Unibroue Seigneuriale

Unibroue_seigneurieleBrewer: Unibroue Brewery, Chambly. QC
Style: Strong Ale
ABV: 7.5%
IBUs: 33

Description: This is the latest special release by Unibroue, a strong ale which pays homage to the Seigneuriale system and the role it played in the settlement of “New France”. Like all Unibroue’s products, it is brewed in the Belgian-style and refermented in the bottle with active yeast cultures.

Tasting Notes: This brew was best described as a stronger version of their Blanche de Chambly, a Belgian-style wheat. Much like the Blanche, it has some strong wheat malts, a yeasty backbone, and some coriander and orange zest. However, this one adds to that with some notes of pineapple in the nose and stronger, slightly sweeter malts.

Appearance: Deep orange, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Wheat malt, yeast, pineapple, hint of coriander spice
Taste: Crisp malt, tang, yeast, caramelized sugar, mild orange zest and spicy finish
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, yeast bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

Le Trou Du Diable Shawinigan Handshake

Latroudediable_shawiniganBrewer: Le Trou Du Diable, Shawinigan, QC
Style: Hopfenweisse
ABV: 6.5%
IBU: 42

Description: A combination of wheat and barley malt, German yeast, and West Coast Chinook hops, this hopfenweisse-inspired ale is dedicated to Prime Minister Chretien – Canada’s Prime Minister for ten years and who hails from Shawinigan.

Tasting Notes: This brew was an interesting break from my usual samplings of West Coast IPAs and Belgian strong ales. Ironic that it combined elements of both then! On the one hand, it has the smooth malt backing and fruit flavor of a good heffeweizen, and just enough bitterness and tropical flavor of a West Coast ale.

Appearance: Yellow/orange, cloudy, heavy foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malt, strong notes of peach, passion fruit, yeast
Taste: Smooth start, yeast bitterness, notes of peach, banana and cloves
Aftertaste: Lingering yeast bitterness
Overall: 9/10

Unibroue La Resolution

La_Resolution_Unibroue_410x4351Brewer: Unibroue, Chambly QC
Style: Spiced Ale
ABV: 10%
IBU: 21.5

Description: This limited-release beer was inspired by a special recipe that brew master Jerry Vietz concocted for his friends, and which is now available for a limited time. This spiced ale is extra strong, and like all Unibroue products, is refermented in the bottle using active yeast cultures.

Tasting Notes: This is the first time since I tried Unibroue Grand Reserve 17 about two years ago that I’ve had anything new from this brewery. And this was a certainly familiar territory, coming from Unibroue. Despite its strength, this beer is rather mellow in character. The spices are present, but subdued, the rich malt strikes a nice balance between strength and sweetness, and the yeast backbone provides some nice effervescence.

Appearance: Deep brown, near-opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malts, figgy pudding, toffee, brown sugar, molasses, allspice
Taste: Roasted malt, good tang, brown sugar, mild yeast, notes of allspice
Aftertaste: Lingering yeasts, malt bitterness, spices
Overall: 8.5/10

Ottawa Trip 2013

trafalgarHi folks! As it is time for the ife and I to do our biannual trip to my old hometown of Ottawa, Ontario, I will be offline for a few days. However, I expect to return to this site in a week’s time with plenty of new reviews since we’ll be visiting several old haunts and new while we’re there. These will include the Clocktower Brewhouse, an old favorite of mine which has expanded since I left; the Beyond The Pale Brewery, another brewpub operation that has several locations across town; and of course, the Mill Street Brewpub and Vineyards Bistro, two old favorites I would like to find myself in again.

And of course, I will be sure to sample the latest from Ontario’s craft brewers of late. These include just about anything from the Wellington Brewery, the Trafalgar Brewery, the McAuslan Brewery, the Muskoka Brewery, and Creemore Springs. And given our proximity to Quebec, I’m sure I’ll be dipping into anything from La Brasseurs Du Temps, Dieu Du Ciel, and Unibroue as well!

Have yourselves a great post-Thankgiving weekend and get out to enjoy this fall weather as much as possible. And see you all when I get back!

La Brew Ha Ha, Happy St. Jean-Baptiste Day Everyone!

Forgive me for getting in on this holiday late, but I’ve been busy with family these last few days. Lots of birthdays and visits happening! But now that I’m back, I thought I’d spend some time playing catch up. As usual, our trip up north took us through Duncan and some of the best beer shopping on the island.

And wouldn’t you know it, I happened to find a specialty beer that was brewed in honor of this day, at least for the residents of Squamish, BC. Known as La Brew Ha Ha by Howe Sound, this Belgian-style Blonde Ale is a strong customer that is consistent with the brewing traditions of the La Belle Provence! As someone who’s sampled many a Quebec brew, I can attest to the fact that traditional Belgian beers are quite the hot ticket there. And whether it is Unibroue, Brasseurs du Temps, McAuslan, or Dieu du Ciel!, they are adept at producing some pretty strong ales!

Appearance: Straw gold, cloudy and translucent
Nose: Distinct scent of bananas and Belgian yeast
Taste: Light malt taste, giving way to strong notes of banana
Aftertaste: Coarser malt flavor, mild clove spice, and lingering yeasty flavor
Overall: 8/10

Overall, I was reminded of La Fin Du Monde, but with a lighter flavor than its predecessor. It was also highly reminiscent of a strong white ale, in that it had some strong notes of banana and clove spice as well. And the fact that it combined these together in a faithful way is consistent with what I’ve come to expect from Howe Sound and their specialty lineup.

Happy belated St.Jean-Baptiste Day everybody! Stay tuned for my coming review in honor of Canada Day, dedicated to a beer that was brewed in honor of Canada Day: Innis and Gunn’s Canada Day 2012!

Back from Ottawa!

Greeting all from the nation’s capital! Some interesting things have transpired since our arrival. Some friends came out, some pubs were visited, some pints were tilted. All good times! And as usual, I intend to write about it all, particularly all the beers we drank! Some old, some new, there were many brands that were drunk even thus far that have been worthy of a review. It will take me days to cover them all, so please, your indulgence as I try to do it all justice…

My first review is dedicated to the beers encountered at a timely and impressive event:The Winter Beers and Ice Wines event that took place during the weekend of the 17th/18th. Not only did it coincide with our visit nicely, my darling wife had the foresight to suggest we book some VIP tickets. As such, we got the deluxe experience! In addition to sampling many, many beers from the Quebec side of the border, we got a taste of some true culinary delights in an upscale atmosphere. It all went down at the Maison du Citoyen in Hull, Quebec, and here’s what I thought of what I tasted, by brand and name.

Brasseurs Du Temps:
Located in Gatineau, Quebec, this brewery was the only one at the tasting that had its own booth staffed by its own people. And given the fact that the sample glasses were also stamped with their company logo, I got the distinct impression they were hosting the thing. All of their brews were made in accordance with traditional European and (more specifically) Belgian brewing, at least the ones I tried. As such, they were strong, heavy, dark and deep! Not to mention flavorful.

Dumduminator: Named in honor of its creator, Dominique Gosselin (Dumdum to his friends), this dunkelweizenbock was a nice surprise, calling to mind one of my all time favorites: Aventinus! And like its predecessor, it was dark, strong, had a heady foam, and some rich wheat malts. However, the DD was different in that it had a distinct banana flavor in addition to its spicey notes. A nice opening to this tasting experience! 4/5

La Saison Basse: This seasonal beer, named in honor of the fall, is a blonde ale that boasts a variety of spices with an intense, distinctly Belgian taste. Overall, I was reminded of Duvel, another blonde done in the Belgian fashion that boasted some gruff malts. I should also note, in a move that is decidedly clever, this beer has an opposite known as La Saison Haute, a seasonal spring beer. Unfortunately, this one was not available at the tasting. Guess I’ll have to wait til next year! 3.75/5

Messe de Minuit, 2010: A holiday beer which, quite frankly, is like Christmas in a glass! The color is black, the smell is fruity and spicey, and the nose and taste are similar to a stout. Add to that a rich flavor that is reminiscent of figgy pudding, cloves and spices, and you get a pretty good picture of what this beer is all about. A great finish to this breweries lineup. 4.5/5

I just wish I could have sampled more. A quick perusal of their website would seem to indicate that there’s certainly no shortage! I wonder if they deliver…
http://www.brasseursdutemps.com/beers/our-full-range

IGA Famille Charles:
Said family is a major compact in Quebec which owns the Independent Grocers Association, a number of craft breweries, and the relative giants of Molson, Coors, and Rickards Brewing. Overall, I’d say I spent the majority of my time at this booth, trying their beer, talking to their patrons, and bugging their representatives for info! Here’s what I sampled and where it came from:

L’Assoiffe: brewed by Brasseurs du Monde, from St-Hyacinthe, Quebec, this beer’s name literally translates to “thirsty”. A double brown ale, brewed Belgian-style, it was expectedly strong and quite dark, combining a strong malty profile with the tawny character of a brown. Lightly scented but firmly flavored, it was quite the thirst quencher! 3.75/5

Trois-Mousquetaires Wiezenbock: this beer, I quickly realized, is something we have in BC. In fact, I can recall drinking one or two Mousquetaires not that long ago; luckily they weren’t the Wiezenbock so I didn’t consider this experience wasted! Brewed in Brossard, Quebec, Trois Mousquetaires is another Quebec craft brewery specializing in continental-style beer making. And at 10% alc/vol, this wheat beer was certainly a unique experience, combining strong wheat  malts with a very rich, very dark profile that called to mind brown sugar, molasses and a hint of smoke and bananas. Quite the powerful number, and definitely for the barley wine enthusiast, if not the casual beer drinker! 3.5/5

La Noblesse: Possibly my favorite from the IGA section, this beer was reminiscent of Chimay in a number of ways. For starters, its a dark amber, cloudy in appearance, and boasts a strong oaky flavor that reminds one of sour ale.  I was also told to be on the lookout for a touch of vanilla, though I admittedly took awhile to find it! Definitely something I’ll be on the lookout for in the future. 4/5

McAuslan Brewing:
Technically, the bar hosting McAuslan’s fine products was hosted by the radio station CKOI (104.7 Outaouais), but to me, they were the centerpiece so they might as well have been running it themselves. Several other brewers were represented here; unfortunately, I only got to try one other. Lucky for me, it was worth it since I finally got to try McAuslan’s latest Vintage Ale as well as the rather unique and intriguing Diablo. Of these:

Millesimee: This is the name of McAuslan’s 2010 Vintage Ale. Awhile back, I reviewed McAuslan and claimed that their Millennial Ale, the 2000 Vintage, was the best beer I’ve ever tried. Well that’s still true, but unfortunately, I’ve been unable to offer any opinions on any of the vintages they’ve produced since. Thanks to this event, those days are now behind me, even if it’s likely to be awhile before I can review any of their vintages again. That being said, I have to say that I was unimpressed with this latest vintage by the good folks at McAuslan. Unlike its Millennial predecessor, the 2010 Vintage was an amber ale, very strong, slightly sweet, and quite rough on the palatte. I was reminded of Scotch-Ale, the “Wee Heavy” style of beer that combines rich, heavy malts with a touch of sweetness and a bitter, highly viscous aftertaste. That’s what you got here, and I have to say that I do not think these different elements go together well. This is not to say that the beer is a bad contribution, far from it! In fact, its without a doubt a faithful adaptation of an extra-strong amber ale and an interesting choice for their latest vintage. It just didn’t agree with me personally. Mainly because the strong flavor has a way of really lingering. Seriously, after a glass of this, everything tasted rough and bitter! 3/5

El Diablo: Last of the festivals lineup comes to you from the Brasserie du Lievre located in Mont-Laurier, Quebec. And I can honestly say that my choice to try this over several others from this bar was thematically consistent, given the fact that it too was a strong amber, rough on the palatte, and quite rich and chewy. However, the Diablo combines all of this with a strong, vanilla flavor that is surprising and quite palatable. A touch of velvet you might say to an otherwise rough and tough brew. Little wonder then why they call it Diablo! 3.75/5

Well, that is all for now. Like I said, there were many drinking experiences during my Ottawa trip, and it will take some time to do it all justice. Lord knows I spent plenty of time this trip with a beer in one hand and my PDA in the other, constantly drinking and typing, hoping to get all my impressions down so I could do faithful reviews later.

Coming up next, the Mill Street Brewpub, a newly opened branch of the Toronto-based craft brewery!

St. Ambroise!

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!)