An article by Noah Forrest
What happens when one of the best breweries in Canada teams up with one of the best breweries in the world? Is the result perhaps the best “gluten-free” beer ever made? That’s right, Shawinigan’s own Le Trou du Diable teamed up with Vermont’s Hill Farmstead Brewery to create a collaborative, gluten-less masterpiece called Argan. Sure, calling it the best ever is pretty bold, and I certainly haven’t sampled every gluten-free beer out there, but… Shaun Hill! Right?
Argan will be released to celebrate Le Trou Du Diable’s 11th Anniversary! It will only be available for purchase at Le Trou du Diable’s bottle shop in Shawinigan, Quebec – this Saturday, January 28th 2017. 1 bottle per person. It will also be available for onsite consumption only on Friday, January 27th 2017. Details right here.
Like most people, I was unaware Argan was being released, let alone its existence. This is partially due to the fact that this beer was brewed over three years ago! After lots of patience though, it’s now ready. So, how did this collaboration happen, and why a gluten-free beer? Well, in order to get the skinny, I spoke with Isaac Tremblay, co-founder and president of Le Trou du Diable. Issac explained that they have been friends with the folks from Hill Farmstead for a long time, and three years ago when visiting for the collaboration, the gluten-free phenomenon was in full swing. When discussing what should be brewed, they thought, “let’s make a bad-ass, gluten-free barrel aged sour!” And that’s exactly what they did.
Apparently, making a gluten free beer was far more difficult than any of these brilliant and seasoned brewers anticipated. So, after seven hours of straight brewing, they all said “fuck it, let’s throw a bag of malt in there to help with saccharification”, which in the end helped. Argan then sat in wine barrels for two years before being bottled. However, because of observed sulfur notes, they held onto them for another year before finally deciding to release it this upcoming weekend.
Because of the additional malts they tossed in, Issac sent Argan to be tested in order to see how much gluten it actually contained. It scored 20ppm, which lands it right on the gluten-free border. For kicks, he also sent in some other beers, including Cantillon, which came back showing no gluten content at all! Very interesting for any lambic lovers with celiac.
With that said, it’s now time to dive in.
The nose on Argan begins with big vinous notes, composed of stone fruits, white grapes, green apple, and light vanilla. Citrus fruits come though as well, delivering a zesty quality, while inviting and spicy oak aromatics add new layers of complexity. As it opens, candied peaches become the dominant fruit, followed by some unusual grain aromatics, which add slight bready and almost cake-like elements.
The palate is quite similar to the nose, with a plethora of stone fruits mixed in with vinous wine remnants. Where nose and mouthfeel differ is in the subtle tartness, which is apparent but very balanced. This acidity provides a nice grapefruit tanginess, similar to the pithy citrus rinds you would find in a Gueuze. That being said, it’s extremely faint and more of an afterthought.
The wine barrel adds a nice tannic finish, keeping everything dry, while also complimenting the light acidity. As it opens, more citrus comes through, carrying lots of pithy lemon peel tannins and zesty tartness. The finish lingers with orange rinds and tangy grapefruit bitterness.
Having been aged for three years in barrels has thinned this out a bit, leaving a finish that may lack some girth. However, on the flip side, this makes it invitingly refreshing and easy to drink – the 7% is virtually undetectable.
Argan is by far the best gluten free (or low gluten) beer I’ve ever had. It is complex, perfectly balanced, refreshing, supple, and just plain delicious. My only issue is that there are astringent flavours arising from the non-typical grains used to make this beer. This is something I’ve tasted in other gluten-free beers as well. While less of an issue in Argan, these astringent aspects are still a contributing factor in the beer’s overall flavour profile.
The Hill Farmstead influence is certainly apparent in this beer. The marriage of flavours and their ability to be both potently delicious and incredibly subtle at the same time is a testament to the collaboration of these brewing titans. I was ecstatic when I heard this collaboration was happening as I’m a huge fan of Le Trou du Diable’s barrel program as well. Hill Farmstead is regarded by many as the best brewery in the world, so to have them recognize and brew a collaborative beer in Quebec is testament to the great things that Trou du Diable (and Quebec as a whole) have done in the craft-beer scene. I was a touch wary when I heard this was to be a gluten-free endeavor, but Argan is an excellent beer that (I think) is well worth the drive into Shawinigan to procure a bottle.
An article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest