Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Gawd in Heaven, What a Brewpub! The Dieu du Ciel Visit

As mentioned in my New Year's Eve Post, I recently got the opportunity to once again consume excellent beer at Montreal's Dieu du Ciel for the first time!  I say this since I have been there before, but not since many years ago, long before I knew anything about what I was drinking.

Though I will offer some brief comments on the beers I ordered (and those of my friend's, whose pints I sipped), the quantity of beers and quality of company limited my note-taking and so, I begin with my first Beer-Bar review.

For these reviews, I will consider the mood/atmosphere, the food, the service, the price, the beer selection/quality, and an overall assessment.

Mood/Atmosphere: I arrived at 7 pm for dinner and some beer only to find the joint perfectly packed, which is to say one single table remained and we quickly procured it for the evening.  A merry, lively crowd filled the pub which is met by black walls and a glassed off area of brewing containers.  It was pleasant in appearance and atmosphere, thereby prompting greater anticipation.  A slight mess in the washroom and the need for a bit more space are the only brief pitfalls here.  Grade: A-

Food: The beef sandwich I ate was decent, with a very nice toasted panini, while the accompanying homemade kettle chips it was served with were excellent, but considering it was my third choice out of 5 sandwiches on the limited menu and the other two were out of stock, I was a bit disappointed (especially at being effectively 'forced' to resort to beef which I rarely consume).  That said, I can't really say how good those would have been if they were there!  Grade: C+

Service: We had two servers over our time there.  The first was overworked and was initially, though understandably, a bit slow in getting us menus, but brought the food and drinks promptly, and was happy to find brief moments to discuss the beer options knowledgeably and to even briefly chat about beer more generally.  Our second server had a diminished workload, as more staff began shifts, yet somehow seemed less available, making us wait quite a while at payment time and seemed pushy without stated rationale for why we should order which beers (without really acknowledging my statement that, "I had that one earlier.")  Sad that, though the first would basically get an A and the second a C-, things have to average such that this area gets a Grade: B- to B

Price: Sure, it was a bit more expensive than that shitty place down the block with specials of [Insert Crappy Macro-Brewed Lager Name Here] each night, but it was quite affordable for world-class craft beer with pints (or 330ml glasses depending on the beer) for $6 to $7 each, and sandwiches for just a bit more. Grade: A-

Beer Selection (and Availability): As a brewpub, only Dieu du Ciel's own beers were, understandably, available and not all of them, but a solid spread of 17 rotating taps and one cask (alongside wine and liquor, though who goes to Dieu du Ciel, let alone Malty Tasker, for that?)  Still wish I could find a Rigor Mortis Abt there or in bottle, but I understand that their rotating selection and seasonal brewing makes this inevitable.  Many different options for different drinkers, and far superior in quantity and diversity of options to most brewpubs (not to mention quality).  Grade: A

Beer Quality: Though the difference between one standard craft beer bar and another in this category may be effectively negligible and, hence, almost irrelevant, at a brew pub this is crucial and Dieu du Ciel is world class.  Simply considering the ratings of their offerings at Beer Advocate and RateBeer demonstrate this, yet the beers speak for themselves.  I tasted Aphrodisiaque (Cocoa/Vanilla Stout 5% ABV), Rigor Mortis de Table (Belgian Strong Pale Ale 8% ABV), Première Neige (Aniseed/Nutmeg/Pepper Witbier 5% ABV), Voyageur des Brumes (ESB 5% ABV), Solstice D'été aux Mangues (Sour Wheat Beer with Mango 6.5% ABV), Isseki Nicho (Imperial Dark Saison 9% ABV), Cornemuse (Scotch Ale 8% ABV), and Péché Mortel (Imperial Coffee Stout 9.5% ABV).  I will make a few brief comments and give style-specific ratings for each after the pub review concludes.  Grade: A+

Overall: If not for the out-of-stock food and second server, I'd be giving this place an A+, but those could be anomalies.  Further, considering that beer is the primary factor for consideration, the hit is negligible and my first real impression must be a Grade: A

This brewpub is the best of Canadian brewpubs (at least that I have ever explored).  A must-visit for those (ever) in Montreal!

Brief Beer Thoughts:
Aphrodisiaque: A fine stout with some fine sweet elements, though I took no notes as I have a bottle at home which merits a more full review soon!  Grade: A-

Rigor Mortis de Table: Quite yeasty and spicy, though with solid citrus aromas and drying hops.  Not my first choice of Belgian style, but excellent and more enjoyable for me than most in a style I typically only enjoy moderately.  Grade: A-

Première Neige: The pepper flavouring is quite unique, yet though I love pepper I actually think it slightly detracts here from what is otherwise an exemplary Witbier (though it is far from my preferred style).  Grade: B-

Voyageur des Brumes: Nice, decently drying.  Darker than imagined and hoppier than UK versions of the style, but unique and good on its own terms Grade: B

Solstice D'été aux Mangues: Only a mild hint of mangoes as this is more characterized by a fair lemon aroma and moderate sourness alongside a tart lemon finish.  Not my preferred style but very good for what it is and enjoyable Grade: B+

Isseki Nicho: Quite nice and spicy.  Darker and stronger than typical, though very well balanced and masking of its strength.  Having taken only mental notes and this being my first of many strong beers, well, I forgot more than that said above and loving this, thus I anxiously await the opportunity to try this again and comment more coherently! Grade: A

Cornemuse: Fantastic!  Very peaty, yet malty-sweet.  Poor head retention, but otherwise nearly perfect!  A bit maltier than usual and, hence, not quintessential or exemplary of the style exactly, but probably the best of a dozen or so Scotch Ales I have ever tasted!  Unique in that Dieu du Ciel way such that I had two!  Grade: A+

Péché Mortel: Yes, I have had this (and reviewed it on here) just a week or so ago, but I had to try it on a nitrogen tap for the enhanced creaminess.  This is, quite simply, the best coffee stout, imperial stout, or imperial coffee stout I can imagine (yes, there are many more to try, but this is nonetheless stellar even if others compare!)  Were it not for the calories, carbs, and alcohol, this would become my morning coffee.  Even better on tap, if you can imagine that.  53rd highest ranked beer in the world according to BA right now for obvious reasons!  Grade: A+

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