’s “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” viewing party with a six-pack from your local craft brewery just isn’t as impressive as presenting the host with a bottle of French bubbly.

If you want to drink good beer on New Year’s Eve, you’ve got to step up your game. In my case, I’d go with Brasserie Dupont’s Avec les Bon Voeux, a special beer for a special occasion.

You might be familiar with Saison Dupont, the Belgian brewery’s flagship ale and the benchmark by which all other saisons are judged. Like that beer, Avec les Bon Voeux is a bottle-conditioned saison, but it’s stronger (9.5 percent alcohol by volume instead of the regular saison’s 6.5 ABV) and more festive. This beer originally was given to the brewery’s favored clients as a New Year’s present. (The label reads “Avec les Bons Voeux de la Brasserie Dupont,” or “With the best wishes of the Brasserie Dupont”). It became so popular that the brewery began selling it to the public in 1970.

The bottle’s label and caged cork make it look classy, and once it’s in your glass, Avec Les Bon Voeux is more than a match for champagne: It’s wonderfully effervescent, with bubbles that shoot up the sides of the glass and a large, rocky white head. This is actually a nice gateway beer to give to fans of sparkling wine: There are aromas of lemon zest and apples, and the body is crisp and refreshing, with notes of biscuit malt, pepper and a bit of coriander. There’s a slight hop bitterness in the finish, which invites you to have another glass.

To make a really special impression at a New Year’s Eve party, see whether you can track down a magnum-size bottle. Even the champagne snobs will be jealous.

Brasserie Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux. brasserie-dupont.com. About $12 for a 25-ounce bottle, or $40 for the 50-ounce magnum.

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