Monday, 20 May 2013

Benelux Verdun and Beau's Vankleek Hill - Both Kinda Like Home!

Sure, it's a cliché, but just like home these two places have good beer and good company!  This past Thursday I found myself at Beau's All-Natural Brewing and Saturday at Benelux Verdun.  And I will start with the beer before touching on the company.

Though Benelux has yet to amp up towards their 24 draught capacity and has yet to crack a cask, they are up to six beers and have a few gems (in process) on their hands.  Head brewer, Tico, tells me they are all being tweaked, adjusted, altered, and aren't definitive as is, but as they stand three stood out for some noteworthy thoughts:

Vélo (a 5.5% ABV American Pale Ale) is pretty marvellous!  It is dry-hopped with Centennial at the moment, though I am told this may frequently change to a different hops variety in every offering.  Regardless, every hop-head loves to hear the words "dry-hopped" as it adds to the excellent aromas and this beer brings that with a solid citrus and rind nose, with some tasted resins and a touch spicyness.  Some people may ask what is desirable about dryness in beer, and this expresses it well: it is not bitter but simply sufficiently perfectly dry so as to erase the sweetness and cleanse the palate enough to invite a second sip... er, third sip... er... you get the picture!  Grade: A

Victor (a 5% ABV Oatmeal Stout), is the first rated of the trend to name after local streets.  Yes, I am a sucker for a good stout, but few seem to get the oatmeal style right.  Those who do, seem to do it perfectly, yet the gap to the rest is normally huge.  Not in this case, which falls well towards the high end.  Here, the oats show well on the malty sweet nose, while there is a faint smokiness I discern on the tongue.  My one critical thought concerns an assessment of the body as lighter than anticipated - especially as oatmeal is supposed to fill the body - but this beer is nonetheless tasty for it.  Grade: B+/A-

Regina (a 5.1% Hefeweizen) brings out something different in me: I typically don't enjoy hefeweizens despite liking cloves and pepper since I hate - I mean hate - bananas.  This beer minimizes that (and the cloves) as it presents a mild yeasty funk, with some sweet citrus notes in presenting an easy summer drinker, but a solid one!  Usually I rate to style and, per style norms, this beer slightly neglects to conform to them, but for me it benefits from circumventing the standard banana and so it may be unfair of me to offer a grade.  What I will say is try one and let me know!

Beau's impresses as always, particularly of course with their Greener Futures project of barrel-aged alterations of their other brews as a fundraiser for energy self-sufficiency.  Of particular note was the Greener Futures Soured blend of Strong Patrick Irish Red Ale and Festivale which was only mildly tart amidst the woody bourbon notes, but was sour enough to intrigue me and make me long for the membership I cannot currently afford!

What both of these places have most in common, however, and one of the things that pushes them over the top is super-friendly staff who seem more interested in kindness and talking beer than up-selling you.  They know their products speak for themselves.  As a result, their kindness stands apart from those places where you become simply another sale, another person sold the image of craft beer.  I can accept illusions, but illusions of kindness go much farther than the reality of a bottom-line all-too-frequently hidden under the guise of perceived quality.


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