Saturday, 28 April 2012

500 Rated Beers: First Substantive Milestone and Reflections on Reviewing

With some out-of-town company, I found myself at Dieu du Ciel again last night and I will share a few summaries and thoughts as I celebrate my personal 500-rated-beer-milestone.

Though just over a year ago I had rated only 250 beers and have since rated a further 250 doesn't mean I have had a year of rampant alcoholism.  In fact, at a few different events, I would have 15-30 tiny samples.  What it means is that I have been much more consistently systematic and original in my choices, having sought out more diverse options rather than standard, adored staples (though with consumption of a few of those too).

It is also worth noting that I distinguish between rated and reviewed.  A review requires some thought, some time, some privacy really, with me and my beer and a fair assessment as well as time to record these thoughts while not drinking more than one and socializing simultaneously.  A rating often has scant accompanying notes and is mainly a grade, though all of my 'reviewed' beers are also 'rated.'  Some of my 500 rated beers (maybe 100 or so of them) have had reviews as well, but when conditions aren't ideal only negligible notes remain.

In rating, not full review, I can offer the following from last night's (re)new(ed) tastes:

Rated Beer #497: Déesse Nocturne (Night Goddess) is a delectable dry stout with slightly bittering hops characteristics on the tongue, and a faint coffee quality.  Aromas are faintly of cocoa alongside deeply roasted maltiness expressed as nuttiness.  Dry, but still easy drinking and smooth/creamy if thick especially on nitro tap.  Grade: B+

Rated Beer #498: Rigor Mortis Blonde is a nice, smooth, enjoyable Abbey style blonde with sweaty pear aromas predominating alongside a much fruitier flavour that is sweeter despite an average ABV.  Grade: B+

Rated Beer #499: Revenante, a smoked porter, is a bold and unique, but very nice beer.  Most smoked porters seem to be only lightly smoked while rauchbiers tend to be too smoked for my tastes.  This is quite strongly smoked (almost like a rauch), offering aromas and flavours of campfires and tobacco, yet it is smoothed by the toasty malts and, for my tastes, it works more than many other smoked beers.  Grade: B+

Rated Beer #500: L'Herbe à Détourne, which DDC calls a "Citra Tripel," makes for a very nice fusion style by adding a tropical fruit and bittering hops to this classic style.  Though the fruits are strongly presented (and fit well with the style) the drying finish is a bit muted by the slightly excessive warming booziness and yeasty spiciness.  It is tasty, but probably a bit extreme in its representation of each of these (reinterpreted) style characteristics and would benefit from a smoother balance.  Enjoyable, but I can't drink two of them - and maybe even one should be shared, especially since its 10.2% comes across to both tongue and equilibrium!  Grade: B

Also, Péche Mortel is just as good as ever on nitro tap!

I don't know if is the nature of the review process or my academic-inspired understanding of critique, but I always feel I have to say the good and the bad in a review and hope that people grasp how far the good outweighs the bad, even if fairness demands commenting on that which could be improved.  Moreover, in the academic vein critique is most reserved for that which is praised or otherwise valued in order to strengthen that which shares common values and sentiment.

In that vein, I hope it is clear that I LOVE DDC, love their beers, love their brewpub, and always look forward to going back, but in the interest of fair reviewing and of provoking perfection out of excellence, I will say that I have been there three times since January and a few negative observations have arisen:

Service was best the first time (which was busy but not crazy busy and had one excellent server and one less solid one), was bad the second time despite being relatively empty, and was dreadful last night (at least table service, the barkeep was excellent before we got our table).  Yes, it was extremely busy and the staff was overworked and understaffed, though that seemed like only part of the problem as both table servers seemed extremely annoyed that we should even flag them down to ask for a drink and we were only once - upon our first seat procurement - solicited without taking countless attempts to flag them down.  I don't wholly fault the servers but, as this seems to be a continuing trend, increased staffing for weekend nights and an attempt to ensure we don't sit for over half-an-hour with empty drinks (as we twice did) alongside a friendly manner when happily flagged to remedy the situation would only keep me from adding these comments after praise for the quality of the product.

Also, though minor, all three (different) tables and two of the (perhaps different?) chairs I sat at during these visits were not even close to level.  Last night's barstool-chair rocked as much as an inch in either direction and it would be a true shame if this caused anyone to spill excellent beer.

I do enjoy the atmosphere and adore the beer (especially those you can only get there and the nitro tap) but a few minor tweaks could turn this from being one of the world's best brew-pubs into being an unparalleled marvel and an even greater Montreal landmark than it already is.  Even greatness can improve and I offer these to pursue that for a place that is already nearly atop my must-list for the city country.

Yet, I am thrilled to have rated my 500th beer here and I am sure there will be many  more!

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