Brasserie Bois Blanc – Making Hudson Hoppier
An article by Noah Forrest
When entering Brasserie Bois Blanc, it feels warm, inviting, and best of all, like home. The town Of Hudson (45 minutes west of Montreal) carries that typical quaint little town vibe (alongside some extra shrubbery). I tend to love these small towns, with their extra attention to classic architecture, fun shops, and that all around “friendly” factor. That being said, within small towns, I often find some of the establishments a bit contrived, as if they are more about trying to look a certain way, instead of actually being a great place to visit or buy something. However, Brasserie Bois Blanc doesn’t feel like that, it feels legitimate, capturing “artisanal” and “craft” quite perfectly. It not only fits the Hudson vibe, but also the craft beer scene in general.
Brasserie Bois Blanc is owned by two pretty awesome guys, Martin Brooks and Frédéric L’Écuyer. They’ve only been up and running for a few weeks now, but business seems to be doing well. Living relatively close by, I had a chance to spend a few hours with them on their beautiful terrace one sunny afternoon. Genee and I sat down and within moments I had a flight in front of me, while Martin explained their vision and business. Frédéric gave me a tour of their modern, but humble brewing operation where all of their beer is made on site. Currently Bois Blanc offers beer to be consumed in site, growlers to go, and are selling their bottles in some select stores (like La Bièrothèque).
I had a chance to pick their brains about the new operation:
You guys have carved out a beautiful little spot in Hudson, where you exclusively serve your own craft beers. How’d this come about?
Fred and I started brewing together last September. Our first brew ended up being a happy accident, a 13% IPA (we boiled the wort down to 50%), and it was delicious. We did redo that batch and it ended up being what we are serving here today as Enigma, an american pale ale. From there, we got some amazing feedback from people in the beer community and decided to take the plunge. We both quit our jobs to focus on the project full-time last December/January, found this amazing spot in Hudson, and haven’t looked back.
Your lineup of beers aren’t the usual “safe” choices we often see when new breweries first launch. Your IPA’s are big, high alcoholic beasts, and your stout is also of the Imperial persuasion, coming in at a luscious 9.2%. Even your California Common is agressively hopped. What made you start off with such a bang? How has the feedback been from both the seasoned crowd and from the less “experienced” palates?
We both agreed before starting this project, that we wanted to make beers, that first and foremost, we enjoy. Opening a brewery is really both our dream project/job and how can you be passionate about something you don’t like? That being said, we do enjoy a huge range of beer varieties, so there won’t just be IPAs galore all over the place (but to be clear, there will be a lot of IPAs too, everyone can breath their collective sigh of relief now). 42&2, our California common ale, was a beer that reconciled Fred and I with our softer beer-loving palates. Our first batch was a bit on the hoppy side, but we reduced that aspect of it when we tweaked it for our second batch. We are really aiming for 42&2 to be our “crowd-pleaser”, and that less experienced beer drinkers can still experience something that they haven’t necessarily tasted before, and take another step forward into the world of microbreweries. Tempête Divine, our imperial IPA was the complement to the 42&2 when we opened our doors for the first time. It’s a big IPA, with a great malt backbone and lots of delicious Citra and Amarillo hops. It was our first beer to completely sell out, which was awesome.
The feedback has been nothing short of amazing. Honestly, our clientele, both local, not so local, and REALLY not so local, are just all wonderful, nice, marvelous people. I can’t even add in enough positive adjectives to describe them. The support from the local community has been incredible. It’s awesome to see someone drink their first IPA and wonder where hops have been all their lives. Fred’s mom tasted the Tempête Divine as her first IPA, and I’m not sure she even knew what an IPA was at the time. Between us, it’s now known as “her”, Violaines, beer.
Bois Blanc is currently serving beer at the pub and filling growlers. However, you are also bottling and selling them at a limited handful of stores. What made you decide to sell bottles at such a small scale?
I wouldn’t say selling bottles at a small scale was our decision per se, we are really short on space and we do all our bottling by hand. Honestly, we would love to be able to bottle more, but we just don’t have enough hours in the day right now.
For now, I can presume you want to concentrate at perfecting and expanding your line-up, but what can we expect from Brasserie Bois Blanc in the coming months/years?
We absolutely want to roll out our complete line-up of beers, we have 10 solid recipes at the moment. Probably the next two types we are going to begin experimenting with is a gluten-free beer and a wheat ale. After that, we are looking at doubling our capacity by purchasing two more fermenters.
If we are looking at the really big picture, we do want to bottle more and be able to distribute all over Quebec. That will probably involve some pretty creative problem solving on our part, our space is fairly limited at the moment. Ultimately, our goal won’t really ever change, we just want to make great beer for great people.
42 & 2 – California Common
Well, now I’m excited to dive in and really examine these bad boys. I got my hands on four growlers, went home, and then went to town.
42 & 2 pours out a murky burnt orange colour with a nice thick and frothy head. It smells of wheat and hay, followed by some earthiness. Light fruity hops also add a bit of aromatic depth, but mostly it carries those subtle lager yeast elements.
Up front it’s rather fruity, with some citrus and pine, followed by a pretty deep and potent bitterness. Just like the nose, there are ample hay and wheat components, that lead into strawberry and cherry flavours.
Overall, It’s a tad chewy for the style, and way more hop forward than normal; Resinous even. That being said, it’s quite dry, and pretty drinkable all around. It’s ballanced, but certianly feels more like some “India” interpretation of a stream beer.
Enigma – American Pale Ale
Enigma pours out a bright orange colour with a nice white head that rests on top. The nose spews an aromatic bouquet of tropical fruits, like mangos, oranges and strawberries. A light but inviting malt sweetness comes through as well, adding balance to this hoppy, fruit toward nose. A slight dank grassiness appears as well, providing just a touch of earthy complexity.
On the flavour front, this is hops galore, attacking my senses with a piney and fruit forward hop explosion that finishes with a crushing, intense bitterness. The resinous conclusion cuts through the slightly malty body, drying everything out.
Just like the nose, there are big notes of mango, citrus and general tropical goodness. I’m getting what appears to be some slight diacetyl, but it’s very faint and not off putting. Although at times complex, this APA is a straightforward bitter-bomb, with a malty enough backdrop to keep it balanced. It’s enjoyable, and although the components are quite intense and in your face, it is still balanced in it’s own right.
Kraken – Double IPA
Kraken pour a thick and murky burnt orange colour, with an off white head resting on top. The nose wafts huge dank aromatic hops, that scream citrus, grass, and earthy funk. There are slight pine and some grassy “green” elements.
The flavours match the nose with big fruity hops that dominate everything in their path. There are ample malts that lend a sweetness alongside a hearty body, but before you can ponder on anything, a potent, mouth crushing bitterness cuts through everything, leaving the finish dry, with lingering resins and some sticky sweetness, as if your tougne just got into brawl.
Strawberries, mango, and citrus may lead the fruit flavour front, but this DIPA is dank as fuck, throwing huge grassy funk at your palate after every sip. The booze is well integrated, but is still a tad hot, while the finish carries a tangy and sweet zip, providing a fun ending to the whole thing.
For the most part, this beer carries no subtlety whatsoever. It’s like being punched in the mouth with an angry hop cone. That being said, it is still very enjoyable and manages to be balanced in its own absurd way. My personal tastes tend to now lean more towards softer DIPAs with a more restrained hop bitterness and lighter malt presence, but this beer is still a lot of fun to drink; I’d got back for seconds.
La Dark Soul – Imperial Stout
The Dark Soul pours out thick, carrying a motor oil viscosity and a big brown head that sticks around. The nose bursts forth with strong dark roasted coffee, alongside a nice fruity punch. Dark chocolate comes through as well, mixing nicely with some cherries and light tropical fruits. The Sorachi Ace dry-hop lends character to the nose; just enough to intrigue my senses without entering “black IPA” territory.
Up front there are rich espresso components alongside high percentage bitter dark chocolate. The body is luscious and rich, making for an extremely creamy mouthfeel. That being said, it’s rather approachable, and goes down smooth, carrying a slightly watery finish. The high alcohol is also hidden nicely, making it rather dangerous. I could get lost in this beer.
The fruitiness lends a great contrast to the bitter chocolate and coffee components. Cherries and some stone fruit richness are present, lending a Black Forest cake-like essence that is quite delicious. I really love the dry hop addition here, which makes it a rather approachable imperial stout with layers of delicious chocolate covered fruit fun. This was my favourite of the bunch by far, they really nailed it.
I had such a good time relaxing and drinking on the terrace at Brasserie Bois Blanc. Its inviting and beautiful atmosphere makes for the perfect spot to just hang out and chat over some good beer. You can bring your own food, so I wish I had shown up with a baguette and a slew of cheeses. Next time. While the weather is still approachable, I highly suggest getting out there for the afternoon.
An article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest