St. Ambroise Framboise

Don’t you just love beers that have a rhyme in their name? Venturing a little farther to pick tonight’s sampling, I went to the waterfront, where Spinnaker’s own liquor store is located. Always well stocked with a diverse array of beer, wine and liquor, I found a few favorites and some oft-unavailable items. This beer was the first to be added to my haul!

Yes, I reviewed this beer awhile back as part of my appraisal of St. Ambroise seasonals. However, that was before I adopted my current style of evaluation, one which calls for a four-point review. It seems only fair, now that this beer is available and where I can get at it, and once again give it the ol’ college try!

Appearance: Deep red and cloudy
Nose: Strong raspberry nose
Taste: Starts with a supple fruit and slight tartness, mingling with mild hop bitterness
Aftertaste: Clean finish with some lingering tartness
Overall: 9/10
Another winner, McAuslan! When I think of potential reasons for moving to Montreal, being closer to the brewery is definitely at the top of the list! A close second is the ready supply of fresh Montreal smoked meat, bagels and lox spread, which I believe would be well paired with some of your beers.


St. Ambroise Seasonals!

Hello again, and we’re back with the many delicious brews from Montreals award-winning purveyor of craft beers! Last time, I covered their regular lineup, including the beers that were were first for me and remain the best beers I’ve ever had in their respective categories (i.e. pale ales, oatmeal stouts, etc). Now, I’d like to get into their seasonal beers, of which they have many.

Most of these are relatively new to me, having just become available here in BC. And frankly, I sometimes wonder if I would be as crazy about St. Ambroise beers had they NOT been the ones to introduce me to certain varieties of beer. Well, I’m a much more seasoned beer drinker now, but I was still wholly impressed with the new additions to their lineup! Though they may not all be “the best”, they are certainly up there! Here goes…

St. Ambroise IPA: I saw this beer just a few months ago, located in one of my favorite liquor stores on the island (hey Beverly Street Liquor Store!). All I could say was, “’bout time!” and snatched some up. And after years of being heavily impressed with McAuslan, and as a huge fan of IPA’s, the bar was set pretty high on this one. However, McAuslan did it again! Though I’ve had some pretty damn good IPA’s in my time, this one was both impressive and rather unique! I thought I knew all there was to know about hops, but the combination of Golding and Willamette hops produces a flavor and an aroma which is both bitter and uniquely floral. In addition, the combination of the renowned Munich and Crystal malts allows for a degree of smoothness which balances very well with the bite and lingering hop aftertaste. Congrats, McAuslan, you’ve done it again! 5/5

St. Ambroise Scotch Ale: Done in the tradition of the “wee heavy” winter ales of Scotland, this beer boasts a strong, malty profile, a viscous taste that is balanced by a touch of sweetness, a good hop bite, and complex, lingering aftertaste that is reminiscent of vanilla and butterscotch. It’s like Scotland in a bottle! As a guy who doesn’t go in for the “wee heavies” much anymore, I still found this one a fitting example of a Scotch Ale and give it tops marks! 4/5

St. Ambroise Pumpkin Ale: Now here’s a variety that is becoming incredibly popular of late. Everywhere I turn, I see examples of pumpkin ales, the breweries of the Pacific Northwest, East, and everywhere in between producing their own version as a Fall Seasonal. And this baby is no slouch when compared to its competitors; in fact, I was quite impressed. Boasting a golden, caramel color, and smacking of pumpkin, cloves and allspice, this beer is a fitting accompaniment to Fall weather, thanksgiving feasts and as a Halloween treat! 4/5

St. Ambroise Raspberry Ale: Again, a popular example of fruit beers that have been making the rounds for over a decade, and a fitting follow-up to their Apricot Wheat Ale. In fact, I was somewhat surprised that it took this long for it to make an appearance, but I was happy with the end product. My wife, always the fan of rapsberry ales, is my go-to when it comes to comparisons, and this beer had some rather tough local competition (Longwood and Swann’s both brew their own faithful version of this). However, McAuslan’s faired well once again! This beer balances a good malty taste and a pleasant hop character with a strong infusion of raspberries, resulting in a flavor that is at once smooth, tart and semi-sweet. And the color… golden red. Nice touch! 4/5

St. Ambroise Vintage Ale: As I recently learned, St. Ambroise produces a Vintage Ale once a year that is of the same variety as their Millennial Ale (still the best beer I’ve ever had!) However, being outside of Quebec, I have a monster of a time trying to get my hands on some! Which is too bad, considering that this trend began shortly before I moved to the west coast. Apparently, due to high demand, McAuslan decided that beers such as their vaunted Millennial Ale needed to make more appearances, and do so almost every year now in the form of the Vintage. Much like their Millennial Ale, this ale is a combination of wheat and barley malts and hops that is fermented extra-long and then served unfiltered, resulting in a beer that is a deep rich color, smooth on the palate with a complex, semi-sweet flavor that calls to mind caramelized fruit and molasses. It’s time to call in favors! I want me some Vintage Ale for Christmas! 6/5 (again, I know it doesn’t make sense. It’s just that good!)

(The 2010 Release)

Yet to try: St. Ambroise Imperial Stout. Looking for it now…

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!)