Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Brasseurs de Montreal - The Eyes Have It

"If you stare into the [beer bottles] long enough, the [beer bottles] stare back at you..."
       - Nietzsche, kinda.

Yet another successful Quebec beer haul brought back to me by friends of mine (thanks Mal and Lena!!) resulted in another sampler flight from a brewery I can't really say I know much about, nor am I likely to encounter it again in Ontario for quite some time.  The first thing you might notice about Brasseurs de Montreal is that they seem to have stumbled upon a labelling theme that is, well, kind of strange.  I mean, how often have you had a beer that looks back at you while you drink it?  A beer that is constantly staring at you, seducing you, judging you - sometimes all at once.  A very bizarre system, so naturally I think it's brilliant. 

Brasseurs de Montreal is a very new brewery (2008) on the scene, located on the main Island of Montreal, a few blocks away from campus of the University of Montreal and the Bell Centre.  Brasseurs de Montreal is really just in its infancy, offering just six main brews and a few one offs at its brewery-restaurant, none of which claiming more than eight or nine reviews on Rate Beer or Beer Advocate.  Clearly, to find Brasseurs de Montreal brews, one must either visit the brewpub itself or do some serious beer hunting.  But from such humble origins, great things can happen, and I definitely appreciate the playfulness of the brewery that can be seen in their lineup, which so far includes some pretty diverse beer styles.  

Here's my take on the main Brasseurs de Montreal lineup!

Beer: La Black Watch Écossaise
Type: Scottish Ale
ABV: 4.7%

There's nothing quite like drinking a beer with the eyes of a crazed old Scotsman glaring back at you.  These are the eyes of someone who probably disapproves of your clothes, your attitude, the way you chop firewood, your stupid ugly face - pretty much the whole of your existence causes his wrinkled brow to furrow with aggravation.  Let's hope the beer is good, because I have the sudden urge to straighten up and start flying right lest my backside get a tanning...

"Bonjourrr, you cheese eatin' surrender monkeys!!"
Poured into a nonic glass. Dark, hazy chestnut, a slight amber hue when held to the light. Leaves a generous inch of cream-coloured head that displays good retention. Lots of lacing.

Nose is caramel, slightly burnt brown sugar, a little bit of coffee and smoke.

A tasty Scottish ale, nothing too exciting, but the flavors are quite pleasant. Very rich caramel taste, malty, with notes of fried brown sugar, a bit of grain, cold coffee. Finishes slightly smoky. Very sweet, but its to my personal tastes.

Mouthfeel is thin, creamy, with very mild carbonation. Feels like an English nitro-poured ale, like Boddingtons or Tetley's does on draught.

Sweet to the point where I don't think more than a bottle will be necessary, but if you like malty brews that are rich in caramel flavor, as Scottish ales tend to be, this one would fit the bill nicely. The smoky character was on the right track, but this brew needed some more counterbalance to really set itself apart.  Still, she weren't bad.    (Grade: B)


Beer: Griffontown Montrealaise
Type: English Pale Ale (though I'm not sure about this...)
ABV: 5%

Poured into a nonic glass. A nice slightly hazy golden colour, with the pour leaving behind a thick ring of head and many icicles of lacing. A nice looking beer, I must say, though this is probably the lightest English pale ale I've ever seen.

Nose is malts, a bit of lemon, hops. Nothing much there.

Tastes like a malty Euro lager with some extra notes of apple and peach kicking around. Slight hop bitterness and metallic tang to the finish. Boring, but very easy to power through.

Thicker mouthfeel, good carbonation, slightly creamy.

Better than most Euro lagers and macros, but certainly nothing special, Montrealaise is a solid brew.  Ridiculously easy to drink, certainly sessionable.  Calling this an EPA is a stretch, but whatever it is, I can drink a lot of it.  The symbolism of having the most overtly English beer of the bunch be the most boring and uncultured one is not lost on me, however.  You win this round, Quebeckers...(Grade B-)

Beer: La Rebelle Quebecoise
Type: Belgian Pale Ale (there's no way this is an American Red Ale, as BA calls it)
ABV: 6.5%

Turn-ons include: Lilies, "European" Cities,
Guy Lafleur, Socialism. 
Clearly, if there was ever a beer that votes OUI, it's this beer.  I mean come on, "The Quebec Rebellion?" Jeez, they could have saved themselves the trouble and just slapped Jacques Parizeau's mug on the label and the result would have been the same.  (Although, to be fair, it probably isn't in the brewery's interest to release a beer that would drunkenly blame its failures upon "money and the ethnic vote." Still...)

Poured into a nonic.  A caramel-coloured brew, slightly hazy, with a nice fluffy head that recedes into a fine little ring.  The picture of the beer itself didn't really turn out well, but picture in your mind a marmalade-coloured beer with a thin head on the top and you won't be far off.  No lacing to speak of.

Nose is very intriguing. Smells like a wheat beer more than anything else, with strong malt, yeast, fruit, banana, caramel and hazelnut, but it's also coupled with a strange scent that took me a good five minutes to figure out: sweet potato. Though it may sound weird, this smelled to me like a sweet potato in its finest form: fresh off the barbecue, slightly burnt, with melted brown sugar on top. Oddly enough, it works.

The flavor is similar to a wheat beer or Scottish ale, or maybe a bit of Belgian pale in there as well. Fruity, slightly tart, good malt kick, that same sugary yam flavor, and only a touch of hops. Spices to the finish.

Thin bodied, slick, pinprick carbonation. I agree with some others - this feels, and looks, like an English cask ale.

Huh. Really dug this, though the first sip was a bit of a struggle as my senses tried to take everything all in. A unique blending of styles that somehow worked together well. It doesn't really fit the Red Ale category at all, but then again, I'm not sure where it fits. The flavors, though nice, are a bit much for more than a bottle or two, but still I have to say this was one intriguing brew. (Grade: B+)

Beer: La Chi Orientale
Type: Fruit Beer/Witbier
ABV: 4.5%

To make this beer fit in to an "Oriental" theme, the brewers added rice, fresh citrus and loads of ginger into the mix.  Should be interesting.

Poured into a tall handled stange glass. The beer looks a great deal like white grapefruit juice - pale golden and opaque - and leaves about an inch of head that quickly settles into a ring. Some flecks of lacing.

Nose is undeniably that of fresh ginger, with a touch of wheat malt and citrus backing it up. Smells like real ginger of the kind that accompanies your platter of sushi. Refreshing, but potent.

I can describe this beer in two words - gingered weizenbier - but since this is a beer reviewing site I can go into more detail! Starts off with a powerful, but tasty blast of ginger, followed by citrus (lemon, orange peel) and spices. I find that if I don't sniff the beer as I sip it, the ginger taste isn't so dominant, so I'm betting that the ginger is mostly aromatic. Medium bodied, with good, consistent pinprick carbonation.

Some people might dislike this beer because it's "too gingery," and I can't really blame them for that - this beer is certainly gingered all to holy hell. Fortunately, I happen to love ginger so I thoroughly enjoyed this brew. Still, I think the ginger could have been turned down from 11 and the brew would have been better for it. It's not something I'd want more than one or two of, but this certainly a noble, fun effort and my favorite of the pack thus far.  Big points for experimentation.  (Grade: B+)

Now for a the final brew of the lineup, a Belgian Witbier.  Now, those who are skilled at counting will notice in the first picture that there were six beers in the sample pack, but I've only put together five reviews.  Sadly, there was another brew in the bunch - an English Mild Dark Ale - that seemed a bit off.  London Ruby Anglaise was overly sour and murky, and not something I was able to finish completely.  Perhaps this was the way the beer was supposed to taste - in which case it was damned near undrinkable - but rather than risk misrepresenting the brewer's efforts, I'll refrain from evaluating a beer that just might have gone south.  With craft brews, it sometimes happens.  If I come across it again, I'll give it another go, but for now, I'll pass. 

Beer: Van Der Bull Belge
Type: Belgian Witbier
ABV: 5%

Witbiers are one of my favorite styles of beer, so I tend to give fairly average scores for them - it takes a lot to impress me, but it doesn't take much to satisfy me, if that makes any sense.

Poured into a stange glass. A soft golden-amber brew, cloudy with yeast and some visual sediment, with about a two inch head that recedes into a thin ring. Lots of lacing on the glass.

The nose is candied fruit, banana, coriander, spices, orange peel. Marmalade is a subtle something else I'm getting here.

Not a bad witbier - the flavors are soft, too soft in fact, and there's a grainy vegetable character to it, but generally speaking it's going down pretty well. Spicy finish.

Easy drinking, carbonation enters the fray later in the sip and is quite tart.

While far from the best witbier in the province, and not my favorite of the Brasseurs de Montreal lineup, this still was a decent attempt on the witbier style. Worth a try, but probably not something I'll be back for. (Grade: B-)


Certainly this was a diverse and interesting sampler pack.  Like many other Quebec breweries, I found their Belgian or wheat-based brews to be the better ones, with their ginger-spiced witbier being my favorite of the bunch.  But their English style brews proved to be decent as well, leading me to believe that this brewpub is certainly on the right track.  In terms of quality, I don't think the brews of Brasseurs de Montreal can yet compete with the big brewhouses of Montreal, but I certainly feel that their brews are well worth seeking out.  Indeed, I think that any one of these would be a welcome accompaniment to a meal, which really should be the aim of any brewery/restaurant.  While it's unlikely that we'll see these sorts of brews in Ontario any time soon, if you're down Montreal way, a pint or two at the Brasseurs de Montreal brewpub would be a fine way to spend an afternoon.   That is, of course, if you're able to deal with the eyes....the ever-watching eyes....

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