Review from the archives: Unibroue La Fin du Monde

Originally posted in The Brandon Sun - September 28, 2018

In this week’s edition of First Draught, I decided it was time to finally do a full review on the one beer that changed my life more than anything else. This week is all about one beer out of Quebec, a Belgian Tripel ale that at one time I thought tasted like hell, only to end up falling in love with it. This week is all about Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde.

Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde is the entire reason why I write about beer, it was the second beer I ever reviewed on, the first being Molson Canadian 6.0 Cold Shots. On September 4, 2004 my rating of La Fin du Monde was simply: "I tried this beer back a few months ago hearing that Unibroue makes some of the best beer in Canada, it’s a high percentage beer, but I didn’t really like it, it has a really sweet taste which reminded me of black licorice.  It’s easy to get drunk off this beer, but just not my cup of tea, or in this case, glass of beer. 1.9/5”

As you can tell, I didn’t like the beer at all - In fact, I wanted to drain pour the beer because I absolute detest the taste of black licorice, plus there was a hefty amount of “stuff floating” (sediment or possibly dead yeast) in the beer so that really made me cringe. I managed to drink the entire 341mL bottle of the 9% swill and after that - decided that the beer wasn’t for me. At the time (2004), Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde was considered to be the gold standard for Belgian-style ales, so for every comment I saw on the internet about how amazing La Fin du Monde was, I’d just shake my head and say how it was a horrible beer that made me want to gag.

The following year, I started drinking Unibroue’s Blanche de Chambly because I heard it was a nice, lighter beer that was full on flavour but not aggressive in any sense. The first time I had it, I wasn’t a fan, but then I had it again after an exhausting day at work and the medley of coriander, orange peel and Belgian yeast made it my go-to post work beer on Friday nights, after having one 341mL bottle I’d feel calm, relaxed and lacking anxiety and ready for sleep. Quick tidbit, Blanche de Chambly predates almost every other North American Belgian-style wheat beer by several years - it came out in 1992, a few years before Coors’ Blue Moon and many years before Shock Top and Rickards White (which is just Blue Moon/Belgian Moon re-branded).

After finding that Chambly made me feel rested, I started experimenting with their other beers, mostly Trois Pistoles. I remember Trois Pistoles being this heavy, dark ale, heavier than a Fort Garry Dark in a sense, with notes of raisins, caramel and other various flavours. Once I fell in love with Trois Pistoles, I felt that maybe it was time to try La Fin du Monde again, and.. well, the beer was nothing like I remembered. La Fin du Monde wasn’t this weird murky beer with a bunch of weird stuff swimming everywhere. Instead, it was this bright, cloudy blonde ale that has a dry, citrus flavour to it, a bit of spice and easy to drink for being 9 percent ABV.

This is the beer that led me to starting to review and photographing beers and starting up and their predecessors over a decade a go, and the beer that I think of as a prime example of what Canadian beer represents. Unfortunately Unibroue is owned by Sapporo Breweries out of Japan now days, but my love of La Fin du Monde happened not long before the brewery was purchased over a decade ago. To this very day, their beer is just as good as it was back then. I even had the honour of getting a last minute tour of the Chambly brewery in 2016, something that Unibroue never does with the general public, so I guess I’m big enough of a fan to warrant a visit? Actually, I had great friends who knew the right people to pull some strings.

Now it’s time for the review - For years I’ve always wondered what my favourite beer was, but after all this, it has to be La Fin du Monde, the beer so bad that I fell in love with it to the point that I have to try all their beers whenever I see a new release.

La Fin du Monde pours a cloudy, pale orange body with a light amount of carbonation in the body - a few lines of carbonation here and there, and a finger’s worth of snow white head on top that gradually diminishes to a light amount of film near the side of the glassware.

The aroma is definitely not the aroma I experienced back in 2004, there’s a mildly sweet caramel aroma to it, followed by a bit of a pear and floral honey sweetness to it. There may be notes of coriander or clove in here, but I’m having a hard time picking out those notes.

The tasting profile is why I keep buying this beer without thinking when I go out to buy beer - it’s very dry, yet has a bit of a lemon citrus profile, notes of pear, a light-to-mild bitter hop profile that I can’t really describe. I’m also finding that the beer has a decent amount of toffee sweetness popping up once in a while, as well as a hint of coriander for spice. There’s a light yeastiness that pops up once in a while that gives off a bit of a baguette-like flavour. A bit of a metallic aftertaste as well as a hint of pear… did I mention that this beer is very dry?

Honestly, this beer is hard to decipher - Since my 2004 review of this beer for, I haven’t done a single review of this beer ever since, not even on my own personal beer blog! I find this beer feels like it changes a bit over time, it’s always a citrusy, dry ale with a good amount of carbonation on the palate, but some notes change from even batch to batch. At 9.0% ABV, La Fin du Monde is truly “The End of the World” if you sample a bit too much on your own. Even with Unibroue being owned by Sapporo, this beer is certainly one of the best Belgian-style ales in the whole world.. but I may be incredibly biased as I’m a Unibroue super-fan.

You can find La Fin du Monde at Liquor Marts in Brandon, Virden and Portage La Prairie, as well as the Keystone Motor Inn for $6.99 per 750mL bottle, as well as part of Unibroue’s seasonal variety pack for $26.37 at Liquor Marts in Brandon and Neepawa. The current edition of the taster pack currently also features Unibroue’s collaborative Saison with Megadeth’s lead singer Dave Mustaine, as well as a rare batch of 1837 Ale. The Winter Taster Pack is likely going to be released in coming days. 9.0% ABV, 19 IBU. 5/5 Pints

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