An article by Noah Forrest
At this point, it feels like every week a new brewery opens up in Québec. I mainly notice this when one of the stores I follow on social media posts a lineup of bottles or cans carrying a logo that I don’t recognize. And if I’m honest, I tend to pessimistically think to myself that they’re likely mediocre at best. It’s not that I want them to fail, in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Unfortunately though, one thing you learn pretty quickly when first diving into the complex world of Québec craft beer (or craft beer in general) is that a lot of it just isn’t very good. Just because someone is brewing something local, in small(ish) batches, and charges 6$ for a 500ml bottle, doesn’t mean it’s going to be great. There is a reason why you don’t see products from several breweries show up on this blog. I don’t like to bash people’s work, and I also don’t like drinking shitty beer. I know this sounds a bit arrogant, and perhaps even a bit pretentious, but that’s certainly not my intention. I’m no beer expert, I just know what I like and I also know I’m not the only one who feels this way.
I should also clarify that there are plenty of good breweries that I haven’t written about, like Pit Caribou for instance. Sometimes it’s just because I haven’t had a chance yet. That will change soon!
For the purposes of this article though, I want to talk about the exact opposite situation. As usual, I saw some new cans show up in my feed, this time from Brasserie Artisanale Maltstrom, and as usual I really didn’t think much of it. However, I started hearing rumblings throughout the local scene, and when I heard my friend Mathieu say something like “watch out Auval,” I knew I needed to find some. I got my hands on a can of IXPL and I was floored. I needed more.
Brasserie Artisinale Maltstrom brews extremely small batches and their cans can be purchased from the brewery itself or at some select stores around Montreal. Today I’m going to talk about their Pilsner Lager, Farmhouse Blanche, and India Extra Pale Lager. Let’s get to it.
Oh Pilsner, the beer style that many beer enthusiasts scoff at as if it’s somehow a mediocre type of beer. I’ll admit that I used to think this as well, however I’ve had many craft Pilsners that I adore. In fact, so few are made in Québec that I seek them out wherever I can.
This Lager pours out crystal clear, with a straw coloured body and lively effervescence. The nose carries lovely hay and wheat aromas, with lots of tangy and earthy hops as well. Light citrus comes through to finish off this beautifully complex but equally straightforward aromatic experience.
Up front on the palate it’s crisp and clean, with the usual light honey and hay-forward lager profile. However, there is a slightly augmented bitterness, with residual fruity elements. That being said, the tangy and herbal German hops are the focal point, alongside a musty yeasty element that works well with everything else. Some lemony sharp citrus is apparent as well, adding even more layers to this refreshing and crushable Pilsner. Very impressive.
I’ve heard nothing but great things about this modern (or maybe not so modern) take on a Québec “Blanche.” It pours out a murky and hazy bright orange colour, with a lasting sticky white head resting on top. The nose is zesty in all directions. First off, a big citrusy dry hop blasts my senses with tropical delights while being immediately complimented by aggressive fruity yeast esters, lending melon and stone fruits. Spiced phenols peak through as well, carrying light clove and cardamon. However, this does not smell like a standard witbier or saison.
On the palate, at first, it’s far cleaner than the nose let on. It’s exceptionally fruity, while being impressively dry, without a lingering bitterness from the hop profile or the phenols. Peaches, plums and juicy melon meet with some citrus fruit and a little grassy funk. Like the nose, there are some zesty phenols, lending peppery flavours and light clove. There are musty and dusty elements coming through as well, providing a bit of earthy complexity to this fruit bomb.
Although all aspects of this beer are quite amazing, the finish is the real gem. You get blasted with a big and bold fruit profile that carries loads of hoppy delights and nice zesty yeast components; yet, everything is cut clean, without a lingering bitterness. This beer it brilliant.
India Extra Pale Lager
As I mentioned above, the first time I tried IXPL, I was floored. I’m excited to revisit. It pours out a foggy orange colour holding onto a frothy head. The nose is composed of huge citrus aromatics, coupled with dank and grassy funk. Lemon and clementines mix with some ground cherry and grapefruit rinds.
Up front on the palate it seems pretty green in comparison to the last time I tried it. Dank and earthy hops lead the profile with freshly cut grass and some bitter resins. The fruitiness comes through as well, adding citrus and some juicy tropical fruits to the mix. The finish is long, carrying a bold lingering bitterness that cuts through everything with a resinous sharpness. That being said, there is also a clean finish from the lager yeast, rounding everything nicely. This wasn’t my favourite batch of IXPL, but it is certainly still delicious.
As much as there are a lot of mediocre breweries popping up, there are clearly some gems in the mix, and Brasserie Maltstrom is one of them. Their attention to balance while still keeping a potent, but refined flavour profile is extremely impressive. Maltstom beers are unique, but still feel classic and approachable. I highly suggest you seek them out, as they are brewing some of the best new beers in the province right now.
An article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest