Our Love Affair With the Never Ending Brasserie Auval Honeymoon
An article by Noah Forrest
Brasserie Auval first hit the Quebec beer scene back in September 2015. Located in Percé within the Gaspésie region of Quebec, the brewery is headed by owner and brewer Benoit Couillard, who also co-founded Microbrasserie Pit Caribou before leaving to open this new endeavour.
Auval arrived with beer styles that didn’t quite fit the typical new brewery flagship beer mold at the time, offering up two barrel-aged sours and a bright IPA. The brewery’s popularity almost exploded over night, with every beer-geek in the province wanting to get their hands on the now highly coveted “Auval.”
They essentially carry a mythical status at this point, with an almost intrinsic value that never seems to fade – even with mixed fermentation heavy hitters like Brasserie Dunham being wildly distributed, and new kid on the block Brasserie du Bas-Canada delivering haze on another level. Auval still seems to be the most sought after brewery in the trade community within this province – and perhaps even the country. That said, the gap between the demand for Auval and the demand for other breweries of similar caliber is (in my opinion) far out of proportion. Microbrassrie Le Castor‘s Saison Rayee literally sits on shelves for months, and although I do prefer Auval’s Saison Espinay, they carry a comparable level of craftsmanship and style – it’s pretty damn close.
This disparity is partly due the the fact that Brasserie Auval has minimal to no distribution, and everything is produced in very small numbers. Scarcity certainly drives demand, which augments our communal desire to procure these beautiful bottles. However, although this fact may be the reason why the Auval “hype” sometimes gets to unreasonable levels, it’s really not why people go crazy for it (or at least it shouldn’t be). People go crazy for it because it’s goddamn fantastic, and in many circumstances, it is a step above the rest.
Ben’s ability to wow my palate with subtlety and grace is something truly special. And although that last sentence was sounds rather pretentious and ridiculous, it’s actually the truth. Breweries are often rewarded when they blast your senses with intensity. The genius behind Auval is their ability to excite your palate with bold flavours, while still being remarkably balanced. The beers are often – for lack of a better term – perfect.
I was extremely fortunate to get my hands on several of Auval’s new 2019 offerings. So let me tell you about them.
Hors Limite started as a braggot (honey beer) and was then re-fermented with Pinot Noir Pommace, which are the solid remains of grapes after pressing for juice (It contains the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems of the fruit). Pommace used was for Les Entêtés 2018 from Domaine du Nival.
The nose is a subtle and soft mix of vinous tartness and dusty layers of Brettanomyces. Lots of juicy Pinot notes lend compliment to the wild character, while spicy oak delivers tannic aromatics all around. Hints of berries come through, with raspberry in particular.
The palate matches, combining lots of wild flora and big Pinot layers. The beer is quite dry, placing a rich tannic profile on each sip. Grape skins marry an extremely subtle malt backing, alongside layers of dusty Brett funk. The Pinot is really the star here, delivering some subtle berry notes and tannic grape skins, with rich oak flavours of the barrel. This is lovely and exceptional.
De Garde #2
De Garde #2 is Auval’s second take an a Biere de Garde (French farmhouse ale). The nose delivers lots of spicy phenols alongside light cardamon and clove. Robust fruity layers come through as well, providing pear and apple with hints of vinous grapes.
Wow, up front it’s far more tart than expected, providing a sour apple layer and finishing very tannic and dry – like grape skins. This is also quite fruit-rich and layered, carrying grapefruit, green grape and hints of under-ripe apple. There is a maltiness here, but the bright acidity and pronounced tannic oak components cut through everything. I had tasted the first batch, and this is definitely an improvement. Amazing stuff.
Pomace Orange began it’s journey as a grisette, before being macerated with the pomace from Frangine, an orange wine from Pinard & Filles.
The nose carries sweet floral honey notes, alongside complex layers of vinous aromatics. Some clementine zest and lemon essences come next, followed by a subtle dusty flora and some spicy oak.
On the palate it’s rather tannic up front, providing a tangy linger after each sip. Acidic elements come on pretty strong, adding layers of lemon and bitter grapefruit rinds. It’s not exactly sour, but it’s certainly tart.
Pomace is vinous, bright and easy to drink, however it has a ton of richness and complexity to it, which forces you to savour each sip. And despite the dusty layers amongst the acidity, the beer drinks quite clean overall.
Anicet Addiction is a beer made from honey sourced from the farm d’Anicet. The nose, for lack of a better term, is perfection. It’s dusty, carrying light barnyard funk, coupled with notes of soft lemon and grapefruit. It’s also sweet and floral, carrying a multitude of honey-focused layers. It’s really quite divine.
The palate matches, delivering layered floral honey notes alongside a subtle and balanced sweetness. That said, the beer is bone dry, with lots of tannin rich complexities. Vinous oak and a subtle honey astringency cut through everything beautifully, finishing with a pretty aggressive pepperiness. It’s rich and complex, but still easy to drink and accessible. Delicious stuff.
It had been a bit of time since I dived into a set of Auval beers, and I have to say, they didn’t disappoint. Ben’s ability to balance innovative bold flavours and techniques without ever coming off gimmicky or overly trend-focused is always refreshing. It’s always a pleasure and I can’t wait to try what comes next.
An Article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest