Located in Montreal, the McAuslan brewery is the purveyor of some awesome beers, not to mention my all time favorite. Yes, their Millennial Ale remains the best beer I’ve ever tasted, but their regular and seasonal are also pretty damn exceptional. In fact, of the six types of beer they now make, several of them are among the best beers I’ve had of that particular variety.
Oh, and here’s a few interesting tidbits. The brewery not only makes beers, but a whole line of culinary products, such as cheeses, mustard, sauerkraut, cupcakes and even soaps! The name of the brewery (McAuslan) often creates some confusion since the vast majority of the products are labelled St. Ambroise. During one of my many visits to Beerfest in Ottawa, a representative explained…
Apparently, marketing in Quebec can be a bit tricky with such an Anglo-Scottish name, so the name St.Ambroise (St. Ambrose of Milan, guy who converted St. Augustine) was seen as a good label name for all them French Catholics! And, interesting tidbit, it just happens to be the name of the street where their operations are located (Rue St. Ambroise, Montreal) Personally, I’m just glad these guys have been able to stay in business for all these years, especially given their extensive competition. If there’s one thing Quebecers know, its beer!
Check out their website while you’re at it: McAuslan Brewery
Okay, first up, their regular beers:
St. Ambroise Pale Ale: Definitely one of the best Pale Ales I’ve ever had. Crisp, refreshing, hoppy, balanced, and quite drinkable. Whenever there’s a mixer case in our house, my wife and I constantly compete over who get’s to drink the Pale Ales. For those new to Pale Ales, its also the perfect introduction, showing exactly what a true PA is all about. Rich color, floral aroma, a nice bite, a lingering finish, but still refreshing. In terms of official praise, this beer earned three stars in the Simon and Schuster Pocket Guide To Beer, and beer critic Michael Jackson described it as: “An outstanding ale… amber-red, clean and appetizing, with a very good hop character, from its bouquet to its long finish. Hoppy, fruity, and tasty all the way through.” I agree with everything except the three star rating! 5/5 baby!
Griffon Extra Pale Ale: Compared to the Pale Ale, the Griffon is quite light. And I mean quite light, seriously, the flavor is quite underwhelming as far as my palatte is concerned. However, this does mean the beer is extra drinkable, and even won a gold medal in the Golden Canadian Ale category at the 1996 World Beer Cup, apparently for its bright gold color, clean hop and malt flavor and “great drinkability”. Not a personal favorite, but a fine beer nontheless that is sure to please fans of lighter fare. 3.5/5
St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout: Yet another contender for the “best ever” category. St. Ambroise’s Oatmeal Stout is both a personal favorite and a first for me. Prior to being introduced to this beer, I had never before had an Oatmeal Stout. Shortly thereafter, it seemed like every micro-brewery I could find was making one of their own. Naturally, I learned that this is because this variety of stout is time-honored and with the resurgence in craft brewing, just about everyone would be making their own version of it. This does not change the fact that this baby was a first for me, and you never forget your first. In terms of awards, this baby was the runner up at the World Beer Championship in 1994, competing against over 200 beers in its category, and also won one of only nine platinum medals awarded. It’s dark colour, rich taste and aroma, with hints of chocolate and espresso make it a perfectly well-rounded stout. 5/5
St. Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale: Another first for me, this beer introduced me to the world of fruit beers, which is apparently a very rich, time-honored and lesser-known world. At least it was, until St. Ambroise and Kawartha Lakes Brewery came along (more on them later). And I can attest that the Apricot Wheat is one of St. Ambroise best-sellers, being light, malty, clean, and quite fruity in both its taste and aroma. Personally, I find the fruity character a bit overdone, the flavor giving the impression of artificial flavor. However, this does not prevent it from being very tasty. 4/5
Those I have yet to try in their regular beer category include: St. Ambroise Cream Ale, Griffon Red Ale (Griffon Rousse). However, as with many examples of fine Quebec brewing, the full lineup can be hard to find outside of Quebec (stupid prohibition-era laws!)