Thursday, November 10, 2016

Québec Beer

I know: it's been a while since I've posted a beer review. And I've been meaning to, but as always happens in life, life gets in the way. If you're also a reader of The Brown Knowser, you know that I've been occupied with house renovations, which often leaves me tired. Not too tired to have a beer, mind you: just too tired to write about it.

I have been trying lots of new beers, and in order to catch up, I'm going to review two of them in this post.

Lately, I've pulled away from buying my lunch at the cafeteria at work, partly because it's not inexpensive and also because the short-order cook has difficulties, at times, putting together a club sandwich. Also, she talks to me with a baby voice that I find off-putting in a person that is about my age.

Instead, I take about the same amount of time at lunch to drive to a nearby IGA, and I prefer to do this because I get to choose exactly what I want to eat without having it botched (or, if it is, that's totally on me) and it costs a lot less for a lot more.

But there's an even better reason to go to this independent grocer: beer.

Working in Québec, every single grocery store has an extensive selection of beer; especially, craft beer that is not readily available in Ontario. And while some Ontario grocery stores are now selling beer and wine, these stores are either out of my way or are situated close to an LCBO, my preferred venue for finding great craft brews.

In the IGA near work, I find that in addition to a great craft beer selection, there are lots of variety packs that allow me to try several styles of beer that a brewer offers without committing to a six pack of a single type of beer.

And, as an added bonus, some of these beers go on sale, so I can usually find something new at a buck or so off the regular price.

I've tried quite a few over the past few months, from my favourites, Dieu du Ciel and McAuslan, to Archibald and les Brasseurs RJ.

One of the best beers that I've tried from my grocery-store visits is a beer from a brewery that I was introduced to a couple of years ago, as I was waiting for a flight at the Montréal airport. This brewery has a pub in the Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport, but also has a great selection of their beer in my IGA.

Let's look at their IPA.
La Ciboire IPA (6% ABV)
Archibald microbrasserie
Québec, QC
Appearance: slightly unfiltered, bright apricot with a dense, foamy off-white head.

Nose: orange, grapefruit, and tropical notes like mango and pineapple.

Palate: candied grapefruit and tangerine. There are pronounced hops but they are not overly bitter. Orange rind and bitterness make their appearance in the long, satisfying finish.

Overall impression: this is a very nice, fruity IPA that is well-balanced between those fruit flavours and the finishing bitterness. This is an IPA lover's IPA.

Absolutely delicious.

Beer O'Clock rating: 4.5

I said, earlier, that McAuslan is one of my favourite Québec microbreweries. They have an outstanding IPA and make the best pumpkin and maple ales out there. There isn't a brew that they've produced that I haven't liked.

Until now. And I can't exactly say that I don't like this selection; rather, I was disappointed at how it didn't blow me away, particularly after I had just revelled in the oak-aged pale ale that I had picked up at the IGA only a week before.

Let's take a look:
St-Ambroise Session IPA (4.5% ABV)
Brasserie McAuslan
Montréal, QC
Appearance: unfiltered, pale grapefruit juice or pineapple juice in appearance, with a creamy white head that settles to a thin cap.

Nose: lots of fresh hops, with lemon citrus notes.

Palate: an astringent citrus—unripened grapefruit, with big hops and grass. The hops hit the roof of the mouth like you are sucking on a dry tea bag and the finish lingers, giving this ale an extremely dry feel.

Overall impression: this is a tough one to suss out. I like the hops but not the astringent fruit. I like the dryness but not how it feels on the roof of my mouth.

For a session IPA, it's good but there are better ones out there, and that's what disappoints me. Normally, I see a McAuslan beer and I know that I'm getting something good. With this selection, I'd drink it again but I don't think I'll buy more.

Beer O'Clock rating: 2.5

I'll review more brews from la belle provence as the months go on. Cheers!

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