An article by Noah Forrest
Within a couple of years, Brasserie du Bas-Canada has gone from being one of the many (and I mean many) new breweries on the block, to producing some of the most sought after beers in the province. Their level of hype at this point is massive; certain bottles are even pulling hard to acquire Lambic in local trading forums.
Needless to say, they are doing well, and I think they have a couple of particular elements working for them. For one, they are one of the few breweries in Quebec taking a strong contemporary American approach to the beer styles they are releasing. We are seeing an array of hazy New England inspired IPAs, pastry stouts, and milkshake IPAs from them, which (let’s be honest) are simply what’s most popular and “trendy” at the moment.
However (and this is a big however), what truly accounts for their almost overnight rise to fame is the fact that they nail these styles in ways that many of their contemporaries can’t (or choose not to). There are definitely exceptions to that, with several other fantastic examples produced in Quebec. However, Bas Canada is relentlessly killing it at almost every turn. I’m generally always impressed.
Earlier in May, Brasserie du Bas-Canada had a can and bottle release, where they provided an awaiting public with several brand new beers to salivate over. I’m a little late, but I really wanted to examine and write about these offerings. Enjoy.
Right here is Constantine, the 4th can in a series of Roman emperor-inspired Double IPA’s from BdBC. This particular one showcases galaxy, mosaic, and cashmere hops.
The nose is rich, composed of lemon confit, ripe tangerine, and blood orange. There is a marmalade thing happening as well, alongside lots of zesty grapefruit rinds.
The palate matches, carrying loads of rich and sweet citrus fruits. Tangerine and clementines are the most apparent, with some grapefruit coming through in the finish. Marmalade-like bitterness is next, alongside a general hop-focused tang. Constantine comes off a touch sweet, but is still a solid DIPA.
#gatineauistrending is a triple IPA – which is definitely a style that we haven’t seen many of in Quebec. I feel like TIPAs had their heyday years ago, but kind of dropped off when American barleywines became more prominent; leaving this style kind of unnecessary. However, with the rise of New England haze came a resurgence of the style in a completely different way – still very high ABV, but bright, zesty, and smooth without big malts and bitterness. This is what BdBC is going for here.
The nose delivers a massive punch of zesty citrus fruits, mixed with mango, pineapple, and lemon balm. It doesn’t smell particularly sweet or boozy. The aromatics are intense but soft, delivering some amazing complexity.
The palate matches, carrying an almost impossible balance. The sharp ethanol is certainly there given the 10% ABV, but it manages to integrate while not being malty or sweet – something that’s extremely challenging to pull off. It’s filled with Mango and ripe tangerines alongside confit lemon and melon. The malt base is still there, but it’s not the star, just adding the right amount of base to measure against the insane hop additions and sharp booze character. This is deceitfully drinkable. I have to say, #gatineauistrending might just be the best IPA they’ve made – which is impressive given what they’ve already done, and it’s certainly the best TIPA I’ve ever had in Canada.
Cosmos is a sour IPA, brewed with raspberries and lactose. The nose is bright and jammy, delivering sweet raspberry juice, alongside an apparent tropical hop layer. Pie-Jam and cooked strawberries also comes through. There is a raspberry Jelly King (Bellwoods) thing happening here.
The palate is drier than the nose let on. Raspberries and some tropical hops are at the front, followed by creamy lactose induced sweetness and a lingering vanilla finish. This isn’t sour, and instead is only a touch tart.
I’m not big on this one. The raspberry could be more forward, and the dry hop is there but not huge. That said, the bigger issue for me is this bitter astringent finish that creates an almost medicinal thing that I just don’t dig. I’ve had similar criticisms over most of their sour IPAs to date. However, these beers are generally well received – especially this one – so I think it’s just me.
Guerre et Paix
Guerre et Paix is an imperial stout brewed with coffee, vanilla, and cacao. It dropped for the first time back in February. These tasting notes are from that batch, but a second version was made for this more recent release.
The nose is chocolate cake with vanilla icing in a glass. Serious sweet and almost candy-like aromatics blast my senses. It smells incredibly rich and inviting. Espresso beans sneak through in the finish, with some smokey cacao toastiness.
Wow. Okay, so saying this is luscious is an understatement. The body on this is through the roof, delivering the silkiest of silk – it’s chewy AF.
Rich dark chocolate comes first, followed by some aggressive (but balanced) vanilla. The coffee is present, but not extremely apparent (at least not to the degree of something like Péché Mortel). The cacao and dark roasted malts lend a light berry profile alongside all the rich chocolate and coffee notes. The coffee lends an acidity, creating a subtle tang against the bitter cocoa.
I’m discovering more and more that vanilla in beer isn’t my thing. That said, I think this is a prime example of where it works. The nose carries this incredibly sweet profile, while the actual beer is perfectly dry and balanced, with the adjunct adding the essence of sugar but without actual sweetness. This is one of the best non-barrel-aged stouts I’ve ever had.
Bank Hotel was released briefly a couple of months ago in crowlers, but has now returned in a smaller format carrying its own artwork.
The nose on this! Massive (and I mean massive) explosions of tropical fruit. Peach and apricot meet mango and grapefruit. It smells like candy – specifically Fuzzy Peaches swimming in Tropicana orange juice, with hints of banana.
The palate matches, driving intense hop fruitiness into my senses after each sip. Huge grapefruit mixes with orange juice and some mango in the finish. It’s a touch bitter, carrying a bit of astringency, but not off-putting at all.
The body is richer than their HYPA series, while not being as big as their double IPAs. It’s a perfect middle ground IPA that gives you a bit more heft without being a boozy beast. Amazing.
Substance is an imperial milk stout brewed with a shit-ton of coconut, as well as cacao and vanilla beans from Madagascar. Within moments of the release, Substance became the new “it” beer, being traded and sought after on local trade forums. Pastry stouts haven’t quite hit the Quebec beer scene yet, so folks got excited when a truly legit example dropped.
Substance pours out like motor oil; thick and sludgy. The nose is inane. Smells like liquid cake. And not like other stouts do – it really smells like cake in a blender. There is just so much coconut up front, alongside chocolate fudge, hazelnut, and a light roasted coffee essence.
Up front the palate matches. Loads of coconut and chocolate fudge meet cake batter. This is sweet, like really sweet. However, the finish manages to come off magically dry and rather balanced without an aggressive bitterness – it’s very impressive. If compared to Guerre et Paix, this is truly a pastry stout, delivering loads of luscious, uncompromising richness, intense sugars, and general cake-like flavours.
Overall, this is a touch too sweet for my tastes, and if I had to choose between the two, I’d definitely be on team #GuerreetPaix. That said, this is an exceptional beer, carrying a perfectly executed balance. It’s a beer that truly accomplishes what it’s trying to be – a pastry stout – and one of the best I’ve had.
So there it is, another epic release from Brasserie du Bas-Canada. Most of these beers truly impressed me, delivering contemporary styles in a perfectly executed fashion. Marc-Andre and Gabriel, keep up the exceptional work, you should be proud!
An article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest