An article by Noah Forrest
Surprise! Once again Les Trois Mousquetaires has decided to unleash some extremely limited bottles on unsuspecting beer geeks! Yes, that’s right, the two newest members of the illustrious Barils d’Exception series were available for purchase this morning; specifically Déjeuner Impérial and P.A.B. Sadly though, they will go quick. Once again, Beerism has the scoop, so sit back and read about these amazing new offerings!
I think LTM does a great job all around. Besides making great beer, they also have reasonable prices, good distribution, and an excellent social media presence; which they use to inform us customers on where and when to buy their products. This is especially handy for their more limited products. They really seem to have carved out their own piece of the Quebec beer market with the perfect range of offerings. They have their Gamme Régulières, which are simple, straightforward styles, that can be purchased by the case. Then there are the more higher end labels, like Séries Signatures, Grande Cuvée, and Hors Séries, which range from generally available to quarterly available. And finally there is their newest series called Barils d’exception, which are very limited, brewery only releases, that carry an extremely special characteristic. First came Baril Unique, their Porter Baltique aged in a bourbon barrel from 1978, then Barils d’exception: Speyside, the same porter aged in rare scotch whiskey barrels. Now, two new editions were released this morning, which I’ll get to in a moment.
I can imagine that some people might get frustrated when they read about these extremely limited offerings, where there are only 250-500 bottles available, and you basically need to take the day off of work to go get them, or wait in a long line to buy one. I think that’s fair. However, given that LTM has such a range of products, several of which are amazing barrel-aged beers that have a surprisingly large distribution, very reasonable prices, and can be bought at your local beer-dep, then perhaps we can forgive the difficulty behind these micro-releases; at least more so than other breweries. From my perspective, these beers are a gift for the hardcore fans that are willing to go above and beyond in order to try these amazing offerings. I’m also well aware that I’m particularly lucky in being able to try these ahead of time and should probably just shut my mouth.
Instead of me trying to explain to you the complexity behind these two sexy new specimens, I got with Alex (head brewer) so that he could give us all the ins and outs.
Barils d’Exception: Déjeuner Impérial
“This one is a very special project. I wanted to brew an imperial stout for quite a time now, but since our flagship beer is an intense Baltic Porter, the two beers would be too similar (without being exactly the same, because a Baltic porter has less roasted malts and more caramelized malts, as well as more fruit notes). It’s really not in the plans to brew an imperial stout on a regular basis, but we want to offer other special beers some of the time. So, I seized the opportunity to brew the imperial stout of my dreams.
We selected a very good 14 year old bourbon barrel among all the ones we received for the next “Baltique Édition Spéciale” and we filled it with a completely different recipe. This is important. It is NOT a Baltique wort. There is a lot more roasted malts, a lot less caramelized malts, no smoked malts, and way way more oats. It’s also more bitter (50 IBU) and it’s fermented with a completely different yeast of British origin. The beer was actually very good after the fermentation was completed, but we had something more in mind: a breakfast imperial stout.
This sub-style is brewed with ingredients reminiscent of so-called “morning” flavours, like coffee, maple, and even bacon. Adding coffee was an obvious choice, even though we wanted to do it with a special technique. With the help of an high-school friend of mine who now owns a coffee shop, we sampled several different coffees and we finally selected a premium quality coffee called Tanzania-Peaberry. It is not too dark and tends to develop more ”fruity” notes rather than over-the-top roasted flavors. It was important to choose this kind of coffee so it wouldn’t hide the roasted malt flavors in the beer.
For maple, we didn’t want to simply add syrup, because (a) if you put it in the wort before fermentation it will completely ferment and leave almost no flavour, and (b) if you put it in after fermentation with the yeast removed, it will intensely raise the sugar level of the beer. We didn’t want to do either of these things, so after some research, we went with another solution: we put actual maple wood staves in the barrel – and the result is spot on. It’s mind-boggling how the wood contributed rich and deep maple flavours very similar to syrup, but without the cloyingly sweet side. I’m very happy with this beer. It’s intense, yet all the flavors balance each other. It’s a breakfast of champions.”
Sorry, I just need to compose myself for a moment… Okay, I’m good now. Wow. Just wow. LTM’s Baltic Porter is a classic, but I’ve secretly wanted Alex to cook up an imperial stout for some time, so you can only imagine my excitement when I read the above description. Let’s dive in!
The nose wafts huge coffee and bourbon notes, throwing vanilla, oak, and cooked toffee at me with incredible vigor. The maple adds a beautiful complexity, lending layers of tir (cooked maple syrup) to go alongside the earthy and robust espresso-like aromas.
For 11.9%, this drinks incredibly well. The body is thinner than I expected, but where it really differs from the Baltic Porter is the solid, bitter finish. The coffee is very apparent, but doesn’t outshine anything else, instead contributing to the other components nicely. The beautiful bourbon layers are unreal, with gigantic vanilla sweetness, that, alongside the maple staves, and coffee, really provide an uncanny “breakfast” feel. However, this is not exactly sweet, or rather, whatever sweetness there is gets balanced against the bittering hops and coffee. It is still a tad sticky, though.
Overall, the bourbon shines brightest here, with the coffee and maple further complimenting the nice dark roasted components quite brilliantly. I feel like if this had a bit more body, that it would be perfection. That being said, this is very very good
Barils d’Exception: PAB (Plums, Apricots, Brett)
When we emptied the 1978 bourbon barrel for the release of Baril Unique, we obviously had to fill it again, just to see what would come out of it. Sure, we knew the bourbon flavors would be less intense, but I had an idea to get the best out of it… Since there were already subtle notes of plums and apricots coming from this barrel, why not add some whole fruits in it this time? And while being at it, why not add brettanomyces as well, hey? So here it is. Do not expect a fruit bomb, though. We’ve put just the right amount of plums and apricots to actually contribute in the profile and complexity of the beer, but not enough for them fruits to steal the show. So, it’s all about balance, yet again. I was actually quite surprised and pleased to find that the 1978 barrel character is still contributing in this beer. You can really tell it’s the same barrel. So, the final result tastes somewhat like if Dixième and Baril Unique had a one night stand together. *70s funk music playing*
So… You took a second use 1978 bourbon barrel and threw more Baltic Porter in there with plums, apricots and loads of Brett? Marry me? No, like seriously, we could be happy together. Okay, let’s taste this thing before I embarrass myself further.
The nose tosses big fruity notes at me in all directions, making it hard to pin-point each component. Chocolate and coffee meets tart cherries, stone fruit and sour apples. The rich and beautiful bourbon notes come out as well, lending vanilla and oak to the mix. It smells a bit acidic, alongside some phenolic Brett funk, but not a ton.
What an interesting beer. I don’t even know where to begin. To start, it’s dry. The cloying Baltic Porter sweetness has been eaten way by the Brett, and alongside the tart fruit and oak tannins, it’s perfectly balanced in that regard.
It’s tremendously fruity, with lots of tart berry flavours mixing in with the actual stone fruits that were added. The dark rosted elements are still there, but subdued in comparison to any other version of this beer. The 38 year old bourbon notes are subtle, but still lend that sexy vanilla thing. However, it’s that aged bourbon fruitiness that shines here, further complimenting the tangy plums and apricots.
As it warms, the leathery brett elements come through more directly. As well, each beautiful layer starts to make itself known in a more pronounced fashion. The juicy & tangy stone fruit, the bretty dryness, the chocolatey & coffee roasted malts, and the exquisite, richly fruity and subtly vanilla forward bourbon barrel all work in unison. They function together beautifully, creating a harmony of flavour. This really transcends itself, being far more than a sum of its parts.
Well, as quickly as these two epic beers arrived, they will be gone. I consider myself very lucky to have had the chance to try them. For those who made the journey to Brossard this morning, I hope you’re able share these beautiful libations with friends.
An article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest