Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Epic Battle of the Adjunct Chili Stouts: Slaying Some Personal White Whales

Beer geeks not only seek the new, whether to tick or to chase the next big thing, but they further hold out dreams of slaying a 'white whale.'  Invoking Moby Dick, a white whale is that elusive, limited, hyped rarity that for some reason (amongst all other whales) elicits the deepest desires of the geek in question.  What constitutes a whale is subjective and depends on many factors, and I have had some rarer beers before, but this tasting epitomized the slaying (read: drinking) of multiple personal white whales, in styles that drive me nuts.

Several of these were brewery only and/or had bottle counts in the low hundreds.  They also trade at quite a high value, are highly rated, come from afar (to Quebec anyway) and aren't easily procured.  Moreover, faithful readers know I love me an imperial stout.  I also love chilis and chili beers, though there aren't too many chili imperial stouts on my regular radar.

Thus, the barrel-aged (and regular) variants of Hunahpu's Imperial Stout, Mexican Cake, and Abraxas all fall into that dreamy category for me... or they did.  It doesn't hurt either that, despite rarity, these beers are all immensely praised and (at the time of writing) not a one rated less than 97 on Beeradvocate. (Don't ask, however, how many 'loons flew the coup - and went South over the Farmstead Hill -  in quest of these bottles!* I can't count that many 'loons in flight.)

The lineup consisted of (in consumed order): Prairie Artisan Ales (from Oklahoma) Bomb!, Perennial Artisan Ales (from Missouri) Abraxas and Barrel-Aged Abraxas, Cigar City's (Florida) Hunahpu's Imperial Stout and Double-Barrel (Rum and Apple-Brandy) Hunahpu's, and Westbrook's (South Carolina) Mexican Cake, as well as two variants, Tequila Barrel-Aged Mexican Cake and Double Barrel (Bourbon and Rye) Mexican Cake, and a fine blend I like to call 'Quadruple Barrel Mexican Pu' made from a blend of both double barrel aged beers.  Yep, that's a lot of adjunct stout to review, so on to the goodness...

Bomb! (13% ABV) (2014) combines coffee, cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and ancho chili peppers in a solid imperial stout base.  It pours a deep dark brown to black, with a slight deep tan to light mocha head of minimal retention.  From the bouquet, I get dark chocolate in predominance, with some espresso and faint chili notes.  Tastewise, the chocolate is once again dominant, though traces of coffee are present and some chili spreads on the tongue via the carbonation.  That carbonation, however, is minimal with a medium-full body, yet despite a decent smoothness, this one is a touch sticky.  The alcohol is well hidden on both tongue and chest in a remarkable fashion; or, perhaps, with so many adjuncts, it isn't actually all that remarkable.  Overall, this is a great beer (and my second time with it), but it seems to not quite know what it is... coffee stout, chili stout, chocolate stout, who knows?  But it is super drinkable, and blends the adjuncts pretty well.  Grade: A-

Hunahpu's Imperial Stout (11% ABV) (2014 despite the 2015 in the pic above, brewed with cacao nibs, Madagascar vanilla beans, Ancho chilis, Pasilla chilis, and cinnamon) clomps into the glass exposing its mass alongside its deep darkness.  There is a moderately sized mocha head, though with negligible retention and no lace to speak of.  The aroma is inviting with loads of chili-chocolate (reminiscent in, literally, of a dark chocolate truffle with chilis) and a fair amount of what smells like super-fresh, wonderfully high quality vanilla beans.  There is a fresh vegetal quality, faintly reminiscent of olives as well.  It isn't ideal, but isn't entirely off-putting either as I suspect it is, rather than an off-flavour, connected with the vanilla beans of (once) fresh, gourmet quality.  The notes connect in my mind, at least, whether they do so in reality.  It tastes first of deep, rich chocolate, followed by those delightful vanilla beans, before concluding with a strong cinnamon presence and just a hint of chili warmth.  There is a mild dual-warmth after the swallow as both a trace of heat and a low-moderate chili burn return up the esophagus.  This beer has the creamiest, silkiest, thickest-bodied mouthfeel ever, even compared to nitro-tapped heavies!  (Perhaps not the thickest beer, though very thick, but the silkiest for sure!)  What a treasure on the tongue!  Overall, this does a lot of things right, but it feels a bit more muddled (than Bomb!) by the over-presence of too many conflicting adjuncts.  The chocolate, the vanilla, the chilis all just seem in so much competition (and too little chili for me, though it is over a year old) that the stout is long gone.  It is great, don't get me wrong, but I feel like I drank a thick, chocolate-vanilla, lightly hot, slightly boozy, creamy milkshake, not an imperial stout.  The beer was lost a bit in the adjunct process - or perhaps in the age. Grade: A-

Double-Barrel Hunahpu's Imperial Stout (11% ABV), aged in both Rum and Apple Brandy barrels, was brewed once in 2014 and released at the brewery only amidst a near beer riot.  It is visually undifferentiated from the non-BA Hunahpu, except for a smaller head.  The nose wafts an increased vanilla component alongside the presence of some wood, but is otherwise similar though that faint olive note is a bit more muted here, as are the other adjunct notes, though the chocolate remains fairly present.  The taste is a bit sweeter up front with vanilla and cinnamon taking more of a centre stage than the chocolate.  The middle brings some rum spice and woody characteristics, before a more heated, chili finish.  The carbonation seems a touch more pronounced than in the regular version, while the feel remains almost identically silky if a tad less thick. The alcoholic heat is well-hidden on the palate.  Overall, by muting the olive notes, as well as better blending the adjuncts with some wood presence, while effectively holding the body, this is the better beer, though I have heard that it has faded greatly since it is now 15-months past launch.  Grade: high A-

Abraxas (10% ABV), crafted with ancho chilis, vanilla beans, cacao nibs, and cinnamon sticks, was the biggest disappointment of the night for me.  And yet, it is still a fine beer, so I wasn't too disappointed to ingest it!  It is visibly a shade lighter, presenting a dark brown in contrast, while topped with a scant head that almost resembles red wine bubbling lightly from an aggressive pour.  The noise has more roast qualities than Huna, showing its stout origins more than simply the adjuncts.  As far as the adjuncts go, the cinnamon is paramount, before some of the chocolate and just traces of vanilla.  There is also a slight ashy quality to it, alongside a faint hint of ethanol that is more discernible than in either of the (slightly stronger) Hunahpus.  As it opens up, the chilis come forward a bit more, making the nose fairly dynamic.  The taste is fairly sweet and cinnamon-dominated, while there is an almost milk-chocolate quality to the middle.  It has a very, very faint return of mild chili spice and a touch of alcohol heat in the finish.  The body is a touch lighter, and it is even less carbonated than Huna, while there is also a more present alcohol burn (and detectable flavour) as well.  Grade: B+

Barrel-Aged Abraxas (11% ABV), aged in Rye Whiskey barrels, poured the same dark brown of the base beer, with a comparably negligible head.  The nose has transformed completely however, starting out with more cacao that is complemented by traces of oak and a hint of spicy rye.  There are also some slight chili pepper notes, and faint whisps of ethanol.  The taste likewise begins with a chocolate assault, before transitioning first to ethanol, then to a mix of rye spice and a smooth, if not over-bearing chili tingle.  It is slightly warm in the linger, but more of alcohol than chili, though both are present.  Overall, it presents just enough chili, and just enough barrel, with muted adjuncts overall to have all components enhance rather than detract from each other.  It offers slightly more barrel notes than DBH; just enough for that blended complexity of components aforementioned.  Grade: A

Mexican Cake (10.5% ABV, 2013 bottling date, brewed with cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, and habanero peppers) pours thickly dark with but a slight tan head, and no real retention to speak of.  The nose wafts a nice blend of roasted malts coupled with the chocolate to present this bittersweet cacao up front, complemented by vanilla and coffee-esque notes, with muted cinnamon, and mere traces of chili.  The taste is a bit milder up front than in the finish, but starting with a fine blend of roasty stout qualities, alongside adjunct chocolate and vanilla, before a chili finish that begins before the swallow and a lengthy linger lasting through the next sip.  The body is a bit thinner than Abraxas, and certainly thinner than Huna, but the feel remains fairly creamy despite a bolder carbonation (that works well with the spice). With just a touch more body, this would be perfect to me as the best obvious 'stout' tasted (on its own terms) and with muted adjuncts except for the one I like the most!  (BTW: though my notes remain coherent, I am terribly sorry that my pictures started to get drunk from here on in... damn Android, no app to increase either tolerance or to correct for the user!)  Grade: A/A+

Tequila Barrel-Aged Mexican Cake (10.5% ABV) almost identically resembles the base beer, and the nose is again similar but with a few key differences.  First, the aroma starts with a greater depth of chocolate, before more spicy notes of both tequila and chili which masks the chili a bit in the balance between the two.  The taste, again, begins a bit more chocolate forward than the base brew, while the finish is entirely spicy, yet only vaguely of chilis with an equal blend of tequila and woody characteristics as well.  It has a touch less carbonation than the regular version, but a similar body and remains quite solid indeed.  Grade: A/A+

Double-Barrel Mexican Cake (10.5% ABV) pours a similar colour, though the head seems a bit more mocha coloured and a bit less substantial.  The aroma presents a perfect blend of chocolate, whiskey, wood, moderate vanilla, and very faint chili.  The taste is similar, if a bit boozier than the base beer, while very woody with vanilla and chocolate preceding a spicy chili finish and linger.  This is a bit spicier than not just the other Cakes, but all of the other beers in the tasting.  It has a bit less carbonation than the other Cakes, but also seems to have thickened up a bit and leaves no residual stickyness on the palate.  This is clearly the best beer of the night, according to all four tasters involved, as it exemplifies balance in the adjuncts (except for the chili which the other non-Cakes leave as too weak), presents the strongest imperial stout base, and offers a solid if not dominating aspect of the barrels!  Grade: A+

Then, of course, there was the blend I like to call 'Quadruple Barrel Mexican Pu,' which offers a chocolate-dominant nose, supported by some cinnamon and vanilla (in a barrel-way), while the flavour is pretty chocolatey and vanilla forward, with a solid chili burn in the finish.  It works well by bringing much of Cake's strengths forward while adding aspects of Huna's remarkable body.  A fine blend, indeed!  Grade: A+

Though the Huna we tasted may have been showing its age at 15 months old, our Cake (non-BA) was even older and it stood up in a much stronger way, despite the bodily might of the Huna.  Huna just felt like a mess of adjuncts (if one can call a still great beer a 'mess') while Cake minimized the supporting adjuncts to the stout at hand - except for the personally desired chili.  Thus, I'd say: (Quad Barrel Mex Pu>) DB Cake>Cake tied with Tequila Cake>BA Abraxas>DB Huna>Huna tied with Bomb!>Abraxas.

Yet for me, a lesson here if this: it usually isn't worth it to trade and ship for high end prizes.  Yes, I loved Cake and DB Cake, but trading for Cake is about 10 times easier and cheaper than for DB Cake, and DB Cake is NOT 10 times better than its base.  In my opinion, flip for the regs and let the variants be... unless you have so many big trade guns that you don't know what to do with, or unless these top your whale search list!  That said, as these were basically all on my beer bucket list, it had to be done and I didn't regret drinking a single thing on this list, and nor would I ever.

'Til next time... cheers!

(By the way, if you wonder how I can safely drink this many strong beers in one epic tasting: it was four of us throughout, with, at times, a 5th and 6th person nabbing tastes, and we spaced it out over 5 hours with large glasses of water between each sip.  #drinkresponsibly-ish!)

*Beer geek jargon clarification/translation: "Don't ask how many [relatively rare and highly valued Belgian] Cantillon lambics and gueuzes - as well as Hill Farmstead beers - were traded to find these and compile them over the last year for this great night."

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The Case for the Crowd: Embracing Beer Reviews

Fret not, this post IS about beer, but begins with an analogy.

I started maltytasker.beer with plans to write about several of my favourite interests: baseball (especially the Toronto Blue Jays), politics, GNU/Linux, and beer.  Though I never truly explored many of these other aspects, and so I simply embraced the beer, there is something in common between craft beer and Linux (and the politics of Free and Open Source Software).

You see, Linux thrives through its community.  It is, essentially, coded by, fixed by, updated by, maintained by, and supported by that community.  Though I am a pretty skilled computer user, I am no programmer, and on occasion I seek help (and sometimes offer it) on various Linux forums.  The ready availability of assistance advises me on software packages, security solutions, problem solutions, tips, tricks, and more.  I love Linux, but I could never have been 7+ years free of Windoze (and wishing we had divorced sooner) if it hadn't been for searchable assistance through the online community.

The community, though, works because users re-contribute perpetually back to the loop for the benefit of all.  We rely on that contribution and, in turn, we should contribute back when and where we can.

Though Apple and Microsoft have their own communities, they don't function the same way: the source material is closed, and frankly, users don't care.  This is the product that is desired; users take what's fed to them and embrace it without the knowledge that things can be different (whether or not they should be different for them, like whether standard 'beer' drinkers should switch to craft, is another issue than that of the model itself).

Likewise, macro brews attempt to construct a community (through poor advertising) but it lacks the sharing, trading, tasting, rating structure of the craft community (not to mention flavour).

Yet, beer geeks have a pretty solid community.  We out bad traders publicly, thereby ensuring a safe space, and often attempt to make up for the trading shortfalls of others.  Craft brewers often collaborate rather than compete, and some even "Open-source" their recipes offering them up on their websites or for those who ask (and can we have even more of this, please?).  We have a share mentality around products for tastings, and in such a manner I have made friends with many of those I am closest to in my new hometown.

We also check ratebeer and beeradvocate often.  When we find a new product or a new brewery, when we vacation and wish to find craft beer hotspots, we jump on their assessments.  The initial numbers are just a start and the comments further our understanding of the notes to expect - in hopes that such-and-such beer will present the characteristics we desire.

Yet too many of us rely on these community-driven sites, and at times lament some user ratings therein, but free-ride on the system.  Sure, we "tap" things on Untappd, but I have heard more complaints of Untappd ratings than of the bigger sites. Yet, despite this, NONE of my top craft brew-loving friends review in the very places where they seek reviews.  Perhaps, however, this is because Untappd's 140 characters are truly insufficient to capture the experience of craft beer moments.

Myself, though I do tap my brews and will probably continue to for the social aspect, I care little for the ratings or comments.  Untappd gives room to note but one thing well: usually the single most or least appreciated aspect, not the pros and cons in totality.  And, if you're at all like me, you've probably never sought out a beer rating on Untappd when you discovered a new product: we all go to the big guns.

Thus, my provocation.  The system works when we contribute.  Our rating complexity and lexicon improve as we do so.  Assessing beers in their entirety not only expands our assessment capacities, but enhances our enjoyment of beer (and assures we don't return to re-try a mess we had a few thousand beers back and had long forgotten).  If you aren't a member already, join BA or RB (or any other full review site you may like if you think we need to disrupt the status quo), and take beer reviews seriously.

Though each site has individual strengths and weaknesses, BA (for instance) allows users to rate (and comment-review) on Look, Smell, Taste, Feel, and Overall criteria, while weighting the components of each for an overall numerical adjustment based on the percentages allotted to each of these aspects by the widely recognized Beer Judge Certification Program.

I don't care if Untappd users give a beer a 4.23 on average - and I don't truly care if BAers give an aroma rating that is higher or lower, what I value is, rather, how thoughtful reviews give an indication of more individualized components while offering a more nuanced assessment.

If you're like me, and you rely on the system, when will you start giving back to it?

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Topping Mondial: Personal Favourites from Mondial de la Biere 2015

Though family, work, and life commitments mean I couldn't have spent as much time at Mondial de la Bière 2015 as I would have liked, it is a testament to its delights that I dream of having spent all five days reveling in its delights.

This festival is equal parts party, revelry in fine food, and stamina-fest where us beer geeks attempt to try as many of its tasty treats as we can without succumbing to (excessive) inebriation or hangover - or worse, palate exhaustion.  I believe this is the first year I managed to avoid both palate exhaustion and hangovers (by ending early and sobering up before bed), but my notes faded (as they tend to do) as the tastes go on, and having sampled around 50 beers over two different visits means that some of this was inevitable.

Before getting to the brews, on the festival in general, I would like to add that the press event prior to the opening at Station Ho.St was delightful in a great beer location, while the festival this year also brought a fantastic new cask event (run by Benelux) and seemed to more adequately space the outdoor and indoor vendors, while seeming to have more seating and a wonderful vibe.  Too bad I couldn't make it to any Off-Mondial events this time around.  Regardless, and as always, this is a Montreal can't miss event - for all and not simply for the biggest brew-guzzlers amongst us.

Though I enjoyed the sausages, kangaroo steaks, and other ingested treats, I have to pay a special homage to this year's top (nutritional) treat...

Top Treat:

Annual food-service provider, Globe Trotter, brought their usual fares of kangaroo steaks, crocodile sausages, and more, but I was particularly thrilled (after a "few" samples) to purchase a "Bug-shot."  Politically, I am persuaded that insects can provide a nutritious and readily available food source such that I have made a commitment to trying more of these pests!  I've really only tried a few before so this was an opportunity not to pass up.  I mean, who wouldn't rather eat them than swat them?  They should at least die for a cause; better they are martyrs than genocidal victims of our hate-fueled wrath!  For a measly $2 (or was it $3?) Globe Trotter provided a small shooter with around 10-20 roasted grasshopper/cricket like creatures for human consumption.  Though I cannot say I loved them, I loved the experience, and I certainly didn't dislike them (perhaps beyond the heeby-jeeby thoughts of insect consumption).  They were well roasted with lightly smoky notes and a moderate saltiness (though could have perhaps used a touch more salt, or maybe some Sriracha?).  The crunchiness of legs and limbs in the mouth is a bit of an odd experience, but not at all unpleasant.  That is, I'd rate the flavour higher than the mouthfeel.  Were this BugAdvocate I'd give it:

  • Appearance: lightly browned, crispy looking small hoppers.  Looks appetizing.  4.5/5
  • Aroma: The mildest component, but lightly burnt smelling with some ashy components 3.25/5
  • Taste: As noted above, more smoky or lightly burnt (as if barbecued - though I forgot to ask about preparation) and can you imagine how easy it would be to get a lightly burnt taste in a crispy barbecued bug? 3.75/5
  • Mouthfeel: Oddly crispy, which could be fine but when it's crispy legs tingling your mouth and getting stuck in your teeth, it detracts a bit. 2.75/5
  • Overall: The price was certainly right to complement the experience!  A treat not to be missed! 5/5

Now, to the beer!  This year, rather than picking the best in styles or attempting to get through everything, I thought I'd categorize a little differently and pick the best(s) of the following: Top Surprises, Top Revisitations, Top Hops, Top Tarts, and Personal Best of Fest.

Top Surprises:

3) Le Saint Bock is a Montreal marvel with what is probably Canada's largest beer selection, though I am rarely delighted by their own brews.  Don't get me wrong... they're rarely (if ever) bad, but they're likewise rarely more than decent.  However, their Arcadia single-hopped Citra American Pale Ale (5% ABV) stands out to me as possibly the best beer I have had from them!  I have called Mikkeller's k:rlek a poor-man's Zombie Dust (and 'poor' not referring to cost, but wider distro), and this could be called a poor man's k:rlek.  Again, however, the statement of poor is relative to accessibility and this is a very solid APA.  This was so good, I even went to the brewpub for a pint afterwards, such that I have more extensive notes here and can say the following:  It pours a light amber with a magnificent, creamy white one-finger head that lasts through an entire pint.  The lacing is likewise thick and curtain-like.  The nose wafts mainly citrus with a hint of peach and mango.  The taste likewise presents citrusy, but is a touch less hop-forward, presenting a hint of cereal grains before a lemon rind dry finish.  There is moderate carbonation, and it is a touch thin.  My only real knock on this beer is that it is a touch watery in flavour and feel, but stands up strongly all-around.  Grade: B+

2) La Fabrique - a brewpub in Matane, Quebec - was new for me, and though Quebec has SO MANY great breweries, it also has so many terrible ones that I avoid the new without news leading me to risk my taste buds for the unknown.  However, such a recommendation led me to try La Simonne (5% ABV Wit with Camerises aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels) which was remarkable!  In fact, it was so good it led me to try two more of their beers (Gros Chars American IPA which was very solid and Kaliningrad Russian Imperial Stout which was a bit too ashy and thin for my tastes).  La Simonne was pinkish-red (with that minimal head of most sample pours, for poor assessment).  Vinous musty qualities were foremost to both nose and palate, while traces of fruit and oak were likewise discernible, though in no ways was this reminiscent of any witbier I have ever otherwise tasted.  Perhaps I liked it precisely for its vinous, red-wine qualities.  Good carbonation with a medium-light body made for super drinkability, coupled with a moderately dry finish.  Grade: A-

 1) Speaking of places I rarely try, Brasseurs du Monde is very close to the top.  They really aren't a bad brewery, per se, but they just have so many mediocre (or slightly worse) beers without having ever impressed me.  Thus, my friend bugged me all day to trust him on this one, and I finally (and thankfully) relented, to my great surprise: Blanche du Mur (4% ABV Berliner Weisse) is a remarkable product, and would be even more praised had it been brewed by a usual suspect.  The nose wafts lactic funk, with a fair semblance of berries, lemons, tartness, and yogurt, while tastewise it is less fruity, and more funky and tart (if not excessively so) and a slight lemony finish, coupled with a feel dominated by ample (if not excessive carbonation) and a fairly light-medium body.  This is wonderful and one of my favourites of the fest.  I am now ISO a bottle!  Grade: A

Top Revisitations:

With many faded hops beers (due to the SAQ import system predominantly), the local breweries best provide that crucial freshness which brought me to Les Trois Mousquetaires.  Their casked Camerises (Berliner Weisse with Camerises), casked Brett Double IPA, and casked blend of Porter Baltique and Double IPA were all also very solid and worthy of high praise, but in particular, it is that which I'd imbibed before which they brought most strongly.  Clearly, they dominated the revisitation category for me personally.

2) Les Trois Mousquetaires' Porter Baltique Fut de Bourbon et Brandy 2014 is a delight in bottles, and the draught version here was even better, complementing the chocolate and barrel notes with a delightfully creamy mouthfeel.  If you ever have the chance to drink this on draught... do so.  Grade: A

1) It's a tough call for 1st or 2nd place here and, really, my winner isn't a revisitation, but rather my first take at the newest iteration.  Though I may have preferred the 2013 DIPA, Les Trois Mousquetaires' Double IPA 2015 easily tops 2014 for me, wafting a fruitier nose with some of the grassy earthiness of increased Simcoe hops (as mentioned to me by their brewmaster, Alex).  Tastewise, it is more bitter than sweet and yet, the balance is ideal, while this keg was also at optimal freshness.  Another hit - I only wish I could get these bottles more than once a year.  A few days later, Beerism's Noah and I side by sided this with Lawson's phenomenal Sip of Sunshine and this 2015 version stood up, even after SOS.  Wow!  Grade: A

Top Hops:

I have to caveat this category and critique the ridiculous import system here (much like Ontario's) where SAQ testing holds back products for months before their appearance.  Thus, I avoided several American IPAs I wished to try due to 2014... yes 2014... bottling dates.  I also avoided those with no date. I believe this system needs serious correction, and that fault lies with government.  However, within such constraints I hope that Mondial will perhaps try to ensure these (IPAs, DIPAs) are the very last beers tested and brought in or else the category could almost be left to lo
cal brewers as hops fades and tastes moldy so quickly.

That said, I was stoked about the highly-rated hop-forward beers from Wormtown in Massachusetts and, fortunately, they were all canned or bottled two months back.  This still isn't optimally fresh, but neither was it a disaster.  And, I am pleased to say that Hopulence (DIPA), Buddha's Juice (DIPA), and Be Hoppy (IPA) all stood up!  I am not sure they tasted as great as their ratings, but that could be due to age, so it feels disingenuous to fully rate on that presentation.  However, my intrigue remains and I will seek out fresher versions to report back in greater detail.

And on the local front, check out Benelux Verdun's Short-shorts for a lightly sour, well-hopped session IPA!  (Grade: A-)

Top Tarts:

Yes, again, not a true beer style category, and in many ways I could include La Simonne and Blanche du Mur here - and with these others they belong - but I chose the above category to present their wonders and here we move to more usual suspects!

3) Limes from Italian brewer Birrificio Bruton is a super drinkable fruit beer (6.5% ABV), so categorized for the addition of vermentino grape must.  It pours yellow and lightly hazy with a decent white head.  The bouquet presents traditional sweaty and fruity saison yeast, coupled with some rind and a hint of the grape must to come.  Flavourwise, it has a nice mild lime character which seems to present as a fairly complex interplay between the yeast and the must, with just a mild sourness.  Very well carbonated and light bodied, the feel strongly spreads the flavours, while never becoming heavy on the palate,with well hidden warmth, making this a wonderful hot summer day delight.  Grade: B+/A-

2) Brasserie Dunham tops out the best two in the category (not counting the surprises above!), but begins with a collaboration brewed in conjunction with Rigaud's Le Castor.  Chevalier du Funk (a 6.5% wild ale or sour saison, in this case) brings hints of barnyard and moderate tartness to the nose, while the taste is mildly yeasty, with some leather, dust, and moderate sourness.  It is light-bodied and, personally, a touch undercarbonated - though live Brett may increase that some with a bit of bottle age.  Another hit from both of these masterful breweries!  Grade: B+/A-

1) Dunham once again hits a homerun, this time with Assemblage Numero 4 (6.3% ABV wild ale blend of barrel-aged Brett beers).  I have to note, however, that this brew has divided the Quebec beer community - some feeling the quality was lacking and others loving it.  Yet, I have now spoken with two different people who each opened two bottles and found one to be delightful and one to be off.  I am never one to speak ill of Dunham, but I hope this inconsistency is hearsay and that my bottle is as good as this one I tasted (and that such problems are addressed if there is any accuracy to these reports); for this offered a masterfully complex nose of dust, must, funk, cobwebs, and light tartness with just a trace of fruit.  Taste-wise, the complexity continued with a gueuze-resembling presentation of musty, vinous notes spread across the palate by high carbonation and a fairly light body.  I found this to be a touch under the stronger examples of traditional gueuze and some high-end American (and Quebec) sours, but it belongs in the conversation.  I cannot stress enough that dislike of this bottle either portends a dislike of the style or of bottle variance, for this is a wonderfully complex animal (complete with inherent critters).  Grade: A

Personal Best(s) of Fest:

This may not have been the top beer I tasted, though it was assuredly amongst them, but it was the genuine and solid token that stood outside of my intentionally odd categorizations.

Double Black IPA (8% ABV), from Providence, Rhode Island's Revival Brewing captures much of what I love in a Black IPA (or Cascadian Dark Ale).  That is, if there is no trace of the roast, make an IPA, and if the hops is secondary, brew a stout, but when done well, these flavours complement, rather than compete with each other.  That is what this offered, presenting an equal parts pine and roast nose, with a coffee forward quality.  The taste likewise began with espresso up front, but completed with a resinous, hop forward earthiness that went hand-in-hand with the roast.  For an imbalanced beer style, the balance between the notes was remarkable, and I could have consumed this all day long - except I had it towards the end (perhaps skewing my notes - though I had two) and limiting the remaining consumption capacity (not to mention breadth of choice!)  Grade: A

Well folks... until next year, that ends the Mondial coverage, but keep seeking these promising local delights, brewers keep stepping up the game, and stay tuned for a review of a pending Imperial Chili Stout tasting complete with Hunahpu, Double Barrel Hunahpu, Mexican Cake, BA Cake Tequila barrel, Double Barrel Cake, and more!