Monday, 2 September 2019

Messorem Bracitorium: Haze Hype Right Off the Hop

   
Earlier this year, news of Messorem Bracitorium's pending opening excited me for multiple reasons: their location near my home, their style focus on the trends we geeks lose our minds for, and the breweries at which their brewers wet their chops (Auval, Pit Caribou, Les Trois Mousquetaires). Apparently I was not alone, as this is likely the most-hyped brewery opening in Quebec since Auval.

But with beer, I'm a realist and the reality is that most new breweries promise the moon, but fail to deliver. I mean, I'm not trying to be a snob, but I'm just not interested in drinking even decent beer any longer. There's enough great beer out there that I feel opening in this market necessitates coming hard or heading home. You NEED to make a name for yourself, hit the styles most consumed (I mean, beer geek or casual beer drinker, many thrive on the IPA), or expect to struggle whenever the herd is culled.

And, though I am told that Messorem wishes to emulate the strengths of the breweries they love - Grimm and Other Half, for their explicitly stated examples - I'd also like to brew like Shaun Hill and it really ain't that easy.

So despite my hope, I needed to see the evidence, especially since so many struggle to scale on new equipment, with canning lines, with the ropes of running the show, etc.

Yet, they "opened" with a bang. I mean, they aren't "officially" opened, having "soft openings" for over a month now, with limited hours, but they hit the ground running with solid beers most critiqued for being "a little green." There is an irony to even posting this now, since anyone in the know has already grabbed cans, swapped for some, or crushed some pints on site, but nonetheless here's my take on all five cans so far (with an extra shout-out to the unreviewed draught-only, but much enjoyed Couper l'Herbe Sous le Pieds and Touche. Tombe.).

In order of release...

 OK l'Enfer (Ekuanot, Simcoe Cryo DDH IPA @ 6% ABV, from Week 1) pours a cloudy yellow with a quickly receding and low-moderate head, but a trace remains atop with fair glass lacing. The nose is bright and fruity, offering mango, pineapple, and citrus. The taste is a touch sweet up front, though it finishes somewhat sharply. It has a bone dry linger, that is a touch astringent, but the slightly low-end effervescence complements the grainy, weighty, pureed smoothie mouthfeel that gives this an edge. At two weeks on (at the time of detailed assessment), this remains a bit green, but it may be the bold notes of "lupulin burn" cryo hops rather than a greenness at all. A fine beer, especially for a first offering!  Grade: B+
Brain Dead (Amarillo, Chinook, Cascade, Citra APA @ 5% ABV from Week 2). I gotta tell you: this beer is fire!  Some have noted oxidized cans of late online and some breweries do have issues with initial canning processes, but my allotment didn't last long enough to discover this outcome. (The lighting in the outdoor pic below may appear slightly oxidized, but see the pic at the bottom of the article to see the thick cloudy brightness of this beer at its best!)

This is one cloudy, thick looking mofo, presenting an almost milky-hazy yellow, the apparent viscosity of unfiltered non-alcoholic apple cider. It is likewise capped by a slight white head that dissipates quickly as it is pretty sharply carbonated. Here, the aroma wafts lemon rind, papaya, under ripe berries. Taste and feel combine in the mouth to be a bit sharp with a fairly bitter linger some may describe as
lupulin burn, but that I far prefer to a sweet linger even in other haze-cans I still imbibe on the regular. It is sharp, but the body has a richness on the tongue that gives some depth to this bold finish. It is much drier than HYPAs from Brasserie du Bas Canada and with a deeper complexity and balance than most IPA, let alone APA in the province. Still a touch green a week after sale, but safely worth the price of entry and a bold promise of things to come. I gotta say, I rarely buy APA in Quebec as so few compete with the best IPA, but this is likely the best APA in the Province IMO. My 4 cans and the, hmmm, 5 pints I have had on site have only strengthened this assessment. Grade: A (for style, as I might enjoy the OK l'Enfer as much but it has bolder competition) 


  Ces Magiciens (Amarillo Cryo, Cashmere, Citra DDH Sour IPA @ 7.2% ABV).

It's unclear to me - is a dry-hopped sour the same as a sour IPA (as long as they're kettle-soured)? I mean, I can't imagine the difference, but I often tend to enjoy but not love this style, with some exceptions. "WAIT," you say, "isn't that every style?" Well yes, but even trusted breweries struggle to hit this out of the park IMO, and this is no different.

Ces Magiciens follows the trend of an orange-hued haze monster, though the minimal head seems to linger a bit longer atop this one. Aromatically, it is dominated by wave after wave of lemon. The taste has a sour apple thing going on but is otherwise a bit non-descript for me, being of mild tartness with minimal character. I mean, the hops and sourness are well blended and balanced, but as neither is bold, they almost cancel each other into an easy drinking experience. And that's a good thing - but not what wows me about the best in the style that assault my senses with waves of candied fruit and a depth beyond what I got here.  It's fine, good even, just not earth-shattering. Grade: B
 


 
Get Wavy (Citra, Galaxy, Vic Secret DDH DIPA @ 8.5% ABV) arrives in the glass with a slightly more orange hue than those above, but remains hazy (if less cloudy than Brain Dead). Fair white head lasts longer with the least apparent carbonation of those above. For me, the nose is dominated by tangerine, oranges, a touch of lime zest, with varied citrus fruits all the way. There is a touch more sweetness here, though it is still balanced against the finish. That said, it is far drier than a BBC DIPA. Though this dropped a shade greener than the (as yet) uncanned "Touche. Tombe" (or single IPA, Couper l'Herbe Sous le Pied), it offers no real lupulin burn or astringency, finishing dryly, but lingering more with a juicy finish than a sharp one. (And "green" cans are fine with me - drink'em next week if you prefer!) The feel is not so much thicker than on the others, even for a stronger brew, but that isn't a slight as they have been nailing this aspect of their beers so far. Another solid offering. Grade: B+/A-








7 Pieds Sous Terre (Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe DDH IPA @ 7% ABV) excites before launch. I mean, those are three exciting hops! And, I am happy to say this doesn't disappoint, nor does it sell out on launch-day! (As I write this cans remain available for pickup after noon Tuesday even though they are closed for other service).

In the glass, 7 Pieds shows off a cloudy orange-tinged copper-yellow, atop which rests a characteristic slight white head that again dissipates quickly with no real lacing. Dankness on the nose is coupled with some lemon rind, pineapple, and papaya. I get similar fruits on the nose with some additional strawberries qualities, while the hops presents almost a tannic bite as it switches to a drier more bitter finish than most other top tier NEIPA in the province. I gotta say, this pairs really, really well with these trendy Beyond Meat burgers (and with a real burger as well, but oddly a tiny bit less so) - a match made in heaven. Alongside a medium-full, almost creamy smooth mouthfeel and fairly low carbonation that contributes to that round softness, this works well in the mouth and is well executed all around.  Their best IPA yet. Grade: A-/A





Messorem is currently open only Thursdays through Sundays at varying times (check their website for details), with an opening event still pending, but their beer, gear, location, site, and promise leave me excited for what's to come!




Friday, 28 June 2019

Bank Hotel: A Nearly Religious Experience

I don't even know where I am going to go with this post, except for a vague idea and, moreover, this post is only tangentially about Brasserie du Bas-Canada's marvelous IPA or the brewery itself (though I will review the former and nod to the latter).

This post, rather, is about an experience.

Early in my craft adventure, I read a few books (Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher and another I have forgotten). I remember, when discussing things to consider when assessing a beer, someone speaking not just of balance, style, etc, but also of the experience; that the best beer was the one with the best story, the one at a memorable time and place.

This is my best story, though again please note that as I've noted before about this blogs' purpose, these notes may be a better story personally than they are for others. And, I'm not sure I have the words to capture what this means to me intellectually. Nonetheless, here goes...

Remember that dress? The "what-color-is-that-dress" dress? Personally, I had seen that dress as purplish-blue and black and could not, for the life of me, understand how in the hell it could be seen otherwise... until I found a gif that slowly lightened and darkened the image. Suddenly, not only could I now see it as white and gold, but I could no longer see it as blue and black and couldn't even understand how I had seen it another way in the first place!

As a social theorist, I am deeply interested in discourse and the role of shared systems of signs that shape our perspectives on reality, on cosmology, on epistemology. Our discourses shape what we can perceive in the world, how we perceive it, and what takes on the appearance of truth, on what terms.

When I set out on my craft journey... shit, even when I started this blog... I was clueless, but while my perspective has evolved through the 5000-odd beers I have rated or reviewed, I know more, yet get stuck in discourses where I presume a perception to be (my own personal but nonetheless personally) factual experience. Yeah, yeah, palate fatigue or contamination exist, but barring those I almost always experience beers the same in every moment of consumption.

To put this another way, my discourse - my beer-geek discourse - shapes my experience, usually in ways I think of as better than the alternative.

So... what the fuck am I talking about, already?!?!?

I mean, if this is about Bank Hotel, my discourse MUST have come from the hype around this BBC brew and I must be saying I was tricked into liking it until I broke free?

Nope.

I thought I'd love it, and when visiting the brewpub a few weeks back (despite a pending trade bringing me a can that night), I filled a flight with several options including this exciting NEIPA.

I smelled it... and all I smelled was banana. I tasted it... and all I tasted was banana. I hate banana.

I didn't finish my pour. I drank the rest.

That night, alone in my hotel room - watching the Klaw, Spicy P, and Steady Freddy drop a surprise game one victory on the Warriors - I probably cracked more cans than I should have. And being a beer geek I wanted to mix it up and assess the can vs draught difference on this beer.

Once again, I smelled it... and all I smelled was banana.  I tasted it... and all I tasted was banana. I hate banana.

But I dug in. Remember, sometimes it takes more than a sample to get to a beer.

Someone sunk a three pointer (was it Green or VV? I forget now) and I sipped some more... and again a few minutes later...

And it clicked. Something changed.

I could no longer smell banana.

I could no longer taste banana.

There was a complexity that a smell (likely linked to memory) had blocked me from observing. As our smells can suggest, it made this beer into my colour-changing dress; I was blinded and unable to observe its nuance, but distracted from my presumptions, it changed. From that moment and for the remainder of the can (and the other can I have had since), its consumption was otherworldly, delightful, quasi-religious. I can't really put into words the uniqueness of this experience, but it was a night-and-day shift that my brain had entirely created going from dislike to love of a beer, and it is beyond my capacity to properly express - try though I may.

The nose offers an insane complexity for an IPA, for a two-hop (Sabro-Citra) IPA
at that. (Sabro has been called the new Citra, and Citra has been called "the cheating hop" as it's allegedly easy to get good flavour profiles with - but trust me, as a homebrewer, you still need to nail your recipe!) It wafts a depth of notes beyond what one could expect: I get tangerine, rind, grapefruit, pineapple, mango, melon, strawberries, flowers, and hint of mint, in varying moments as if the beer evolves before your nose.

In the mouth, it is similarly tropical, fruity, and floral with a touch more sharp bitterness than the HYPAs, yet somehow also offering greater balance alongside a substantial and supportive body. The carbonation is a touch sharper than I'd generally seek in the style, and yet its heft works with it.

Dammit this beer is good. It might be the best IPA in Quebec. Perhaps the best in the country. Perhaps as good as anything coming out of Trillium, or Bissell, or Treehouse, or Foam, or Hill... though I haven't had the opportunity to side-by-side and, moreover, beer is an experience... a moment...

And it's that moment I wish to return to. A moment so telling, not just of this beer but of the tricks our minds (perhaps triggered by aroma memories) play on us. A moment that flipped in a way I could no longer comprehend, nor have predicted.

I could no longer smell or taste bananas, as I could no longer see a blue-black dress.

In 5000-ish different beers, I have never had such a light-switch flip. It may sound hyperbolic or be hard to relate to, but for an atheist, this was like a religious moment for it was simultaneously both a switch from dislike to immense love (and regret that this experience would soon end), and also a switch from my perceived subjective (but objectively 'factual') assessment of the beer into a new horizon - a way beyond the limitations of my conscious mind, if you will.

Perhaps it was the distraction of the game that led me beyond the thoughts, memories, and perceptions that kept my appreciation at bay, but whatever it was...

I don't recall now whether it was Mosher or someone else who said that the best beer is the experience, the one you will always remember for its time, its place.

In 5000 unique beers, I'd never had this. On experience alone, this moment was the best beer I have ever had.

And while BBC often gets called great with a slight criticism of thinness or sweetness to their IPAs, this breaks that mold with a balance and depth I tip my hat to.

It isn't the best beer I have ever had objectively speaking (and whatever that means, Art, I'm looking at you), but it was my personal best experience for the intellectual challenge and perceptive delight it brought me, it was a new horizon, and it was oddly the closest to my conception of 'god' and the exposure of the effective pervasiveness and limitations of our own perceptions in a way I doubt I'll ever repeat (with beer), though I can repeat the beer and recapture that love nonetheless.

Cheers BBC, thanks for this moment, and WAY TO GO RAPS! (And Kawhi, if you stay, I'll send you a Bank Hotel come the next drop!)

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Craft Beer Predictions for 2019

Like most predictive posts, this one has serious belief twinged with hyperbolic projection. Nonetheless, I thought I'd share some of my visions of the coming year in craft beer.

Prediction 1: People will start to realize that milkshakes and bruts are no substitute for the hazy successor to the American IPA.

It ain't really about the haze, it's about the juice, but NEIPA aren't going anywhere. Brut and Milkshakes though? I know very few people who even like these styles at all or much, and certainly nowhere near the numbers of those who <3 the West Coast and New England versions of the American IPA. Yeah, maybe I just want milkshakes to die, and maybe they won't entirely. Nonetheless, though, I maintain that in five years we'll look back on them as we currently reflect on the Black IPA - even though those were far superior to all but the best milkshakes.

Prediction 2:  Before the milkshake madness ends, someone will brew a milkshake zwickel/keller/kölsch or some equally ridiculous nonsense contaminating a clean and/or Reinheitsgebot style.

I mean, it may well be a DDH zwickel (or gruit?!?!) or some other wacky pursuit of the new, but it will be a failure nonetheless.

In fact, it's likely to come from some brewery who pumps out 700 new beers annually rather than perfecting a current one.

Yeah, this prediction is half facetious... but only half. I mean, how far from beer can we go? How far from style? (Don't get me wrong of course: it is in innovation and transformation that new styles are born and I truly applaud this when done thoughtfully.) As much as I abhor sounding like those non-craft drinkers who lament craft beer for allegedly 'not tasting like beer' (when they have no historical understanding of the styles that predate their beloved corn-syrup-fueled race-to-the-bottom macro lager), but how far from beer will we go? Can we simply make good beer, not weird limited beer and try to focus on that?

Speaking of which...


Prediction 3: Brasserie Auval will release yet another great beer, alongside several decent but immensely overvalued ones.


While brewmaster Ben Couillard is an excellent brewer and while all of his products are at least solid (though I am not sure I understand Braggot or even Double Nordet), there is no perfect brewer. Yes, even Shaun Hill and Jean Van Roy have released products below their legendary bests.

Auval has some tremendous beers (*cough* Trifolium, Nordet, Grisettes *cough*) and the rest are generally good to very good (saisons, fruited sours, Super A), while a few are simply fine. They certainly beat many a shelf beer, even at their worst, yet that gets to the crux of the matter: the fact that they aren't found on shelves in Quebec's largest market converges nicely with a trend in craft beer that I hate - the ongoing pursuit of the rarest/newest beer over the best.

Don't get me wrong, I also seek new untappd beers and badges (and once foolishly traded Fou'Foune for a pastry stout), and appreciate the chance to buy a rare product, but a product shouldn't be seen as great or more valuable BECAUSE it's harder to get, but rather because it is superior (which then legitimately boosts value in conjunction with scarcity). I'm not saying Auval's product is all hype - much isn't - but the after-market value on these beers needs to simmer down.

The result here is decent beers (in abundance in some parts of the province) being traded for epic rarities of greater value (in cost, scarcity, and quality terms) because of uneven distribution compounded by beer geek overhype. If you think I'm wrong, Trifolium hit Montreal at 1 per person and sold out before launch due to massive lines, while a guy I entered in trade discussions with claims to have brought 48 bottles from the Gaspé and wanted BA Hill Farmstead for each one... AND THAT IS ONE OF THE GREAT AUVAL BEERS.

Hence, the other crucial part of my prediction: Auval will launch a great beer, but trading for it and 4 others at that price to determine which is the one perhaps worth the cost of entry is evidence of flawed perceptions - with no disrespect to a phenomenal brewer.

Prediction 4: Everyone will (pretend to be) shocked when ____________ sells to a macro.

I have no inside scoop, beyond any oft-repeated rumours, but you can fill in the blank and rest assured that as craft continues to boom, the macros will continue to pursue shelf, tap, and brand dominance with dollar figures that may be a pittance to them but offer lifetime security for the owners of small operations and their families.

Don't blame the seller though, blame the system. By that, I mean capitalism.

Prediction 5: My cellar will continue to grow despite my best intentions to shrink it - and I will not be alone.

Somehow I've got like 400 bottles/cans in my cellar. This was never the intention, and I've even now had beers go bad. Further, despite periodic attempts to keep the inventory up to date and to avoid spoilage, the reality of working/parent life keeps things from getting dwindled.

The chaos began when I'd have a chance to buy something like 48 PMB and I'd buy 48 (or more realistically 24). Then I'd drink and trade 12 and accumulations would ensue.

During the past 2 years or so, I have reduced my RIS purchases, for example, from 4+ bottles to 2 of high quality product (one to drink and one to age) or sometimes just one, but it bodes well for craft beer that there are simply more quality offerings to select.

When I moved to Quebec in 2012, there really was one imperial stout worth buying and so I'd hoard that BA delight. But now, there are many and I have switched from buying too many of one beer to buying one of far too many beers.

I don't know if this is a condition and therapeutic confession, but it is a warning: don't let good beer rot.


Anyway, I wish you all a happy new year, a frothy new beer, and nothing but the best in 2019. Cheers!

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Une Biere Deux Coups Brings Their A-Game with a Shining Apricot Sour

Since originally reviewing some beers from Montreal homebrewers Une Bière, Deux Coups way back in 2015, I have gotten to know the mastermind behind the project and co-brewmaster, Dan Deeds, fairly well.

He has also gotten to know me better and knowing me as sucker for a tart apricot (or passion fruit) beer means he was likely unsurprised to find me anxiously salivating over his latest bottling: an apricot-aged, turbid-mashed wild ale reminiscent of a fruited lambic. Yet, despite my excitement to try this latest concoction, there is a risk here as I am also far more critical and difficult to please when in my comfort zones than I am with, say, a zwickel or a dortmunder.

Having taken up homebrewing, and having given this style a shot on my own - with no great success, I might add - makes me all the more respectful of a successful turbid-mash and year long mixed fermentation (before some time spent on apricots). It should be noted that this beer was wholly fermented (and infected) with the stepped-up dregs from a Tilquin bottle, and there is some apparent inheritance therein.

So the beer itself comes in at about 5.5% ABV, and was aged on both red and yellow apricots, as well as some dried apricots as well.


This treat pours a bright copper colour, with a slightly audible white head that dissipates almost entirely quite quickly, but a ring remains that leaves fast receding lacing of fine bubbles down the glass upon each sip.

The nose is dominated by apricot with a fermented apple skin/grape skin thing going on, supplemented by milder notes of lemon zest and slight funk. It smells like authentic lambic in almost every way, but lacks a bit of that mineral dustiness that defines the real Belgian style, though it isn't without a bit of hay-like funk on its own.

However, many American Wilds lack the true mineral and dusty qualities of the spontaneous Belgian originals, but seemingly attempt to make up for it with an overwhelmingly low ph that hides the lacking complexity with sour preeminence above all else. This doesn't do that.

In truly delightful fashion, this presents a nicely complex taste with a decently tart, but not overwhelmingly sour, bite supported by apricots through the middle and finish. It starts and ends quite tart, but with a little fruity sweetness in the middle - not much, but enough to give depth to the beer. There is a fair bit of earthyness similar to that found in the Tilquin dreg source through the middle and end as well.

This beer boasts an excellent bold sharp effervescence (carbonated to nearly 3.1 volumes), with a medium light body. Nonetheless, the small-bubbled sharp carbonation and tartness spreads feeling across mouth in a way that makes this enjoyable for those of us who enjoy a thicker bodied beer anyway - though this body is certainly to style.

It has a very slight oiliness on the palate, but this is a very minor flaw for an otherwise excellent product.

I'd drop good coin for this on a special release. Bravo, 1B2C, bravo!

And, to that end, I've got both good and bad news...

First the bad: though you can contact 1B2C at their facebook page to explore their offerings, this beer is presumably long gone.

Yet, the good news is that their commercial brewery (pending new name) is getting closer to actualization, such that it will become easier to procure their beers in eventually oaked glory! The business plan is complete, some funding is in place, and more investors will be sought early in 2019 as things hopefully begin to coalesce towards a bricks-and-mortar brewery and tasting room.

Dan plans to host a modest (30-ish) barrel program focused on mixed fermentation saisons, sours, and big beers (alongside staple crowler fills of draught fresher styles) and the success of this enjoyable treat has me salivating for the future.

Cheers!

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Les Trois Mousquetaires drops Déjeuner Impérial 2.0 and it's still Bangin'!

Sometime around designated imperial stout season I always seem to emerge from blog-hibernation when an epic imperial stout hits my palate.

And, just today, Les Trois Mousquetaires dropped the second version of their stellar Déjeuner Impérial, a bourbon-barrel aged imperial stout with coffee and maple staves.  Version one came in 375ml bottles and was brewery only, at 1 bottle per person (if memory serves) and launched at last year's Double IPA Day.

This time, however, it comes in a 750 (because nothing says winter like an 11.5% 750) and drops at 2pp at the brewery with store drops pending.

This delightful brew pours a black base with a medium tan head. The head is audible and dissipates quickly portending a sharper carbonation than I usually appreciate in the style.

Aromatically, I am enticed by maple coffee, with traces of wet wood and bourbon vanilla underneath.

In the mouth, all of the different aspects get their moment to shine. It starts with a sweet maple forward introduction before transitioning, first, to a warming bourbon heat and finishing with a drier coffee bitterness (when the warmth transitions from tongue to chest). Though sweet overall, this beer brings a balance of flavours that provide a complementarity rarely rivaled.

As expected, it is a bit more boldly carbonated than I usually appreciate, yet something about that works extremely well here. Though the sharp carbonation lifts the weight some giving a more apparent thinness, it also seems to work with the bourbon heat making for a lively mouthfeel that seems to help round out the noted flavour balance.

Wait, the 11.5% must have gotten to me, what am I saying?! I mean... uh... you won't like this. Send me your allocation for proper disposal. I promise it will be adequately handled.


Grade: A

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Montreal's Festival Season Kicks Off With Beer, Beer Festival Season Kicks Off With Mondial!

Late Spring in Montreal launches the city's crazy festival season, while summer itself promises many epic beer fests!

This Wednesday things kick into high gear at Palais des Congrès, where the 25th Mondial de la Bière launches for 4 days of raucous revelry.  This year's festivities promise 650 different products (beer, cider, spirits, and mead) including 334 products new to Mondial, and many appearing for the first time in Montreal. Fourteen different countries are represented, and the organizers expect 140,000 visitiors over the 4-day event!

Yeah, it gets crazy, loud, booze-fueled... and fun.

The event runs from noon through 11pm from Wednesday through Saturday and, while entry is free, samples can add up so going with a plan is best for both budget and palate. And, if you don't wish to buy a glass, don't forget to bring one and freely use the glass-rinsing stations to clean things up in between tastes.

As always, I am most equipped to comment on sours, saisons, wilds, IPAs, stouts, and barleywine as I rarely drink anything else (aside from the occasional dry-hopped or barrel-aged zwickel).

Thus, for those wondering what to get, I offer my plan to conquer Mondial!

IPA/DIPA/TIPA/ETC

As the most widely selling style of craft beer, it is crucial to consider the IPAs on offer at Mondial, yet here there is good news and bad. The state of antiquated import laws unfortunately means even solid non-Canadian IPA breweries like Three Floyds must submit their beers months ahead of time to the SAQ system where they age them out for us, and this style only suffers from aging.

Thus for IPA fiends, I'd stick to the local, with decent to solid offerings from Shelton, le Cheval Blanc, Vox PopuliLes Trois Mousquataires, and Dieu du Ciel. However, most of their offerings are available locally regularly, and doesn't one go to Mondial to taste from afar?

Thus, my suggestion is to branch away from you hophead tendencies and to seek out some other styles! But, if you insist on the imported IPA, my untested, but optimistic best bet prediction is to hit the Norwegian brewery Haandbryggeriet for their (collaboration with Stone/Brewdog) Triple IPA (at 10% ABV) called Inferno as the backbone may support the hops for longer in the lengthy (and lengthily dated) import process.

But, seriously, expand your palate...

Sours, Saisons, Grisettes

Yeah, yeah... sour isn't a style, saisons aren't all sour, but I'm lumping them together because there are too few of each to latch onto here!

And, well, despite a few interesting looking offerings like Benelux Grisette a l'hibiscus, LTM's new Sour Citra, and DDC's Exorciste aux Mures, I'll just state the obvious: get your Crooked Stave and Jester King pours (but leave me some) and run along!

As a wildcard, I'll add in OverHop.  While people raved about them last year, I find them inconsistent and more OverHyped, but I have seen batch variation as they dial in their contract process, and they bring several sours that could be worth a try... maybe.

Big Stouts and #BIL

Canada's Nickelbrook brings two barrel aged variants of their Bolshevik Bastard: Winey Bastard (wine BA) and Kentucky Bastard (bourbon) that are always a pleasure, while Brewfist offers an interesting sounding stout collaboration with Prairie called Spaghetti Western aged in grappa barrels (!?) with a certifiably sessionable 8.7% ABV (for a session RIS).

Dieu du Ciel brings Peché Mortel variants Latte, Framboise,  and Termopilas (Mmmmmm).

Lack of Barleywine may be death, but at least your lifeline can be jacked with the 14% Xyauyu from Italian brewery Baladin, but I'd like to see a few more big bad BW rocking the taps.

Final Thoughts

In the end, when things start to dwindle, remember the local, remember something new, remember palate fatigue and exhaustion, and remember to drink responsibly!

But if responsibly out of options, Nøgne Ø always hits pretty hard, while DDC also brings a special 25th Mondial surprise beer that is, presumably, not to be missed.

See you there, geeks!

Monday, 12 February 2018

New Benelux BA Bottle Blends! Lapsus and Grande Armada Réserve



Though I know of no Montreal beer geeks who avoid offering their respect and admiration of Benelux Brasserie Artisanale, they are often neglected in broader discussions due perhaps to their infrequent bottlings. However, with their Brasserie du Canal providing greater bottling capacity, we have seen increased assemblages of barrel-aged products (Chroniques de Mars, Mai, Janvier, for instance) hitting the stores in the past few years and a new vintage release has just arrived with another right around the corner.

And, as evidence of Benelux's brewing cred, when these infrequent bottles do appear, they disappear from shelves almost as quickly as they arrive.

The classic Grande Armada Réserve (2017) just hit shelves in the past couple of weeks, while Lapsus (2017) is slated to do so this coming week.

This year, both beers have changed format going from 650ml bombers to 500ml high density bottles. Sometimes such format changes result in similar pricing, yet to Benelux's credit, the price did indeed drop, while the lowered volume is a welcome change in my opinion. I mean, for starters, if you need greater volume for a larger share you can buy two, while this size allows for easier solo drinking. Yet, an even bigger advantage here is that the smaller format makes for more bottle production letting a wider audience enjoy the same output (or allows you extra aging bottles if you're a hoarder like I am!)

Before cracking these bottles, though, I want to express my excitement at this post for multiple reasons: first, I haven't written in a while and I'm happy to be so doing again; second, these beers are exciting; but third, and most prominently, this post marks the first ever true collaboration between maltytasker and my dear friend, Noah, of Beerism. Though we weren't able to get together for all of these tastings, Noah was able to provide some stellar photography allowing us to collaborate after many years of considering doing so before this project-post finally came to fruition.

Now, seeing as I tend to buy and store far too many beers, I figured I'd use this preview opportunity to compare (and dig into the cellar). For the Lapsus, I have chosen to look at last year's release in comparison to this year's. And for that too, I'm stoked.

The Lapsus Showdown: 2016 vs. 2017

I can't unfortunately (and obviously), side by side these at the same age, so it is tough to tell if observed differences are more of batch variation or age effects, but differences are clearly noticeable here despite vast commonalities. While last year's Lapsus promised a blend of Oud Bruin aged three years in Californian Pinot Noir barrels with a Dubbel aged one year with brettanomyces and raspberries and checks in at 7.5% ABV, this year's professes a blend of Californian Pinot-aged Oud Bruins of varied vintages (mostly 1+ year with a bit of 4-year (!!!) ) alongside other sour beers aged on raspberries and Saskatoon berries, and comes in at 6.4%. Despite these differences, though, there is a remarkable consistency to these beers that is evidence of marvelous blending skill. 

Both appear quite similarly pouring a vibrant mahogany with minimal slightly off-white head of some retention (and no real lacing to speak of).

In the new incarnation the raspberries pop more, offering fresher, sharper, brighter aromatics, while the year-old vintage is both a bit more faded with a stronger balsamic backbone. When we let it breathe and warm, while further digging beneath the surface notes, both bring background oak notes and vinous qualities. The vinousness and oak character seem a touch more present on the older bottle, but the fresh notes up front make the newer bottle the clear winner in the nasal challenge.

In the mouth, there is a slight malty sweetness and hint of Saskatoon berry to the newer batch before a light vanilla and balsamic barrel quality in the swallow and finish. Oddly, the raspberries are far less present here than in the bouquet.

The flavour to the older vintage starts sweetly as well, if a touch more pronounced, but ends with a red wine-like complement to the moderate balsamic and vanilla-ish oaky notes. There is a greater dryness to this aged bottle with a slight bit of bolder brett funk discernible.

While neither has great acidity, both have some mild tartness, yet the newer bottle seems a bit thinner. Both have a decent silky feeling with minimal carbonation, but the body and flavour seem to be wins for the aged bottle.

Both have great similarities and this assessment really doesn't make clear how alike they are, yet the differences must (at least somewhat) be due to process as the (apparently and logically) increased Brett character of the older beer should have resulted in a thinner body (though the greater ABV portends a greater backbone supporting greater heft). However, the thinner (not thin, just thinner) body of the newer makes for easier drinking with less balsamic character that can be slightly off-putting to my palate.

Photo (obviously) not by Beerism!
There seems to be a tradeoff here: fresh nose or increased funk that complements the vinousness and oak, with a drier finish. To age or drink fresh? Why not buy two and do both? Or...

The only logical conclusion here is to blend them! In so doing, however, the nose of the more dominant fresher batch spruces up the older one but pales from its original form, while the taste doesn't seem to meet the strengths of the aged bottle either. Don't get me wrong, all "three" are great beers, but I think most would prefer either the fresh bouquet of the latest version or the increased drying funk of an aged bottle, while the blend seems to mute the strengths rather than bring them all to the front.

However you prefer your Lapsus, stay tuned for the new drop to hit shelves this week!


Grande Armada Réserve 2017


Presumably many a beer geek has tasted this delight before. And hw does the new vintage stand up?

Well, the 2017 labelled blend pours a deep dark brown, with a tan head of large soapy bubbles and some streaky lacing.

The aroma on this beer stands up to its reputation from other years, perhaps even with greater barrel presence: yes, this is a barrel-forward beer. Some may lament this for detracting from the mostly indiscernible base brew, but this is, for me, a selling feature!

Aromatically, I am hit with big bourbon notes of toasted oak, vanilla, a bit of maple, and some slight hints of ethanol. There is a mild nuttiness underneath, but this is barrel and bourbon to the nth degree, and that's exactly what I want it to be!

There's a brown sugar and mild dark fruit quality in the mouth up front, before finishing with an initial vanilla quality and a (bourbon-derived) alcoholic dryness to the finish.

This has an excellent, smooth, creamy feel with fairly low carbonation and a medium (or a bit heftier than medium) body, alongside a feeling, but minimal taste, of heat. Though I'd often like a bigger body to support this, the carbonation and creaminess here support it amply. It is only very mildly sticky (for such a sweet base). I'd really love to see this hit a nitro tap someday... in fact, I may have to shoot one through my nitro-charged cream whipper!

Maybe my memory fails, but I find this to be a VERY strong vintage of this always strong barrel-forward blend.


Ya'know... I'm pretty partial to Benelux as their Verdun location is my local pub, but they really are stepping things up with increased barrel blends to take home from your local bottle shop. Though they now offer growlers as well, it's these bottled barrel-blends that need not be best consumed in 7 days that really highlight beer geek life. So, get your asses to your local dealer and snag these while you can!


One final shoutout to Beerism for the stellar photography! Cheers!