Monday, 4 January 2016

Spilling Secrets: Marché du Village and the New Série Impériale Barley Wine

No matter your hobby, you periodically discover a surprise supplier and try to keep it secret.  For beer geeks, whether that's your 'loon link or whatever, we somehow feel as if we need to keep things hushed so that more remains for us when we need it.  Sure, some know about it, but maybe not everyone...

And yet, here I am telling you all about the not-so-well-kept-secret (since it opened in 1967 and all!) that is Marché du Village in Ange-Gardien.

What's to love about this place?  Man, the list is extensive...
  1. Being situated off-island, they often have rare bottles last longer than the requisite 9 minutes
  2. They are basically halfway to my in-laws cottage and make for a crucial stop beforehand, making the visit more tolerable
  3. They are located about 1/4 of the way from Montreal to Hill Farmstead - a regular stop for any dedicated Montreal beer geek (but remember to stop on your way back!)
  4. Due to friendships and proximity, they get full stock of special Dunham releases... Mmmmmm, Dunham
  5. They have an excellent selection of Quebec beers including the majority of breweries and special releases, and...
  6. ... as a special SAQ authorized retailer, they also stock other nice brews as well.
  7. They are located in a 24-hour high-end supermarket/cafe/gas station perfect for your travelling needs
  8. They have two temperature, light, and humidity controlled cellars; one for long-term aging and one that brings out the latest from the former for sales at varied intervals.
  9. To see the sale cellar, you must ask the incredibly friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, bilingual staff for assistance, but never has a request for assistance felt so invited
  10. They periodically brew/contract brew/have brewed special release beers that are barrel-aged and intended to be suitable for long term aging!
It is the second of these beers that prompts this post.  The first in the series, Série Impériale Scotch Ale Impériale, was brewed at Brasseurs Illimités and aged in several diverse barrels.  It was a treat: not too sweet with an excellent barrel character making for a delightful winter sipper.

This winter, Marché du Village and Brasseurs Illimités have combined forces again and released the second in the series: Série Impériale Barley Wine.  This English Barley Wine is well hopped with Nugget and Fuggles, before being barrel-aged in Whiskey, Brandy, and Rum barrels. It retails for $19.99 for a 750ml bottle, and when you consider the quality, the size, the 11.9% ABV, and the aging potential, this is a fair price indeed.

It pours out a reddish copper with a thick tan head.  Large bubbles make up the cap, which has fair retention for the high ABV, and even a circle remains throughout, while lacing is fairly thick and uneven.

It is quite aromatically enticing.  The bouquet is rich with a well-blended complexity of diverse notes with none overpowering.  The most dominant notes are wet wood, mild sherry-like qualities, low ethanol, some earthy and mildly tea-like hops, moderate caramel, and a hint of baking bread.  There is a mild peaty quality with a touch of fruity plum-like esters, but no overwhelming barrel component of either whiskey, rhum, or brandy.  This isn't a limitation, rather it attests to the nuance added that blends so wonderfully.  There's a hint of what smells almost like spiced whiskey and rum very faintly.  This is a very complex and balanced nose.

The flavour begins with a bready/caramel/doughy quality that quickly transitions to tea and bits of barrel, before a quite dry and fairly hot finish with an earthy and resinous bitterness.  Though nicely bitter, there is a fair bit of residual sugar on the palate.  It has a medium length bitter linger.  There is a bit of ethanol here as well, but what do you want - it's 11.9%!  As it warms, it becomes a bit less bitter, with greater raisin notes and caramel notes in the finish.

It is fairly full-bodied with moderate carbonation.  The tongue picks up a slight oiliness, and it is a touch sharper than I'd like, but not at all sticky (and for the residual sugar and ABV that is a big plus!) There is, as expected, a moderate warming as it downs.

Overall, this is a very nice second coming, and one I will seek out another bottle of for aging.  Yes, it's a touch sweet, but also nicely bitter and dry, and it is, after all, an ENGLISH barley wine; though one well complemented by well-blended barrel-aging.

Moreover, Marché du Village has some of their own glasses and had one made for this Series.  The glass is a gold-rimmed teku, seen in the pictures.  It is a nice hefty teku, much like the Dunham/Jester King release from the Autumn, with the same height, shape, and weight with the odd extra bulbous base beyond the standard teku. It is thick but not as excessively so as the weight implies.  Overall, the printed design is nice, but not fantastic as it is a bit simplistic, but it is a fine teku for a Quebec beer scene that is overloaded with tulips but under-represented by this trendy tulip-esque alternate design.

In a nutshell, I'd stop by this place.  Get their new beer, get some aged ones, get some standards, grab a branded spiegelau IPA glass, and a teku, and move on the Eastern Townships prepared to survive the tribulations of your in-laws... or maybe that's just me.


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