Many of my articles revolve around the harder to find spectrum of craft beer. Once you start down the craft beer rabbit hole, more obscure and rarer offerings become your norm. Whether it’s through brewery releases, private imports, trading, traveling, or simply stalking Facebook beer store pages, I get my hands on a lot of bottles which are relatively unattainable to those who don’t have an unhealthy obsession with beer. Now, this is certainly all relative as I have many friends who drink bottles of beer everyday that I would only dream of getting my hands on. It’s all about how much time, energy, and money you want to put into this crazy hobby.
However today, I don’t want to talk about rare beer. Instead, I want to talk about beers you can actually buy, and specifically beers from Le Trou du Diable. The four beers pictured above are not so common that you can find them at any grocery store next to the Molson products, however they should be available at almost any depanneur or store that carries craft beer in Quebec (depending on the season, or course).
Le Trou Du Diable is a well known Shawinigan based Quebec brewery that pumps out an interesting and diverse number of beers. They are a brewery that doesn’t hold back on anything. They put energy and creativity into their bottle design and hire talented local artists for their labeling. They have an amazingly welcoming and lovable attitude, while still seeming edgy, and although they use clever and hip marketing, they don’t have that inevitably fleeting “hipster” appeal. They just seem legit cool – they are the real thing. However, most importantly, Le Trou du Diable brews fantastic beer. Not every single one of their offerings knocks my socks off, but many have, and the ones that didn’t are just “good” at worst. In my opinion, their barrel program and use of Brett is unmatched in this province, which is impressive with the likes of Dieu du Ciel and Brasserie Dunham pumping out amazing stuff constantly (I hope to have a article up soon, showcasing their barrel aged offerings).
About four years ago, when I was a budding beer geek, Le Trou du Diable was more of a mythical legend than an actual brewery. Their bottles were incredibly hard to find, and only three stores on the island of Montreal carried them, which they did with very limited stock. However, a few years back they went through a massive expansion and we now have the pleasure of sampling their products with ease at almost every beer store in town. So let’s taste them!
Les Quatre Surfeurs de L’Apocalypso
Quebec’s IPA scene was so dismal for the longest time, but in the last two years we have seen the birth of several world class offerings that are readily available. Although technically this isn’t exactly an American IPA, L’apocalypso is certainly close enough to be considered one of the major players in the “India” style within the province.
L’apocalypso pours out a foggy yellow orange colour, with a nice frothy head. The nose begins with lots of beautiful citrusy hops , followed by some tangy mango and general tropical goodness. It’s quite zesty, with a slight pine aroma and some sweet grains. Although minimal, there are some spicy Belgian yeast phenols, however the hops are the star of the show here.
The flavours mimic the nose with loads of tropical fruit and juicy citrus hop goodness. It has a solid malt base and a fruity yeast character, where the esters match the hop profile quite perfectly – so much so that it’s difficult to figure where one begins and the other ends. The finish has a pretty potent but balanced bitterness that cuts everything quite well. This is advertised as a witbier/IPA hybrid, but its yeast and wheat character is not particularly apparent until it warms up a bit, and even then it’s more of an afterthought. This is not a bad thing – rather, quite the opposite. I’m not always in love with Belgian/IPA hybrids, as I find the spicy phenolic profile often gets in the way of the hops, instead of complimenting them. That’s not the case here, as this drinks more like a big juicy north east coast IPA, with some subtle yeast complexity.
Le Pitoune is a cross between a Kellerbier and a Pilsner, and I think it’s a pretty important beer in this province. There are not many craft lagers here, especially with a nice sharp hop character, which this one carries. In a sea of IPA, bottles like this are often overlooked, but shouldn’t be.
It pours out a sexy foggy yellow colour with a nice pillowy head. The aromatics begin with fresh cut hay, musty and herbal German hops, and some subtle honey malt sweetness.
The body is round, but incredibly drinkable. It starts with a lot of what the nose foreshadowed, putting forth fresh grass and wheat, mixed with tangy herbal German hops. The bitterness is sharp, which cuts through any malt sweetness, leaving a clean, but bordering on resinous hop finish. However, the hops don’t overpower, and allow the soft subtle malt character to still play an integral part of the equation. This is the perfect breakthrough beer for anyone looking to peruse the craft beer scene, but isn’t ready for a hoppy American IPA. Pitoune has bite, but is also easy drinking.
La Grivoise de Noël
Christmas beers come in all shapes and sizes, but the one thing that usually binds them are their Christmas spice profile. The particular bottle is a spiced Belgian dubbel which already carries spicy phenols that match the actual spices added.
It pours our a foggy brown, with lots of cherry red highlights. The aromas begin with fruity yeast esters, alongside loads of raisins and dates, followed by spicy clove and cardamom yeast phenols. The nose is also sightly musty, with a doughy, caramel cinnamon bun thing happening.
The flavours are on point, and much dryer than the aromatics foretold. Just like the nose, there are lots of dried fruity yeast Easter and general spiciness. Also, some cherries and cinnamon are present. It’s nice to have an extremely dry dubbel with a lower ABV. It makes it a much more drinkable experience. The flavours in this one are subtle, and the body is light, but not watery. It goes well with food, and adds depth to my Tikka masala.
In general I don’t much like spice adjuncts. However here, they are well integrated and work with the existing phenolic spice profile quite perfectly. This is a solid Belgian dubbel that hits the spot as the weather gets warmer, but isn’t so big and rich that it can’t be a table beer.
Shawinigan Handshake is one of the best beer labels this country has ever seen. For those outside of this country and perhaps unaware, in 1996, our prime minister at the time (Jean Chrètien) had a run in with a protester, where he grabbed said protester by the neck and brought him to the ground. The incident let to the creation of the epithet “Shawinigan handshake,” being that this was Chrètien’s home town. Le Trou du Diable’s satirical take on the incident is a brilliant homage to our old MP.
Shawinigan Handshake is a hopfenweisse, which is essentially a hoppy German wheat beer .The nose begins with a potent yet inviting sea of fruity aromatics. Banana yeast esters run the show, mixed with a musty and earthy component, which finally leads into some spicy clove and cardamon phenolics. Aromatic hops come into play as well, making for a fruit juice bomb of tropical delights, with a subtle floral note.
The flavours begin with wheat goodness, followed by lots of fruitiness and a nice bitter finish. Like the nose, there are lots of tropical fruits, with a banana forward presence that dominates alongside some floral hoppy complexities and a juicy, sweet malt finish that has just enough bitterness to keep it all in check. It’s tangy, with some citrus and vanilla notes sneaking in. There are some musty phenols that help add an earthy dimension to this tantalizing tropical banana bomb.
I’m super happy that I finally had a chance to write a piece on this fantastic brewery. Their image, attitude and commitment to quality make them one of the best breweries this country has to offer. As I was mentioning above, their barrel program is amazing and I hope to write a piece on those offerings soon.
An article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest