I might have mentioned when I announced the theme for this month that Belgian inspired beers would make it into the mix. And you can’t talk about Belgian-inspired beer without paying due respect to the most famous Belgian-style beer maker of all: Unibroue!
Based in Chambly Quebec, this brewery has been making true Belgian beers for many years. They just don’t happen to be in Belgium, hence why they have to hyphenate. And, interestingly enough, they even managed to beat out Belgium’s top brewers during a recent annual competition. Needless to say, the Belgians weren’t pleased, some even cried foul by pointing out that Chambly isn’t in Belgium! Crybabies…
In any case, Unibroue’s list of beers is long and diverse. I have yet to try them all, but some are downright hard to find unless you live in or near Quebec. But I continue to keep an eye out whenever I’m in Ottawa, and as the list shows, I’ve done a fair job. Most are available in large bottles that are corked rather than capped, keeping with the brewery’s emphasis on tradition and commitment to Belgian Abbey-style brewing. The more common varieties can be found in beer bottle form; however, I highly recommend buying the corked bottles and taking an evening to enjoy the whole thing.
Anyway, here they are in order of commonality – aka. how easy they are to find. Those at the top of the list you are likely to be able to find at any government or private liquor store, but the latter ones are not likely to be available outside of Quebec, unless you know a dedicated private store that specializes in Belgian-style beers!
La Fin Du Monde: A triple fermented strong ale, weighing in at 9% alc/vol. with a thick head and a taste that combines faint traces of citrus, honey and strong malts. One of my all-time favorites, but definitely not for the uninitiated. It’s not a beer that works well in small quantities and a pint or more has been known to floor people with weak tolerances. Light beer drinkers beware! Oh, and its also a fine treat as a beer float. 5/5
Maudite: This is a strong amber ale that is 8% alc/vol, and certainly lives up to its name (which basically translates to Goddamn!). Overall, the flavor is sharp and spicy, with a strong malty taste and a crisp hop finish. Think of it as an amber on steroids! Not a personal favorite, but a fine beer nevertheless. 3.75/5
Blanche De Chambly: A beer who’s name means White of Chambly, referring to the fact that its a wheat ale. And this is definitely one of the best wheat ales I’ve ever tasted, with a strong orange flavor and notes of cloves. It’s also one of their lighter fare – being only 5% alc/vol, it is accessible and is enjoyable with food or even on its own. A great hot weather beer! 4/5
Trois Pistoles: Another triple fermented beer, but which is dark and malty with a a spicy, semi-sweet aftertaste. It is this last point that makes this last beer one of my favorites, putting it right up there with Westmalle and St. Ambroise Millenial Ale. Like La Fin du Monde, it also has a rich head, a complex aroma, and is definitely not for the faint of heart! 5/5
Ephemere Apple: This is a special line of Unibroue product, a fruit-infused wheat beer that actually comes in several flavors. However, the apple is the flagship ephemere product and the easiest to find. Light and fruity, golden in color, this beer has a strong apple nose and a slightly sweet taste that is (of course) highly reminiscent of apples. Definitely nice as an aperitif or a hot weather beer. 3.75/5
Ephemere Blackcurrant: This is one I’ve tried only on one or two occasions, but I was clearly impressed enough to remember it. The color, smell and taste are all highly indicative of the fruit, being a light purple, slightly sweet and tangy, and with a light clean finish. Between it and the Apple, I tend to prefer this one, mainly because the flavor seems more natural. 4/5
Don de Dieu: This beer recently scored a 97 and a “Best Buy” rating from the “Wine Enthusiast’s Buying Guide”. No faint praise there, and I can attest to it being well deserved. This triple fermented wheat ale is similar to La Fin Du Monde, except that it brings a wheat character to the table. Golden in color, and reminiscent of cloves and citrus. Definitely worth sampling! 5/5
Noire de Chambly: A Belgian-style black ale, and not that easy to find! But in my opinion, people aren’t missing much with this one. The color is deep black, much like stout, but the flavor and head set it apart. Rather than being smooth, its sharp, bitter, and has a long, smoky aftertaste that probably won’t appeal to people unless they are fans of smoke beer. 3/5
Terrible: Part of their specialty beer line, this one is not easy to find outside of Quebec. And the name is definitely well-deserved, being 10.5 alc/vol, but with a sweet taste that is similar to Trois Pistoles, but with stronger notes of fruit and barley wine. Worth picking up, if only you can find some! 4/5
Quelque Chose: Another specialty beer, and one that is also hard to find outside of Quebec. In short, this cherry beer is a blend of brown ale and Belgian Kriek ale that is ruby red in color and has a strong cherry taste. Definitely a good fruit beer, but a little on the strong side for my (ahem!) experienced palette. However, people unaccustomed to Kriek and Belgian fruit beer’s acquired taste will probably love it. 3.75/5
There are several other specialty beers, nine in total, and a line of lagers that I have yet to try. All of these can be viewed on Unibroue’s website: http://www.unibroue.com/en/home/