The Rebellious Curried Archibald – An Actual English Ale from Quebec

So I just started a three week vacation, spending my second day on the couch pretty much doing nothing: designing this blog while watching various television shows and playing with my son. We often shop for food on a daily basis. This isn’t a problem as we have various grocery stores within steps of our place. Today, however, they are calling for a pretty severe storm, so we decided to make do with what we had lying around the house, which saves money as well as allows us to be creative. Having had tacos for dinner the other day, I was able to do Huevos Rancheros for breakfast. When I say tacos, I don’t mean Old El Paso, but rather something more authentic, but not exactly authentic either. When describing them to my Mexican friend and calling them California tacos, he quickly interrupted me, saying “oh, you mean hipster tacos.” And I guess he’s right, the nouveau vegan hipsters of our generation have learned how to make a mean taco, and I guess so have Genee and I. Our tacos generally consist of sweet potatoes roasted with garlic and olive oil, sauteed black beans with some cumin and lime, and lime cilantro coleslaw. So if you take a few corn tortillas, cover them in beans, slap a few fried eggs on in, top with salsa, sour cream, avocado, and the coleslaw – you’ve got yourself a tasty breakfast, or perhaps a hipster breakfast to be precise.

At this point you’re probably wondering why I’m not talking about beer, and I guess so am I.  My point was that we weren’t leaving the house and I had to make do with what we had.  I made what you could call a white boy curry a little while back, and had it sitting in the freezer. I remember it turning out well – so why not defrost it!  I threw the frozen block-o-curry in a sauce pan, shoved some rice in a the rice cooker and started scanning the fridge for possible accompaniments. Hey look! Sour cream, cilantro, and purple cabbage lime coleslaw, that works. And it did, rather nicely I might add.

So during all this I had to choose a beer to go alongside. the meal  Well I guess I didn’t have to, but hey, come on. What goes better with Indian food then English ales? Nothing. I do have some premium English imports in my wine cooler (yes, I have a wine fridge dedicated to beer – I know, it’s weird), but what caught my eye was a can of L’insoumise by Archibault that I picked up a little while back. I had their IPA a couple of months ago (see picture to the right), so I was intrigued to sample their pale ale. In my opinion, the only beers that resemble English style ales are actually from England. There are also quite a lot of ales “from England” that don’t even fit the bill, and sadly those are the ones found in our grocery stores in Montreal.  For instance, Smithwicks, Newcastle and Boddingtons all somewhat fit the bill, but not 100%. They are either too watery or too thick, or just don’t have much flavor.  It was only when I stated going to Ontario and discovered Old Speckled Hen and Fullers that I started to understand how this style of beer should taste.

Just like the IPA I tried from Archibald, the Pale Ale also surprised me. As I was saying, I haven’t found anything made here that has the body and flavor of a proper English ale. Now that’s not to say that there is really anything wrong with that, my favorite beers tend to be North American styles. Because the IPA seemed to have good English roots, I grabbed the Pale Ale.

It poured out a nice clear amber orange color with a solid one finger head. In the light the orange hues come out, but there is still a lot of the chestnut redwood color in there. On the nose I get a big malty aroma, sweet and fruity, but caramel & toffee are the show runners, with some oranges and strawberries lingering in the backdrop. There is a slight sour smell as well. After the first sip I immediately get the toffee and caramel tastes, with some maple syrup in there too, minus the maple, if that makes any sense. A bit reminiscent of apple cider.  I’m tasting some hops in here too, but nothing over the top. Next comes a slight tart sourness followed by a medium level of bitterness to cut through the subtle sweetness of the malt. The body is thick and heavy, but still smooth enough to go down really easy. This is certainly to be considered a session beer for sure.

The curry turned out well, especially considering it was frozen. Simply put, it was basically some crushed tomatoes, beans, sweet potatoes, and a plethora of Indian spices including cumin, cardamom, garam masala (or at least my version of it), turmeric, cloves, and so on. The curry brought out elements in the beer, and the beer certainly enhanced the meal. The spiciness (not heat, but flavors) of the curry slightly overshadows some of the flavors of the beer, but enhances others, like the sweet fruitiness of the malt in general. When you take a bite, then take a sip, you really taste the sugars – which matches nicely with the sweet potatoes in the curry. The hops induced bitterness after each sip cleansed the palate rather well in between bites. Beer compliments food on various levels, there are so many ranges of beer styles that pairing can be a real challenge, but also a lot of fun.

Overall this is a solid beer form Archibald,  I’ve only now had their IPA and Pale Ale at this point, but I will certainly try their other offerings. Although I am in love with big, strong beers, and although Quebec has a sea of Belgian influence offerings (I’m not complaining), it’s still nice to see that we are also capable of creating something a bit more classic, something that until now I thought had to be shipped from England.