Category Archives: This Week in Beer

This week in beer

grosmolletboutefeu_bouteillesWalking 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.

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Tack one more resolution onto 2009

Here’s a novel idea: Once in a while, 100-200 words on two beers tried within the last seven days. No limit or expectations on either the beers or their reviews. Ready? Go.

Beer #1: Frontenac blonde ale biere_frontenac2

Beer #2: Le Mild-End, Dieu du Ciel! dieuduciel1
Le Boudoir (850 Ave Mont Royal E.) wins for best bar name in recent memory, but it also wins the puzzler award for its tap of Frontenac blonde ale, a delicious but mystifying beer. The bartender said it’s brewed by the folks at McAuslan in St-Henri, and while a vague review on an obscure reviewing site provides corroboration, there is no evidence of Frontenac on the McAuslan page or anywhere else. All information points toward a Montreal brewery that existed in the early days of the 20th century. The brewery, founded by Mr. Beaubien himself, shook the beer world by slashing the cost of their product, inciting a price war. Despite all the rabble-rousing, Frontenac failed to put its money where its mouth was and folded back in the 1920s. The pint at Le Boudoir was a tasty, less dry, and less hoppy version of the Griffon blonde, but if McAuslan isn’t owning up and Frontenac closed shop way back when, who made it? Was it the ghost of ales past, ales present, or ales yet to come?

UPDATE: I found out while working at McAuslan that Frontenac is a label they slap on Griffon blonde for reasons unexplained. I think it’s not the brightest idea, in terms of branding and confusion on the part of the consumer, but they’d probably say “Pay us for the keg and you can call it whatever you want.” I asked who brews Frontenac; the answer, I do (or did).

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A while ago I spoke with Dieu du Ciel’s brewmaster Jean-François Gravel about a piece on the importance of tradition in brewing. Rather than giving credence to one specific practice, Gravel’s beer reflects the multitude of traditions. With that in mind, I approached a session beer (a.k.a. “mild”) that graced Dieu’s blackboard as “Le Mild-End.” The trend of brewing in North America has generally favored the bigger, stronger, bolder beers. The concept of a session beer, one that is low enough in alcohol that you can drink four or five and not stumble home, comes from the Brits. Unfortunately, the practice has succumbed to the double IPAs, Imperial stouts, and other extreme beers from this side of the pond. I ran into Gravel as I ordered my Mild-End and he explained that the beer had been on the tap list five years ago, but was dropped because of low demand. We chatted about ambivalence toward beer that registers as unfamiliar. Beer without hops can be good! Le Mild-End sure was. Full-bodied and sweet without being syrupy, wonderful caramel and biscuit flavors shone in the malt – a fine beer whether you’re having one pint or four.

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