I need to start by saying that I’ve never brewed beer. I’ve read a few books on home brewing with the goal of making beer in mind, however, it’s yet to happen. This is largely due to time constraints mixed with a bit of laziness. I can write blog posts on the bus and metro, during my son’s nap time, or late at night; but learning to brew beer, and then brewing it, seems a bit more of a daunting task. It needs to happen though, and not so much because I’ll have more beer to drink (a plus, yes), but because I know how much I will learn in the process. Yes, you can be a sommelier or a cicerone without personally making wine or beer, but think about how much more you’d know after mastering the process. I can’t fathom being a food critic without knowing kitchen basics, and although I think brewing is a different monster, it still relates. Home brewing is extremely popular now, and these days we are not as limited as we once were. We can now more easily produce beautiful, all grain creations that can stand up to beers released by reputable craft breweries – and this is awesome. The days of perceiving homebrewed beer as nothing more than a cheaper alternative to spending money are long gone. What home brewers are doing is amazing, and beer culture gets that now – it’s the roots of the craft beer revolution.
I’ve been following the Beer Addict-Ed Facebook page for longer than I’ve been blogging. It’s run by Michael, an extremely passionate and very friendly home brewer who is constantly (and I mean constantly) concocting new and interesting beer, cider, and mead. I met up with him the first time at Mondial last year where he was volunteering. He was pouring out tasty American beers with solid knowledge and charm – something that is often lacking with the volunteers. I also attended a small tasting get-together at his place, where he wanted to compare two batches of the same style of beer in order to iron out the kinks. They were good – very good, actually – so my interest was sparked and I wanted more. Shortly after, I was able to get a lot bottles off of him (six in total), and that’s what this post is all about. To me, Michael is all about innovation mixed with rigid balance. He is incessantly experimenting with different ingredients, like fruits and spices (and in one example, cookies!), but never to the point where the beer is compromised. He has a great understanding of flavour combinations, and how extremely delicate that can be. So that said, sit back, relax, and have a homebrew while I talk about these six sexy specimens.
This IPA was brewed with half a pound of hops (citra and simcoe), white sugar, and two dozen granny smith apples. It lands at about 8.5% ABV. Let’s crack her open! It pours out a dark burnt orange colour with some brown highlights. There is a massive head they stays for quite some time, busting with effervescence through most of the drinking experience. On the nose I get freshly cut wheat, honey, lots of earthy hops, and a ton of yeast esters. Through the musty layers of foam I’m also able to pick out some apricots, and some piney hops as well.
Up front it’s nice and bitter, with a good sweet backing to balance it. It’s quite earthy and piney, with a lot of resinous hops lingering in the finish (but it’s still clean). The yeast is present, which makes sense given the bottle being live. It is quite boozy in flavour and residual mouth warmth, however, it matches the grain bill and bold flavours quite nicely. When first drinking this one, I wasn’t aware of the high ABV, thinking it was just a simple IPA at something like 6%. The beer quickly put me in my place with some of those sharp boozy notes, which really worked well against the pungent hops, and made for a very well balanced beer overall.
This Belgian hybrid IPA was brewed with German Noble hops (mainly Hallertauer and Saaz), white sugar (15% of grain bill) and White Labs Trappist Ale Yeast. It pours out a bright, bold copper orange colour with a thick and pillowy off white head; gorgeous beer. The nose is floral, with lots of caramel, and some musty yeast. I don’t get too much of the typical Belgian yeast profile – like cloves, banana or cardamon – but that doesn’t bother me. There are definitely hops at play here, offering up a fruity profile, but I’m also getting lots of honey and caramel, mixed with a bit of ethanol booziness.
It is nice and fruity, but still quite dry, with a heavy bitter and pretty boozy finish. There are lots of strawberries, and some bitter grapefruit, but this isn’t a citrus bomb at all. It’s bracingly bitter, but well balanced against a pretty fruity and malty sugar base. Again, although I don’t get too much in the way of typical Belgian yeast components, it does have some nice musty yeast forward complexities. As it warms, the fruity elements really comes alive with hints of vanilla and strawberry. This was excellent, and something I’d pick up again if I could. The carbonation was spot on and the flavors meshed perfectly. Kudos, sir!
Orange Ginger Wheat Ale
This sexy wheat beer is brewed using Lavallends wheat ale yeast, as well as a combination of freshly grated orange peel, freshly grated ginger, and ginger confit. It pours out a yellow orange colour, with a tiny head that dissipates quickly. The nose carries lots of oranges (unsurprisingly), with some citrusy, almost kombucha like aromas. There is also some citrus zest, and spicy yeast esters.
The carbonation seems to be lacking a bit, but the flavours are on point. There is lots of orange, with a tangy, hard to describe finish. There are some yeast properties alongside a hay/wheat like flavour that lingers against the tangy and zesty finish. It’s perfectly dry, with no unwanted sweetness mucking it up. The more I drink, the more I’m starting to dig it. It was a bit difficult at first, as it’s not a style I’m particularly into, but once I got over the shock of its somewhat “un-beer-like” nature, the flavours came together and I enjoyed it quite a lot. Also, it improves as it warms, with the orange and ginger coming alive that much more. This plays against the other flavours, creating a very refreshing, perfect for the patio, tasty, orangey, dry-ass beer. He also gave me an apricot ginger version that was quite good as well, although of the two, I think I preferred the orange.
This 6.5% ABV stout was brewed with chocolate malt and Black Patent Malt, as well as six entire packs of Oreo cookies! Needless to say, I was VERY intrigued by it. It pours out a thick black color, with little to no head. However, after sticking my nose in there, I couldn’t care less. It smells divine, with Oreo cookie, chocolate, coffee and lots of general dark roasted aromas. It’s a tad bit fruity as well, with some red berries in the background. There are hints of booze mixed in there, with some zesty yeasts as well.
You definitely get the Oreo cookies in the flavour, alongside some very minimal residual sweetness. Milk and dark chocolate then mix in with a pretty bold coffee-like presence. It finishes with a biting bitterness that keeps everything in line. The body is nice and creamy, but still smooth and easy to drink. This was my favorite of the bunch so far.
There was something about this one that I couldn’t place my finger on at first, something that made this stand out in a special way. I quickly realized that it was salt! Of course! Oreos (like most cookies) are loaded with salt, which added an amazing element to this stout. I’ve had salt in a Gose (German sour salted beer), but never in a stout. It works – really well. However, I am a bit obsessed with the whole sweet & salty thing, so maybe I’m biased a bit. I’m really happy about this one, and can’t wait to see if Michael tries it – or a variant of it – again.
Session Black IPA
Session beers are basically beers that one can, well, session. They are generally pretty low on the alcohol spectrum, and should go down nice and easy. This 4.5% ABV Black IPA was brewed with citra, simcoe and kent east goldings hops, and was made with chocolate malt, which according to Michael, gives off a slight roasted backbone to the fruit-punch provided by the hops. It pours out a dark brown, almost black colour with some sexy reddish highlights. There is lots of beautiful lacing coating the sides of the glass. It begins with aromas of sweet honey, mixed with citrus, and a shit-ton of strawberries. There are some mild dark roasted grain elements in there as well, but this is certainly a hop forward fruit bomb.
The flavours mimic the nose quite a lot, but with more chocolatey undertones. There are tons of fruity hops that dominate the flavour; some citrus, but mostly red fruit, especially strawberries. There are lots of well rounded flavours, and a nice solid bitterness that cuts everything perfectly. It is highly sessionable (as it should be), with a nice smooth body that goes down so easily.
This was actually my first Black Session IPA; I like the idea, and I particularly like this beer. It’s not as blisteringly Citra forward as some other IPA’s I’ve had, but they are still present, and provide a nice counterpart to the chocolatey, roasted properties. Great stuff.
Bonbon – Dark Belgian Strong Ale
Quebec is filled with so many high quality Strong Belgian Dark Ales that it can be almost overkill. From the SAQ available beers, like Rochefort and St. Bernardus, to Unibroue, Microbrasserie Charlevoix, and Dieu du Ciel, we certainly have our fill. This style used to excite me, but not so much anymore – not even the best in the world. I guess I’ve moved on? (wow, that sounded pretentious). However, I liked this one, like, A LOT. And I think Bonbon can stand up there with the rest of the big guys.
This beer, and pretty much all of Micheal’s beers, have great balance. “Balance” may be a bit of a buzz word, as it’s thrown around all the time when people want to describe how much they like something, but can’t find the words to do so. However, I really mean it here. In the new world of extreme brewing, with everything being barrel aged and filled with Brettanomeces, it was nice to drink innovative classics containing interesting and original ingredients. Michael’s beers may be quite different, and even bizarre at times, but I can safely say that his products work, and at no point provide too much, or too little of a good (or bad) thing. I can also proclaim that I am now Beer Addict-ed, and I have no doubt that we will one day see his bottles available at stores around town.
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An article by Noah Forrest