Review: Oshlag & Avant-Garde L'équilibre saison impériale vinifiée

I'd like to say thanks to my good buddy Renaud from Avant-Garde / Bières Jukebox for gifting me way too many awesome beers when I was in Montreal.. to the point I just couldn't take most of them home!

Today's beer is L'Équilbre Saison Impériale Vinifiée, a collaboration between Avant-Garde and Oshlag.

Oshlag is where Avant-Garde/Jukebox is currently brewing out of until their brewery is ready in the same neighbourhood as Stade Olympique.

Oshlag describes the beer as: "L’Équilibre is an Imperial Saison brewed with 35% Riesling musts grown in biodynamics in the Niagara Valley and refined 16 months in oak barrels. The mineral acidity of the grape brings freshness and vivacity to the round and woody notes that come from the slow maturation. A sweet and long finish reveals silky tannins and a unique balance between fresh and candied fruit."

The beer is 11.2% ABV, brewed with barley, wheat and rye malts, and aged in 16 month old Chardonnay barrels.

Appearance: Before I ever knew what this beer was, I was expecting this to be a hefty barley wine just from seeing that this was freaking 11.2% ABV! Um, nope, this is one of the clearest beers at 11.2% ABV I've ever seen. This beer pours a rich golden-orange apple juice body with a light haziness to the body. There's light amount of carbonation, but when I pour the beer in the glass, it's very carbonated (fizzy) and the head diminishes immediately.

Aroma: The aroma is incredibly familiar for me but I don't know why. I think.. and think.. and think.. and think, but then I realize that it's using wild Brett yeast in the beer.. but that's not just it.. It also had a presence that reminded me of last week's Brandon Wine Festival - I'm not a wine drinker, nor did I know that this was aged in wine barrels before reviewing the beer but this beer gives off a liberal white wine presence with a bit of a muskiness, as well as a hint of oakiness at the end. This is moderately sweet, yeasty, mildly funky, and reminiscent of white wine all at the same time.

Taste: I have no surprise that this is 11.2%, the booziness of this beer pops out near immediately.. I end up coughing because I didn't really expect it. There's a nice wild yeast presence popping out at the beginning to give off a funky citrus presence with a bit of straw and woodiness. It's incredibly sweet and mildly sour, reminding me more of Chardonnay than a Saison, but I'm thinking the mild sour presence I'm getting, as well as the hint of bubble gum from this beer is from the saison aspect of this beer.

Overall Thoughts: I need more of this in my life, so if you're reading this Renaud or Shawn.. send more my way! Just kidding guys! But wow, this is one of those times where a beer that's over 10% ABV can taste absolutely amazing and not taste overly "boozy". Of course, after a few sips of this beer, I'm feeling a bit tipsy but the notes of the Chardonnay barrel mixed with a Belgian saison worked out well. I didn't notice much of the rye malt in here aside from it giving the Brett wild yeast a bit of a bitterness profile to it (if that's even a thing). The wheat malt worked well with the yeast to give the beer a bit of a bubble gum presence, but all in all.. I felt like I was drinking 4 different beers. This beer has a definite saison zestiness, wild yeast funkiness, lots of oak aging to give it a white wine presence, and let's make it imperial.. to make it four!

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