Quebec stands second in over all craft beer production/consumption in Canada, only British Columbia does better. With 86 breweries/brewpubs, there is an enormous variety of very high quality brews available, not only in the cities, but throughout the small towns of la belle province as well. Some beers are only available locally, some only on tap where they are made. But if you’re lucky enough (or you’ve done your homework) you can find many great examples of the Quebec brewers art at dépanneurs and specialty beer shops wherever you travel. It’s also nice when locals can recommend something they know you’ll like. Julie recommended both Cascade and Le Castor, knowing my fondness for hops. Merci!
Cascade Single Malt India Ale Américaine (6.4%) is made in Saint-Eustache by Brasseurs Illimités. This beer pours a deep coppery amber with a white frothy head that laces lightly, and a huge malt nose leading to an amazing display of hopsmanship. Delicate bitterness grows lovingly with the caramel heavy base maltiness, creating a smooth middle, a beautiful, creamy mouthfeel and a long, dark finish. Should have brought more of these home with me.
Le Castor Yakima IPA (6%) from Microbrasserie Le Castor is another hoppy treat. A big, floral hop nose, pale yellow in colour, inches of thick moussy head falls into a solid malty base, riddled with bitter goodness. At 75 IBUs, this beer is so well balanced, it’s like your palate is a floating down a river, experiencing for the first time nuanced hops notes from citric to pine and hints of bready malt sweetness just under the surface. Ride this sucker to the long, dry finish and you’ll want more.
Phylactère Saison Belge (5%) from Le Trèfle Noir Microbrasserie in Rouyn-Noranda. This is a highly attenuated and tightly effervescent, velvety, amber saison, with all of the exceptional charcteristics you’d expect from a Belgian farmhouse ale: a dense foamy head, decent maltiness, silky bitterness, a low funk combined with citric and distant spicy notes, some estery spikes and joyfully earthy aromatics.
MacTavish In Memorium Ale Légendaire (5%) from Le Trou du Diable in Shawinigan. I love this brewery’s name, ‘Hole of the Devil‘, but could not figure out the reference to the ‘redheaded father of Machiavelli’. Regardless, as they say en français, this beer is ‘formidable‘! Fresh hop aromatics leap from the glass, as you pour this coppery amber brew, two fingers of foam falls into beautiful lacing. A solid hop profile marches confidently across the palate and through the traditional malt base: notes of toffee, biscuits, nuts, dried fruit. Herbal green hops carry the rest, another fine example of hopsmanship, combining bitterness for a unique, subtle spiciness and a long, dry finish.
L’assoiffé 8 (6.5%) ‘The Thirsty‘ is a Belgian-style dubbel from Brasseurs du Monde in Saint-Hyacinthe. A dark ruby-brown colour and a nose of dried, dark fruit greets the pour, low carbonation releases a tan head that slowly dissipates into long lacing and a malty palate, complete with hints of dates, raisins and some chocolate sweetness illuminating the complexity of this holy brew. Notes of coffee and molasses take the imbiber through a velvety palate to a soft finish, quite well balanced and aged to perfection.
La Barberie Rousse Bitter (4.5%) from Microbrasserie Coopérative de Travial in Quebec City. More or less a traditional English style bitter (always called ‘red’ in Quebec it seems) is actually quite a bold brew. Long on flavour, with a handsome off white head, this deeply amber/ruby brew exhibits a lovely balance between a fresh hoppy bitterness, soft carbonation and caramelized notes of malt complexity. Flowery aromatics play against a roasty/toasty body, some citric notes and a creamy mouthfeel takes the drinker to a dry, yet robust finish.
La Corriveau Oat Stout (5.5%) from Bilboquet Microbrasserie Inc. in Saint-Hyacinthe. A deep, dark and delicious stout named after a infamous murderer hung in 1763 for killing her second husband. This brew is roasted to an espresso bitterness, but carries sweet notes of dark chocolate, soothing oatmeal and a rich underpinning of hops. Not highly carbonated, but with a rich, creamy mouthfeel, a buoyant character and a huge flavour profile, this stout takes on all comers, and can wrestle more than a few to the ground I am sure.
This triple threat comes from Montreal’s Les Brasseurs RJ, all strong beers of character, 6% or better. Lochness (6%) a deliciously malty Scotch ale or ‘wee heavy’ if you prefer. A monster of a brew, fruity, malt laden aromatics, thick head, long palate of caramel, toasted malts, wood and bread, with enough hop bitterness swimming below the surface to balance this mighty medium bodied brew. Coy and seductive with a long, lingering finish. Titanic (7%) on the other hand is a strong, dark Belgian ale, brooding with dark fruit, brimming with roasted malts, coffee and chocolate. Pours brown with an off-white head, no lacing, decent carbonation, medium body. Yeasty, with some hop notes, sliding into a silky, lingering finish. Finally, Canon (7.6%) a bronze coloured dopplebock, pours clean with a sweet bread-like nose, good frothy head and decent lacing. Moderate carbonation, somewhat grainy palate with hints of toffee and brown sugar, the flavours only coalescing as the beer approached room temperature. Still, rather thin for a brew of this strength, alcohol warmth getting pushy towards the finish.
Now, I don’t think I’ve ever had a gueuze that was not made in Belgium, other than some excellent examples made by homebrew buddies of mine, until now. The famous historical brew is not easy or quick to make. You need to blend a 1 year old, a 2 year old and a 3 year old straight sour lambic, bottle the mixture and age for another year. This is a labour of love and a test of patience that not many commercial enterprises would want to emulate. So I was thrilled to find Gueuze La Spontanée 2006 (7%) from Ferme Brasserie Schoune of Saint-Polycarpe. So true to the style, acidic nose, puckeringly sour palate, pale, cloudy, effervescent, background funk. This beer is 7 years old, but tastes so tartingly fresh, like champagne-booted fairies dancing on your tongue. A big bubbly white cap of a head roars up, then quickly dissipates, long legs bubble up from the bottom of the glass, hints of apple and citrous linger on the palate and a bone dry mouthfeel carries on right to the finish.
Brasserie Dunham‘s Saison Rustique (6%) is a very pleasant summery brew. A clear, pale golden quencher with a spicy-earthy nose, tall, rocky white head and a pleasant tartness on the tip of the tongue, backed up by a low funkiness, hints of pepper, yeast and hops. It is smooth and refreshing, easy to drink for someone new to the style, crisp with decent carbonation, grainy notes and a long, luxurious finish that speaks of lemon, wheat fields and home.
Last but not least, Palabre de la Remeuse (5%) by À l’abri de la Tempête Microbrasserie from L’Etang-du-Nord on Îles-de-la-Madeleine. This is a red ale, crisp and clear, not much of a head, but with some sweet malt in the nose, perhaps honey. The palate is smooth and balanced, with hints of toffee and salt. This in no ‘gose‘, but is subtly seems to be the key here. A medium bodied brew, low carbonation, some wood and hinting at ‘fleur de sel‘ in the finish.
Made as a tribute to Mylène Paquette, who is traversing the Altantic ocean solo in a canoe. Follow her journey at http://www.mylenepaquette.com