Monday, 24 June 2013

Mondial Review: Brazil's Best (of Fest) Beers

Following up on my previous Mondial de la Bière reviews here, here, and here, I am finally wrapping up my geographically-narrowed reviews of the bests of fest.

Though America still leads the world in the craft beer revolution, this event made clear that Canada, Italy, and Brazil are gaining (while Belgium remains a different sort of gold standard).  Though I did have some Brazilian offerings that were decent to good, the diversity of styles being brewed there is reflected by the excellence of the noted diversity reviewed below.

Brazil brought what was, for me and two of my colleagues, the absolute top beer of the fest of those we tried.  That was the Petroleum (12 % ABV American Imperial Stout) from Cervejaria Wäls.  Pouring a deep black with a fine mocha head, this beer wafts a sweet milk chocolate nose, though a more nuanced taste that begins with similarly sweet chocolate notes before a nice drying coffee-dominated finish coupled with a full body.  I could have drank this all day (and at 12% it would have been a short all day), but (despite immense palate enjoyment elsewhere) I spent the rest of the festival chasing this dragon and - upon my return for another taste - it was gone!  But next time - and there will be a next time - I will be drinking more than 4 ounces of this!  Grade: A+

Wäls stood out again with their Brut (an 11% Brut or Champagne beer), a pleasant rarity as the only one of 600 beers at the festival within its style, and one of less than two dozen brewed around the world (that beeradvocate is aware of anyway!).  This excellent brew poured a hazy dark yellow to light amber body with a nice fizzy white head.  Aromas exuded were of tart cherries and mildly sour fruits alongside hints of sweet raspberries.  Tastewise, it was pleasantly sweet with just a hint of Brett in a drying finish complemented by a full body and substantial carbonation, as anticipated.  Just a delight to imbibe!  I have only ever had two Bruts - one at each of the last two Mondial's - and I do believe this style is worth the hype!  Like champagne... but better beer!  Grade: A/A+

Yet another delight came from Cervejaria Colorado.  This time it was a 9.5% ABV Double IPA called Vixnu.  Vixnu poured a cloudy amber (making me wonder if it was unfiltered or dry-hopped, though I found nothing online to confirm this).  Its fair head presented an oaky-citrus with pine residing behind, while it transformed in the mouth from a sweet malty caramel to a finely dry fruity mango-citrus finish coupled with some resinous pine notes alongside a noteworthy and enticing linger.  The fuller-side-of-medium body complemented the brew and this was another I could have spent my day consuming.  Grade: A/A+

I would next note another brew - in yet another style - from Colorado once again; this time their Berthô (an 8% ABV American Brown Ale).  Pouring a light-ish brown, this beer presents a malty sweet nose dominated by mild caramel notes and traces of nuts.  The taste is similar, yet finishes with a slightly drying earthy and herbal hops.  It offers a full body and a tingly carbonation, yet the body smoothes out this strong carbonation giving it a creamy edge nonetheless.  Grade: A-/A

Finally, I'll briefly assess Cervejaria Bodebrown's Black Rye IPA (7% ABV).  This style-mixer poured a deep, dark brown, with a solid beige head even for a sample.  It wafted notes of pine without much presence of the malt base.  Tastewise, there were some notes of toasted bready maltiness preceding a dry piney, resinous finish with some grapefruity citrus notes in the linger which also picks up some spicyness.  Medium-bodied and carbonated, and fully drinkable!  Grade: A-/A

I'd also send my warmest regards to Whitaker & Vega Cervejaria for their Karavelle Dunkel and Cervejaria Coruja for their Labareda Keller, which both nearly made the review cut, but fell into the pleasant, but not fantastic category for my own tastes.  (Neither, however, falls in a category I love - though I do like both - but fans of these styles may wish to seek them out for a more thorough, personal assessment!)

I promise a brief best-of-show final review shortly, but til then, drink well but responsibly, and if you find yourself on vacation, seek out these marvels worth your dollars.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

For the Lager Drinkers, Plus a Nod to a Great "Macro" Craft Beer

Happy Father's Day!

And now for something (not so) completely different... I will review a couple of excellent (Quebec) lagers and also a Macro-owned craft beer marvel recently purchased at the LCBO in Ontario.

Those who know me and those who read me are probably either acutely aware or sub-conscously observant of my general avoidance of pale lagers.  It's not so much that I dislike them (all), but rather that I rarely like them anywhere near as much as almost any other beer style and, hence, there are always more to try in styles I greatly prefer.

I have learned something valuable, however.  A beer in a style you don't typically enjoy from an excellent brewer is usually much better than your favourite style(s) from a terrible brewer (or even a mediocre one).  This may seem obvious, but choosing "imperial stout" over "pilsner" seems like a no-brainer for me... until I consider this important additional piece of information.

Thus, I have to give a dual nod to Brasserie Dunham, whose continual high standards led me to try both Dunham Pils and their Snowy Spring Royal Pilsner (brewed in collaboration with Andres Kissmeyer).  These are easily the two best pilsners I have ever had and Dunham, as always, deserves its praise.

The Pils (5.4%) is currently available in bottles at finer beer stores in Quebec (or at the brewery or some excellent draught pubs around the province) and pours a cloudy yellow with a nice grassy aroma.  It is quickly and fully drying, but nowhere near bitter or astringent, rather I would call it simply enticing.  Grade: A

The Snowy Spring (6.7% ABV) is currently on tap at Vices et Versa and available who knows where else, but is hopefully going to be bottled as was their last collaboration.  This is similar to the Pils but seems amped up all-around, with typical but more inviting grassy notes and hints of floral, earthy hops. The taste dries up faster and more deeply with a piney hops linger that almost makes me want to call this an India Pale Pilsner!  Though not excessively carbonated, it is tingly nonetheless with a medium body and is a pleasure to imbibe, indeed!  Grade: A+

In a slightly related vein, related in the sense of beers I normally don't consume, I am torn about the purchase of Goose Island by AB-InBev - one of the big three macro beer companies (owners of the B - Budweiser - in BMC).  The feared drop in quality seems not to have happened and though I'd almost always rather support smaller breweries, this means Goose Island products are beginning to show up at the LCBO.

Amongst these is the highly respected saison called, simply, Sofie.  Sofie (6.5% ABV) was the first of these super-hyped Goose Island beers I managed to get my hands on... and despite the hype, Sofie impresses admirably!  Sofie pous a clear yellow with an explosive, audible, white head, though with only slight retention and thin lace.  The nose is lightly tart with fermenting fruit aromas, while the taste complexity is noteworthy.  The tongue picks up citrus rind notes up front preceding a dry white wine and vanilla-oaky finish.  There is just a hint of lactic acidity and barnyard funk, but this is just slight and complements its flavourful complexity.  Medium-bodied and lively on the tongue, this is a delightful beer and I must grab more and cellar a few as it promises improvement/evolution for up to 5 years!  Grade: A+

Cheers, Dads!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Mondial Review 3: Pure Laine Quebecois Beers Stand Up to the Best

As I typically prioritize trying new beers, one would think I'd spend little time at Mondial de la biére trying local Quebec offerings.  However, many of these delights are either seasonals/one-offs/trials and/or they come from small, excellent breweries who are struggling to meet demand making their products scarce even here.

Shawinigan's Le Trou du Diable is beginning an expansion that is making their highly respected offerings more widely available, as it seems is Hopfenstark from l'Assomption.  Though I have personally experienced and heard great things about each of these breweries, I had been restricted to sporadic (if increasing) bottles and periodic tap offerings at Vices et Versa and Le Saint Bock.  However, a wide selection at the festival, increasing production capacities, and Hopfenstark's pending new Station Ho.St bar at 1494 Ontario in Montreal mean increased recent and future enjoyment of these Quebec marvels.

As great as Le Trou du Diable is, I wish to note the following: the hype around Hopfenstark is legitimate.  I am a huge fan of Dieu du Ciel! and have, on many occasions, called it Canada's best brewery (in both my opinion and the crowd-sourcing of ratebeer).  However, Hopfenstark is challenging that for me and I don't say this lightly.  The more I drink their beer, the more I want to drink their beer, and brewmaster Fred and his friendly crew assured me many tastes of some gems throughout my time at the festival.  So did many other breweries and, for that, they will all get their due, but Hopfenstark gets the extra shout-out not simply for chatting and imbibing, but for the stellar product they are producing.  I, for one, cannot wait for the new establishment to open!

After 15 months living in Quebec, I now feel sufficiently able to say, however, that there is a stellar high end of breweries here, but that the low end is not good at all (with some in the mid range).  Dieu du Ciel!, Hopfenstark, Charlevoix, Les Trois Mousquetaires, and Dunham really are the cream of Quebec's crop, with Le Trou du Diable, Benelux, McAuslan, Unibroue, and Le Cheval Blanc just behind for me, while there are a few other decent ones but also several I have consistently drain-poured and would be loathe to ever buy again... but man, is the high end solid!  Thus, there are many gems to recommend here and this post, hence, promises to be lengthy!

The very broad categories containing Quebec's Personal Best of Fest are: 1) Sours, Saisons, and Such; 2) IPAs, DIPAs, Etc; 3) Belgian Strongs; and 4) Stouts - literally, two Export Stouts and nothing else of extreme noteworthiness.

Again, there are many solid beers that didn't make the best-of-the-best cut, but without further ado...

1) Sours, Saisons, and Such

The personal winner for me here comes from Hopfenstark (let the deserved praises continue!) with their super-sour Berliner Weisse called Berlin Alexanderplatz Epilogue (3.5% ABV) which was actually my 1000th rated beer!  Not only do I love the sessionable nature of this 3.5%er, but its sour lactic notes and drying tart acidity are excellent for a sour-lover like myself.  I understand this to be an amped (soured?) up version of the original Berlin Alexanderplatz with added raspberries, and deliver that punch it does indeed with a cloudy white body and some slight head sending forth just a lightly tart nose with very mild fruity hints, alongside a mouth-puckeringly sour, acidic raspberry-lemonade flavour without any residual sweetness.  Lightly tingly with a light-to-medium body, the feel perfectly complements the intensity in my mouth.  I would easily call this may favourite Berliner Weisse I have as yet had, while acknowledging that it is a style variant that fits my personal tastes, though a few Gueuzes and American Wild Ales have still topped it on the more general 'sour' front for me.  That said, I am, of course, talking about different animals here (literally, if considering the bacteria) and, moreover, I am thinking of beers brewed by Cantillon and beers like Russian River's Supplication, so it remains pretty fucking good, sir!  Grade: A/A+

Insofar as they specialize in Saisons and such, one shouldn't be too surprised that Hopfenstark's rare and unique Saison du Rèpos (7% ABV) comes in just behind their super-sour winner in the category.  Though some lament the differentiation from the style norms here, they aren't so far off as to make this a different beast; that is, this is a saison through and through and a damn good one, if slightly untraditional.  It is in variation that Dieu du Ciel! stands out and so too this is how Hopfenstark makes their mark if you ask me.  Anyway, this beer pours a clear yellow with an excellent funky-sour barnyard nose of the best sort saisons offer.  The taste is unique and complex offering a clear evolution from citrusy sweetness to Bretty funk to a pleasant, delectable dry finish that cleanses the palate in anticipation of more.  Dry-hopped with citra, the linger is pleasant while the strong carbonation balances finely with the balanced complexity of flavours.  My only complaint?  That this is such a rarely available product!  Perhaps my favourite saison I have ever tasted!  Grade: A/A+

Equally impressive was Le Trou du Diable's Dulcis Succubus (7% ABV) which is sometimes called a Wild Ale and sometimes a Saison, as it has characteristics of each such that the brewers call it a "Wild Saison."  Aged in white wine barrels and fermented with wild yeast, as well as the standard Brettanomyces, this clear, lightly reddish brew wafts notes of honey, apricot, and tart cherries while the taste offers hints of vanilla wood up front with a drinkable, yet delectably soured (if not fully sour) finish.  Enjoyably complex with a fair body and prickly carbonation, I could drink this all day.  Sour but not puckering and multi-dimensional as it is, this beer is a gem!  Grade: A/A+

Falling only ever-so-slightly behind those gems comes Boquebière's Hildegard Saison Brux (7.5% ABV) another Wild Saison hybrid, which pours a cloudy amber with some lingering heady lace.  The nose is a decent mix of barnyard funk and acidic tartness, while the taste is Bretty and funky without much in the way of acidity.  In other words, it smells a bit more wild and tastes a bit more Brett-y (like a standard Saison).  A nice full body and strong carbonation complement it well.  Another successful marvel of Quebec's recreation of the French-Belgian styles!  Grade: A 

In order to keep this post manageable, I will simply send my praise to the following runner-ups without adding notes (let me know if you wish a full review and I shall in the comments perhaps).  These are all excellent as well and only fall short of review herein due to the strength of the competition:
Le Cheval Blanc's Ponette Cerise (8% ABV sour mash blend of Brett with wild yeast and cherries);
Benelux's Grisette (a 4.5% ABV Sour Saison);
and Hopfenstark's original Berlin Alexanderplatz (the less sour version of the praised epilogue which clocks in at 3.2% ABV). 

2) IPAs, DIPAs, Etc

Dieu du Ciel! tops the list here with their phenomenal IPA called Moralité (6.9% ABV) brewed in collaboration with The Alchemist (brewers of the famed Heady Topper).  It pours a fairly clear body that is light amber in colour with a creamy white head.  The aroma is of fruity, delightful, and powerful citrus with some malty hints detectable rounding out this inviting aggression of hops.  A complex finish of pine alongside some citrus, grapefruit, and mango fruity flavours dries out the fairly malted base.  Medium-bodied and very tingly with a sharp, prickly carbonation.  This beer is a marvellous delight, if not for the faint of hops!  Grade: A/A+

Hopfenstark again makes my list, coming in second here with a hybrid beer that seems a better fit here: 7 Sisters/La Pléiade Alcyone (8% ABV) is a black IPA fermented with saison yeast.  It pours a deep, dark brown while expressing a toasty-roasty coffee nose nearly reminiscent of an imperial stout, while the flavour offers an earthy/piney drying finish that is mild, but pleasant, tempered no doubt by the malt but its sweetness is likewise mild and checked.  A nice full body and an easier drinker than I imagined.  Not so much the typical extreme beer despite blending these diverse styles, but a pleasant one to drink without question.  Grade: A

A three-way tie just below these brings forth the following brief tasting notes:

Le Trou du Diable's Le Smash IPA (a 5.5% single-hopped Citra IPA) which has a solid citrus nose and a similar dry taste with some lingering resin notes.  Grade: A

Benelux's Anniversaire 2013 (a 9.3% Imperial IPA) has nose and flavour dominated by typical citrus and pine, with a decent backbone.  I often find I (slightly) prefer the nose to the taste on a DIPA and this was the converse (though maybe it just seemed so after smelling Moralité), but this one tasted like gold and could simply use a bit more dry-hop but was another I could drink all day - though at 9.3%, the day would be brief indeed!  Grade: A

Benelux again makes the tie-list here with the Sabotage IPA (7% ABV) which I had had once before I  had fully learned my love of hops!  Now, the excellent citrusy notes of grapefruit and rind are marvels I'd seek again and again!  Grade: A

I'd like to give a special shout-out to the top-runner up just below the review cut to La Succursale's Angus IP "AAA" (7% IPA), which again would make the cut were the competition not so fierce!  ANother solid beer amongst many in this style new to my discovery (and a nod as well to Hopfenstark's Postcolonial IPA for the taste, nose, and name!).

3) Belgian Strong Ales

Tops here for me was Benelux's Heksen (8.8% ABV) which pours a hazy amber appearing somewhere in between a strong pale and strong dark - seeming more like a well-malted pale in aroma and flavour.  Notes of fermenting pear greet the nose, while the taste begins with a fruity sweetness that dries out nicely in that combo mild hops/earthy yeast way one would expect of a Belgian strong pale.  The linger is nice and lightly funky.  A quite enjoyable beer.  Grade: A-/A

Next came La Succursale's Abt (10% Quad) which pours a nice reddish-brown and offers notes of sweet plums and a hint of licorice.  Taste-wise it is fruity and sweet up front with a fair drying finish.  Quite good at first, but the sweetness seems to grow as it gets consumed and begins better than each subsequent sip.  Still, quite good if room to grow.  Grade: A-

The honourary mention here goes to Hopfenstark's 7 Sisters/La Pléiade Maia.

4) Export Stouts

Ironically, both of the standout, new (to me) Quebec stouts and porters at this event were of the Export variety.

Tops was Dieu du Ciel!'s Libre Échange (6.9% ABV) which pours black as midnight with a fine mocha head of solid retention and clingy/sticky lace.  The nose is of enticing chocolate predominantly, while the flavour is roasty and of lightly burnt toast with a full, nearly oat-like mouth.  Just another masterpiece from this wonderful brewery!  Grade: A+

Coming in second behind this marvel is no insult to Hopfenstark's Greg (8% ABV) which offers sweet lace itself and a roasty biscuity nose alongside flavour notes of biscuits with a very dry lingering roasty finish.  Some may not appreciate how dry this finishes, though it was so good this was fine for me, while my token criticism is that the body is a touch lighter than it should be.  Grade: A-

That's all for now, folks!  The Brazilian's and the Mondial wrap-up?  Soon come!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

New Homes Away From Homes

As I settle in to my life in Montreal, I am increasingly feeling like I have two hometowns: Toronto and Montreal.  And, as each home has its excellent beer bars, two new ones are being added to the mix around the same time.  One in each place.

Hopfenstark is adding their Station Ho.St Montreal bar at 1494 Rue Ontario any time now (assured to be within three weeks a week and a half ago), while Toronto's Amsterdam Brewery is set to open their Harbourfront BrewHouse at 245 Queens Quay West on July 1st with enough space for - get this - 800 people including a 300+ person lakeside patio!

This doesn't bode well for my pocket-book, but great beers, great reviews, and great times are assuredly forthcoming!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Mondial Review 2: From the American Craft Behemoth

On the best of my new-found European taste sensations, see the first Mondial review here.  And now...

South of our border lies the American craft behemoth - the country of the alleged 2000 craft breweries. But it is more than sheer number, rather it is the trend-setting top of the (new) world of beer that sets them apart.

Something Mondial de la Bière always shows, however, is how Quebec (as Canada is fairly under-represented more broadly), Brazil, and Italy especially are growing fast in their pursuit of this giant.  Moreover, and though I love Mondial, this year found a fair overlap of American breweries and beers from last year - a few so good I went back to them - but I still found many a new surprise to intrigue my taste-buds.

As with my previous Mondial review post, I will again be focusing only on the best of those that were new to me at the festival, while also simply noting that there were many other good beers that didn't quite make the cut.  This time around there is a larger list of tasted beers and stand-outs such that I will also break them down by style (very broadly speaking).

1) Sours, Saisons, and Such:

Tops for me here was Michigan brewery New Holland's Incorrigible (4.9% ABV Berliner Weisse) which offered a great tart nose of wheat and soured fruit, wafting out from a clingy lingering head atop a merely faintly cloudy amber body.  The taste was of sour apples and was quite lactic, if not at all funky, and the carbonation was bold, tingly, prickly, and basically just right for the taste allowing a tempered but fine linger.  Grade: A

Also remarkably delicious, I must note, was Oregon-based Gigantic's The City Never Sleeps (7.6% ABV Black Imperial Saison) which was an oddity in that it didn't seem to truly fit to style offering chocolate and toasted nutty notes on the nose alongside some trace spice and a fairly dry finish alongside a lighter-than-anticipated body with prickly-crisp carbonation.  It only at times and only mildly resembled its style descriptor, but it pushed the bounds in good ways also at times resembling a porter, a schwarz, and an American Black (without American hops).  I am not so stuck on styles as to lament this.  I'd gladly drink this beer just about anytime!  Grade: A-/A

2) APAs, IPAs, Black IPAs:

My clear winner was Doom (7.4% American Pale Ale) from Elysian Brewing out of Seattle, WA.  This APA, with added treacle - in a well-tempered quantity - poured an orange-tinged copper with a nice frothy white head of clingy lace.  It smelled of citrus, citrus, and more citrus enticingly and, though I sometimes feel APAs and IPAs with a great nose tease for a taste that never meets the hype, Doom does!  Though there is a hint of honey and treacle sweetness up front, it quickly gets out-fruited by dry pineapple and mango alongside some remaining citrus with a bitter-sweet linger.  Medium-bodied, perfectly crisp, and simply a delight to drink for any who like a West-Coast American IPA. Grade: A/A+

Maui Big Swell IPA (6.8% ABV India Pale Ale) keeps pace just behind with a similar citrus nose - if a bit fainter - and a similar tropical fruit/pineapple flavour.  The malt backbone seems a bit overly present and more reminiscent of a DIPA than a standard IPA, but I like that as I love my DIPAs, and the fruitiness comes through plain as day nonetheless.  The body, however, is a bit on the light side.  Grade: A-/A

Next came Smuttynose's Noonan Black IPA (5.7% ABV American Black Ale) from the Live Free or Die Drink Craft or Die state of New Hampshire, which wafts a nice hoppy-pine nose tempered by some faint roasty chocolate malts emanating from its ample off-white head of noteworthy retention and lace.  The body itself is a deep dark brown while it tastes of pine and lingering resin alongside a hint of grapefruit, while allowing a dry linger coupled with a medium body and some tingly carbonation.  Grade: A-/A

Port Townsend's Hop Diggidy IPA (another Washington state brew) and Smuttynose's Shoal's Pale Ale also deserve some praise and would get a lengthier write-up were they not paired against such strong contenders!  Both grade around an A- to me.

Gigantic's Black Friday (8.1% ABV American Black Ale) gets similarly good numbers, but as I had it late in the day, while deep in conversation with a brewer, I will say little more than I'd personally love to give it another try and recommend that you do too!

3) Stouts & Porters

There was a clear winner in this category for me: once again from Michigan's New Holland comes the Dragon's Milk (a 10% ABV Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout).  With a oak and vanilla-forward bourbon-nose smoothed out by roasty chocolatey malt, this beer tastes similarly complex with a depth of sweetness from vanilla and milk chocolate notes that are dried out by the bourbon-warmth that follows. A slight bit boozy and a slight bit sweet, but excellent for what it is!  Grade: A

The first oatmeal stout I ever had was the quintessential one brewed by Samuel Smith's and, for my good fortune at this, I have been chasing the dragon ever since.  Though I have found some to be drinkable, only Rogue's Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout (6.1% ABV )even came close to the Sam Smith's legend.  This brew exudes a great nose of nutty/roasty chocolate and biscuits from a gorgeous mocha head, while it tastes lightly toasty and earthy with a nicely dried finish.  It has a nice full body and thick chewiness that is topped only by the best in my books.  Grade: A-/A (closer to A)

Gigantic hits the list again with The Time Traveller (a 5.8% American Porter) which presents a solid nose of lightly roasted coffee and baking chocolate chip cookies.  The taste is sweet - in a malty rich porter sense, not a milk stout way - with dark Belgian chocolate and lightly toasted notes dominating the mouth which feels a touch light which might be my only complaint of substance here.  Still a greatly enjoyable beer.  Grade: A-

4) Barleywines

I truly enjoyed two solid American barleywines at the fest, and though it was hard to distinguish a clear winner and though both were very good, neither rocked my world as a few beers here did.

Tops by a hair here is Stone's Old Guardian (an 11% ABV American Barleywine).  Despite some malty, peat-like sweetness and a trace of earthy hops, the nose is overly boozy.  Visually it displays a gorgeous reddish-orange cloudy body, while tastewise I noticed a plum dominance alongside hints of smoke and a fair earthy dryness.  A solid linger and a full body complement this sold brew.  Now I must try a barrel-aged version.  Grade: A-

Finally, I come to the almost evenly-matched French Oak-Aged Old Man Barleywine (a 10.5% ABV American Barleywine) from Port Townsend.  It pours an amber-red body with nice sticky lace, while expressing a nose dominated by oak and its signature caramel and vanilla which, while nice, aren't so fitting for the style, but it is nonetheless enticing!  The taste is likewise dominated by oak sweetness, but it likewise balances out with a substantial pine-dominated hoppy finish.  Despite a solidly full body, the mouth is a bit tingly for the style and I found myself wishing it were naturally carbonated, but it is still quite enjoyable!  Grade: A-

With some extra shout-outs for Dogfish Head's Midas Touch, Elysian's Savant IPA, and Ommegang's Abbey Ale that didn't quite make the review cut, that's all for now.  Review post three soon!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Mondial Review 1: The Best of the Europeans

Insofar as three days at this year's 20th Mondial de la Bière led me to 88 NEW tastings/reviews (if I count the single off-Mondial event I made it to) not counting another 10 with guests at home during the event and a handful I re-tried, I cannot possibly write reviews of all.

Moreover, though I was very responsible (with vitamins, water, pacing myself, etc) it is a lot to even offer substantial reviews of any though I did arrive with clipboard and prepared spreadsheet that returns full of the notes becoming these posts here.

Thus, my plan is not to even attempt full reviews (in number or depth) but rather to lend my praise to those stand-outs.  I had MANY solid beers that won't even be mentioned, and MANY I would grade a B/B+/A- though I will focus on those here I would give an A or A+ (and the occasional otherwise notable A-) which is generally above a 45 on the 50-point BJCP grading schema - an excellent grade in the ranks of stellar beers.  In this sense, I will simply gesture to the strengths of the best of the best, which this global festival provides, and in breaking them down by region rather than simply style, one can use this as a (very minimal) token travel purchase suggestion!

This is the first of a planned five posts to appear over the next week or so which will wrap up my Mondial experience:

  1. This post of the Belgian/French/Italian stand-outs;
  2. The next post of the (new-to-me) American standouts;
  3. The third post covering the Quebec marvels;
  4. The fourth post addressing the discovered gems from Brazil's booming craft beer scene;
  5. The final post noting the best in styles (that I tasted) and considering the single off-site event I imbibed at.

Standing out most prominently for me from Italy were the following, in particular:

Birra del Borgo's Equilibrista (a 10.9% Wild/Sour Ale) delights me in a style one either tends to love or hate.  It pours a clear red body with strongly evident bubbly carbonation presenting a nose that (following this video) I delightfully and jokingly call hideously infected!  More precisely, though it lacks the funk of some wilds, the tartness almost prickles he nose hair, while it tastes of sour tart cherries and fermenting grapes, but not at all in a wine-like fashion.  A nice full body and a tingly carbonation round out this solid sour I'd gladly seek out again, and which well hides its alcohol in flavour and feel.  Grade: A/A+

Birra del Borgo makes the cut again with their solid, if not quite legendary, Hoppy Cat (a 5.8% ABV Cascadian Dark Ale or Black IPA) which presents some light particulate chunkiness in its dark body, while offering enticing aromas of pine and resin followed by a faint toastiness.  The taste is similar with a malty toast flavour at first, but one that is rapidly dried by a fairly bitter-and-yet-balancing resinous drying finish that has a substantial linger, despite an overly light and slightly watery body. Grade: A-

Finally, I come to Baladin's Wayan (a 5.8% ABV Saison) which is certainly unique, blended with many herbs and adjuncts and less hops than a traditional saison.  Lightly cloudy amber in colour, its nose is somewhat akin to the fruitier of saisons and blends it with the blonde ale faintness, with no hint of any barnyard funk.  Despite these style-atypical aroma weaknesses, the beer offers some unique fruity-spicy notes of lychee coupled with an indescribable funk somewhat between a barnyard essence and something near indescribable (for me) akin to floral  fermentation notes.  The crisp carbonation seems perfect for the quite dry finish (especially for a low-hopped beer) while the finish doesn't linger either appealingly or otherwise.  Grade: A-/A

France's token tasted offering showed strongly as well in Lancelot's XI.I (an 11.1% ABV Quadrupel).  This annual and limited production beer looks the part of a Belgian strong dark, while likewise presenting a plums and fig-centric nose with a hint of brown sugar.  Tastewise, malty-sweet raisins dominate, alongside a delectable full body with a creamy thick warmth and a dry (more Trappist than Abt) finish despite its sweet character.  A very solid offering here, if no Rochefort!  Grade: A-/A

I didn't try too many Belgian brews at this festival, even if I had a few in Belgian styles, yet I did try an epic one I had yet to buy.  Tops for me was that long-pondered (but usually more expensive than it should be - at least here) St. Bernardus Tripel (an 8% ABV Tripel).  Though not my favourite tripel ever, it exudes notes of fermenting apples which are also present to the taste alongside a drying floral addition coupled with spicy yeast.  The alcoholic bite is a bit more present here than in many 8%ers, but it is quite balanced and enticing nonetheless, coupled with its tingly-strong carbonation.  Grade: A-

Finally, I'd add in La Binchoise's XO (a 12% ABV Armagnac Barrel-Aged Belgian Strong Pale Ale) that presents a reddish body with noteworthy clingy lacing.  Woody notes and vanilla dominate the nose, while some mildly tart cherries greet the tongue in a complex manner evolving from a tempered sweetness to a spicy-dry yeasty finish, hoisted by a full body and present warmth.  Grade: A-

Next up... the brewers of the (not so) New World starting with the American craft behemoths!  Stay tuned.