An article by Noah Forrest
The holidays are approaching, which means that breweries are going to be releasing more and more special offerings leading up to Christmas. It’s the time every year that we see an influx of barrel-aged beers hitting shelves as well as bottle/can releases happening almost every weekend.
This weekend specifically, Brasserie Champ Libre has emptied some barrels for our enjoyment and are hosting yet another small bottle release. This Mercier based brewery has been consistently providing us with various lineups of new beers while still keeping a steady stream of flagship offerings. They brew with an emphasis on farmhouse beers, but deliver every conceivable style to fit all palates. Whether it’s a straightforward Saison or an adjunct enriched IPA, Alex (co-owner/head brewer) and his team always brew beers with character and balance.
I got my hands on several of the new bottles ahead of time in order to give you my thoughts.
Éloge des herbes
Éloge des herbes is a blend of their Saison Éloge de la Lenteur (80%) and their hopped tripel Bons Temps (20%). The resulting blend was then aged in barrels previously containing a German herb liquor.
The nose is a lovely mix of spicy yet subtle phenols alongside aromas of honey and oak. Fresh pear flesh meets some cider, creating a nice inviting nose.
The palate is earthy and subtle, carrying some herbal notes, reminiscent of juniper and perhaps mint – but extremely faint. There is a lovely fruity character, again I get pear and some hints of citrus. It’s very dry and layered, but super easy to drink. I could down pints of this. I love the body and soft carbonation – something that really makes Champ Libre stand out for me. The finish is quick and leaves you with hints of liquor soaked oak. I really dug this one.
Back in the summer of this year, Alex and his team at Champ Libre threw a delightful Farmhouse Beer festival. It was a small but amazing event, celebrating local Farmhouse ales (or at least the closest we have to them). I was actually fortunate to speak on a panel that day with several others, including the infamous traveler and writer Martin Thibeault from Les Coureurs des Boires, who also delivered a presentation on these often misunderstood beers.
Also that day, Martin and Alex got together to create a Norwegian inspired farmhouse ale brewed with smoked malts from Champ Libre’s smoker as well as Genévrier branches from their property. The beer was then barrel fermented with a Kveik yeast strain. So here are the results.
The nose is subtle, with hints of clove-forward phenols, some slight fruit and serious burnt campfire aromas. That flavour continues into the palate, carrying a kind of burnt profile which I’m not in love with. That said, I enjoy the low carbonated, easy drinking profile, and there is some nice fruitiness from the yeast – peach and apricots come to mind. Only hints of the juniper branches come through, adding spicy layers alongside light oak tannins.
Éloge des gadelles
Éloge des gadelles is a take on their classic saison, but this time brewed with gadelles (currents). The nose is earthy and zesty, with fruity layers that remind me of cranberries and strawberries. Aromatics of fresh hay and wheat come through as well.
It’s tannic and tart up front, with an extremely dry finish, leaving my mouth slightly puckered – like chewing on grape skins. As the nose let on, there is a slight cranberry thing, but the berries are subtle, adding just a light layer of fruity complexity to the beer. Tasty stuff.
So as I mentioned earlier, Champ Libre will be releasing these three beers on Saturday along with the latest version of their bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout and several other new offerings. Go check it out!
An article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest