Monday, 21 December 2015

Homegrown Hops: Tasting Some Beers from Une Biere Deux Coups

Keeping up on the booming craft beer scene can be tough.  Breweries seem to open constantly (with few closures). In and directly around Montreal, mind you, with new brewpub exceptions like Harricana and Isle de Garde, most breweries have been established for at least a few years, with new breweries popping up further afield (Au Val, Sutton, l'Hermite, Hopera). Homebrewers, Brasserie Une Bi√®re Deux Coups, hope to change this and open a Montreal brewery/tasting room in the near(-ish) future. Work on funding plans, the need for permits and space, and other practical exigencies mean this isn't around the corner, but the project is moving forward and, after tasting their beers, I hope we see this come to fruition sooner rather than later!

A joint brewing partnership between Dan Deeds and Eric Dion masterminds the project, which is both grounded in tested, well-liked staples and also experimenting for future delights.

I met up with Dan at his (hop garden backyard) home where he graciously provided me with some review bottles, beginning with their popular Session IPA, and this should assuredly be a staple in their future production. Session IPAs are quite the rage these days, offering the nose (and sometimes the full flavour) of a bold American India Pale Ale without the excess alcohol (or calories) making them a delightful, easy drink for a hot summer afternoon. Indeed, such were the conditions for my consumption, and this fit the bill perfectly!

Since this meeting, Dan has provided me with a few more samples, and I have been building a database of reviews, but note merely a few herein.

Summer Session IPA (3.8% ABV, 45 IBU) pours a quite hazy orange-reddish tinged deep copper in colour, with a decent (1.5-finger) soft white head. The head has pretty solid retention, and small rings of lace circle the glass briefly. Though still firmly within the pale ale camp, this was much darker than anticipated, which is fine either way!

It may seem odd to use vibrant and dank in the same description, but the nose truly wafts vibrantly in expressions of dank earthiness, with a distinctive resinous pine quality, and some tropical fruits, like mango and passion fruit in the background. There is little in the way of citrus - my favourite in IPAs usually - though some traces of rind are present, as are slight floral hints, but buried deeply beyond the fresh, dank resins. A very solid nose, nonetheless!

Upon sipping, there is a touch of a cereal grain and somewhat nondescript resinous quality that kicks things off, before a solid, moderately bitter pine-dominant linger that spreads well thanks to the carbonation.

Most Session IPAs truly lack the body to support the hops present making them aroma forward, but watery otherwise. This, I am pleased to say, is one of those beers that has no business having the body it does - and yet thank science it does! It isn't super thick, but is thicker than some 6% IPAs at medium-bodied and it comes bolstered by a pretty soft feeling spritz, even with moderate carbonation. It feels a bit resinous as well, adding to the flavour and complementing it nicely.

Overall, this is a super solid beer!  I'd buy this regularly if available as such. I think it is nearly as good as Le Castor's Session Houblon. The nose is just as strong - in a style of aroma that isn't usually my preference - and it competes on the body front (at 0.5% less ABV even!) while probably paling a bit on the taste front for my personal interests. But, and this is crucial: to enter that discussion means, to me, this is better than most of the other (non-Brett) session IPAs in Quebec. Bravo!

Though I have yet to try a regular IPA from 1B2C, I also got my hands on their Tempo Double IPA (9%
ABV, 110 IBU), and though solid as well, it wasn't as big of a hit for me personally.  It is darker than anticipated, presenting a hazy brownish, with a decent white head of fair retention. The nose is fruity in the mango and pineapple forward vein more than the citrus aspect.  Some candied sugar from the malt base and a hint of pine and booze also wafts.  Taste-wise it is good through and through, but to be a bit critical it is a touch sweet in the beginning, but the middle and finish come in with an increasingly resinous bitter bite.  It offers quite the lengthy and bitter linger as well, with a fairly full body and carbonation that feels lighter than it appears, offering a bit of oiliness.  A touch more effervescence might show well with the bitter bite.  Overall, the malt base seems a touch bold, such that the bitter bite seems a way to overcompensate in the finish.  However, that is a common enough presentation in DIPAs, so this critique is more personal preference than stylistic error on their part and I note it as this may fulfill your own DIPA criteria, though for me this has a strong nose but gets a bit bland in the somewhat nondescript bitterness that lacks the fruity or floral qualities one expects in the lengthy linger.  It comes off a bit (quickly sweet, then rapidly) 'bitter-for-bitters-sake,' but this is a very traditional DIPA quality.  Those in love with Vermont DIPAs may want a touch more fruit and flowers, while those in love with more West Coast styles may appreciate this for its strengths.  Take, though, my criticism with a grain of salt, for it is still better than many commercial DIPAs in Quebec (with exceptions like Isle de Garde, DDC Immoralite, LTM DIPA, and Route 138, I presume)

Gose Buster (3.5% ABV, 18 IBU), which I somehow forgot to photograph, is another hit in my personal opinion (though the summer batch was a touch better than the recent offering, and brewer Dan agrees, as we both wonder if there was a difference in the purchased grains from the same suppliers).  It pours a hazy yellow with a thick, super creamy white head that sticks around and clings to the glass.  It's aromatically inviting with offerings of lemon, sea breeze, and a muted hint of coriander.  In the mouth, it starts with a mild doughy quality, before a lightly tart, lightly salted, sharp feeling refreshing finish as if of a delightful (mild lemon) spritzer.  The bold effervescence serves to well spread the flavours across the palate, before assisting as it dries out nicely with a mild lemon linger.  Though gose fans who want a sour blast, a wheat-bomb, ocean-level saltiness, or forward-coriander may be disappointed, I rather find that this is an example where none of these components take center stage since all are well balanced in a super-drinkable, highly refreshing treat.  This would be the best in Quebec on a shelf if dropped in stores today.

Zeddemore Schwarzgose (4% ABV, 20 IBU) blends a dark malt backbone with salty sourness. However, while I could provide more elaborate notes for any interested, I will keep this brief, since this beer seems to fall short for two reasons.  First, the roast and lemon qualities just don't blend seamlessly.  Second, despite Dan's assertion that it contains the same amount of salt as the Gose Buster, it tastes saltier throwing the balance out of whack.  It seems odd that this somehow brings the salt more forward as it must compete with roastier malts and a slightly higher IBU.  Regardless, I mention this beer despite its misses because it portends a forward-thinking attempt to bridge styles in unique ways.  And I always appreciate the experiments that facilitate innovation.

Pony Boy Bitter (4% ABV, 40 IBU) comes from a tradition I have moved beyond.  That is, while English styles brought me to beer initially, I now find myself rather sensitive to their frequent (and frequently acceptable) diacetyl notes of buttered popcorn and bored by their traditional hops.  And yet, I can appreciate a well done example of the styles, and this is well done!

It pours a hazy, reddish-dark amber capped by a moderate white head of some retention.  That head wafts an inviting bouquet that fits the style norms but brings complexity of notes rather than unidimensional qualities.  In combination with the fresh-baked bread-like malt and yeast character, there are complementary notes of tea-like hops and some lemon balm.  It smells a bit like an Earl Grey/lemon tea hybrid, while someone bakes a whole wheat loaf in the oven behind.

The flavour begins with that similar yeasty bakery quality, before transitioning to a dry, lightly earthy, and black-tea dominant finish.  There is, also, a lowly discernible diacetyl quality, but that is both acceptable in the style and muted enough by other notes so as to not offend my diacetyl-sensitive palate.  The linger is fairly slight, while the notes are complemented by a fairly light body and just shy of moderate carbonation.  Together, these make for an easy drinking, stylistically sound brew.  A solid hit, even in a style I'd rarely procure!

To get your hands on some of these evolving products, to get a leg up on the evolving Montreal beer scene, and to support what may be our next local brewery, check them out on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LaPico1B2C?fref=ts  Also, they are doing a survey as part of their business plan.  Please help them out by doing both parts: Part One AND Part Two.  Thanks!

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