An article by Noah Forrest
This will be my third article about Brasserie Auval within a year. In that short time, they have has managed to climb the ranks, becoming one of the most sought after breweries in the country. Every day now, Facebook trading forums are lined with posts about Brasserie Auval. When their bottles hit stores, they last hours, not days.
Part of this recent spike was related to Auval’s need to temporarily stop distributing to Montreal for the summer months. This was done in order to give priority to the local Gaspesian population. However, summer is long over, so there is at least one thing to look forward to as we get hit in the face by winter sadness. During this distribution hiatus, it’s not like Ben (owner/brewer) was sitting around, soaking in the sun. Oh no, he managed to pump out loads of brand new hopped up, fruited, and barrel aged bottles for us all to drool over.
Although the success and hype surrounding a particular brewery is not always properly represented or warranted, I think Auval is worth your time and effort. Remembering of course, that at the end of the day, it’s just beer. Auval, like many breweries that have a following, carry an enticing, almost mythical presence. There is a certain excitement when holding one of their bottles, which is partially related to the work it took to get your hands on it. It is, however, worth it once you pour out that gentle elixir, and bathe in the deliciousness.
The brilliance behind Auval lies in the subtlety of their beers. So many breweries these days like to throw ingredients at you, as if to blast your senses with extreme flavours. In my opinion, the best beers are the ones that can impress you with their lack of intensity. Don’t get me wrong, I still like big and bold, but nuanced balance should be the main focus. Auval nails this.
Today, I want to talk about several of Auvals more recent offerings, like their amazing pilsner and some barrel aged fruited ales. However, what I’m most excited about is introducing you to Ben’s latest creation, Ribes Nigrum, a barrel aged wild ale with black currents (cassis), which will be coming out in mid-December. Hear about it first on Beerism!
Because of the decades upon decades of Pilsner-centric brewing, this style of beer is far less popular among craft-beer enthusiasts. This however, is changing. I’d like to see more craft Pilsner be readily available for purchase, and I’m sure we’ll get there.
The nose carries lots of supple honey and hay aromas, mixed with fruity yeast esters, somewhat reminiscent of a Saison. Tangy German hops pop through as well, with light citrus and herbal components.
This is incredibly easy going, but potent enough to let you know that it’s there. It’s soft on my palate, but carries an ample bitterness in the finish, which crushes through the the honey sweetness. Just like the nose, C-12 carries a certain farmhouse character alongside the herbal hops and Pilsner malts. Although this is not quite as clean as a classic pils, I love the balance and overall yeast presence.
Nordet is the latest IPA released by Auval, this one particularly showcasing the North-East IPA breeding style. It pours out beautifully foggy and hazy, with yellow-orange colours swirling around.
The nose is a giant citrus bomb, throwing gigantic grapefruit and clementine aromatics at me with crazy fervor. Some freshly mowed lawn / wet dank grass blasts my senses and is accompanied by a fruity bonanza of wonderfulness.
The flavours match the nose, with a huge fruit presence that just screams freshness. It’s juicy and tangy, with fruity esters all around resulting in perfect balance. It’s bone dry, but still carries enough body and sweetness so that it’s not watery in the least.
Everything is plentiful and intense all around, while all in balance. Citrus leads the way, with giant grapefruit and orange notes; stone fruits come through as well, adding peaches and plums to the mix. It finishes with a lingering bitterness that makes itself known while not cutting though all the juiciness. The finish leaves my palate clean enough, while still echoing the fruit salad that preceeded it. This might just be the best bottled IPA to ever come out in Quebec.
Saison Ceries is an oak aged saison, made with cherries. The nose wafts huge fruity aromatics, throwing cherry pie at my senses. Berries in general come through, with a cranberry-like element and some acidic sourness. Some slight dusty funk comes through as well, adding new layers of complexity to this incredibly inviting nose.
The flavours match the nose pretty much to a tee. There are loads of cherry qualities that add a burst of fruity goodness, alongside an ample but balanced acidity. There are nice bitter phenols that help balance the fruit and keep everything in check. The finish is perfectly dry, with a clean but fruit forward ending that balances the sweetness and acidity with brilliance.
There are slight vinous notes alongside some oak spiciness, lending extra character to the overall flavour profile. As it warms, the tannic bitterness really comes through, providing an almost grapefruit-like bitterness and cherry skin astringency. This, once again, helps dry the beer even further.
Gougou is a dry hopped oak aged wild Ale, brewed with apricots. The nose begins with all kinds of subtleties, just like all Auval beers. Light apricot aromas dance alongside a solid bretty phenolic zip and some great fruity esters. A citrusy hop punch and some spicy oak add more layers to this rather inviting nose.
Just as the aromas foretold, everything is balanced and non-aggressive. The apricots are slightly more potent, but still only provide a subtle fruit base to complement and not overpower the fruity hop and brett profile.
Gougou is very dry, with a nice tannic finish that leaves a vinous component on your palate after each sip. This is further complicated by spicy oak flavours and a nice bretty funk (that again, is only subtle). The fruit adds a tartness to it, making it more juicy. The body is light, and the finish is rather light, without being too watery.
Ribes Nigrum (Cassis)
The nose carries huge musty brett funk, with slight barnyard and earthy damp basement. The fruitiness comes through as well, throwing out loads of berry aromatics alongside some cherry and, well, currents. Vinous oak comes through as well, complimenting the jammy and bright fruit elements quite nicely.
It’s rather tart, bordering on sour, but like all Auval beers, it’s quite subtle and unassuming. The currents are the star of course, lending tart and tannic fruit that carries some slight jammy sweetness. Other fruity nuances come out as well, and again just like the nose, it lends berries and cherries into the mix.
I think this is the most funked fruited wild beer Auval has done to date. The earthy brett components provide beautiful musty aromatics and the finish is nicely phenolic. As usual this is exceptionally dry, with the fruit tannins and phenolic bitters wiping my palate clean immediately after each sip. There are lingering tannins left on my tongue, as if chewing on grape skins.
This is less jammy than some of the other fruited Auval beers, but as usual, the balance and subtlety is beautifully executed. I like how crazy tannic this is, and how much oak and bretty funk comes through. It’s really it’s own thing.
It’s becoming more clear with each new batch of Auval beers, that what Ben is doing on his small farm in Gaspé is one of the most important beer-related things happening in the country right now. The balance, drinkability, and general craftsmanship of his work is unmatched in my opinion, at least within Quebec. Given how many remarkable brewers and breweries exist in this province, that’s saying a lot. So, if you are lucky enough to land some bottles of Auval, cherish them, because they are great!
An article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest