Dieu du Ciel Rosée d’hibiscus

dieuduciel_roseeBrewer: Dieu du Ciel Brewery, St. Jerome, QB
Style: Belgian Wit
Alc/Vol: 5.9%

Description: Rosée d’hibiscus (Pink hibiscus) is aptly named, being a wheat ale that is infused with hibiscus leaves that give it a deep pink color and a fruity aroma and taste. First brewed in May of 2006, this beer is available in 341ml bottles year round, but is appropriately marketed as a summer beer.

Tasting Notes: This is my first sampling from the Dieu du Ciel brewery, and one which is frankly overdue considering that many of their products are available here in BC. And it was certainly an interesting intro, one that reminded me of Sorrel – one of Jamaica’s most famous beverages (also brewed from plant leaves). The wit base is certainly there, coming through with smooth, yeasty malts, which are then accented by a mildly acidic, slightly tart and fruity flavor. Certainly an interesting take of a Belgian-style infused wheat beer, and definitely a great accompaniment to the coming summer days!

Appearance: Deep pink/ruby, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Discernible wheat malt, yeasts, hints of cherry fruit and blossoms
Taste: Immediate tartness and tang, yeast and wheat malt, cherry fruit
Aftertaste: Clean finish, lingering traces of tartness and fruit, very refreshing
Overall: 9.5/10

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St. Ambroise Vintage Ale 2013

st.ambroise_vintageThis is a beer I purchased with great excitement, and not just because it was part of my holiday beer collection. As followers of this site are sure to know, the St. Ambroise Millennial Ale (brewed in 2000, this was the first vintage ale they ever produced) remains my favorite beer of all time, even to this day. Because of that, their Vintage Ale (Ale Millésimée en francais) is one I try to get my hands on whenever possible.

Last year, I managed to get my hands on two bottles of their Vintage Ale – their 2011 and 2012 respectively – and had mixed impressions. The first I sampled in Hull, Quebec last year when the wife and I attended the Taste of Winterlude Winter Beer and Wine show. The good people tending the McAuslan table were offering, among other things, samples of the last year’s vintage. At the time, I felt it was too coarse and had a gravity that was a little high for my taste. It was by no means poor or offensive, but it did seem to pale in comparison to their 2000 Millésimée.

A few months later, I purchased a bottle of their 2012 here in BC, and let it age for a few more months. When consumed, I noted that the malt profile was smoother than what I remember of the 2011, and allowed the full flavor profile of figs, raisins, and barley wine goodness to really come through. And once I spotted a bottle of the 2013 Millésimée at the same store (Cook Street Liquor), I grabbed it with the intention of seeing how it stacked up.

Appearance: Deep amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich aroma of sugars, raisins, dates, figs, and citrus hops
Taste: Very malty, immediate alcoholic bite, hints of sugar, molasses, fruit, and citrus
Aftertaste: Lingering alcoholic bitterness, citrus hops and coarse malts
Overall: 9/10

Not a bad vintage this year, McAuslan. Not bad at all! It’s a shame these are produced only once a year because I’m positive a year-round barley wine (or at least a seasonal that could be available for a few more months out of the year) would do very well for itself!

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!