Walking down Duluth east of St. Denis, I thought about browsing the newest selection at Épicerie José when I stumbled across a tiny storefront whose signs boasted a couple of Quebec craft-brews. Skeptical, I stepped into Au Coin Duluth (418 Duluth E.) for a closer look. (Even Provigo carries at least one local craft-brew these days.) I found a charming little dep that is packed with local beer even for its small size. The man behind the counter informed me that a renovation three months ago yielded room for a fully stocked representation of Quebec brewing. He also pointed me in the direction of the new-to-me Microbrasserie du Lac St-Jean. I grabbed up two for a little taste test.
Gros Mollet: Kudos to the folks in Lac St-Jean for turning to that greatest of Quebec forefathers, the lumberjack. This strong brown ale is named Gros Mollet, which means “fat calf” and since there’s a wonderfully drawn rendition of a giant axeman on the label, I’m inclined to conclude they mean this gros mollet and not this one. Continuing with the outdoorsman trend, the beer has an incredible flavor that suggests an homage to maple syrup rather than blaring it out. The roasted malts add to this by providing a chocolaty creaminess that round out the beer in the mouth. At 7.8% ABV, this beer is a great addition to what I’m recognizing as a specifically québécois style, the “bière forte.” Most breweries will put a hi-test beer in their line-up and simply label it “strong beer,” but Gros Mollet isn’t as abrasive as the others. It’s alcohol is a warming afterthought and not barrier to the beer’s flavor.
Boutefeu: I love these names! Boutefeu translates as “shot-firer” or “inciter of quarrels.” Although it looks like it could also mean “fireball,” I’d rather go with my favorite synonym “rabble-rouser.” An unfiltered red ale, Boutefeu looks mighty pretty in the glass, its foamy head sticking around minutes longer than Gros Mollet’s. It is equal parts malt and hops in the nose, but at first taste the sweet body of the style blankets over the bitterness. The hops, however, do have a presence; citrusy and sweet, these coat the tongue and comprise a lingering aftertaste. Well done, Lac St-Jean. Two fine beers.
In December, an installment of All Hopped Up was devoted to demystifying homebrewing by breaking it down to four essential steps. Given the right equipment and some very basic know-how, anyone who can read a recipe can brew beer. What many people don’t know about the drink, however, is that all beer is made with variations on these four steps. Benoit Mercier, the head brewer and owner of Benelux, graciously lent his brew pub and expertise to show that any beer – from Rickard’s to Rolling Rock, craft-brew to homebrew – is made using the same fundamental process.
My leap back into the homebrewing circuit after a 6-month recess is with a style that, naturally, is also a couple months late off the block: the Christmas beer. Throw a few spices in a dark brew and suddenly you can only drink the thing from October to December. Well, I ain’t buying it. As long as the mercury stays below 0˚C – which will be a while, no matter how many outdoor rinks they close – beers like my Spiced Bourbon Oatmeal Stout will serve as ample restoratives.
The brew day started with the toasting of two cups of oatmeal. I first read of this in Randy Mosher’s great book Radical Brewing, who says that when using toasted Continue reading
Does fanaticism toward one beer mean it is truly worthy of merit?
graphic by Sasha Plotnikova
On February 9 in the small seaside town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a beer will be placed on tap in the Portsmouth Brewery. Its reception will ripple through the sea of beer aficionados across America. Portsmouth Brewery, which only produces about 1,000 barrels of beer annually (for comparison, Boréale’s brewers produce around 60,000), releases this beer so infrequently and in such small quantities that the Internet is buzzing with anticipation of its arrival.
Kate the Great, as the beer is called, wasn’t such a hot topic before December 2007, when the readers of BeerAdvocate Magazine rated it the number one beer in America and the number two beer on Planet Earth. The magazine is the periodical of the popular web site beeradvocate.com, which has over 175,000 members, most of whom are self-labeled beer geeks – lovers, defenders, and sometimes, to a fault, crusaders of craft-brewed beer. Such an accolade for Kate the Great created enough hype to give rise to Kate Day, the name given to the not-to-be-missed celebration of its release.