An article by Noah Forrest
Microbrasserie Ras L’Bock hit the Quebec beer scene in 2015. This charismatic bunch is located Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, which is about 3 and a half hours north west of Montreal. Self-proclaimed as having La Plus Belle Terrasse au QC, Ras L’Bock appears to be a place of beer, music, and general partying antics.
I’ve been hearing good things about their beers for a long time now, but somehow I’ve never had the chance to try anything that they’ve put out. Although they get distribution, the beers are certainly more limited if compared to most. Ras L’Bock has a few staple beers – their American IPA and Milk Stout for example – however, they already have a rather extensive barrel program, where they often release both funky mixed-fermentation styles as well as luscious spirit barrel-aged beers.
Although having never actually set foot in Ras L’Bock, their social media presence certainly screams good times. They look like a bunch who don’t take things too seriously, and are rather party focused, while still pumping out solid, complex beer-styles. This is an approach that has likely been influenced by the trailblazing brewing veterans Le Trou du Diable, who also give off that hip party-focused vibe without any pretentiousness.
The folks at Ras L’Bock sent me several bottles to review, and here are a few of them.
La Solution is Ras L’Bock’s flagship American IPA. The nose is juicy, carrying a bright mix of citrus and stone fruits. It’s dank and grassy as well, with the perfect balance of hop funk and bright zesty goodness.
The palate comes through with a big west coast profile, delivering that quintessential crushing bitterness in the finish. Bright citrus, holding grapefruit at the front, punches the palate with a pithy and tangy linger.
The malt base is rather apparent as well, but doesn’t hold a big caramel presence, and instead is quite fruity, carrying some rich peach and nectarine sweetness. La Solution is a bit of a west coast meets east coast thing, with the west certainly dominating here. Great beer, and especially so given the haze-crazed climate we currently live in.
God Brett America
God Brett America is a sour brett IPA. The nose is a bright mix of citrus and strawberry, with lots of grassy hop funk. Acidic compounds are very apparent, and there is a clear lactic bacteria compound smell that I’m not big on – like wet towels and overripe fruit.
It’s less apparent on the palate, which delivers a mild acidity, alongside lots of rich fruits and a tangy bitterness in the finish. It’s very dank all around. Overripe strawberries mix with dank hop funk and a fresh cut wheat finish. This is really drinkable but I am not really a fan. There are too many layers that I just don’t like.
Señor Cacao is a milk stout brewed with, well, cacao. The nose is a mix of dark roasted coffee, milk chocolate, vanilla, and some cakey breadiness. It actually smells like Whoppers (malted milk balls).
On the palate the body is pretty impressive. It’s a a touch slick and luscious, while somehow also feeling light and thin. Lots of coffee flavours mix with vanilla and a sticky sweetness from the lactose, which lingers through the finish.
It’s actually pretty clean overall. The finish isn’t bitter in the least, but it still comes off pretty dry and without too much of that cloying sweetness. I’m not partial to milk-stouts, but I like this. If you like to ride the lactose dragon, this is solid and I’d recommend it.
Vieux Champion – Scotch Barrel-Aged
View Champion is a Scotch Ale brewed with maple syrup that was aged in bourbon barrels. Then they took the beer and aged it in scotch barrels. The nose is a mix of caramel, cherries and oak. I’m not getting much scotch, and I’m actually getting a lot of fruity esters that are very brett-like. It’s not an off-putting nose, but certainly not what I expecting from a scotch barrel-aged Scotch ale.
On the palate there are again lots of fruity notes, with cherry at the front. Maple syrup, raisins, dates and caramel are most prominent. There is a lingering sweetness from the syrup, which makes it kind of cloying, but it does round out in the finish.
Overall, this isn’t for me. The maple syrup makes it too sweet without enough tannic bitterness to contrast. The barrel is sadly not very apparent, either the scotch or bourbon maple addition, and there is a odd yeast estery element that I’m not digging. That said, just because it’s not for me doesn’t mean others won’t enjoy it!
Juteuse is a White IPA. The nose begins with a bright and juicy citrus mix, coupled with some zesty yeast esters. Big phenolic aromatics come through next, carrying ample clove and cardomon layers with it. The nose is juicy, but very “Belgian” forward.
The palate matches, with spiciness at the front, delivering a plethora of rich clove and general Belgian phenolic flavours. The body drinks like an NE IPA, carrying a chalky, robust mouthfeel that makes it rather creamy on the way down. Stone fruits come next, with mangos and some peaches mainly.
I’d say that this is a successful take on a cross between a Belgian IPA and a New England IPA. It’s pretty juicy and rich, but with that quintessential Belgian character as well.
Katyusha – Scotch Barrel-Aged
Katyusha is Ras L’Bock’s imperial stout aged in scotch barrels. The nose carries a huge blast of barrel, launching massive vanilla, oak and rich scotch at my senses. Wow, so much barrel. Caramel, coffee, butterscotch and some doughy aromatics come through as well, making the whole thing very inviting.
The palate matches, once again delivering massive barrel complexity. Loads of oak and vanilla pound the flavour spectrum, alongside some breadiness that has an almond cake-like component – and some creme brûlée.
Although there are some coffee and dark chocolate elements, it’s not as apparent as your typical imperial stout. Instead, there is more brown sugar and caramel essences, lending compliment to some very apparent scotch complexities.
As well, there isn’t much of that rich fudgy chocolateyness, and instead drinks rather easily for 11.9%. This isn’t a bad thing, and in fact I find this beer really interesting. It manages to have a huge barrel profile while being drinkable and not too sharp given the high abv. That said, it does come off a bit thin and has me pining for some rich lusciousness.
Once the kids get older and I have more time (and money), I need to drive around Quebec and finally visit all these fantastic breweries that I write about. Ras L’Bock will certainly be high on the list as their pub looks pretty amazing, and seems like a lot of fun. In the meantime I’ll just need to pick up their bottles here and there and enjoy them from home. Which for the moment, is just fine with me.
An article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest