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.