An article by Noah Forrest
For beer folks in Ontario, Beau’s all Natural Brewing has been a household name for some time now. I remember first going to the brewery about five years ago, where the retail store was the size of a closet and they had two beers to bring home with you. Now, the store and tap room is massive and they have a plethora of libations to purchase for the road.
At this point, Beau’s is not only a Canadian household name for beer-geeks, but for the casual beer dabbler as well. This is for various reasons. First off, Beau’s makes good beer, and on top of that, it’s organic. Making a good product is a pretty important component for success. As well, Beau’s marketing has always been stellar, and when mixed with its farm and family-business focus, it helps satisfy that “local” and “independent” itch that us conscious consumers like to scratch. They throw their own Oktoberfest each year, bringing in big names in music and serving up a huge number of their offerings. They’ve made several collaborative beers, including a milk stout with Tom Green and a rye kölsch with Canadian hip hop artist k-os, just to name a few. Beau’s also successfully entered the massive Quebec beer market, and as far as I know, they are the only craft brewery from another province to ever do so. Plus, it was just announced that Beau’s is tapping into the western provinces (pun intended) and will be selling their beers in Manitoba, Alberta and BC! And finally, for the icing on this already very large cake, Beau’s All Natural Brewing up and sold their their company to their employees. I mean, come on!
So, considering all these things, I had to ponder something. Why am I not drinking Beau’s beer anymore? I think the answer to that might lie in my progression from being a beer cheerleader into becoming something else, whatever that might be. I wouldn’t say I’m a pretentious elitist by any stretch, but I’ve certainly become more focused on what I’m drinking and writing about. Barrel aged wild ales, sours, and progressive New England inspired IPA’s are what I’ve been flocking towards lately (although not exclusively). And Beau’s didn’t seem to be interested in such things – until now.
And I get it, I do. Beau’s wants to do their own thing, and from a business perspective, it makes sense. Why jump on trends just because others are? Wild and sour beers are so hot right now, they are basically what the Backstreet Boys were in the late nineties. Maybe the popularity of these styles will plummet – just like Nick Carter’s career – but maybe they won’t, or maybe something else will simply become the new “it” thing. So, while it is possible that barrel-aged beers and sours are temporary trends, it seems that many beer geeks shy away from Beau’s as they see their experimental mint IPAs and peanut butter and jelly porters (not to mention an endless array of gruits) as gimmicky in another way. And I think Beau’s is catching on, which is why I was very excited to see these three new beers come out.
It’s Beau’s 10th anniversary, and to commemorate the occasion, they’ve released an American Barleywine, a wine barrel-aged wild saison (with Ontario cultured brett), and an Oud Bruin. Seeing this excited me. The American Barleywine isn’t really breaking the mould, however this was the first time I have noticed Beau’s dabbling with wild yeast and acidifying bacteria, so it caught my attention; I needed some.
Two Tonnes of Fun
“The Beau’s brewers teamed up with our friends Van and Ben from Gigantic Brewing in Portland to brew this American-style barleywine, made with two metric tonnes of pale ale malt and eight patient hours of boil time. This limited-edition beer was created to say “Cheers!” to Beau’s 10th Birthday. Raise a glass and help us celebrate 10 great years!”
I dig a good Barleywine when done right, especially those of the American persuasion, with ample bitterness to balance all the big caramel flavours. Two Tonnes of Fun pours out a deep brown colour with cherrywood highlights. The nose wafts huge caramel notes, with sticky syrup components. Cooked apples and figs come to mind, alongside dates and mashed up raisins. Some slight hoppy notes come through as well, lending new layers to the fruitiness, and also providing slight pine and spicy herbal notes.
Toasted grains meet an abundance of caramel, and just like the nose there is even more of a dried fruit layer that dominates the deliciousness. The finish is bitter and resinous, helping to cut through the sugars quite brilliantly. The alcohol is perceived, but works with the beer, rather than against it, further helping to dry the finish and make this a rather exceptional Barleywine.
Although rich, the body feels light and palatable, which is nice given the fact that I’m drinking this in 30 degree weather. Cherries and apple cider start to come out as it warms, but overall this beer channels plum pudding, caramel and tire sur neige. I’m impressed with this one. It’s big and luscious, but balanced and highly drinkable. One of the better non-barrel-aged Barleywines I’ve had in some time. Kudos!
“Batch 5000 commemorates a very special moment in our brewing history, the official five-thousandth batch of Beau’s beer. This limited-edition beer was created to say “Cheers!” to Beau’s 10th Birthday. Raise a glass and help us celebrate 10 great years! Farmhouse ales have roots in Belgium; a category of typically dry and refreshing beers brewed to be enjoyed as a reward for a hard’s day’s work. Our “Wild Ontario” version is made with Ontario wheat, all Ontario hops, and wild yeast from Ontario’s Escarpment Labs. Consider this beer “Yours to Discover!”
As I was mentioning earlier, this is Beau’s first time experimenting with wild yeast, so let’s see how it is! The nose begins with lots of freshly cut wheat and hay aromas, alongside some vinous barrel notes, light bretty funk, and slight fruity grape must. Spicy yeast phenolics throw a bit of clove in the mix as well. It’s inviting, however not in the usual bretted, wine barrel-aged beer way.
The start is a tad astringent, with ample bitterness as well, which helps dry things out nicely. The body is pretty silky, with a smooth carbonation – not that lively effervescence one normally gets with this style. The finish has a resinous bitterness, leaving an oily coating of hop goodness on your palate. The oak isn’t particularly apparent here, instead the subtle vinous components lend character to an otherwise rather straightforward beer. Some fruity esters come through, which dance alongside the hoppy grapefruit and pine forward flavours. There is a cider-like and white wine thing happening with this one. It’s rather spicy as well, with some clove and herbal notes. But man, that finish is aggressively bitter, with a lingering earthy presence.
Overall this is okay, but not what I expected at all. I like the fact that it’s made entirely from Ontario ingredients, but I’m not sure if it truly pulls off what it’s attempting to be. The phenols are far more clove forward than brett forward, the wine barrel is more of an afterthought, and the bitterness – although nice from a drying perspective – is a tad aggressive. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, it’s just not what what presumed it would be like given the description. However, that’s just my perspective. I do still look forward to trying their next wild endeavour.
Old Skål – Oud Bruin
“Beau’s Brewmaster Matthew O’Hara and Denmark’s gypsy brewer Anders Kissmeyer have teamed up again to create Old Skål, a tart, fruit-infused and barrel-aged brown ale. This limited-edition beer was created to say “Cheers!” (Skål in Danish) to Beau’s 10th Birthday. Raise a glass and help us celebrate 10 great years! Oud Bruin is a style of beer that originates in the Flanders region of Belgium, typically aged for a long period and fermented with wild yeast and bacteria. Dates, maple syrup and a residency in pinot noir barrels have added complexity to this collaborative creation, which was brewed during Beau’s Oktoberfest in 2012.”
Over the last few years it seems like every Quebec brewery that wanted to try their hands at making a sour ended up making a Flander’s Red. That’s not a bad thing, but it certainly felt a bit saturated. With the exception of a few examples, there were virtually no Oud Bruins produced, which is the sister beer to this Flemish sour. I was happy to see Beau’s try this one on for size.
Old Skål begins with lots of vinous notes that blast my senses with tart grape skins and spicy oak complexities. Lots of acidic compounds come through as well, with under-ripe berries, sour cherries, and lemons dancing alongside the vinousness. Mild bretty phenols are there too, but not in your face with any dusty funk. Instead, it’s all red wine, with a lingering essence of cooked caramel.
The beer is dry up front, with a lingering tannic tartness that cuts any sugars from your palate. There is a huge red wine element here that certainly leads the way, with echoes of blackberry, sour cherry, and rich oak. There are some nice caramel and toasted grain layers that start coming through as well, which lends a great contrast to the bone dry wine tannins.
The body feels a tad thin, and the finish has a certain wateriness. Not so much so that it’s overtly muted, but it does make me wonder why they waited so long to bottle this beer (40 months!), given that with less time it would be a bit more robust. That being said, the 8% is virtually undetectable, and the drinkability is rather nice, going down incredibly easily. The acidity is mild, and instead the beer is far more tart and tannic than sour. The maple is not particularly apparent, but there are sweet maple undertones that come through as it warms. Overall I liked this – a lot. It’s a nice representation of the style, while still being its own thing. Delicious.
Well there you have it, Beau’s is taking it up a notch, and I for one am happy to see it. I’m hoping they continue on this path and embrace more barrel aged sours, brett beers, and general funkiness. Their success is contagious, so let’s raise a glass to this progressive company and the craft-beer community in general!
And article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest