Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Taste Camp Quebec: How I Survived A Beer Tasting

The Fifth Annual TasteCamp is now over, a three day visit to Quebec, tasting wines, ciders, beers and local foods. Approximately twenty five of us, bloggers and their significant others, journeyed to Montreal, our base for the trip. During the next couple weeks, I will be providing my thoughts about what I tasted in Quebec, both as part of TasteCamp and also what I did on my own. I have been to Montreal before, and think it is a great destination for those who love good food and drink, but I haven't previously explored much of the rest of Quebec.

For the first time, TasteCamp conducted a beer tasting, a walk around event where eight Quebec microbreweries presented a selection of their beers. For two hours, we got to sample what were probably at least 40 beers, and then there was an eight course meal afterward, each course paired with a different beer. Not my usual idea of fun as I have disliked about 99% of the beers I have previously tasted. I dislike the bitterness I find in beer, which seems due to the use of hops.

However, I bravely took my empty glass and went to the various tables, seeking a beer that I might like. Surprisingly, the results were much better than my usual average. I found two beers which were ok, which I might drink a glass or so under the right circumstances, such as with the proper meal. Then, I found two beers which I would drink on their own, including one which might be my most favorite beer ever. What a monumental discovery!

My discovery is illustrative of a greater principle, one which I have advocated for before, that you should continually taste wines, beers and spirits, even in categories which you might think you dislike. You should not write off an entire category, such as Chardonnay or Tequila, because you have disliked most of the items you have tasted. There is so much diversity in the alcohol world, that even if you dislike many items in a category, that doesn't mean you will dislike all of them. I have disliked a huge number of beers that I have previously tasted, but I keep trying them, and have found a few that I like. TasteCamp's beer tasting led me to find a couple more beers I liked. One should never give up on an alcohol category.

Le Castor is a microbrewery that produces organic beers. Their Grande Reserve Wee Heavy Bourbon is a Scottish ale, with an 11% ABV, that was aged in bourbon barrels. It had a prominent bourbon flavor as well as elements of malt, caramel and spice. On the finish, there was a touch of the beer bitterness I generally dislike, but it was mild enough that I could enjoy a glass with dinner. I know numerous other attendees who really enjoyed this brew.

The Brasseur de Montreal is a brewery and restaurant that produces about seven beers plus several seasonal ones. Their Chi is an unfiltered pale beer, with a 4.5% ABV, that is made from barley, wheat and rice malt and is also flavored with ginger, citronella and citrus. There was plenty of ginger flavor up front and then more citrus notes on the finish. It was light and crisp, though you better enjoy the taste of ginger. I would probably enjoy a glass of this with Asian food, maybe some spicy Thai.

One of the most popular tables at the tasting, as well as the one with the most beers, belonged to Trou du Diable, roughly translated as "The Devil's Hole." I loved the look of their labels, which showed very cool artwork. They also seem to have a diverse portfolio, with beers that will appeal to almost any palate. The Dulcis Succubus is a Saison, with a 7% ABV, that was aged for six months in botrytis dessert wine oak barrels. It is an intriguing and complex beer with floral, citrus, vanilla and spice notes. Like the legendary succubus, it is an alluring brew, one sure to captivate you with its sensual pleasures. This is a beer I could drink on a nice, summer day..

The overall best beer of my night was their La Grivoise de Noel, which roughly translates as "Ribald Christmas." This is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, with a 7.5% ABV, and it is a seasonal beer, made for the Christmas season. However, it may actually taste better with some aging. This beer is a melange of alluring spices, from cinnamon to cardamom, with notes of caramel, dried fruit and nuts. There is a slight sweetness to this silky smooth brew, and none of the bitterness I dislike. In some ways, it reminded me of an aged Sherry. I drank a few glasses of this beer, and enjoyed each and every sip. This jumps to the top of my favorite beer list, which is rather small. For beer lovers, I think you would greatly enjoy the products of Trou du Diable. Their beers received many raves from the other attendees as well.

If you are not a big fan of beer, what beers have you enjoyed?

1 comment:

Jason Phelps said...

You are going to love some of my newest beers in time. Your notables are ground I am and will be covering.

Exceptional! Sounds like a tasting required later in the year.