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Thirst-quencher

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The November agency tasting was led by our good friend, oenopole’s Theo Diamantis. We wet our whistles with a new addition to the agency’s portfolio, its first commissioned product, a made-to-spec beer that had been available only through the private import channel since its launch last spring but can now be purchased at the brewery’s boutique and is about to make the jump to the SAQ.

Bière de soif, Grisette de Dunham, Brasserie Dunham ($10.15, 13593360)
A Belgian-inspired blond ale, specifically a “grisette saison brewed with Barbe Rouge and Cashmere hops and fermented with our saison blend.” Refermented in the bottle. Crown cap. 5.2% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.

Hazy yellow-gold with fine bubbles and a compact, long-lasting, lacy white head. The nose is marked by fruity esters with clear citrus, spice, floral and yeast notes. In the mouth, it’s on the lighter side of medium-bodied, dry, smooth and fruity (citrus, stone fruit, faint banana). Mild malt, light hops, crisp but not aggressive acidity and ticklish carbonation mean it’s super refreshing. A fine bitterness colours the clean finish. Very easy drinking, as befits a bière de soif. (Buy again? Def.)

MWG November 10th tasting: flight 1 of 5

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Written by carswell

January 26, 2018 at 12:40

Tripel header

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New Lang Syne 2017, Extra Strong Beer, Beau’s (MSRP: $16.00)
A limited-release Belgian-style Tripel, number 59 in the brewery’s Wild Oats series. Ingredients: local spring water, organic barley malts (Pilsner, acidulated, carafoam), organic cane sugar, organic hops (Strisselspalt, perle, magnum), yeast. A portion was brewed during the summer and aged in Pinot Gris barrels for four months. In the fall, the aged ale was blended with freshly brewed batches. Initial fermentation was with Belgian strong ale yeast; champagne yeast was added on bottling to create natural carbonation. 9% ABV. IBUs: 33. Original gravity: 19° P. Final gravity: 3.4° P.

Impressive packaging: a sleek, heavy bottle with bold, multi-coloured lettering, a long neck runner that bears the vintage, a champagne cork and cage and a tag listing, among other things, the batch and bottle number and the bottling date. My sample – no. 3395 from batch no. 6479 – was bottled on August 28, 2017. I tasted the beer with two friends, one of whom is a serious amateur brewer and has done a tour of Belgian breweries for a national magazine.

Hazy amber-bronze in the glass, with ample, long-lasting, rocky white foam (“can’t believe the head,” notes the brewer).

Appealing, complex nose: spicy and malty with notes of apple, butterscotch, “coriander seed” and wheat berries. “You get the esters but they’re spicy, not banana,” though a touch of dried banana does eventually appear.

The first sip prompts an “Oh, that’s nice” and indeed it is. So smooth and creamy (“the texture may be the most remarkable thing about it”) yet also deeply hoppy. There’s great complexity of flavour, an almost fruity (“pineapple juice”) maltiness and an undercurrent of sourish acidity. The hops kick in on mid-palate and make their presence felt, even to the point where one of the other tasters says the “bitterness masks so much.” A woody “barrel character” – a faint smoky overtone – appears on appears on the transition to the finish but there’s no clear line between where the bitterness stops and the tannins start. Finishes long with “prickly bitters, especially on the aftertaste.”

The bottom line: a fine, imposing, gastronomic ale that, while enjoyable now (provided you’re not allergic to hops), will surely benefit from spending a few months to a couple of years in a cool, dark place. (Buy again? “Yes.” “A bottle or two to cellar.” For sure.)

What would you serve with it? Cheese. “Fried chicken and cornbread.” I also like the brewery’s suggestion of blackened salmon. Oddly enough, a piece of dark chocolate studded with toffee malt followed by a swig of the ale didn’t clash and completely tamed the hoppiness, so maybe Beau’s suggested pairing of pineapple upside-down cake isn’t as off the mark as it seems.

Released on November 9, 2017. A number of stores in Montreal and Quebec stock Beau’s products (see map) and some are reportedly carrying the New Lang Syne.

Disclaimer: The brewery provided this sample for review purposes with the understanding that I would be free to critique it however I saw fit.

Update (2017-11-27): After some searching and reaching out to Beau’s, I finally found bottles at Le Marché des Saveurs du Québec (Jean Talon Market) and at Dépanneur Peluso Beaubien (though oddly not at the original Rachel Street Peluso), where it goes for a heafty $19.99 a bottle.

Written by carswell

November 20, 2017 at 10:17

Hip hops

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Three India pale ales (IPAs) from one of Quebec’s most interesting mircobreweries.

IPA Anglaise, Brasserie Dunham ($3.99, 341 ml/12 oz.)
5.0% ABV.
Hazy tawny bronze with a frothy, off-white head, a mix of small and medium bubbles that are slow to disappear. The malty, hoppy nose shows some fruity esters. In the mouth, it’s very dry and so mildly effervescent it may surprise you. Smooth and malty on entry with dried apricot and citrus peel overtones that transition to faint butterscotch. Endless, intensely – though not harshly – hoppy finish. (Buy again? Sure.)

Imperial India, Brasserie Dunham ($3.99, 341 ml/12 oz.)
An imperial IPA. Dry-hopped with Amarillo (USA) and Nelson Sauvin (New Zealand). 8.6% ABV.
Hazy deep amber. A mostly fine-bubbled head slowly shrinks to a thin, persistent cap, leaving quite a bit of lace on the wall of the glass. Markedly estery nose of spice (cardamom), citrus (dried orange peel) and resin (spruce). A sip and it’s softly effervescent. Dry, rich and malty on the attack. Hints of papaya fruit leather and sweet spice fade as an intense, hoppy bitterness crescendos and lingers through the long, citrus-oiled finish. Not for the faint-hearted. (Buy again? When in the mood for an ale to contend with, yes.)

Black IPA, Brasserie Dunham ($3.99, 341 ml/12 oz.)
Centennial and Chinook hops, Harris Otter and crystal malts. 5.7% ABV.
Fine cappuccino-foam head and a stoutish nose of toasted grain, chocolate-covered raisins and espresso beans. Gently effervescent once again. Mildly flavoured and malty-sweet up front though the hops soon kick in, intensifying after you swallow, the bitterness lingering for minutes and eventually joined by a faint burnt Earl Gray tea note. Despite the dark colour − near black with a ruddy cast − more an IPA than a stout. Personality disorder aside, it’s a certifiably great sipper. (Buy again? Absolutely.)

I’ve long thought of myself as a hop lover but I’m not sure what to make of the recent trend at local microbreweries to produce super hoppy beers. While they definitely have character, they frequently taste unbalanced, out of whack, hops-dominated, bitter to a fault. Fortunately, that’s not the case here: all three IPAs have lots of malty sweetness and richness to counter the remarkably heavy hopping. That said, I still have a minor issue with them. Tastings aside, I usually don’t drink unless I’m eating and these beers’ full-bore bitterness is not food-friendly. What, other than a hunk of cheese, goes with them? Certainly not dishes that make you thirsty, for these are beers for sipping more than guzzling. Certainly not Indian or Mexican or other spicy food because the beers’ many positive qualities don’t include refreshment. Or maybe my palate’s not macho enough…

Written by carswell

March 28, 2014 at 20:42

Posted in Tasting notes

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Striking gold at Orange Rouge

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The parallels were eerie. Dinner at a new-to-me restaurant. Spotting a vintageless Langhe Nebbiolo on the short wine list. Inquiring whether it might be the just-arrived Produttori del Barbaresco bottling and being met with incomprehension from the server, who offers to fetch a bottle and see. A eureka moment when the bottle is brought to the table. And a revelation when the wine is drunk with the food.

It first happened in March of 2012 at the now-defunct Jane. And it happened again the other night at Orange Rouge.

At a tasting a little more than a year ago, the Produttori’s general manager Aldo Vacca mentioned that after the “light” 2010s and “extremely ripe” 2011s, the low-yielding 2012 vintage was “ideal.” So I was stoked when I saw that the cooperative’s 2012 Langhe Nebbiolo had shown up at the SAQ ($23.70, 11383617). I’d reserved a couple of bottles but hadn’t tasted it.

Meanwhile back at Orange Rouge, we were having a hard time deciding what to order. Among the big dishes, both the roast duck and the three-ways arctic char beckoned. But discovering the wine clinched it: we were going for the quacker. “Be aware the duck requires about 30 minutes to prepare,” the server said. “You might want to order a few small dishes to eat while you wait.”

That we did, along with a 750 ml bottle of Ferran Adrià’s Estrella Damm Inedit ($8.30 at the SAQ, 11276336). The sriracha peanuts came in a small bowl and were crunchy-caramelized, mildly salty/spicy/sweet and compulsively edible. The popcorn shrimp, well breaded and deep-fried to a crispy brown, tasted of the sea and, if they didn’t exactly pop, they definitely snapped. A salad of fresh mint sprigs in a light, savoury, subtly spiced vinaigrette was delicious on its own and a quantum leap better with the garnish of crumbled fresh goat cheese. The beer more than held its own with everything: softly fragrant and effervescent, clean and light enough to refresh the palate and, with its delicate white spice and orange peel notes, complex enough to play off the spices in the food. In other contexts it has left me unconvinced, but here it was ideal.

Just after the wine was opened and poured, the duck made a spectacular entrance: a bed of stir-fried (?) napa cabbage, ringed by thin, overlapping slices of duck breast, crowned with mahogany-skinned thighs, wings and drumsticks and bed-headed with a shock of julienned carrot and zucchini. On a separate platter came a fan of largish half-moon steamed buns, a soy-based dipping sauce and cilantro leaves. The duck’s breast and extremities may have been cooked separately, as each was done to moist, rosy perfection; the pieces we savoured on their own, the breast slices with the buns. The cabbage, which required time and some digging to get at, had no wok hai but duck juice mojo in spades. The dish was a lot for three people, easily enough for four or, with an added side or two, six; still, there was never a question of our not polishing it off. It was, in a word, glorious, the best duck any of us has encountered in a restaurant or maybe anywhere. And it puts the “Peking” duck at places like Mon Nan and Cristal Chinois to shame.

The only side we ordered was a small dish of burned eggplant, the silken flesh garnished with bonito shavings and plated with a smear of mild green chile sauce. Delectable.

The Langhe proved an absolute delight, fully deserving of its advance billing. Redolent of cherry and blackberry with hints of tar, rose and anise, despite being served in small Duralex tumblers. Supple and fluid yet intensely flavoured at its core, the acidity illuminating, the tannins ripe and rasping, the sweet fruit lilting over a ground bass of slate, wood and earth. Delicious on its own, it sang with the duck and did bel canto duets with the eggplant. In short, a wine to buy by the case.

Stuffed to the gills, we could find room only for a small bowl of house-made orange ice cream served with three spoons. Smooth and silky, not very sweet and haunted more than flavoured by the citrus, it had a soft peppery kick from a scattering of slivered candied ginger.

The damage? With one bottle of beer and two bottles of the Langhe (the resto’s markup on alcohol appears to be the standard 110%, alas), $250 for three or $85 a person, including taxes but before tip. The food alone came to less than $50 per. A bit pricey compared with other Chinatown eateries, perhaps. Then again, other Chinatown eateries aren’t really comparable.

The Langhe’s distribution appears to be spotty. Some stores are currently showing inventories approaching and even exceeding 100 bottles. Others have received only a fraction of that number and are quickly blowing through their stock. A second shipment is slated to arrive in a month or so. Still, to be on the safe side, you should act fast. You simply will not find a more beguling Old World red at the regular price. And if you reserve your bottles now and pick them up on Valentine’s Day weekend, you’ll get 10% off (if part of a total purchase of $100 or more), which has to make this the QPR winner of the year.

Failing that, put together a party of food and wine lovers and make a beeline for Orange Rouge.

Written by carswell

February 10, 2014 at 13:43

Props to Propolis

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Propolis, Saison multi-grains au miel, Brasserie Dunham ($7.99/750 ml at La Fromagerie Atwater)
Brewed from April through August. Ingredients: water, barley malt, wheat malts, oats, rye, hops, honey, spices, yeast. Unfiltered. Available only in 750 ml bottles. 5.2% ABV.
Hazy straw-gold. Abundant, creamy snow-white head. Fine effervescence with tiny bubbles. Complex nose: white flowers, crushed yellow fruit, wheat and oat with hints of lemon yogurt, honeycomb and spice. Light yet flavourful. The initial bready sweetness is quickly checked by a citric sourness and clean bitterness that last well into the finish and prompt another sip. The honey and spice are present as perfumes as much as flavours. Longer than many wines. Refreshing as befits a summer ale but far from facile. One of the best Quebec beers I’ve tasted in ages. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Written by carswell

July 10, 2013 at 23:47

Posted in Tasting notes

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