From the review archives: Unibroue Éphémère Poire (Pear)

From the Brandon Sun, July 31 2015

I think it’s time for me to declare 2015 the “year of fruity beers.” I’ve seen more fruit flavoured beers in 2015 than any other year. Nearly every brewery from Fort Garry, Amsterdam Brewery to Labatt making fruit flavoured beers to battle the heat. Budweiser USA, owned by Labatt’s owners Anheuser-Busch InBev sent out a tweet stating "Nobody cheers for the guy who brings a watermelon wheat beer.” Well.. the problem is that Budweiser’s Bud Light branch of beers produces several fruit flavoured beers ranging from Bud Light Apple to Bud Lime Mango-rita, which I can confidently state taste nasty - they’re trying to flavour a piss-poor product and market it to people who are drinking other types of beers and beverages as they’re sick and tired of the same ol’ Bud Light. What do I think of Budweiser’s Tweet? I think you should check out Parallel 49’s Seedspitter Watermelon Wit at Liquor Marts in Brandon and Dauphin, it’s a fruity, citrusy, watermelon wheat ale that goes well with Friday evening TGIF patio parties and this heat we’ve been having. 

Another fruity beer I’ve been drinking a lot of lately is Unibroue’s Éphémère Poire (Pear) Wheat Ale. As you probably already know, I’m probably one of the biggest fans of Unibroue in the world. I seldom mention them in my column because I find whenever I do mention them, one of their beers ends up exploding in my face (TIP: ALWAYS chill Unibroue beers, even if it tastes better room temperature - you just don’t want to get a cork in your eye and beer all over your clothes.. like I did). Unibroue’s Éphémère line has produced a lot of fruit flavoured beers over the years from apple, cranberry, cherry and even cassis. My absolute favourites were the late cassis and the late raspberry Éphémère. I’m not a fan of pears but I can’t seem to get enough of Éphémère poire. Poire pours a hazy golden straw, very cloudy, incredibly carbonated and fizzy. A bit of a creamy white foam on top that gently fizzes away. The aroma gives me notes of freshly sliced pears, notes of bubble gum, Belgian yeast to give it a bit of a hint of bread, a bit of apple core and just a hint of lemon. The beer tastes like it smells, the yeast makes a big appearance in this beer to give it more of a bready bite to it, notes of pears, apples, light herbal notes, lemon peel and some bubble gum sweetness.

I absolutely love Unibroue’s beers, but I generally find the Éphémère line to be mostly miss, but Éphémere Poire may be the best of the series so far. It’s full of peary goodness - lack of a faux syrupy fruitiness that you would expect in a Bud Lime pear-r-rita if it ever existed. It’s sweet, citrusy and even has notes reminiscent of my favourite wheat ale, Blanche de Chambly. I wish this beer was available on tap locally because this would compete well with Shock Top. You can find the beer in 750mL bottles for $6.15 at the Brandon 10th & Victoria Liquor Mart and as well at the Killarney Liquor Mart. 5.5% ABV 

TIP #2: Unibroue is pronounce uni-brew, not unibrow. Éphémère is pronounced eh-fay-mare.

Review: Central City Patrick O'Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Just last week I reviewed Central City's Red Racer Spiced Pumpkin Ale, now Central City has yet another pumpkin beer called Patrick O'Pumpkin as part of their comic book-esque series of beers that featured Detective Saison and Mayor Kolsch. Patrick O'Pumpkin is an Imperial Pumpkin Ale that tops out at 8% ABV, a bit stronger than the Spiced Pumpkin and Patrick O'Pumpkin is barrel aged. Not surprisingly, Spiced Pumpkin is already sold out, so this one will be gone soon too.

Appearance: A rich nutty brown ale with a light copper hue to it. This is much more reminiscent to an autumn-inspired ale than your overly sweet reddish amber pumpkin beers. Very dark yet not too heavy.. not as heavy as a stout or porter but darker than your standard nut brown ale. Minimal amount of carbonation at the pour but I get a small amount of beige/cookie dough foam on top.

Aroma: I'm getting a lot of cinnamon and nutmeg in this beer. Also, a good amount of pumpkin aroma is popping up.. for the most part this is reminding me of their Spiced Pumpkin Ale for aroma. It's quite sweet, almost obnoxiously sweet with lots of brown sugar, caramel, and a bit of doughiness as well. Apparently this is a barrel-aged pumpkin ale but I'm not getting much of barrel/spirit aroma to it.. no oak, no vanilla and no whisky or rum notes so far.

Taste: A nutty brown ale with notes of toffee, coffee, toasted cinnamon and a hint of nutmeg. The nuttiness gives it a bit of a bitter aftertaste that lingers for a while after the beer is finished. The cinnamon and nutmeg aren't as much present in the taste as it is in the aroma. I'm noticing a hint of woodiness in the tastes finally, but only minimal hints at best. Later on as I'm sampling this, I notice a bit of a pumpkin flavour in it.. but it's not as pumpkiny as the Spiced Pumpkin Ale, thankfully!

Overall Thoughts: Really liked the nuttiness and that it's more of a brown ale.. but I was very disappointed that I barely noticed any of the flavours/aromas from the barrel aging.. it was underpowering. This compared to Spiced Pumpkin Ale.. this one is more reminiscent to an autumn brown ale that's perfect for the changing weather.. with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, while the Spiced Pumpkin is more for those who want a spiced pumpkin latte for a beer. I don't think I'll be drinking this again in the next 11 months, but I might save a bottle if I do see it again just to see if it can be aged.

Review: Driftwood Farmhand Saison

Victoria BC's Driftwood Brewing's beers have been really steadily showing up at local LCs ever since the Coast to Coaster event took place back in June, ever since then, a few of Driftwood's beers have been making an appearance here in Brandon. The newest one to the list is Farmhand Saison.

Appearance: Farmhand Saison pours a hazy orangish wheat ale with a really weird reddish hue to it.. it's a bit darker and redder than the typical saison. As I pour the beer in the glass I get a light to moderate amount of carbonation and just a hint of foam on top that only makes a guest appearance.

Aroma: I'm getting notes of straw, Belgian yeast, lots of lemon, hint of coriander, a bit of orange peel. I can say that this is quite a fruity saison so far. I even get a bit of bananas and pear aromas popping up in there.

Taste: I find it to start off very sweet but mellows out immediately. I can only describe it as a candy sweetness that turns into a peppery and yeasty complexity of flavours. I'm getting memories of dad's fried potatoes with way too much pepper on them.. that he will only end up drenching in ketchup. There's a bit of lemon citrus, lots of farm-yard straw maltiness that gives it a bit an earthy/grainy taste to it. Aside from the initial taste, I don't really notice much sweetness anymore - it's pretty mellow and yeasty/bready/peppery. An interesting take on a saison.

Overall Thoughts: It has the earthy farm yard tones that I grew up with and what I'm familiar with in saisons, adds a rich spiciness of black pepper and has a hint of lemon citrus. It's much more fruity in the aroma but that's alright. This is a nice, complex saison that I have been savouring quite a bit lately, more than my typical Blonde de Chambly.

Review: Central City Red Racer Spiced Pumpkin Ale

On the first day of autumn.. a bunch of pumpkin beers from BC showed up to my local LC, a few of them are already out of stock, not to return until next year. When that happens, I have to pick up a few bottles as soon as it comes out. Central City's beers tend to sell out near-immediately because of their hugely popular IPA has influenced beer drinkers to try other beers they make. So let's check out Red Racer Spiced Pumpkin Ale!

Guys make fun of girls for their love of pumpkin spice lattes, but beer geek guys can be just as obsessed with pumpkin spiced.. when it comes to pumpkin-spiced beers. I hate the taste and smell of pumpkin, but I love the autumny, spicy and sweet aromas and taste of pumpkin beers.

Appearance: Pours like a typical amber ale (or pumpkin ale) as it gives off a bright reddish amber ale appearance, clear and pours a good amount of yellowish/beige head that quickly disappears yet there's still a nice amount of film retained on top. Moderate amount of carbonation.

Smell: The first thing that hit me about Red Racer Spiced Pumpkin Ale was that it was reminiscent of apple pie more than pumpkin, but my senses seem to change quickly as I'm noticing more of a pumpkiny aroma with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, somewhat earthy hops and a hint of apple pie.. but considering many of the spices used in apple pie are used for pumpkin pies as well, it's likely because of that. Fairly sweet, moderately spicy and reminiscent of an amber ale.

Taste: Starts off with nutmeg then a light burning sensation of cinnamon. I'm actually noticing a good amount of pumpkin guts in the flavour, which isn't something I actually ever really see in pumpkin beers. I don't like the taste of pumpkin so aside from the pumpkin taste, it's not bad at all, fairly herbal and spicy. I'm also getting a moderate mouthfeel with a hint of creaminess backing it up. Light amount of tinny aftertaste.

Overall Thoughts: The beer, for the most part is a medley of cinnamon, nutmeg and.. of course, pumpkin. If you're looking for a pumpkin beer that's more liberal on the pumpkin than most Canadian pumpkin beers, you won't be disappointed. I love cinnamon/nutmeg heavy beers so in this case - it was moderate amount of cinnamon/nutmeg, but nothing wowing me over. I'll likely be trying out a few more pumpkin beers before the month is over, so stay tuned! 5.0% ABV/40 IBU

Review: Timothy Taylor's Landlord Classic Pale Ale

This is a new one to me: Timothy Taylor's Landlord Classic Pale Ale, an English-style pale ale by Timothy Taylor's Championship Beers out of West Yorkshire, UK. I know that English ales are an area that I don't tend to review often.. or at all. I find that aside from the darker ales, I'm just not a fan of British beer. That's to the point where I'll bypass the English section completely every time I go to the LC.

Appearance: Pours a (mostly) clear amber/honey ale with a good amount of carbonation, a fair amount of beige head on top with there being a bit of the foam sticking to the glassware as the beer goes down sip by sip.

Aroma: A malt-foward pale ale, I get notes of honey, caramel, tea and a rich barley graininess. A bit of a corn aroma is present as well. This is quite a sweet smelling beer.

Taste: Fairly skunky with a hint of corn. Like the aroma, it's a malt forward beer so I'm getting a sweet caramel flavour in there. There's a bit of toasted barley, lemongrass and a light amount of leafy herbal hop notes that are a bit reminiscent of tea. Light amount of bitter aftertaste on the palate, fairly clean and crisp on the palate.

Overall Thoughts: A fairly grainy yet malty Pale Ale that I could see myself drinking at a dimly lit pub in England. Not really my style of ale but I really appreciated the herbal notes that showed its presence in the aroma and taste. With a name like Timothy Taylor's Landlord, I now want to see a "Tim the Toolman Taylor" beer. 4.1% ABV

Review: Green Flash Le Freak Belgian-Style Imperial IPA

It's the third day of autumn and it feels damned warm out, 26C! On hot days like today, I crave a citrusy Belgian beer. Well, there wasn't anything really Belgiany that I could review, so I'm settling with San Diego's Green Flash's Le Freak, which is a Belgian-style Imperial India Pale Ale.

In the continuation of brewers desires to create a Belgian meets IPA hybrid, this one is a hybrid of a Belgian-style tripel meets an American Imperial IPA. The brew contains Amarillo hops to give it a zesty taste and dual-yeast fermentation. 

Appearance: It pours a honey-amber ale, fairly orangish. Reminiscent of well.. both an American IPA and a Belgian tripel. At the pour, I got a decent amount of white head, but it quickly diminished into nothing at all.. so there's only a hint of head surrounding the edge of the glassware. 

Aroma: Firstly, I'm getting a bitter, herbal and citrusy aroma from the Amarillo hops - a bit of the typical piney bitterness you typically get in an American IPA. Following the hops there's a very sweet, syrupy caramel and dark fruit sweetness that could be attributed to both the fact it's an Imperial IPA and that it's supposed to be a tripel at the same time. A light amount of pepper gives it an interesting spiciness, fairly yeasty and bready and has smells that remind me of my favourite cologne (herbal, citrusy). I feel that the beer balances Belgian and American aromas quite well as you can actually pick out individual scents that would generally be attributed to one style over another. Very sweet, malty and hoppy from the Imperial IPA while citrusy, yeasty and parfumic from the Belgian influences.

Taste: I'm getting both a yeasty kick as well as bitterness of the hops at the exact same time on my first impression. It's got the dark fruitiness I know and love in Belgian ales while it's moderately bitter, spicy and citrusy from the American Imperial IPA side of things. Together, it gives off a mashup of lots of different flavours all over the place. This is probably one of the most interesting Belgian-style India Pale Ales I've had yet as this isn't an overly thick, yeast in your face but with a liberal helping of hops, this tastes like two beers were collaborated into one. Lots of citrusy lemon, sweet honey, bitter pine (and peppery) hops from the Amarillo and a touch of syrupiness to go with it all. As syrupy as I find it, it's pretty easy to drink.. aside from the eventual esophagus burn it will give me. 

Overall Thoughts: This is a REALLY GOOD Belgian-style Imperial IPA, it hits the bullseye for not only keeping Belgian flavours and aromas intact, but the hops compliment the beer in a way that it works out really well. I really like Green Flash's offerings but unfortunately I can't get their beer in Manitoba yet, so I have to drive down to Minot, ND if I want more of their beer. What surprised me when I first looked at the bottle is that the best before date is in 2017! As this is a bottle-conditioned beer, I guess the Belgian side of things allow for the beer to age gracefully compared to the true American-style Imperial IPAs.

Review: Trou du Diable's La Grivoise de Noël

Tonight I was planning on doing a long review about Trou du Diable's Shawinigan Handshake as the election campaign is in full swing and I wanted to have a bit of fun on the blog for once. Unfortunately, one of my jackass roommates (or one of their sketchy friends) stole my second bottle of Shawinigan Handshake, so I won't be politicking and drinking political beer at the same time tonight.. hrmph...

I did find a bottle of La Grivoise de Noël, another Trou du Diable in the door my fridge purchased a few months back at Dépanneur Peluso in Montreal. So I'm going to be checking that beer out instead!

La Grivoise de Noël is a Belgian-style dark ale with a winter spiced and dark fruity notes. Complex but warm finish. Perfect for winter time. 7.5% ABV/600mL bottle

The label is a bit provocative

Appearance: La Grivoise pours a ruby red dark ale with a hint of purple to it. It's incredibly foamy at the beginning as it foamed up immediately as I opened up the bottle. Disappears into big beige bubbles. Mildly carbonated afterwards. You can see a bit of light through it, but it's not clear in any sense.

Aroma: Spices and fruits dominate the aroma. I get notes of cherries, a bit of nutmeg, freshly stopped candle (notes of wick smoke and wax - quite a wintery smell to me). A bit of a peppery spice and decently herbal. Oh and cinnamon too!

Taste: Immediately tart on the palate the second it hits the tongue.. damn, it's almost like a Belgian sour, but then my palate realizes that this isn't a sour after all. I'm still getting rich flavours of cherries, cinnamon, nutmeg, hint of earthiness and even more notes of dark fruits. Has a bit of a Belgian Dubbel yeast in the background, as well as light herbal and spice notes to it.

Overall Thoughts: Outstanding! It's not winter yet on the prairies (thank goodness) but I'd absolutely LOVE this when November snowfall hits. Not as heavy as the standard wintertime beers as it's more of a sweet, tart and dark beer that really gives off notes of family gatherings and candles. Yep, candles, especially the ones that smell like apple pie.

PS if anyone could get me a Trou du Diable toque like what Mathieu at Le Shack à Boisson has, I'd be happy!

Edit: La Grivoise just won the gold medal at World Beer Awards for Canada's Best Strong Dark Beer!

Review: Phillips Barnstormer Saison IPA

What the heck is a Barnstormer Saison IPA? I have no idea.. but I assume it's a Belgian-style IPA with saison yeast. Phillips really likes to do Belgian-style IPAs, but I find Belgian-style beers mashed into IPAs are always difficult, as I've said a trillion times on this blog already.

Appearance: Phillips' Barnstormer comes out as a thick orange/blonde ale, very cloudy as it's not transparent at all. The beer pours a thick amount of white head but diminishes quite quickly. There's a good amount of carbonation, for the most part.. it looks like a typical saison in my mind.

Aroma: It has a yeasty saison at mind but it also has a moderate bitter hop note to it. I'm noticing the typical Belgian saisony yeastiness which gives off a rich aroma of lemon, bubble gum and moderate sour notes. This is quite a bit fruitier than your standard saison as it has a really tropical fruitiness in it: lots of pineapple (in fact.. more pineapple than lots of tropical influenced IPAs out there) and apple and crab apple. Honestly it's a bit too fruity in my mind. Is it hoppy? It has a light amount of leafy hops which give it a bit of a lettuce aroma, but that's about it.. unless if you also consider the tropical notes.

Taste: It's a fruit cup cocktail.. lots of pineapple followed by avocado and apple.. and eventually lemon. Somewhat yeasty, very minimal on the hop front but has a bit of a grittiness on the back of my palate that can only be described as the taste of graineries. Acidic on the palate and has a watery yet rough mouth feel.

Overall Thoughts: I like it, it's a nice fruity wheat ale, but like many Phillips' beers, it's not what I would expect it to be. I love the really fruity & tropical notes, yet was expecting more from the hops and more balanced flavour in the saison field. I do wish their Wheat King hefe came to Manitoba already.. what's taking them so long to get it to the Wheat City?

Review: Dieu du Ciel/Trou du Diable La Divine Comédie

This is brand spanking new to Manitoba, so when I checked into La Divine Comédie on Untappd, it stated that it was a Trou du Diable beer collaborated with Dieu du Ciel. This was weird because there was no noticeable signs that it was a collaboration beer - or so I thought. On the side of the beer, in teeny tiny text it stated that it was a collab with Trou du Diable, and also on the top of the label, there's the Dieu du Ciel logo morphed with the Trou du Diable logo.

Together, they brought out La Divine Comédie, a wheat pilsner brewed with mosaic hops. This batch was brewed at the Dieu du Ciel microbrasserie, while the 600ml bottles with prominent Trou du Diable labeling are brewed at Trou du Diable.

Appearance: This is a somewhat unfiltered-looking pilsner with a cloudy light golden straw body, excellent amount of carbonation - what is generally expected in a solid pilsner, two fingers thick of white snowy creamy foam.

Aroma: Notes of bready malt, lots of straw, some vegetal notes, somewhat neutral grassy hops with just a hint of bitterness to it. Light amount of lemon citrus and for the most part - pretty herbal.

Taste: The first thing that comes to mind is straw - lots of straw! There's a light bitter yet grassy hoppiness backing it up, followed by a hint of creaminess, a bit of unflavoured popcorn and a definite bready malty sweetness making an appearance.

Overall Thoughts: Fairly decent pilsner, not the best effort by either Dieu du Ciel or Trou du Diable but it's a flavourful wheat pilsner with a good amount of grassy, bready and vegetal notes that give it more oomph than your standard Canadian pilsner. Incredibly easy to drink and the hints of Belgian-style wheat beers are welcoming.

Review: Amsterdam Framboise

During the Coast to Coaster promotion at the LC, they brought in a bunch of beers that were never available in Manitoba before. Some of the beers were average, others were amazing. Some were incredibly expensive. Amsterdam's Framboise Fruit Beer was one of the most expensive beers as part of the promotion at $11.99 for a 650mL bottle. Eventually, the LC had a clearance event to get rid of all the remaining Coast to Coaster beers, so I was able to purchase a bottle of Framboise for under $10.

I'm broke, so I don't have the money to waste money on beer willy-nilly.. especially after spending $20 on a bottle of Rogue's Sriracha beer, I will never purchase another Rogue beer as their beer is simply highway robbery. Hell, in Ontario.. it was selling for nearly $8 less per bottle! I'm willing to pay $20 for an amazing tasting beer, but for a Rogue, hell no. But this is about Amsterdam's Framboise, not Rogue. Amsterdam's beers are fairly consistent and tasty, so I haven't really had a bad beer from them, so paying $9-10 for a clearance of their Framboise is better than $11.99.. especially if it turns out to be good.

Apperance: The Framboise pours a dark brown ale, reminiscent to a Belgian-style dubbel in some aspects. There's a nice cherry red hue to it and it has a decent amount of cookie dough yellowish/beige head on top.

Aroma: Well, this certainly IS a framboise! The first notes I got when opening up the beer was raspberries, lots of raspberries! A sweet, jam-like raspberry aroma, quite sugary and fruity. The raspberry notes are more humble and natural than a lot of raspberry beers I've tried, not a syrupy corn syrup concoction.. thankfully. A bit of a gritty wheatiness in there and a hint of a leafiness that I can only describe as fruit bush leaves.

Taste: Light to mildly tart and bitter, there's a bit of a bitter nuttiness that reminds me of a few Belgian-style dubbels I've had, fairly bitter. Decent amount of tartness but not to the point of sours/kriek/etc styles. Mild sweetness of raspberries and raspberry jam, but I feel that it's not the main element of the beer like we saw in the aroma. It's a bit complex, a bit darker and especially quite a bit earthier.

Overall Thoughts: Would it be worth $11.99? Actually, I believe so. Not worth spending the money every time but the taste profiles ended up being more complex than I was expecting - rich earthiness, hint of tartiness, raspberry jam.. and especially a more natural raspberry taste to it than say.. Raz-ber-rita! It leaves a bit of a raspberry seedish aftertaste. Overall, it was pretty decent and fruity yet easy to drink. 6.5% ABV