Avant-Garde Releases a Rainbow of Barrel-Aged Funk

An Article by Noah Forrest

2017 was great for Avant-Garde – Artisans Brasseurs. They definitely stepped up their game from previous years, hosting two separate bottle releases and dropping a ton of barrel-aged beers for us to pine over. These bottles were rather well received, helping solidify their place in the province as one of the up and coming brewers to keep an eye on.

For those who unaware, Avant-Garde is actually a contract brewery, with Shawn Duriez and Renaud Gouin at the helm. They operate out of Oshlag, a brewery in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve region of Montreal. The quality of the products they are putting out are a reminder that contract brewers should definitely be considered an important and relevant part of the brewing scene. Alsol, of all the contract brewers in the province, they are my favourite.

As I was mentioning, they have had some bottle releases for their barrel-aged bottles last year, but going forward, they have decided to simply send these gems through their standard distribution channels. I have five new-ish funky BA bottles to talk about today. They were released at different intervals over the last few months. Let’s dive in!

Pilsner Funky

Pilsner Funky is Avant-Garde’s Pilsner “Jet Set” aged in merlot barrels for 6 months with a house yeast culture. The nose begins with a balanced mix of Brett funk and wine barrel fruitiness. Lots of pear and sweet apple are complimented by layers of spicy oak, vanilla, and vinous grapes. I’m not getting any of the herbal german hop notes – likely faded in the aging process. Some light pineapple and dusty basement peaks through, creating an extremely inviting nose.

The palate matches, but is far more subtle and almost muted. Not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you want to simply pour this into a pint glass and drink it by the pool. But let’s dig deeper.

The Bretty phenols do deliver some funk, but the star here is the barrel, providing some serious oak-forward flavours that stick with you long after each sip. Light notes of pineapple, pear and vanilla lend compliment to green grape flesh and slightly tart apple. The merlot grapes add some tannins to further dry this already highly extenuated little beer. There is a slight tartness in the finish, but it’s subtle, just adding to the fruitiness.

Barrel-aged beers can range from a challenge to get through to extremely drinkable – this however, is downright crushable. I love it.

Pilsner Funky Aux Griottes

Pilsner Funky aux Griottes is the same beer as Pilsner Funky, but with the addition of sour cherries. The nose kicks off with a lovely cherry pie filling aroma that is intoxicating. It’s not overpowering, but very present. It lends compliment to some dusty Brett funk, and light oak character.

The cherry is more subtle on the palate, providing a subtle fruity accent to the funky pils base – alongside some additional tannic tartness. Like the non-fruited version, this is incredibly drinkable and could be consumed in bucket loads. Cherries, cranberry and a light, almost hibiscus-like fruitiness make up the front, followed by dusty Brett phenols, vinous wine barrel notes and a dry tannic finish that only slightly lingers.

As it warms the wine comes through even more, lending delicious complimenting notes to the cherry layers.

Wild #2

Wild #2 is an English-inspired brown ale, brewer with oats, rye and wheat. It was fermented with a traditional english yeast strain and then aged in wine barrels with brettanomyces bruxellensis. The nose is a mix of some caramel, cherries, and toasted grains, alongside light Brett funk and some buttery diacetyl notes.

The palate matches, delivering nutty and toasted grain layers mixed with a bit of tartness. There is a slight tannic note too, leaving a gentle puckering in the finish. The body is slick and big, but the beer is exceptionally dry, and goes down easy.

Already I’m not huge into Bretted brown ales, or sour brown ales, or Oud Bruns in general, and although this is its own thing (and more drinkable), the diacetyl is a bit too apparent and not to my tastes. That said, a lot of people really enjoyed this, so could just be me.

Perdu dans Malle Bourbon

Perdu dans Malle Bourbon is a bourbon barrel aged Belgian inspired Tripel. The nose is a bright fruity mix of fresh pear, light lemon and some cherry notes. The barrel is extremely present, lending lots of bourbon vanilla notes alongside spicy oak layers. There is some acidity and lots of fruity Brett notes coming from the aromatics as well – clearly some flora made it into these barrels.

On the flavour front, there is a lot going on. Peach and pear sweetness hits you up front, mixed with vanilla notes and hints of spiciness. That said, it seems that whatever bugs were in the barrels ate all the phenols, creating less clove and cardamon spiciness, replacing it with lots of bright stone fruits.

There is an tangy acidity, but it’s not sour by any means – more of a tart finish. The Tripel sweetness is cut by some seriously tannic rich oak, ethanol burn, and subtle bitterness, making this rich beer finish quite dry.

This is good, and I’m excited to revisit with some age on it, but the acidity, tannins and bitterness aren’t working together in a way that works for my personal tastes.

Chats Sauvages Goyave

Chats Sauvages Goyave is a blend of Saison en Enfer, Wild #1, and de Funk et La Furie, barrel-aged for 6 to 16 months in wine and tequila barrels with a mix of wild yeast and bacteria. The whole thing is then re-fermented with guava puree.

The nose is a wild juice bomb, throwing bits of orange and lots of tropical guava at my senses. Ample oak aromatics mix with an inviting dusty and fruity Brett profile. Some zesty acetic notes come through as well, lending a white balsamic component.

Up front on the palate you get so much fruitiness. The guava provides lots of actual juiciness, but there are layers of vinous oak, fruity Brett esters, and some tangy acidity, adding even more bright fruits into the mix. There is an amazing flora to this beer, carrying a bright and balanced acidity. This results in a tangy and complex finish that has an almost lambic-like profile. I’m not usually a fan of acetic acid in most beer styles, but it’s extremely subtle and actually adds to the fruit layers here. This is delicious.

If you’re looking to pick up these beers, they did receive a relatively wide distribution, but at various times this year, so they may be hard to find right now. That said, Renault and Shawn seem to be growing their barrel program constantly, so I’m excited to see what’s coming next!

An Article by Noah Forrest

Photography by Noah Forrest