Saturday, 1 December 2012

What a Weekend! Pannepot, Cantillon, and Then Some!

So with a new job, it was inevitable: the night out for beers with some new colleagues.  Fortunately, they too like their beer and we had a "Craft Beer Pub Stroll" (rather than crawl, since somewhere along the way getting older meant being too respectful to crawl - a change I can accept, it's the harsher hangovers I rather dislike).

Shortly before the event, it came to my attention that Cantillon's Zwanze Day 2012 would be the very next afternoon at one location in Canada: Montreal's world-class brewpub Dieu du Ciel.  Being a family man, and mildly hungover, meant I didn't manage to stay for the tapping of Zwanze (at 3 pm) or Dieu du Ciel's special Peché Mortel offerings at 5pm (which included a Bourbon-Aged version... and yes, I regret missing this about as much as the Zwanze!)  But I did pop in for the Organic Gueuze and will say more on that shortly, but that is the end of the two-day crawl (with sleep in between!)

We kicked off at Le Cheval Blanc, a nice art-deco designed brewpub with some solid draught brews of their own, including a cask, and a fine selection of import bottles.  The service was great, but a bit busy as the place was packed from 5pm on (maybe even beforehand) and we had to colonize tables one at a time.

It being my first time there, I decided to check it out online first and discovered - to my pleasant surprise - that their import bottles list includes De Struise's quadrupel: Pannepot (Old Fisherman's Ale) a 10% ABV quadrupel brewed with spices.  As I am a big fan of Charlevoix's Dominus Vobiscum Hibernus (another spiced quad), I was anxious to try this and had them warm one up for me upon arrival without disappointment!

The Pannepot I had was dated 2010 and had some smoothed out balance to it from that time.  It poured a dark body with a full head of negligible retention, but nice lace.  It smelled mostly of chocolate malt with a roasted hint alongside raisins and a bit of caramel.  The taste was excellent: sweet in a roasted malt-backbone kind of way with just a hint of candied fruits and anise.  Full bodied and fully carbonated, and just plain fantastic.  Perhaps my favorite quad - and at least of comparable quality to Westvleteren 12, Rochefort 10, and Achel Extra Bruin!  Definitely an A+

Cheval Blanc impressed with their own beers as well.  Of particular note were the Double Porter and cask India Orange IPA, both of which were quite good, the India Orange even offering the best head retention and most delectable lace I have ever observed (not to mention a nicely dry-hopped citrus with a balanced maltiness of obvious quality).  I'd give the porter an A- and the India Orange an A-/A.

We then arrived at l'Amère a Boire, with a smaller and more modern, but gorgeous interior with some good looking grub (though I didn't taste any) where we would remain since Le Saint Bock was too full (though on my reconnaissance mission, my colleague and I did have a Hibernus to compare to the Pannepot - even if unscientifically separated by several drinks from evening's first quad!  For the record, I prefer the Pannepot and that is high praise indeed and takes nothing away from Charlevoix's marvel).

Though l'Amère a Boire impressed to a fair degree as well with a decent czech pilsner (Cerná Hora) that I'd give a B/B+, baltic porter (Odense Porter) I'd rate a B+, and a Boucanier American Porter that I'd likewise rate in the B+ range, their biggest hit for me was l'Amiral (an 8.5% ABV English Barleywine that they serve aged 1-year).  I had it late and would like to try it again on its own, though it offered very nice fruity and malty-sweet notes exemplifying the solid malt base, but with a fine dryness to match and balance it out to nice bold extremes of harmony, though the lingering finish was almost cloyingly sweet beyond the style norms.  That said, style norms are guides, not laws and it went down marvellously such that I look forward to a more thorough tasting and rating in the future.

Finally, I come to the sole beer of my Zwanze Day event - and unfortunately not the Zwanze, or any of their fruit lambics due to their limited quantity and my time (I was about the tenth person into the bar at open and their granted stock was so little that 2 of 5 bottles had sold out by the time I ordered).  Regardless, this beer was a marvel as my first Cantillon which lived up to the hype.  The bottle was their Gueuze 100% Lambic-Bio an organic gueuze - a blend of three (1 year old, 2 year old and 3 year old) wild fermented sour Belgian lambics without added sugar.  It, to me, was something like an unsweetened Duchesse de Bourgogne, but with obvious quality in every ingredient and a simply perfect blend.

Specifically, it appeared golden to light amber and slightly cloudy, with a moderate white head that dissipated quickly except for a rim that remains for quite some time and which finely laces the glass as swilled.   To the nose it is, as anticipated, sour and musty with a faint earthiness, but enticing with sour fermenting peach notes (and nothing I would call funk).  Tastewise, it is entirely sour in a pleasingly tart and nuanced manner while also slightly acidic but balanced and complex with a bit of sour apple.  Medium bodied and fully carbonated, it gives the sourness that tingly feeling that seems to fit it so very well.  This isn't a beer I could drink many of repetitively, but nor is it one I could turn down one of.  Best gueuze or lambic I have yet to taste!  Grade: A+

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