Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Vices & Versa and Then Some: A Day of Delicious Treats

Having just had one of the best beer days of my life (yesterday), I thought I'd share the charms with you all!

I began writing this while sitting on the terrasse of one of Montreal's premier beer pubs, Vices & Versa, savouring what was easily the best flight I have ever had and then had another with some overlap due to the overwhelming success of the first!

Individual beer reviews follow, but first the establishment: this place is gorgeous, with a clean wooden, homey interior and a fine, secluded back patio/terrasse that is mostly empty this fine afternoon.  32 draft offerings fill a unique Quebec-only craft menu that is remarkable in selection and worthy of the trip alone.  This place is certainly deserved of its accrued praise and is perhaps more hospitable than many a beloved beer bar (at least on a pleasant summer afternoon!).  The flights offer 6 five-ounce samples for $14.  For essentially two pints of such quality rare draught beer, this is not bad in the least.  The staff is courteous and friendly, despite my insufficient French, and welcomes me along with that extra bit of suggestion that is always most appreciated.

For my first flight, I sampled the following:

Broadway Pub Célébration Ambrée (6% ABV) is simply marvellous, pouring a thin white head of fair retention and lacing atop an amber body.  Aromas of yeast are slightly present alongside a predominant biscuity/nutty malt with traces of caramel.  The biscuits remain present on the tongue alongside a (still malty imbalanced) drying finish that is slightly herbaceous.  It is very smooth and light up front before the sweetness kicks in and dries out just enough to invite the second sip.  It is but lightly carbonated, yet somewhat crisp.  As my first offering from the Shawinigan brewpub, I am most intrigued!  Grade: A

Brasserie Dunham Brown Ale (5% ABV) continues my rate of chosen successes at this Mile End pub!  Pouring an excellent creamy white head of noteworthy retention and smooth lacing atop a dark brown body, this fine brew offers strong aromas of coffee alongside some chocolate, biscuit, and caramel notes.  Just a phenomenal nose!  Despite no hops on the nose, this beer offers a decently drying finish to similar up-front sweetness in a US style.  It is quite creamy with moderate carbonation and body and is remarkably drinkable!  Grade: A+

Microbrasserie du Lievre's Cervoise (5% ABV) is an apparently undefinable border-style Belgian beer somewhere between a saison and a Flanders red that pours a cloudy light amber with a fair white head of moderate lace and retention. Or at least that was my guess on style until I asked my server. It is apparently an otherwise extinct unstyled herbed beer without hops (hence my uncertainty) though the herbs and yeast provide the pleasant dryness.  Slightly sweaty yeast and a very attractive sweet-and-sour pear greet the nose.  It tastes marvellous, offering a pleasing sweetly sour cherry note with a drying, yeasty-herby finish.  Very, very nice indeed!  Grade: A+

Next came Brasserie Dunham's Pale Ale Américaine (6.5% ABV) which I had had before, but in a tiny sample.  This fine beer presents a gorgeous white head of excellent retention and lacing atop a lightly amber body.  Aromas of grapefruit and orange citrus with some floral notes greet the nose alongside a slight grainy/cereal-like malt.  Very dry grapefruit notes finish an only slightly-malty sweet beginning, while the body is fair and lightly carbonated resulting in a very creamy and drinkable dry beer that is much like an amped-up Black Oak Pale Ale.  Grade: A-

Continuing my pleasant Dunham tastings, I then had their IPA Anglaise (5% ABV) which showed a nice smooth white head of fair retention and lace with an amber body.  It had a very mild nose of only faint malt sweetness and light piney hops, though tasted malty sweet up front with a nuanced, fairly drying, yet indescribably mildly-bitter and herbaceous finish.  Fairly thin in carbonation and medium bodied, this is a highly drinkable IPA, but as good as it is, it simply pales beside the others in this superb flight!  Grade: B+

 Finally, I come to Dunham's Black IPA (5.7% ABV), another tasted previously in just a tiny sample, which rests an excellent creamy beige head of phenomenal retention and simply unparalleled creamy lace atop a dark brown body.  This is the best looking head I have ever seen!  Moderate aromas of sweet chocolate, caramel and cereal grains come first before the more substantial and complex grapefruit, herbs, and spice of the hops characteristics that follow and develop as it is consumed.  On the nose and appearance, this is - hands down - the best black IPA I have yet encountered and the taste is still great if a bit less so than these first qualities though still deliciously complex.  Here it is briefly 'caramelly' up front before an even more bittering, spicy, herby and piney drying finish with a touch of citrus.  This is an excellent beer I would give an A+ if I could drink more than one, but the dryness (bordering on astringency) is a touch too much for me if style appropriate (though intense).  Hop-heads are sure to love it, and even moderate hop-fans will praise their one pint limit!  Grade: A/A+

My next flight included an additional Cervoise and Dunham Brown since they were so good, but also included the following:

Bilboquet Métaver Rousse (5% ABV) started it off with a nice white head with some lace and fair retention alongside a deep amber body.  The nose was met with a slightly nutty caranel malt that was almost peaty in its richness.  Tastewise, it was fairly dry and piney with little of the sweet notes though wasn't strongly bitter and it offered a medium carbonation with a lighter body than anticipated.  It was fine and enjoyable, but not remarkable.  Grade: B

Next came another from the Broadway Pub: La Sein d'Esprit Dunkelweizen (5% ABV) which was quite yeasty and sweaty to the nose with some pepper and coriander notes faintly hidden beneath.  It appeared with a darkly cloudy amber body that was lighter in colour than anticipated.  It was peppery and spicy in the mough with an almost candy-apple like sweetness preceding that but which was all overshadowed by a spicy/nearly salty dry finish that was a bit excessive for me (not IPA dry, but too much for a dunkel for me).  It was quite carbonated, as expected, and medium bodied.  Though enjoyable on its own terms it missed the boat a bit for my personal tastes since it was more weizen and less dunkel - the opposite of my tastes in a dunkelweizen!  Grade: B-/B

Broadway Pub made the cut again with their La Tchucke Tripel (7% ABV) which was surprisingly clear and golden while topped by a nice white head of solid retention and quickly-receding lace.  Spicy yeast aromas of fermenting pear dominated, while the tongue was met with sweet fermenting pears up front and a spicy-dry finish.  The carbonation was well-hidden and under-discernible alongside a lighter-than-anticipated body which made for a quite drinkable, if unremarkable, tripel.  Grade: B+

Finally, I came to Bilboquet's MacKroken Scotch Ale (10.8% ABV) that showed a fine off-white head of fair retention and silky-smooth lacing capping a light brown body.  Boozy scotch-like peaty aromas were dominant alongside remnants of some sweet cereal malt.  It was very sweet and honey/mead-like up front with a strongly warming and boozy finish that almost dried the sweetness.  It tasted very licquer-like and very nearly like a complex scotch, yet was worryingly warm to the tongue, throat, chest and brain! More like scotch, and more like mead, than any beer I have ever consumed!  Grade: A

I realize this is getting long, but so was my marvellous beer day!  After taking a break for dinner and hanging out with an old friend I returned to turn my day into a night with a few more.  Cam, being a superstar and all, bought me a long-neglected, but much needed Unibroue saison and it is there that things continue...

Blonde de Chambly (5% ABV) pours a nice gold cloudy body with a tremendous frothy white head of fair retention, but no lace to speak of.  Aromas are of earthy yeast with a bit of citrus rind and slight pear.  Flavorwise, it is much the same but milder with a touch of spice and a bit of a sweet pear beginning before a lightly drying yeasty/earthy finish.  Well-carbonated and lightly bodied, this beer is quite drinkable and more moderate than anticipated considering Unibroue yeast strains and saison funk.  Grade: B+/A-

Then, on my way home, two things came to mind: first, that I had now rated 649 beers and, second, that I would pass Dieu du Ciel on the way home so I stopped in for number 650 (and 651!) and what a 650 it was!!!

Rated beer number 650 was the single best cask beer, let alone cask IPA, I have ever tasted and it was a one-off collaboration beer by DDC and Hill Farmstead called Friendship and Farewell (6% ABV).  It offered an excellent frothy white head of solid retention and some lacing over a very pale body of deep golden colour that was cloudier than expected.  Aromas were of citrus and citrus rind predominantly with a trace of herbaceous notes, while the flavour was likewise very pleasant with a mild sweetness up front followed by a finely drying citrus finished tempered by mango notes.  It was creamy-smooth as expected on cask and just showed so very well in this offering!  Grade: A/A+

I figured, since I had yet to try it, a half-pint of DDC's Mild End (at a mere 3.9% ABV) couldn't hurt to finish things off!  Thus, I observed a observed a light brown body with fair off-white head and retention alongside some clingy sporadic lace.  Aromas of caramel and biscuits were enticing, though flavourwise it was less sweet with just hints of biscuits up front ahead of a more bittersweet finish.  It was fairly creamy and chewy with light, crisp carbonation and was quite drinkable/sessionable if not eniriely memorable.  Grade: B+

'Til next time... Santé!

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