I haven’t always been obsessed with beer. Or rather, I should say that I haven’t always been obsessed with GOOD beer. I say this because one could argue that I was pretty obsessed with beer in my 20’s, given that I drank obscene amounts of it every weekend (and many weeknights too). However, it would be a stretch to call what I was drinking “beer” anyway. Instead, it was pretty much just bastardized Pilsner that came in green or clear bottles when I wanted something “fancy” and brown bottles when I was “slummin’ it.” There is so much sad irony thinking about how we used to use bottle colours as quality differentiators (and many still do). Basically there was a lot of terrible beer mixed with a lot of terrible skunked beer.
About five years ago, before having kids, my partner and I moved to Point St Charles; a burrow in the southwest area of downtown Montreal. A couple of decades ago, it was considered quite a rough area to live in, however gentrification has been changing it slowly over time. It’s getting to be a pretty expensive place to live, given it’s proximity to the city and how close it is to the Lachine canal. When we were there, it certainly felt safe, but it was still rough around the edges. For instance, there were always prostitutes hanging on the corner of our street. And they weren’t the “I’m making some money on the side to finish my university degree” kind if prostitute, but rather the “I used to work in a strip club in the early 70’s and I’ve been strung out ever since” type of prostitute. Apparently I know my prostitute classifications? No judgement at all, really, it was just odd sometimes when going to buy eggs at nine in the morning and passing by them. I’d ask questions to myself, like “Do I nod hello? Wait, that could be code for something!” Regardless, I would always buy my eggs without issue, and I would do so at this awesome Dépanneur (corner store) at the end of my street. Not only did this store always have eggs (unlike the post-menopausal “ladies of the night” I had just walked past), but they also had a big ass craft beer selection; hence why I’m telling this story.
The first time I walked in there, I left with two six packs – and honestly, I think I bought them because of the art-work. At the time I was just starting to get interested in beer – like, real beer – but had no idea where to start. Lucky for me, I managed to grab Dieu du Ciel’s Aphrodisiaque and Rosée D’hibiscus, which not only come from (arguably) the best craft brewery in all of Canada, but they also happen to be two of the best “gateway” beers around, in my opinion. From there, I started to get more and more interested – but what really helped was meeting my new neighbor, Dan.
I’d randomly chat with Dan through our connected fences, and soon after he and and his family became our friends. He kept me pretty well stocked with his homebrew whenever he had some to spare. He taught me a few things here and there, however I still remained pretty beer-ignorant even though I may have thought I knew more than I did at the time. It’s like that in general though, the minute we get a few facts, we develop an opinion, and immediately think we are some kind of authority. It’s only when we gain some real knowledge on a subject that we realize that we don’t know shit, and have so much more to learn. Knowledge is humbling. I remember thinking how much I loved “ales,” as if it was simply a style of beer. I asked Dan if he would ever be brewing any “ales” (although I had previously drank many of his beers, ALL of them being ales). You know that look you give someone when they say they know a lot about geography, but then they refer to Africa as a country? That’s basically how Dan stared at me when I asked that question. However, he was extremely nice about my ignorance none the less.
Like most beer love stories, I moved away and we lost touch. However, a few months back I found Dan on Facebook and saw that he had started a little picobrewery in his basement with a close friend. It’s called Brasserie Une Bière Deux Coups; please take the time to follow them on Facebook by clicking here. They’ve been quite busy, and today, I’d like to talk about a few of their creations.
Skate or Die IPA
“Double IPA (tentatively called Skate or Die IPA although my brew partner wanted to call it the ‘Dino Bravo’). It’s brewed with cascade, chinook and bravo hops. A total of 260 grams of hops were added during the boil (9 ounces!) Most of the hops are late additions for hop aroma and flavour. It is also Dry hopped with cascade and bravo (1 oz each).” – Dan Deeds (Brewmaster)
It pours out a gorgeous dark amber orange colour, with lots of cherry-wood highlights. This thing has brilliant clarity. The head is massive and dense, to the point that I can scoop it with my finger like soft serve ice cream. Beautiful beer! The nose is extremely dank, with a pungent grassiness that’s reminiscent of wet lawn. There is a caramel sugar, almost toffee like sweetness that creeps in amongst all the sticky hops. It’s quite inviting.
It has a nice full body, but it’s dryer than the nose let on, which makes me happy. The bitterness is through the roof; in a great way. Like the nose, there is a potently earthy and dank funk from the hops that lends an interesting spiciness to the whole thing. There is a big caramel malt thing happening, and although hops are certainly the star, I’m not getting a ton of fruitiness. Rather there are more grassy resinous hops against a rich and robust high gravity base. That being said, as it warms, the fruity components start to emerge. Apricots and overripe strawberries make a serious but only limited appearance, before being quickly and mercilessly crushed by the relentless bitter finish.
It pours out a murky reddish colour with a small but ample head that sticks around. It most certainly smells herbal, with lots of lavender at the front followed by a jumble of other aromatics, like juniper berries and hints of rosemary in the background. A slight sweetness from the malt base is also present, lending to a cola like thing – or actually, it smells more like Brio!
Wow! That’s different. I barely noticed the smoked malt on the nose, but it is a major player here. There is this tangy finish that I wouldn’t say is bitter, but somehow is at the same time. It seems to carry some acidic properties, or at least that’s what it tastes like to me. The herbs come through as well, making appearances at different moments as the beer warms; especially the cardamon, which only starts coming into play after some time. It’s a bit hard at first to place everything, as I’m so used to the quintessential beer elements. However, this really works, and keeps growing on me. The intense herbs, the slight acid bite in the finish, and the smokeyness all work together to make a unique beverage that is truly hard to describe.
Pony Boy Bitter (Parti-Gyle Part 1)
“The final two beers were a strong beer and small beer brewed using a special method called ‘Parti-Gyle’. It’s a technique that never really caught on but I thought it was fun. When you mash malt you get a ‘first runnings’ which is the wort that’s drawn off the mash first. Most of the sugar is found there. Normally you blend that with the sparge (a rinse of the malts to get the remaining sugars). I kept the two separate and blended them together in specific quantities to get the densities I wanted for a barleywine and a bitter. L’Étalon (the barleywine) also has a half kilo of homemade caramel (from demerara sugar) added during the boil. Both L’Étalon and the Pony Boy bitter used Columbus and East Kent Golding hops, with most of the Columbus (a high alpha hop) in the Barleywine and most of the East Kent Golding in the bitter. I ended up using a yeast from an East Coast brewery for the bitter, so I’m calling it an East Coast Bitter. It’s got most of the hops towards the end of the boil too so it’s less traditional than an English bitter, I suppose” – Dan Deeds (Brewmaster)
The nose begins with a lovely floral and fruity hop profile that doesn’t overpower. The hops strike me with a mild and soft aroma that compliment some of the subtle fruity malt characteristics and hints of earthy yeast.
This is an easy drinker, despite the rather prevalent hop bitterness. There are lots of fruity complexities that dance between hops and malts, making you wonder where one begins and the other ends. Strawberries run the show, leading into some subtle pithy orange rind that lingers, turning into a bitter, somewhat astringent finish. There is just the right amount of sweetness and body to balance the bitterness. I’m also getting lots of nice toasted malts and general fresh wheat elements. It’s quite balanced, and like the DIPA, this is a very sexy looking beer that carries a fantastic, frothy head that never gives out. In a world run by American IPA, I like the idea of brewing a hoppier English bitter. You get that darker and maltier base, mixed with a hefty bitterness and a nice hop bouquet to keeps things interesting.
L’Étalon – Barleywine (Parti-Gyle Part 2)
L’Étalon pours out a very dark amber brown colour with virtually no head. There is nothing but some soapy bubbles.
The aroma is a potent mixture of fruity hops, coupled with a lot of earthy, solvent-like components. It’s not off putting; I’ve smelled this many times before in ultra high abv beers, but never in an eleven percenter. There are some light toasted caramel aromas as well.
It starts off sugary, with some big (bordering on cloying) caramel sweetness that dance around in your mouth before being completely demolished by a soul crushing bitterness. The carbonation is virtually non-existent, which I have to admit is hard for me. I do, however, appreciate the hop content in this bad boy – it really helps dry out the would-be over the top sweet flavours. The lingering bitterness is powerful and really holds on, leaving a sweet, tangy grapefruit thing on your palate before your next sip. So although I personally don’t love beers with extremely low carbonation, this is a solid American barleywine whose bitterness will knock your socks off.
This week I moved to a pretty rural area off of the island of Montreal; very far from the urban landscape. All this Pointe-Saint-Charles reminiscing has me pining a bit for the quintessential Montreal apartment row housing and walk-up stairs. However, it’s time for new things, and it was great reconnecting with Dan – especially because I got to try all his new beer offerings! I’m excited to see that he is still brewing, and I hope this can turn into something larger and profitable one day. But however it goes, Dan and his partner will continue brewing innovative and delicious beers that I hope to sample again very soon.
If you are interested in contacting or perhaps requesting samples from Brasserie Une Bière Deux Coups, you can do so by messaging them via their Facebook page.
An Article by Noah Forrest