An article by Noah Forrest
I often see Brasserie Harricana as that quiet brewery in the corner, brewing exactly what they want to, seemingly unconcerned with the ultra modern trends of hazy, hopped up everything. In fact, they barely brew IPAs at all, period.
Their strengths lie in classic, clean styles, often of German influence, alongside exquisite barrel-aged offerings, birthed through mixed fermentation. This is where Francis Richer (head brewer) truly shines, delivering a constant stream of innovative wild and sour beers that are complex and innovative, yet still approachable. Whether it’s a straightforward fruited sour, or a smoked Grätzer with seaweed, I always enjoy what I’m drinking when cracking a bottle.
Over the holidays Brasserie Harricana released a 5th anniversary gift box, containing five different one-off barrel-aged creations that all sounded amazing. Separately, a few months prior, they released a very special Magnum entitled 6484 – a still, fruited barrel-aged sour that was designed to mimic orange wine. I got my hands on these sexy specimens and I’d like to talk about them today.
6484 was conceived in collaboration with Jean-Sébastien Michel, owner of Alambika, a well established glassware (and everything alcohol related) boutique located in the Outremont region of urban Montreal. There was a single barrel at Brasserie Harricana that displayed some strong orange wine-like characteristics, so they decided to add some stone fruits to further marry that flavor profile and bottle it without carbonation.
The nose is bright yet rich, delivering layers of ripe stone fruits alongside some candied orange slices and white balsamic. Spicy oak meets some wild flora, releasing a slight barnyard funk. The palate begins with lots of rich apricot, complimented by an aggressive but not overpowering acidity. Lots of grapefruit pith and tangerine tang comes through as well. There is an acetic layer, but the finish is tangy and slightly bitter, carrying an almost gueuze-like quality. This has a Lambic meets fruited American sour thing going on, with a straightforward and pretty aggressive acidity with some serious flora complexity. I love it.
73 – Bière Rosée
Let’s move on to the anniversary beers. First is “73 – Bière Rosée”, aged in Bordeaux barrel barrels with the addition of Cabernet wine must. The nose is rich and vinous, carrying layers of grape fruitiness alongside some deep red wine richness. Hints of cherry come through as well, with loads of wine-soaked oak and a big flora induced funk.
The palate begins with that mouth puckering tart and tannic “Harricana” profile I have come to know and love. Big red grape flavours envelope the palate, carrying with it layers of vinous deliciousness. The flora is dusty and earthy, but it isn’t a brett bomb, delivering just enough to compliment everything. Some cherry notes come through as well and the finish is quite tannic yet perfectly balanced. Impressive.
31 – Bière Noire
31 – Bière Noire is a Halloween inspired imperial stout that was aged in Cognac barrels with a cocktail of wild yeasts. The nose is a unique blend of roasted malts and rich flora, providing layers of oak, coffee, berries, and flowers.
The palate matches, carrying a rich and velvety body. Tobacco, coffee, and chocolate are complimented by a dry, dusty brett funk. Raisins and dates meet ashy roastiness, while some maderized cognac notes mix with a musty and earthy thing. It’s not sour in the least, but the brett adds a dry and somewhat tannic layer that is complimented by a present fruitiness. Wild stouts can really be hit or miss sometimes, but this is really nice.
37 – Bière Jaune
37 – Bière Jaune was barrel fermented and inspired by lambic – specifically Cantillon. The nose delivers a brilliant burst of dusty aromatics, carrying musty funk and some barnyard. A beautiful flora surrounds this nose, delivering a real Gueuze-like complexity. Coupled with that, are some apple and pear notes.
The palate holds a similar profile, wearing its musty flora on its sleeve. There is a rich acidic bite as well, and loads of those Harricana tannins, which deliver a satisfying mouth puckering experience. Lots of grapefruit and tart apples meet hints of spicy oak. The carbonation is soft and easy to drink, helping with accentuate the sourness. This really is something special.
1 – Matrice
1 – Matrice is a mix fermented beer whose barrel was specifically chosen for its particular flora. The nose is rich and fruity, delivering lots of musty layers mixed with hints of caramel, strawberry and raspberry tartness.
Up front it’s aggressively tannic, with a mouth puckering tartness. Lots of grapefruit peel meets ground cherry and some subtle berry. There are loads of phenolic funk, carrying old books and some barnyard. Hints of smoke come through as well. Just like eveything on this list, this one is really solid.
Brasserie Harricana always impresses me with with their ability to create innovative offerings that carry extremely complex profiles. Their house flora profile is a signature to me at this point, and something that I always look forward to tasting. Every time something new drops, I’m always exited to dive in. I’m not sure if these bottles are still available at this point, but Harricana are always releasing new and interesting bottles to try.
An article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest