An article by Noah Forrest
When any good brewery announces a bottle release party, the beer geek community gets excited. However, when Dieu du Ciel! announces one, the communal level of arousal seems to increase exponentially. Not only is there chatter amongst the Quebec beer folk, but enthusiasts from all over start scrambling to find a way to get there (or at least find a way trade for some bottles).
This coming Saturday, January 30th, starting at 3:00PM EST, Dieu du Ciel! will be hosting a party to celebrate the 8th Anniversary of their St-Jérôme brew pub. It’s located at their pub in St-Jérôme (259 Rue de Villemure). They are selling 15 different bottles for take out and many many more to be consumed on site at the bar. Further details at the end of this article.
Over the years Dieu du Ciel! has made a name for itself in the world beer community, stretching far beyond the reaches of this province, and even this country. Why is that exactly? It’s actually pretty simple in my opinion. It’s not because of marketing, advertising, or PR. It’s simply because of the consistent quality of the beer itself, coupled with a good distribution. Now, there are other breweries that fit this mold as well, but Dieu du Ciel! seems to be on another playing field. There is just a level of quality that simply outdoes everyone else. I realize that’s a pretty bold statement, but if you ask most beer geeks in this province, they will almost all agree. You just don’t see people around here saying things like “Dieu du Ciel! is overrated.” Because it’s not – they’re amazing. As well, they have very recently redone their packaging, created a new website that no longer looks like something from 1995, and hired a great graphic artist and social media manager that has being doing some great work.
So what do I mean by the fact that they are on another level? Well, I feel like only Dieu du Ciel! can sell 6 packs of an 9.5% coffee imperial stout in the heat of the summer, or can create a fruit beer so sought after that people drive across the city, stopping in every store to literally fill their trunks with it because there isn’t anything even close to rivaling its deliciousness. At this point “Péché Bourbon” (Péché Mortel aged in Bourbon barrels) has basically become a currency within the beer trading community, with many other bottles needing to measure against its value. Although not technically the first good IPA to hit the scene in Quebec, Moralité is (in my opinion) the best American IPA regularly brewed in Canada, and one of my favourites all around. Oh, and I forgot to mention that they keep their prices extremely reasonable, especially for their barrel aged offerings.
Now you can understand why a bottle release party at Dieu du Ciel!, involving the sale of over 15 barrel aged beers and an even larger list to drink on site, might get people pretty excited. The only deterrent is the idea of potentially have to stand outside in arctic-like weather conditions to get your order. But guess what? This year you can wait inside! So no excuses! I’ve been extremely fortunate to get hold of several of this years new additions in order to tell you all about them. Some are the 2015 editions of beers that have been released in the past, while others are brand new altogether. So, in no particular order…
Rigor Mortis (Brandy BA)
Rigor Mortis has been around far longer then I’ve been into beer. It’s their take on a Belgian Quadrupel (or Belgian Strong dark ale). For me, it’s one of those beers that just gets better over time. In fact, I don’t even drink it fresh anymore. Instead, I just buy a case every year and throw it into the cellar. For a long time now, I’ve been hoping that one day they would barrel age this beer, as it has so much potential for standing up to time. The complexities that could evolve are endless. So, you can only presume how excited I was to see it finally happen.
Rigor Mortis Brandy pours out a luscious cherrywood brown colour, with lots of maroon highlights. It carries a reserved, off white head that sticks around a little while, but ultimately disappears. The nose wafts a plethora of caramel, toffee, figs, milk chocolate, and Brandy. The intoxicating fragrance flirts with my senses, as the carbonation ushers these beautiful aromatics into my nasal cavity for a sensory explosion. There is this brilliantly rich cooked sugar thing that is just like a warm hug for my soul. The caramel and chocolate goodness is over the top here; it’s brilliant. Figs and apples come through as well, mixed with spicy phenols that put forth clove and cardamon aromatics. And that’s just the nose!
After the first sip I feel that there is quite a complex multi-layered sweetness up front, starting with milk chocolate, brown sugar, and caramel, leading into dried fruits – like figs and dates – and finally finishing with sweet red apples, a bit of cherry, and a vanilla oak thing. Given all this sugar, the finish manages to come off dry, leaving a somewhat sharp and warm aftertaste that is composed of phenolic yeast, oak tannins and Brandy remnants. The Brandy blends in with the rest of the sweetness, but adds a layer of depth and richness, while also lending drying grape skin tannins.
The 10.5% abv is incredibly well hidden, and integrates with the body and the sugars perfectly. Overall, this is an impressive and brilliantly balanced beer that teeters on being too sweet, but never actually crosses that line. Bourbon would have worked as well, but Brandy was the better choice, as the flavours simply compliment each other perfectly. This will age well.
Hippophae rhamnoides, or sea-buckthorn, are these tart little berries that are packed full of healthy fatty acids and antioxidants. They are flavourful and extremely tart, but vary slightly depending on the variety. As you might guess, Brise Vent is brewed using said berries. It’s a saison that was created in conjunction with Toqué, a well known and highly regarded restaurant in Montreal. I’m looking forward to seeing how these sour little berries compliment the already spicy and slightly tart flavours that one gets from a saison.
Brise Vent pours out a bright yellow colour with orange highlights. There isn’t much of a head beyond some soapy bubbles that fade away after a few minutes. The nose begins with tart lemons and earthy yeast funk. It has a bit of that Vermont saison thing, with some extra fruitiness. Saison yeast phenols mix with the citrus accents to make a well rounded and refreshingly bright nose that makes me think it is going to be a refreshing treat.
It’s quite tart up front, with a dry, almost white wine-like finish, and a tangy, bordering on sour linger. The fruit is present, but doesn’t overpower; instead it merely accents the other crisp saison characteristics. There is a bit of a peach and apricot thing (likely the buckthorn) which adds a great juicy complexity, brightening up the beer even more.
This beer is the perfect blend of earthy yeast phenols, tart tangy fruit, and a slight bitter tannic finish that dries everything beautifully. I’d personally like more carbonation, given that after a couple of minutes it’s basically flat. However, it still works and makes it that much easier to pound back. I wasn’t sure what this was going to be like, but man, this is amazing.
Isseki Nichó – Pinot Noir (2015)
Isseki Nichó is a beer that doesn’t really fall into any form of category. It is a true hybrid, being that it pulls from different styles, without allowing one to be fully dominant. They call it an Imperial Black Saison, which is a pretty perfect description, but still cannot truly convey the brilliance of the beer itself. Imagine an imperial stout, with a far lighter body, coupled with zesty saison yeast phenols, big carbonation, and a bold aromatic hop profile. Now also imagine taking said beer (which is already amazing) and aging it in Pinot Noir barrels for a year. Yes, that’s right: sex in a bottle. The 2013 Pinot Noir vintage blew my mind, so I’m extremely intrigued about this years iteration.
Isseki Pinot pours out pitch black, with a tanned head that froths up nicely. The nose begins with a gorgeous bouquet of red wine fragrances, carrying loads of red fruit: cherries, currents, etc. The roasted aromatics also come through, throwing coffee and chocolate into the mix. The yeast provides a nice earthy and fruity component that rounds everything out nicely.
Wow, I think there is more Pinot presence this year, and just like the nose, there are massive fruity red wine flavours, but with a big, dry tannic finish that cuts everything perfectly. It is lighter bodied than the previous batch, but not watery in the least. In fact, this beer is packed with so many intense (but balanced) layers that it’s hard to keep up.
The roasted coffee-like flavours mesh beautifuly against the saison yeast eaters and phenols, creating this spicy, fruity espresso thing that, to me, is the epitome of symmetry. All the while, the woody oak flavours mix perfectly with the robust malt base, composing a chocolate vanilla layer that works on top over everything else, while tart tannins function in conjunction with the deep bitter hop finish, providing a beautifully long finale that lingers on your dazzled palate until the next sip.
I feel like I could just keep going on and on, but I’ll stop. This 2015 edition is just brilliant. I loved Isseki Nichó Pinot Noir in 2013, but this, this! It’s on another level. It’s certainly the same beer, but the subtle differences, like the augmented wine presence, hoppier bouquet, more pronounced carbonation, and lighter body all work together to create an unmatched symmetry and balance. This beer is so original in its flavour profile that it deserves a category unto its own.
Back in late 2013 I wrote a whole article about the first release of L’Exorciste. I loved every sip. It’s a mix fermented wheat ale aged on oak with a cocktail of bretts and souring bacteria. It’s spicy, subtle and balanced. My only real issue at the time was the serious lack of carbonation – it was basically flat. I didn’t have a chance to try the 2014 edition, but I did drink a bottle of their blackberry variant, which was quite good. It had a more sour complexity, but carried a higher level of ascetic acid then I usually like. I’m hoping the 2015 edition is as good as I remember it, but with some additional tongue tingling effervescence.
It pours out a perfectly clear golden, almost copper orange colour with a nice little head on top. The nose is beautiful, carrying loads of oak and wine aromatics, mixed with acidic elements, and some nice bretty barnyard funk.
Up front, this is quite a different beer from what I recall the 2013 being like. It’s far more sour, with all kinds of complex tart and mouth puckering fruit flavours, like sharp green apples and underripe peaches. Just like the nose, there are loads of spicy oak and vinous white wine flavours, that also produce a nice drying tannic finish. There is a bit of citrus as well, and no discernible acedic notes.
This tastes a lot like their impression of a Gueuze, carrying that beautiful oak forward thing, coupled with earthy funk and some horseblanket, but instead of the grapefruit pithy Gueuze thing, it’s more of a sour apple, clean finish. However, as it warms, more fruits emerge, adding apricot, peach and lemon to the mix. When coupled with the aggressive acidic presence and tangy tannic components, it becomes almost Lambic-like. This is an impressive beer. Buy lots.
Symbiose 2015 (St. Jerome edition)
Symbiose is a series of beer blends that Dieu du Ciel! has been working on the for last couple of years. This will be the first time we see them in bottles. This particular iteration is a blend of the second batch of Hérétique (Pinot noir barrel aged brett pale ale) and Solstice D’été Ceries (Cherry Berliner Weiss), then aged in the barrels from Hérétique batch one. This will be my first time trying a Symbiose, and I’m excited to pop my cherry. Get it! Oh shut up, it was funny.
It pours out a dark cherry red, with a light pink head that sticks around. Holy shit, that smells good. This smells very much like a lambic Kriek (or at least close). The nose is complex, but mostly consists of tart cherries, acidic aromas, a nice winey oak presence, and a slight earthy Brett funk.
It is rather sour up front, with a big cherry bite. The lactic sourness meshes well with the Pinot noir wine complexities, while the finish is very dry, ending with some oak tannins and a slight, but certainly present bitterness. There is a great juicy cherry thing, but the fruit is really sharp, adding new depth to the Hérétique portion (which has that Bretty pale ale thing happening). Like all Dieu du ciel!, the balance is spot on, putting forth just the right amount of fruit, sourness, barrel character, and yeast phenols which mesh together into something delicious.
In many ways this is amazing, and I want more. However, it really does simply taste like a blend of these two beers. That’s not a bad thing, just something to note. That being said, The higher adv (7%), the pale ale base, and the subtle bitterness in the finish makes this a very unique beer, that on the surface comes across as a take on a Kriek, but when more closely observed, it becomes something quite different.
So now that I’ve tantalized you with descriptions of just how wonderful these products are, don’t you think it might be worth the car ride out to St. Jerome this Saturday to buy some? Hey, I don’t care either way, if you don’t want to go, it just leaves more for the rest of us! In terms of what to buy, everything I sampled was all fantastic. Newcomer Brise-Vent was a surprise, as I was not expecting such an amazingly dry yet fruity saison, with a wonderful earthy dryness. This year’s L’Excorciste is jaw droppingly good, with a huge sourness and general Gueuze-like dusty yeast phenols. If you’re into rich, sweet, and robust beers, Rigor Mortis Brandy has one of the most incredible noses that I’ve ever smelled on a beer, and Symbiose is a Cherry funk bomb that has Kriek written all over it. Isseki Nichó Pinot Noir is somehow even better than the last time, with an incredibly balanced flavour profile. No matter what your preference is, there are bottles for you at this release, and if you are unable to get out there, I hope you have some generous friends to share their haul with you.
An article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest
For more details about the event, you can visit the Dieu du Ciel! Facebook page. All 341ml bottles are 4$ tax included (except Brise-Vent at 3$) and all 750ml bottles are 12$ tax included. Here is the most up to date bottle list, including limits (keep in mind that these details could change again after I post this article):
- Dernière volonté Pinot 2015 – 341ml (Limite de 48 bouteilles par client)
- Équinoxe du printemps Bourbon 2014 – 341ml (Limite de 6 bouteilles par client)
- Exorciste 2014 – 750ml (Limite de 2 bouteilles par client)
- Exorciste 2015 – 750ml (Limite de 24 bouteilles par client)
- Exorciste aux mûres – 750ml (Limite de 2 bouteilles par client)
- Hérétique – 341ml (Limite de 6 bouteilles par client)
- Isseki Nichó Pinot 2015 – 341ml (Limite de 48 bouteilles par client)
- Solstice d’Hiver Bourbon 2013 – 341ml (Limite de 6 bouteilles par client)
- Solstice d’Hiver Bourbon 2014 – 341ml (Limite de 6 bouteilles par client)
- Solstice d’Hiver Bourbon 2015 – 341ml (Limite de 48 bouteilles par client)
- Symbiose 2015 – 341ml (Limite de 48 bouteilles par client)
- Brise-Vent – 341ml (Limite de 48 bouteilles par client)
- Péché Mortel Bourbon – 341ml (Limite de 48 bouteilles par client)
- Péché Mortel Brandy/Cognac – 341ml (Limite de 6 bouteilles par client)
- Rigor Mortis Brandy 2015 – 341ml (Limite de 6 bouteilles par client)