An article by Noah Forrest
With two very young children, it’s needless to say that it can be quite a challenge to go anywhere. Like, ever. However, once in a while my in-laws will take the kids so we can step back out into the real world and walk around without a toddler dangling from our bodies. Having to constantly be in surveillance mode, it’s a weird feeling not worrying about having to deter your child from sudden death at any given moment. However, this change in perspective is extremely welcome and very needed every once in a while. A short trip was in order.
The Eastern Townships (an hour or so east of Montreal) are composed of many beautiful towns that we have visited a few times now. That being said, we had never been to Magog. So we figured, why not! With the kids gone, we hopped into the car and headed there post-haste.
Magog, which is home to cute shops and lots of that quintessential small-town flair, is also home to Microbrasserie La Memphré, a brewery that I’ve written about several times now. Their focus on modern but balanced and approachable beer has driven my attention to their beers any time I was able to find them.
Although having had several of their bottles, this is the first time that I was able to actually sit down and sample an array of their offerings at the brew-pub in town. The bar feels rustic and quaint, but is also rather vibrant for a beer-bar; and I hear that in the late hours of the weekend, it’s almost a club. We arrived being greeted by the man himself, my friend Mr. David Plasse (head of operations), who quickly lined the table with samples of everything they had going that day. All were solid, but their Baltic Porter and the new batch of Double Menton (DIPA) were particularly exceptional.
This past week, two new bottles have arrived in beer stores around Montreal, and given my recent trip I thought that it was time dive into these new and interesting barrel-aged beers. Here we go.
Dimanche is a bourbon barrel-aged wheat wine, brewed to celebrate that day of the week where we can potentially do nothing. Oh, and yes, that is a white pompom on the label. It pours out a clear dark orange colour, with some brown undertones. The nose is an inviting mix of bourbon vanilla notes, alongside some apple cider-like aromas, musty yeast phenols, and cooked caramel.
The body is rich and robust all around, carrying lots of maple, caramel, cooked apples, and plums. Bananas foster comes to mind. Although perceivably sweet, it actually finishes very dry, with a surprisingly clean linger. The bourbon adds a nice complexity to the beer, with lots of vanilla and oak, as well as rich barrel elements and some drying tannins.
You can have big beers that are too sweet, which come off cloying and unpleasant. While on the opposite spectrum, you can have big beers that are too dry, with either an over-zealous bitterness or an unwelcomed astringency. It’s hard to find that balance, but once again, La Memphré has done it. Dimanche is rich and robust, while still very dry and drinkable. Oh, and the body is out of this world.
Sauvignon Blanche Réserve
Sauvignon Blanche Réserve is a wheat beer brewed with Sauvignon wort, fermented with champagne yeast, and then finished in white wine barrels. The nose is a mix of earthy oak-forward notes and lots of vinous white grape aromatics. It’s a bit cider-like as well, with some slight herbal elements as well as pears and mackintosh apples.
Up front this one threw me off a bit. What was I drinking? Wine, cider, or beer? To begin, the carbonation is light, carrying just a slight tongue-tickling effervescence. It’s a touch tangy, but not sour or tart, really. There are lots of white grapes, pears and apple flavours, with a certain juiciness all around. Although having a perceivable sweetness, the finish is extremely dry, carrying a slight but lingering tannic bitterness. It feels a lot like a white wine and Saison blend.
Overall this doesn’t drink like a beer in the traditional sense, but these days most don’t anyway. Sauvignon Blanche Réserve has a rich and robust flavour profile that makes it complex and interesting, while also being the perfect hot summer evening beverage. Personally, I really liked this and I hope people can get past some of the non-beer-like components, because this is really special.
It’s not always easy to pick up and drive out of town just to sample some beer. However, if you can, I highly recommend taking some time in Magog. Like many of these spots, it has elements that play-up the small town thing, catering to tourism. However, it also felt like a real and legitimate place to hang out as a local. We had some amazing authentic Mexican food and also had time to simply sit by the water to take in the sun.
That being said, if you can’t get to Magog, look out for bottles from La Memphré on shelves around town. As usual, these two new barrel-aged beers are complex and interesting while still being very accessible. Enjoy!
An article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest