If you’ve read my blog, you’re likely aware of my professed love for Brasserie Dunham. Many of my posts include their bottles, and if you read just one, it should be the article I wrote last year explaining why you really need to go and check out the brew pub (you can read it here). On October 11th, for the fourth time in about two years, Brasserie Dunham will be throwing another bottle release party in the town of Dunham, located in the eastern townships of Montreal. Like always, they will be showcasing a plenitude of interesting and exceptional offerings on tap. However, what’s even more impressive for me are the amazing barrel aged bottles that you can purchase to go! Beerism will be there, and so should you! (details here)
I’ve been to the last two releases, and as a result, I’ve procured many amazing bottles, including Zinfandel barrel aged raspberry saisons, bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts brewed with coffee and vanilla, soured imperial stouts, bourbon barrel aged black barleywines, whiskey barrel aged porters, and many more exceptional specimens. However, what I wanted to talk about today are the blended barrel aged beers that they have produced. So far, there have been three blends, one for each release party to date. They have all been blends of something hoppy with something Belgian, and then aged in oak barrels with wild yeast.
It all started with Saison Réserve; a blend of 82% Saison Rustique and 18% Leo’s Early Morning Breakfast IPA (an IPA brewed with Earl Grey tea and guava purée), then aged on oak with a special yeast strain. Then came Assemblage #1, a blend of Saison Propolis (farmhouse ale brewed with honey and spices) and their American Pale Ale, which was then aged in old Zinfandel oak barrels with Brettanomyces. Lastly came Assemblage #2, a blend of their Tripel XXX (hopped up Belgian tripel) with their Imperial IPA, which was then aged in old red wine oak barrels with Brettanomyces. It’s all so deliciously complicated, isn’t it? On October 11th, I was very excited to see the next blend on the menu; Assemblage #3. It is a three way blend of their Résurrection de Broderus (Christmas Saison), Ruban Rouge (sour rye ale), and Saison Pinacle (Saison IPA), aged 6 months in Cabernet Sauvignon oak barrels with Brettanomyces.
Saison Réserve (Saison Rustique/Leo’s Breakfast IPA)
As I mentioned above, Saison Réserve is a Saison/IPA blend. However, Leo’s Breakfast IPA is certainly not a typical version of the style, given the addition of tea and guava purée. Also, Saison Rustique is quite hoppy and bitter for a saison, so we should see lots of dry bitterness in the finish, mixed with some nice fruity complexities. It pours out a beautiful clear golden orange colour with a thick & foamy, gorgeous head. The aroma begins with a bouquet of musty yeast, with lots of earthiness and funk. As the head starts to dissipate slightly, tart apple juice starts to emerge, with fruity Saison yeast esters lingering in the backdrop. There are also pear and citrus fruits, mixed with some spices as well – light cinnamon and clove. There are nice aromatic hops in here as well, but they are not the star of the show by any means.
The mouthfeel is extremely effervescent, with all kinds of wonderful tart flavours dancing on my tongue. It’s very bitter, lending an even dryer finish to this already extremely dusty & dry beer. It has a very yeast forward flavour profile, with a lot of dust and earthiness, mixed with some fruity components. I’m actually getting the tea on this, more than the previous batch I had. There are less apples than on the nose, rather it contains more tropical fruits, likely from the hops and the guava. There is not too much going on in the oaky vanilla spectrum, but there is a light rubber-like wood complexity happening for sure. As it warms, the fruit come alive that much more, with lots of pears with strawberries. This beer is a beautiful thing, and it will be available again for the fourth time at this upcoming release; if you go, I highly suggest that you get some.
Assemblage #1 (Saison Propolis/American Pale Ale)
I’ve had Assemblage #1 a couple of times at this point and I’m always impressed; it’s quite delicate, but the hop bitterness gives it some balls (if that makes sense). Saison Propolis is round, spicy and delicious, while the American Pale Ale is very aromatic, with citrus fruits leading the way. The blend is the perfect marriage, and the Brettanomyces, wine, and oak make it even better. Similar to the Saison Réserve, it pours out a clear, glowing orange colour with a puffy & sexy head. The nose starts with lots of oak, mixed with a musty & funky yeast forward presence. Spices start to emerge, with some woody cinnamon and allspice. It is quite vinous, showcasing big green grape aromas, alongside some tropical fruit from the hops and some fruity yeast esters as well.
On the flavour front, it’s very tart and zesty, with lots of grapefruit. It’s quite fruity indeed; the American hops really come through. The oak is there as well, with a woody vanilla finish, mixed with a bracing, lingering bitterness. It’s just wonderful. I’m getting lot’s of scrumptious Saison yeast esters, mixed with dust, and funky barnyard flavours from the Brett. The Brett and hops really help dry the shit out of this thing. It’s certainly not sour, but tart and very tangy, and when mixed with the hop bitterness, it reminds me a bit of chewing on orange zest. Assemblage #1 will also be available on Oct 11th at the next release party, and just like Saison Réserve, I highly recommend buying it.
Assemblage #2 (Tripel XXX/Imperial India)
Weighing in at 9% ABV, Assemblage #2 is a far bigger beer if compared to the above two bottles. That’s certainly no surprise given the two styles used in the blend – a Belgian Tripel and an Imperial IPA. I’ve had this beer twice before, and it was quite hoppy at the time. However it’s been many months since it’s release, so I’m expecting the aromatic hops to have faded substantially, perhaps allowing for even more of the Brett and red wine soaked oak flavours to shine.
Like so many Dunham beers, Assemblage #2 foams over like a bottle of champagne – make sure to open it outside! It pours a sexy & clear burnt orange colour, with a thick and frothy head. The nose is exceptionally fruity, with all kinds of big cherry and strawberry aromas, mixed with a beautifully rich hop bouquet. It smells more sour than the others, with some acetic acids coming though, providing notes of balsamic vinegar. There is a lot of musty funk as well, with all sorts of earthy and general dank oak properties. You can certainly smell the wine as well, which lends an extra acidic vinous quality to the nose as a whole.
It has a rich, full flavoured body, with lots of fruit forward components, finishing with a crazy-ass dry bitterness that lingers intensely until your next sip. There are tons of vinous wine properties – far more than Assemblage #1. The acidity is lower than the nose let on, but it is extremely dry and tart. However, there is still a slight fruity sweetness to this one, reminiscent of crushed strawberries or cherries, mixed with just a little citrus fruit; mainly grapefruit. There is a lot of oak properties, mixed with a beautiful red wine backbone that leads to a relentless and uncontrollable bitterness. Of the three, this beer is the most adventurous and interesting. It pushes the boundaries, but never crosses that line, where a beer becomes an imbalanced dirty mess. I’m not going to claim any of these three as my favorite, but this one would probably be the beer that I’d stock up on the most. Unfortunately it is the only one of the three not being sold at the next bottle release. Oh well, maybe next time!
So that settles it, I’ll see you all on the 11th? What, you can’t make it? Just make it happen already! The details again are here and here. Well, if you can’t make it and you are really really lucky, maybe you’ll catch one of these beautiful beers at a bottle shop near you; but sadly I doubt that. On a positive note, this is the fourth bottle release party in 2 years, so there will be more! And if you do happen to make it, I’ll be the guy double fisting Assemblage #3 with a big ass smile on my face.
An article by Noah Forrest