Brasserie Dunham’s 4th B-day Bottle Release party: Part 2 – That Time I powered through 10 brand new beers
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article outlining some of the new beers being released at this years 4th anniversary party from Brasserie Dunham. If you missed it, you can read it here. Go ahead, you can read it now, I’m not going anywhere… You done? Good. So as you now know, I was sadly unable to attend. I have no excuse really. Well, I did have to move that day, to a house forty minutes outside of town, with my seven month pregnant partner and my three year old son. But that’s no excuse! That being said, I was still able to procure all the new bottles, and because there were just so many wonderful things produced by this magically delicious brewery, I needed to write a follow up piece.
It would be very un-Beerism-like to simply blast into tasting notes without first discussing beer related things. I wanted to take a moment to talk about beer blogging, beer bloggers, and their relationship to the breweries and brewers themselves. Now, obviously this relationship will differ drastically depending on the particular blogger and particular brewer in question. However, there is always some kind of relationship, even if one, or both parties aren’t even aware of it.
For Beerism to succeed – and by succeed I simply mean that my articles get read by a good number of people – I often need the help of breweries and readers. I’ve gained quite a few followers at this point, but sharing my posts on social media only goes so far. Twitter gets me nowhere and Facebook is great, but without paying, only a fraction of my audience will see my posts. Breweries tend to have A LOT of followers, so when they share one of my posts, my stuff gets read by a much larger group of people. In my opinion, it’s a pretty essential component of my blog’s success. (Obviously when readers share my posts, it makes all the difference as well. So thank you all for that! And please share this post too!)
Although my experience has been almost exclusively positive, you would be surprised how many breweries seem reluctant to share articles, even when the write ups are positive and provide their business with free publicity. This however, is NOT the case with Brasserie Dunham. Since the onset of Beerism, they have been incredibly supportive of my work. They always share my posts, are super responsive, post my reviews on their website, and give me feedback – they are just plain generous people. Although I haven’t spent much time there, I’ve always had the impression that it’s a place managed more like a family than a business. I can’t speak for the entire blogging community, but I personally wanted to say thanks for appreciating us, Brasserie Dunham!
So there are 10 beers to talk about today, all of which are brand new (or new variants at least). Dunham has truly outdone themselves this year, the sheer number of beers and the creativity behind them is incredible. I guess however, we’ll have to see if if they are all a success!
Cyclope (American IPA)
I just realized that with the numerous upon numerous beers I’ve purchased from Brasserie Dunham, this is the first bottled American IPA I’ve had. It pours out a beautiful orange yellow colour, and only slightly foggy. The nose is a huge, massive citrus bomb, with some fresh apricots, clementines, and oranges. The hop aromatics smell resinous, as if to warn you that this bad boy is going to be soul crushingly bitter.
Yep, I was right, this has a massive bitterness, mixed with an abundance of citrus and stone fruits (just like the nose). The finish is resinous and bitter, with a lingering citrus flavour that rests on your palate. The dryness, coupled with the lighter body and lower alcohol content make this an impeccably great patio beer.
With Dieu du ciel’s Moralité and Le Castor’s Yakima now regularly available for purchase in Quebec, we are at a point where we can say that we have a good quality “dry” IPA selection in this province. I’d like to see the bitterness toned down just a bit in this one, but I would be ecstatic to see Cyclope added to the short list of amazing American IPA’s this province (now) has to offer.
Pale Ale Americaine (Edition 4e Anniversaire)
Dunham has had an American Pale Ale for as long as I can remember. This version is a special release, brewed with Galaxy and Equinox hops. It pours out a clear orangy-yellow colour with a fantastic frothy head that laces the glass in quite a sexy manner. The nose is very grassy, with a zesty, earthy and musty hop profile. It’s very dank and floral, and you get a bit more of the malt profile as compared to Cyclope.
Again, to compare it to Cyclope, the body is more robust, but the hops are all earthy grass and grapefruit (less tropical fruit). It does however, share an unrelenting bitterness that crushes everything. It’s unimaginably dry, and goes down incredibly easy, making for a great lawn mower beer. There is also a subtle but present, floral/rosewater like essence that lingers alongside the resinous, clinging bitterness, which is so intense that is scrapes your palate clean after every sip.
This is by far the best APA that they have done – it’s like they completely reinvented the recipe. I mentioned that I’d like the bitterness toned down a tad in Cyclope (which is very unlike me), but I think the potent bitterness really works perfectly in the APA, as the malt base seems to contain it just a bit better. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is wishing that this (or something similar to this) will be the “new” Dunham APA.
Rye ESB (Brett Trois)
Dunham’s Rye ESB (Extra Special Bitter) has existed for several years now, and as far as I know, this is the first time that they’ve done a variant. This particular version has been fermented with Brettanomyces and dry hopped with lemondrop. (Side note: While Labs has been marketing their “Brett Trois” yeast as containing Brettanomyces for some time now, however a homebrewer dicovered that it is actually not the case; Brett Trois only contains Saccharomyces. The company has recently done internal testing and confirmed this. Dunham made mention of this when describing this beer, saying it’s brewed with the “false” Brett Trois strain). I’m not exactly sure what to expect from this one, but I’m curious to see how the Brett dries out some of the maltier characteristics.
It pours out a reddish brown colour with a substantial puffy head. The aroma begins with smells of earthy caramel and some Bretty fruit complexities mixed in, followed a pretty bold hop profile. All around it’s zesty, with some light lemon and grassy elements coming through.
It’s an interesting mix of yeast phenols and caramel malt flavours. The carbonation is pretty aggressive, but the mouth-feel is still pretty robust and creamy, which makes it still feel like the English ale that it once was (or at least inspired to mimic). The bitterness is pretty forward, but well balanced against the other fruity flavours – strawberries in particular. The Brett (or faux-Brett) phenols, coupled with the bop bitterness, really help dry out the beer, and although there are some earthy and dusty components, the Brett profile is less “funky” and more fruity.
Saison Cassis Réserve Extra
Dunham released Saison Cassis a little while back, but never in bottles. However, this bad boy isn’t simply Saison Cassis anyway. This is “Réserve Extra,” a version that is aged in red wine barrels with lactobacillus, and re-fermented with even more cassis (black currants) before being bottled.
Saison Cassis pours out a beautiful deep purple colour with red highlights. The head is ample but restrained, carrying a pinkish violet colour that’s just gorgeous to stare at. Wow, this smells a lot like sangria, and carries a big vinous quality. This is coupled with lots of berries – particularly black currants and cranberries, followed by a tiny bit of yogurt. The nose makes me think of some kind of wine berry sorbet. Needless to say, it’s very inviting.
Well, it’s certainly rather sour, and impeccably dry. The fruit is the show-runner here. The red wine barrels mixed with the intense fruit make this an amazing sangria-like beverage; minus any of those pesky sugars. The yeast forward Saison flavours are not very noticeable, instead, lactic acid is the prevalent component here, making this taste more like a fruited Berliner Weiss than a Belgian Saison. It’s truly a unique beer, lending certain qualities that I haven’t experienced before.
Deze Monnik Is Dronken (Dunham SuperMoine #3)
Deze Monnik Is Dronken is a Belgian Quadrupel, aged in old Chianti barrels and fermented with figs. Honestly, Quads haven’t been exciting me that much lately, but this sounds damn sexy. It pours out a dirty brown colour, with a pretty restrained head that fades into a small ring after a short time. It smells of fruity candy, alongside raisins, figs, and dates. It’s incredibly “juicy” – which is hard to describe. It almost has a fruit juice component, and even though that sounds bad, it smells amazing; it’s likely from the figs. The darker caramel malts and Belgian yeast esters are also a big part of the nose, but this certainly smells different from a regular quad (It’s got similarities to Rigor Mortis from Dieu du ciel!)
Wow, the 11.2% is extremely well hidden, and although the carbonation is low for the style, the body contains virtually no cloying viscosity. In fact, it’s quite dry, with a pronounced phenol bitterness and a minimal hop presence. Like the nose foreshadowed, It’s incredibly fruity, with a tangy juice-like presence that really works with the toasty malts and Belgian yeast. The 11% is virtually non existent; it’s impressive. The finish leaves your palate with a lingering fruit filled essence, again without any pesky sugars. What a great offering.
Imperial Black IPA “Tequila”
As the name suggests, this is Dunham’s 8.5% Imperial Black IPA, but aged for 4 months in barrels that previously contained tequila. I know, right!? I have no idea what to expect here. I’ve only had a handful of tequila barrel aged beers, one of which was Mikkeller Black, which was one of the most intense things that has ever challenged my palate. But there is only one was to find out!
It pours out pitch black, with a massive sexy head. The nose is really something special, filled with oodles of oak and tequila, mixed with big aromatic hops – it’s zesty citrus all around. it reminds me a lot of Isseki Nicho (black Saison from Dieu du ciel!). The dark roast is pretty overpowered by the musty yeast phenols and general tequila-ness, but there are still some coffee notes mixed in there.
First off, it has a much lighter mouthfeel than it looks; very easy drinking. However it is quite difficult to describe. It certainly has some imperial stout-like roasted qualities, but goes down so much more easily. The tequila barrels are very prominent and lend a really interestingly dank oak flavour, mixed with an agave fruit and citrus zest property that really matches the hop profile wonderfully. It’s kind of a bizarre masterpiece, really. At 117IBU’s, I don’t actually find this beer particularly bitter. I’m thinking the time in the barrel might have smoothed that out a bit. However, it is most certainly incredibly dry. It’s a bit of a battle of extremes; the bitterness, the tequila, and the dark roasted malts, they all work in harmony to produce a surprisingly smooth and dry beer that is pretty damn fantastic.
Petite Mort is a 11% Russian imperial Stout that has been aged in Armagnac, Cognac, and Brandy barrels. Their “regular” bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts are my favorites in Quebec, so I’m pretty excited about this one. Bourbon barrel aged stouts have been the staple for sometime now, but brandy and other types of spirits are getting more popular these days for barrel aging.
Petite Mort pours out like motor oil, with a thick & perfect dark beige head that rests there atop the sexy black goodness underneath. There is lots of brandy soaked oak on the nose, mixed with a great milk chocolate and freshly ground coffee thing. There is a bit of solvent booziness mixed in, alongside some sweet doughy chocolate chip cookies to contrast. There are also some hop aromatics as well, which lend a subtle spiciness to the rest of the rich aromatics.
Wow, this is beautiful, and everything I adore in an imperial stout. It’s exceptionally dry, with a resinous, potently bitter finish. The brandy/Cognac is there, but restrained, only adding subtle complexities to the rest of the flavours. You get the alcohol for sure, but at no point is it too much (at least for me). The chocolate & coffee dark roasted malt flavours are on point, and the body is big and luscious – as it should be. There isn’t much more to say really. The beer may be complex, but what makes this a gem for me is just how straight forward it is; it’s all the things I want a barrel aged imperial stout to be. Sure, it’s certainly lovely to drink those amazing and crazy bourbon forward examples like Bourbon County Brand Stout, but there is a special place in my heart for barrel aged stouts that let the beer shine through more than the spirit barrels they were aged in. That being said, as much as I love this, I think my favorite Dunham stout is still their Coffee & Vanilla Bourbon BA Imperial stout (you can read about it here).
Porter Coco Chipotle – Bourbon
This porter is brewed with toasted coconut and a small amount of chipotle peppers. This particular variant was then aged in bourbon barrels before being bottled. It’s actually their second Bourbon barrel aged variant, however last time they also threw in orange zest and cocoa nibs, whereas this one is simply the original, but aged on bourbon oak.
It pours out with a nice thick body and a big frothy head. The nose consists of chilis, mixed with milk chocolate and subtle toasted coconut. You really do smell the adjuncts, but none are overdone and mix perfectly with this vanilla bourbon thing that’s happening. This truly has a brilliant nose.
The flavours match the aromatics. It starts with a bit of sweet milk chocolate, alongside a beautiful vanilla oakey bourbon flavour from the barrels. The finish is quite dry, with a moderate bitterness and a warming chili finish. The body has a medium, bordering on robust consistency, however it drinks super well. Every ingredient is apparent and works in conjunction with the others, providing great overall balance. I’m not much into chili beers that are too spicy (hot), but this one has just the right amount of warmth to add a fun layer of complexity to this bourbon spiked Mexican hot chocolate inspired creation.
Assemblage Numero 4
This is Dunham’s fourth blend. Well, fourth in this particular series, anyway. I wrote about Assemblage Numero 1 and Assemblage Numero 2 in a previous post, you can check it out here if you are so inclined. In the past, on the bottle itself, Dunham would illustrate what the blend actually was. However, this time they have decided to keep it a secret. For the first three, they were a blend of 2-3 beers in various parts, then aged in previously used oak wine barrels and fermented with brettanomyces. Dunham simply describes this one as a bend of sour ales aged in oak barrels. So let’s take a look.
It pours out a dark burnt orange colour with a very small head that sticks around. The nose begins with lots of spicy oak and wine aromatics, but then moves into something slightly more dank and fruity, putting forth lots of sour cherries.
Like all the Dunham beers, this is nicely dry. The sourness isn’t particularly potent, but the wine remnants add a tannic tartness, which compliment the fruitiness. There are sour cherries, but also some apricots, which mix well with this interesting floral character. There is a bitterness here, but it seems to be mostly from the bitter phenols and not from an aggressive hop content. If I had a criticism, it would be that I find it a tad on the watery side, and I also like more carbonation in this style of beer. It’s not my favorite from the “Assemblage” series, but it’s still a tasty adventure.
Tango in Jerez (Tripel XXX vs Gouden Meyer)
The final new offering is Tango in Jerez, which I somehow forgot to include in the cover photo. It is a blend of Dunham’s XXX Tripel (Belgian inspired strong ale with a huge hop content) and their Gouden Meyer (Belgian strong blond ale made with Meyer lemons), then aged in Xérès (Sherry) barrels. Sounds pretty damn delicious, doesn’t it?
It pours out a dark orange colour with an ample head. The aroma begins with spicy Belgian yeast phenols, alongside some lovely fruity esters – like peach and apricot. There is a caramel-like sweetness here as well, mixed with some Sherry and oak hiding in the backdrop. Not a whole lot of lemons though.
For a sweet smelling beer, it’s actually a nicely dry beer, with a good hefty bitterness. The lemon is there now, but just as an afterthought – kind of like pithy citrus rinds that rest on your palate after biting into citrus zest. It’s also very fruity, and as it warms I’m starting to get apples and pears as well. The phenolic tannins and Meyer lemons add a bitter, slightly tart finish, and coupled with the hops makes for a dryer than normal take on the style. All in all it’s a pretty oak forward Belgian Tripel/strong ale, with some sherry highlights, an above average bitterness, and a nice creamy mouthfeel.
Oddly, when I poured the second half of the bottle, the lemon came out that much more. I’m not sure if it was sitting there in the sediment, waiting to come alive. It provides a tangyness to the whole thing, providing balance against the Belgian yeast while being a compliment to the fruity and bitter hops.
Wow, so that’s it, 12 brand new beers in one release (two of which were accounted for in part one of this article). Thanks for sticking around to read the whole piece, it was a long one! I enjoyed every one of these beers, but I certainly had my favorites. Often the ones you are most excited for are not the ones you adore the most. I wasn’t expecting to love Deze Monnik, but it was one of my favorites of the bunch as it really surprised me with its delicious complexity. While Assemblage #4, although being a well executed offering, left me wanting something more. Petite Mort was also exceptional, and the new APA is really something special. If you are in the greater Montreal area, I hope you take the time to go to the next release party, you won’t regret it.