29 Jun 2009 @ 12:56 PM 

Overall, the trip I took this past week wasn’t specifically meant to be a beer trip. There were weddings, there were parents and grandparents, there was work, and meetings, and an academic conference. There were lots of things that you, the casual internet reader, needn’t be bored with.

The last time I went to Quebec City, I was 10 or 11 years old. I only have two solid memories of the experience:

1. They had a 2-story McDonalds.
2. They had a zoo.

This trip was decidedly different. It was primarily a sober trip, for reasons that I won’t get into. In short, we spent a lot of time near the excellent Centre de recherche du CHUL – the Children’s Hospital.

Still, as it turns out, there was beer.
Avec limes
Our hotel turned out to have a pleasing selection of beer on their menu. They had, in bottles, Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde and Blanche de Chambly, as well as a wide selection of Canada’s finest light lager offerings: Labatt’s, Moosehead, Molson, et al. On draft, they had offerings from a local microbrewery Microbrasserie Archibald (beermapping). I was able to sample La Chipie (an APA listed as a “rousse”), La Matante (a blonde), La Bris du Lac (a Helles Pilsner), and La Joufflue (a wit, listed as a “blanche”). I found the Bris du Lac and the La Matante to be rather unremarkable, pale lagers. They were well-made, but I’m not a blonde lager kind of guy, usually. I wouldn’t order them again if the other offerings were available. La Chipie was really interesting. I’m not sure I would have called it an APA before seeing it listed that way on the website. It had a nice hop aroma, a good hop bite at the end, and a big round malty sweetness to it, but “rousse,” meaning (I think) “redhead” made me think “red ale” which stuck my mind on an Irish Track that the maltiness, and especially the color, fit quite well. La Joufflue was good – crisp and cloudy, heavy on the wheat, and lightly fruity. What really struck me is that they all had a very similar flavor that I was having a hard time placing. I chalk it up to them either using the same hops across all their beers, the same yeast, or a flavor profile in the water.

We also had a little time to walk around the old part of the city, which is beautiful. It’s worth the trip up to QC just to take a walk on the old city wall. It’s just gorgeous.

On our way down, we stopped for lunch at L’Inox Maîtres Brasseurs (beermapping). It’s a beautiful little location in a strip of restaurants with outdoor seating. From what we could tell, they offered two things for food: hot dogs and nachos. We got hot dogs. As it turns out, it’s not really fair to call them hot dogs. What we we received were thin Alsace-style sausages inside baguettes with dijon mustard. They were fantastic. We didn’t get a chance to try more than one beer, since the waitress brought us a pitcher of their blanche (with lots of limes). We had more stops that we wanted to make, so didn’t want to get TOO tipsy. I am happy to report, however, that the blanche avec la citron vert was perfect on a sunny afternoon. Refreshing and clean, light fruit hints, no banana or clove to speak of. One of the things that I noticed here, sitting next to us in the shade, were two elderly women – obviously locals – just chatting it up over a couple of pints of ESB. It was a really great picture, and great to see.
Mmm.. Faro
Our next (and, sadly, final) beer stop in QC was done off of a tip via Twitter from @OldQuebec who clearly has some good search term filtering going on. We stopped by Pub Saint-Alexandre (not yet in beermapping, but submitted), a beer bar down in the old port. They had 200 beers on the menu, none of them American. The list of countries was impressive, but to be fair, outside of the usual suspects (England, Belgium, Canada, Germany), the contributions from other countries were largely their version of mass market light lager: Tsing Tao (China), Cruzcampo (Spain), Mythos (Greek), Moretti (Italy), Asahi and Sapporo (Japan), Corona (Mexico), Steinlager (New Zealand), Sagres (Portugal), Swiss Mountain (Switzerland), Carib (Trinidad). On the other hand, it was also the first place I have ever been able to order a bottle of Faro, and I enjoyed every sip of it. It’s well worth checking out – you can see their beer list on their website.

One thing worth noting about both of the beer places that I went to was that it was ‘pay as you go,’ with no option to open a tab (as far as we could tell), which is fine if you’re prepared with cash. We knew our stay was short, so we were on plastic and it meant running the credit card after every beer, which was a little transaction-intensive over the whole day. Be ready.

More later in the week, as we return to the States. [continued here]

 01 May 2009 @ 10:02 AM 

I am not, by nature, a beer reviewer.

In heaven, there is no beer.

In heaven, there is no beer.

Don’t get me wrong: I love beer. But I also love words. I have a difficult time with how most beers are described to people – I think they’re done in terms that are really inaccessible to the average layman drinker. (“Hoppy,” for instance, might be the worst adjective ever for a beer, in my mind. Hoppy, eh? You think? Because otherwise they’ve made gruit? Good work.) On the other hand, I’m not sure I can do any better – thus my reluctance to review beers.

However! I’ve had four beers over the last 7 days that aren’t very widely accessible, and they really need mention. Here they are, in chronological order.

La Muerta, Freetail Brewing: I was lucky enough to snag a bottle of this from Scott Metzger of Freetail at the end of the Craft Brewers Conference. I was visiting good beer-loving friends that weekend and as part of my host gift to them, we shared the bottle. The important thing here is that Freetail doesn’t bottle. It’s a brewpub in San Antonio. You could see where the indent on the cap from the emily capper. Awesome. Inside? Big lush imperial stout. Lots of great coffee and smoky notes – like lots of black patent rushing across your palate. Hops were balanced really well to not overwhelm nor be overwhelmed by roasty toasty goodness. You can only get this stuff in San Antonio, TX. If you’re near by go support your local brewpub. They make some quality material.

Paul’s Day Off, Duck Rabbit Brewery: This is a limited release from Duck Rabbit – on tap only around North Carolina. If you’re in the RDU area it is your duty to find this beer before it disappears. Here’s a quote from the brewery’s press release:

Earlier this year owner and brewmaster Paul Philippon gave himself a much needed day off. The other brewers at Duck-Rabbit took this lull in supervision to brew a special batch of beer to celebrate the day. When Paul returned he was greeted with Paul’s Day Off fermenting away in the tank. Paul’s Day Off is a Farmville style black ale. This beer is unfiltered, unpasteurized, and unsupervised. The beer is brewed with a variety of 7 different malts and a large dose of American hops. After fermentation the beer took a vacation in 23 year old pappy van winkle barrels before going back into the tanks for a final dry hopping of Nugget, Simcoe, Amarillo, and Chinook hops. The beer weighs in at around 9% and displays a big aroma of citrus, pine, vanilla, oak, and bourbon. The flavor shows layers of depth with hops, malt, and barrel character all melding together . The beer will be available draft only in North Carolina. We hope you enjoy Paul’s Day Off as much as we did, because who knows when or if Paul will ever take another one.

No joke. It is magical beer. The complexity of this brew is astounding. You’ve got big rounded malt flavors, coffee, chocolate, bourbon, smoke, vanilla, a fantastic big floral character from the hops. It’s a full journey inside your mouth. It also doesn’t feel a bit of its 9% ABV. It’s a drinker, to be sure. If you can, find some of this before it’s all gone.

From Plow to Pint

From Plow to Pint

Sweet Potato Beer, Fullsteam I got a chance to try out Fullsteam’s Sweet Potato beer at a “Tweetup” last night. It’s not what I think you’d expect from a sweet potato beer, and for that it’s better. You think sweet potato pie, or sweet potato casserole or something, you’re thinking sweet, marshmallows, allspice and all that crap, right? Not in this beer. No spices. It’s sweet potato. I asked brewmaster Chris Davis about it and he said, “I’m not sure how many fermentables I’m getting out of them [the sweet potatoes], but it [the beer] is getting most of the color, a good deal of the body, and a whole lot of aroma from them.” It’s a really fantastic beer – caramelly and earthy at the same time. It’ll be a real treat when they open doors and this is finally available commercially. I should also note that they’re “Rocket Science IPA” was damn, damn tasty.

LoneRider Shotgun Betty LoneRider was also at the “Tweetup” – another local startup available in an increasing number of venues around the triangle. Shotgun Betty is their flagship, a Hefeweizen. It’s always a real pleasure to get a good clean wheat beer – this one was very crisp and very refreshing, despite big banana and clove notes. I usually find big estery wheats to be a little cloying, but this was very clean. It’d be a great drinker on a hot summer afternoon.

I really wanted to speak to DeadEye Jack – their porter – which I sampled, as well. But I’m under the impression that it had a coffee addition this time around that isn’t usual. It was incredibly tasty, but I’d hate to give a wrong impression about their beer, especially as I appeared to get both their Twitter feed and the name of their product wrong when I was Tweeting about it yesterday. Good heavens, how embarrassing. Beer giveth and beer taketh away.

Unfortunately, 99% of the internet won’t be able to find these – at least not today. But the time is coming. With any luck, all of these guys will fare well with the craft beer market and you’ll have your day of being able to find one, or many, of these excellent brews. If you’re local to any of them, it’d be a crime not to track some down. Do it!

Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 01 May 2009 @ 10:53 AM

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