Les Trois Mousquetaires’ Double IPA 2015 and Bavaroise! A Hopped Up Interview with Brewmaster Alex
Every August, beer geeks from around Montreal head to the south shore and line up for something that they have been waiting for all year: Les Trois Mousquetaire‘s Double IPA bottle release. For the third year now, LTM has sold this DIPA exclusively at the brewery on one day only, selling out within a couple of hours. I got my hands on an early released batch so I can let you know what to expect this time around!
Journée Double IPA – THIS SATURDAY! – August 29th 2015 – Click here for details
So why is this such a big deal? Well, to begin with, it’s a delicious and fantastic example of the style. However, it’s also because although Quebec’s IPA scene is no longer dismal, we still lack a bit in the hops department, which easily makes this beer the best bottled Double IPA in the province (in my opinion). Not to mention that it’s also perhaps the most Quebecois IPA out there, given that it’s actually made with Quebec malts.
We also just found out a few weeks ago that LTM has been working in conjunction with Oktoberfest de Repentigny to make an IPA brewed with new German hop varieties. It’s called Bavaroise. I got myself a bottle and caught up with Alex (brewmaster) to ask some questions about the brewery’s connection to local ingredients, and the various challenges surrounding hops in general.
The following interview took place via e-mail between Noah Forrest (beerism) and Alex Ganivet-Boileau (Brewmaster)
Please forgive my ignorance, as I don’t have a great understanding about how many actual local ingredients go into Quebec craft beer (generally speaking). However, I do know that LTM is one of the few breweries that use Quebec Malts. Can you elaborate on this?
“We are one of the very few Québec breweries who uses nearly 100% Québec malts, and probably the biggest in volume to do so. Most of our beers are in fact 100% Québec malts, but we do not have access to roasted smoked malts from Frontenac or Maltbroue since they don’t produce any. When I started working with LTM back in 2008, all the beers were brewed with malts from western Canada or Germany (or both). The decision to go with Québec malts was progressive. We started using them here and there as we did not want to change the recipes all over at once, but we did it for environmental reasons and to give a more local touch to our beers. We liked the results so we added more and more of these malts in each batch. Back then, everybody was saying that Québec malts had this unpleasant taste reminiscent of grape juice, but at the same time, they also said that this taste was not present in LTM beers, so we felt encouraged to continue with this. At a certain point the decision was made to go ”all in” with local malts.
We wanted to give a local ”feel” to our beers. I don’t get the point in calling it a ”local beer” if all the ingredients come from halfway across the globe. What would we say about a local winery who would make wine with grapes from California? On the other hand, I totally understand why most brewers decide to brew with the best malts from around the world: they want the best for their beers. But we decided to take the challenge to brew world-class beers with local malts. The difficulty level was harder, and of course, this was not always easy. It is true that these malts have a more ”rustic” taste that doesn’t go with every beer style, but we learned how to work with them, calibrating our brewing water in a different way for example. I’m quite proud of the fact that some of our best rated beers continued to receive high ratings even after the Québec malts transition.
In 2011/2012 the transition was fully completed and we felt that our branding was not taking advantage of this as it was not clearly mentionned on the label, so we created the new labels with the mention ”brassées avec des malts du Québec”.
We also want to work with local hops, but it’s not possible at a big scale for the moment. We do not have access to many varieties and while it’s true that we saw a very very good quality increase in the last 2-3 years, there is still a question of quantity availability and pricing issues. Despite all this, we started to introduce Québec hops in our American Pale Ale with good results, and we are looking forward to continue working with Québec hop growers. I hope that more and more brewers will use Québec ingredients, even in small percentages.”
While we are on the topic of hops, in the past you’ve explained to me that one of the main reasons that LTM doesn’t brew a regularly available IPA/DIPA is because you want to be able to guarantee freshness. Because aromatic hops fade so incredibly fast – especially when not refrigerated – you release your DIPA once a year at a limited brewery only release party. Given the recent success behind amazing Quebec IPAs like Yakima and Moralité, have you thought about taking the plunge and doing a regularly available IPA? (You could always steal Stone’s “Enjoy by” idea, with something like “Apprecier avant”… hehe)
“The way I see it, IPA is all about big fresh hoppy aromatics. We experimented a lot with different hopping and dry-hopping techniques to a point that I’m pretty confident we can brew a world-class IPA tomorrow morning if we want. But those big fresh hoppy aromatics fade so fast and the hops we use are pretty expensive (and we use a lot), so we have to find a way to sell a beer like this at the maximum freshness level. At room temperature, it’s a question of days before most of the aromatics are lost. This is why we use the ”bottle release” formula for our Double IPA.
But we have a lot of demand (and I mean a lot!) for a year-round LTM IPA and we are considering different options. As a brewer, I would want a beer like this to be always kept cold, but I know it’s not always possible, so we could brew this on a very small scale to make sure the beer would always be as fresh as possible when distributed. There is no official plan yet, but we’re on it.”
Double IPA 2015!
Alex, so what can we expect from the 2015 DIPA?
“For this batch of Double IPA, we kept the same hops as last year, but we added more Simcoe and Mosaic hops (even compared to the batch we brewed for Mondial in June). So it’s a little bit more piney. It’s also a tad drier. I think it’s the best batch we brewed so far. I know people want perfection, but it’s only the 4th time we’ve been brewing it. Some prefer more tropical fruits, some prefer more piney/resinous notes… But I think we have a very very good balance between both sides. And it’s a crazy easy drinking beer. Like we say on the label, it tastes like paradise and pairs well with your dreams.
Oh. One last thing. We received fresh chardonnay barrels from California two weeks ago. The temptation was too strong to put some Double IPA in one of them. It’s only one barrel so it won’t be bottled but if it’s interesting enough we’ll make some casks with it for festivals… So look for it!”
I received this bottle back in June (don’t worry, I drank it fresh) when LTM brewed a batch for Mondial de La Bieres. The version coming out in a few days is virtually the same beer, but as Alex mentioned, it has that much more Simcoe and Mosaic pumped into it.
It pours out a clear golden orange colour, with a nice frothy head resting on top. It’s rather dank, with loads of grassy hops, mixed with a bit of caramel and citrus fruit. Apricots especially come to mind, but there is a plethora of tropical fruitiness, including some citrus zesty undertones and an inviting floral character.
Although carrying some sweet fruity components, the bitterness is crushing enough to knock the sugars into place nicely. Like the nose, there are some apricots, oranges, and other tropical fruits, mixed in with some big citrus and grassy finishing pieces. There is a pretty apparent malt presence, but it functions well against the resinous bitterness. It has a great tangy quality that runs alongside the hop resins, which help make this a refreshing beer given the higher ABV. Overall, the whole thing is quite juicy, and the balance is perfectly on point.
I love German hops, especially when added in abundance. However, from what I understand, these new German hop varieties you’ve brewed with are quite different. Can you tell me a bit about them, and your new IPA in general? Also, given the constraints you provided above, how were you able to make this new Bavaroise IPA work for you?
“The German (and especially German hop-growers) are purists. They grow amazing quality hops, but I think they saw the wave of big American hops invading their market share and they wanted to fight back. So an institute in Bavaria in the town of Huell worked with local hop growers to develop new hop varietals. In 2012 they released 4 new hops: Mandarina Bavaria (quite citrusy, which we’ve been using in our Double IPA since 2013), Huell Melon (with intriguing notes of honeydew melon), Hallertau Blanc (which is an attempt to a similar profile as Nelson Sauvin, with Sauvignon Blanc notes) and also Polaris (a very intense bittering hop we use in our Réserve de Noel).
So with those hops and their interesting flavor profile, we wanted to try to brew something IPA-ish for a year or two. When the Oktoberfest staff contacted us for a special brew for their 10th edition, we suggested an IPA brewed only with those new German hops and they loved the idea. Of course it’s not a clone of an American IPA. But there are some fruity/floral similarities that can really resemble an IPA profile. There are clearly German hops notes, though. It’s more herbal/grassy than the average American IPA, with a subtle white wine character that comes from the Hallertau Blanc and Huell Melon. Also, since we brewed it with a lager yeast at ale temperature, the yeast character also contributes to those white wine tasting notes, I think it’s a very good tasty and innovative brew, quite easy to drink (important for a festival beer) and most of all, something different in the overcrowded-but-never-satisfied-world-of IPAs.
About the freshness constraints, a large scale distribution will obviously have some effect on the freshness, but since it’s quite less hoppy than our Double IPA, I feel the loss of aromatics won’t affect the beer as much. But still, I urge every retailer to keep this one cold (and every hop-forward beer they sell for that matter). I know it’s not always possible, but I really want the market to understand that big hoppy beer is as fragile as, let’s say, milk. Would you sell milk at room temperature? Well it’s kinda the same thing about hoppy beers. It’s a spoilage to let them sit on a shelf at room temperature. If you want to sell more fresh IPAs, invest in more cold storage! We’re building a new cold chamber here with this in mind.”
Well, now I’m excited to try this! Bavaroise pours out a bright glowing orange colour with some copper highlights. The nose wafts big piney aromatics, with this incredibly floral component that smells like a big bouquet of flowers. There are some sweet smells as well, with caramel malts blurring into red fruits, like cherries and strawberries. There are also some earthy yeast characteristics battling for attention.
One of the first things I noticed was the wheaty and bready malts, with hay, wheat, and dried grass at the front. In general, the flavours match the nose, with pine and fruit complexities. However, again, it is extremely floral, with a potent perfume-like hop bomb resembling nothing I’ve ever tasted before. The bitterness is pretty abrasive, killing any sweetness, leaving the faint taste of roses on my palate. Although this isn’t my favorite from LTM, it’s certainly tasty, and impressively innovative. I was really drawn to this incredible floral hop profile, as it’s truly amazing.
Craft beer is an amazing thing for so many reasons, one of which being to support your local businesses. However, although your local craft brewery is certainly brewing their beer in town, chances are most of the ingredients are from pretty far away (especially in Quebec). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when a brewery like LTM risks a lot to make their product that much more local, I think as consumers we owe them a bit of priority. As Alex mentioned, hops are a much more complicated situation, but hopefully in time we will see beers brewed with 100% Quebec ingredients more and more.
Journée Double IPA – THIS SATURDAY! – August 29th 2015 – Click here for details
And article by Noah Forrest