A lot of people ask what it means for someone like me to do a collaborative beer with a brewery. Honestly, it’s a good question. Also, it kind of depends on the situation. Sometimes I’m simple involved in the concept and describing what I’d like, while other times we actually talk about recipes – grain bill, hops, etc. That said, I’m not a brewer so I’m not actively involved in the brewing details. And obviously I don’t get to taste anything until the beer is bottled or canned. However, with this latest collaboration things were different…
Last month, I drove out to Quebec City and visited the BG Brasserie Urbaine brewery in Charlesbourg. The idea was so sit down with co-owner and head brewer Max Bergeron in order to blend various strong barrel-aged dark beers in an effort to create something special as a team – and I think we pulled it off.
I watched Max do various acrobatic feats as he swung from barrel to barrel, pulling out nails and filling what seemed like at least 25 glasses of various stouts and imperial porters aged for months in different forms of bourbon and whiskey barrels. We had a hard day’s work ahead of us, but we were up for the challenge. I’d been to breweries before and sampled beers that were in the process of being aged; it’s always a fun and enlightening experience, but this was different – this actually required concentration, and even a little math!
Blending is an art form and this was my first rodeo. Not only is it impressive to see how the same beer can vary drastically when it’s aged in one type of spirit barrel versus another, but I had no idea how much the same beer, divided in two and aged in the exact same type of barrel can be drastically different as well. I have a new-found respect for those that re-create the same beer each year, and how hard it must be to try and keep things consistent from batch to batch. It was also extremely interesting to taste firsthand just how much of a difference even a short amount of time can make when letting a beer rest inside a barrel. Some were clearly way too young, while others were perfection.
After drinking sample after sample and trying to create blend percentages that incorporated several beers, we realized that there were two outliers that stood drastically above the rest. When combined, they were perfect and any new additions to the combo simply took away from it instead of the desired compliments. Ultimately, the end product consist of a big lactose-infused imperial stout, aged for 10 months in Jim Beam Bourbon barrels alongside a “double mash” Imperial Stout aged for 6 month in Widow Jane Bourbon barrels. And this is “Blendism“.
Unfortunately, the only way to get Blendism is by going directly to the brewery in Quebec. However, the fun news is that there are 5 beers being released at the same time, so it’s worth the road trip! The products will be made available to purchase online THURSDAY APRIL 28 at 5 p.m. You can visit the website right here to do so.
The balance of any left over stock will be available for purchase in person as soon as the festivities open FRIDAY, APRIL 29 at 12:00PM. The address is 400 rue du Platinum, Quebec. Picking up beers purchased online will only be possible from the next day, FRIDAY April 29 at 12:00PM.
Now let’s taste the final product.
The nose boasts big chocolate notes, alongside spirit-induced vanilla aromatics. It’s like someone poured bourbon all over their chocolate lava cake. Lots of pastry batter come through, meeting spicy spirits and plum pudding. Coffee layers arrive as well, but this is a chocolate-forward stout for sure with some liquorice and a slight herbal note being delivered in the finish.
Upfront on the palate, I’m greeted with such a luscious and massive body. It instantly reminds me of the why we chose these two beers to begin with. That said, unlike a pastry stout or even a barrel-aged pastry, this beer is rather dry while still carrying a glorious, velvety richness. The barrel character teeters between more vanilla-focused bourbon notes and a herbal, oaky thing that lends a slightly different form of complexity. Overall, it’s less chocolatey than the nose lets on, however, it’s still certainly the star here, while a more “old school” licorice-forward profile comes through and throws everything out the window. For me personally, this beer is very unique, combining the rich body of a contemporary stout with some more classic layers.
I’m extremely happy with how this turned out. It was such a brilliant learning experience to go through this process and I’d be honored to do it again. If you’re able to get your hands on this or any of the beers coming out this weekend, I’d love to hear your thoughts!