Thursday, 14 April 2016

Benelux Chronique de Mars: Delicious!

Benelux Brasserie Artisanale boasts two excellent brewpubs - in Verdun and downtown - alongside another brewing/kegging/rarely bottling facility called Brasserie du Canal.  They make some solid beers, but rarely release bottles for distribution.

As far as I know, they have only ever released different vintages of their Grande Armada barrel-aged imperial brown ale, but news broke this week that they'd be dropping Chronique de Mars: a barrel-aged blend of a sour saison and a pale ale with Brettanomyces, and dry-hopped with Galaxy.  Note that while the bottle advertises this, I am told by one of the brewers from Benelux that it is a blend of three saisons: a standard/classic saison, one with secondary Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, and one sour saison (that comprised only 8% of the total blend).  The Bretted version apparently spent 10 months in barrels.

If you know me, you know words like "sour saison," and "blend" peak my interest, and they flat out excite me when coupled with "Galaxy hops" and "Barrel-aged."

So, I immediately swung by Maltéhops where my dealer superhero, Patrick, informed me that it would arrive on shelves today.   Being a committed beer geek, I returned again today... twice.

The first time brought the trial, the second for the stash.  And you want a stash.  Trust me.

The cap pops loudly with bold carbonation pushing forth a quick, if not explosive, rising head necessitating a fast pour.  The glass fills with a hazy light copper capped by a thick, foamy white head of solid retention with minimal lacing.

At first, fairly cold, the funk is massive!  The nose wafts a dank dustiness that brings reminiscent thoughts of Brasserie Dunham's delightful Saison Réserve.  Though some wood notes are present, they are buried underneath the bold Brett-dominated aromatics.  As it opens up, the Galaxy qualities of pineapple and mango come through a bit more complementing the Bretty cobwebs, but this smells marvelous indeed!  It is obvious that this is massively Bretted, and that can either turn you off or on.  Me?  I've got more than a semi.

Tastewise, this is complex and highly drinkable.  It is ever so faintly sour, with just a notch below standard saison ph levels.  It begins with a bit of that tartness and some mild fruitiness, mixed with a grape must and highly funky, slightly leathery finish.  The carbonation is quite aggressive, which works well with the style in general and with the notes of this beer specifically.  The sharp and spritzy effervescence spreads the flavours, cleans them off the palate, and allows the dryness to complete each sip, thereby inviting the next.

This may be my favourite Benelux beer to date, and with Grande Armada, several solid IPAs, Black Beatty, Troy Spèciale, and other such treats, that is high praise indeed!

In fact, the blending, the Brett, the hops, and the carbonation are so well executed that it reminds me of the strengths of Crooked Stave beers (perhaps blended with the aforementioned Dunham Saison Réserve).  And, for all of this, it is well-priced at a mere $10 (plus tax and deposit) for a 650ml, barrel aged blend.  My only, and it is mild, criticism would be that the Galaxy hopping (and dry-hopping?) could be amped up a little to better complement the massive funk.

I lied.  I have two further criticisms: it won't always be available and I can't afford to buy several cases.  So get yours now, before I get a mortgage to buy the rest.

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