Saint Sylvestre 3 Monts Ale

st-sylvestre_3montsBrewer: Brasserie de Saint Sylvestre, Cappel, France
Style: Strong Ale
ABV: 8.5%

Description: This ale, which hails from the Flanders region of northeastern France, is Saint Sylvestre’s flagship beer. Brewed in the traditional way, it combines a pale malt base with hearty Flemish hops, fermented using top-fermented yeasts, and then conditioned in wooden barrels. The name itself (3 hills) refers to the three hills in Flanders – Mont Noir in Belgium and Mont Cassel & Mont des Cats both on the French side of the border.

Tasting Notes: This brew as a lucky find, which I happened at one of the better purveyors in Victoria (they are good at stocking what one might consider obscure brews). It also quite the pleasant sampling, consisting a crisp, bubbly, but also smooth and refreshing beer, that has an oaky profile that is reminiscent of a stiff white wine. The flavors also call forth a good northern French ale, with a firm and fruity malt base, a mild hoppy kick, and champagne-like effervescence. Given my fascination with Belgian and Flanders beers, I will be seeking out more of this brewery’s products!

Appearance: Straw golden, clear, thick, bubbly head, good carbonation
Nose: Strong malt, hint of oak, mild herbal hop notes, Flemish yeast 
Taste: Crisp, slightly fruity malt, mild herbal hops, strong oak, yeasty effervescence
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, slightly bitter, lingering oak
Overall: 8.3/10

Driftwood Lustrum Wild Sour

lustrum-logoNot too long ago, I was in the Driftwood Brewery getting a growler filled. And as is my custom, I asked them if they had anything planned for their Bird of Prey series this fall. With their three previous installments – the Flanders Red, Mad Bruin, and Belle Royale sours – they had been knocking it out of the park, as far as I was concerned, and inspired me to love a style of beer that I was previously unacquainted with. So naturally, I was curious if there would be a fourth. I was told that they might be, but that was not yet decided. The helpful tap girl also indicated that since they had an anniversary coming up, they were planning on doing something special for that.

And as it turns out, they killed two birds with one stone and chose to tackle both with a single beer – the Lustrum Wild Sour Anniversay Ale. This beer not only commemorates their five year anniversary of brewing here in the Victoria region, it also counts as their fourth installment in the Bird of Prey series, a series that honors a style that is rarely seen these days outside of the Belgium and northern France. And in accordance with that tradition, this beer was fermented using wild yeast strains that cause lactic acid to form, giving it a tart, sour taste, and then aged a full year in oak barrels before being made available to the public. In addition, this beer features a hefty dose of blackcurrants, not unlike their Belle Royale which boasted sour cherries.

Appearance: Deep purple, purple head, almost opaque, very good foam retention and good carbonation
Nose: Strong notes of lactic acid and spicy yeast, fruit tartness
Taste: Immediate berry sweetness, tang, strong sour notes, mild bitterness and sour finish
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness, tartness and sour flavor
Overall: 9.5/10

I should also mention that the man at my favorite liquor store told me that this was his favorite beer in the Bird of Prey series. Personally, that’s a hard choice for me to make, given that all the others scored a minimum of 95% on my rating scale. But I’d say this was not the best of the series (toss up between the Red and the Belle), but it is without a doubt one of the best beers I’ve had so far this year. Much like its predecessors, it has a smooth, velvety texture, a spicy, tart and sour flavor, a very rich and multifaceted palate, and a strong alcoholic punch (9% alc/vol) that doesn’t overpower the taste at all.

Happy 5th anniversary Driftwood! Keep doing what you’re doing, and don’t be afraid to notify me in advance of any more Bird of Prey beers. I will be buying in bulk 😉