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BEER BY THE SEA: 5 FAVOURITES FROM THE MAGDALEN ISLANDS

Last month, I went on a family vacation to Quebec’s Magdalen Islands (AKA Îles de la Madeleine). About a 5.5-hour ferry ride from P.E.I., the Acadian archipelago is smack in the middle of the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, boasting an abundance of sandy beaches, fresh seafood, and spectacular scenery. And like the rest of Quebec, it has a lively local-food-and-drink scene.

Considering the region’s total population is 12,000, I was delighted to discover a thriving local brewery, cidery, and meadery, plus a choice selection of other Quebecois drinks. (I know some people argue that cider and mead aren’t really beer; if confronted by one of those people, it’s best to just nod politely and have a drink.)

Here are my five favourites from the trip.

Chipie by Archibald Microbrasserie in Lac-Beauport, Que.

The instant you board that ferry in Souris, P.E.I., you’re essentially in Quebec. The proof? The onboard bar boasts a selection of craft beers at a shockingly reasonable price and you’re not confined to a little bar to drink them. My vacation started with a textbook American red ale. Unshowy and straightforward, with a lovely Cascade-hop nose and a strong malt backbone.

Pilsner Blonde by Alchimiste Microbrasserie in Joliette, Que.

As you’d expect, the SAQ liquor store was our first stop, where this little darling was retailing for $2.85 a bottle. (In a Nova Scotian store, $2.85 barely gets you a look at a good craft beer, let alone a bottle.) This is no low-quality, high-volume discount beer, though. It’s unusually interesting for the style: light and grainy, with faint minerality to finish. Refreshing after a long day of travel.

And now, the made-in-the-Magdalens portion of our list…

Hydromel des Montants by Miel En Mer in Havre-aux-Maisons, Que.

There’s some debate over just what to call this tasty beverage. The honey-maker who produces it calls it a “honey wine,” Untappd calls it a “honey beer,” and the local tourism website calls it “mead.” Pedantry aside, it’s surprisingly sweet without being cloying. Local chokeberries give it a nice complexity, adding just enough tartness to offset the honey richness.

La Poméloi by Le Verger Poméloi in Bassin, Que.

This charming little cidery is tucked away on a winding dirt road in the hills, about as far from the ocean as you can get on this island. Its store/tasting room is just big enough for four adults. And it is absolutely worth visiting. The owner is friendly and knowledgeable, eager to share his passion. (He invited us to wander around the orchards and explore, which was a lovely way to spend a sunny summer morning). This eponymous oak-aged cider is his Cadillac, and it’s not hard to see why. At 17% ABV, it’s agreeably warm, with the oakiness making it feel like a smooth, faintly sweet whisky. Prickly/spicy notes give it an excellent finish. The best cider I’ve had in a long, long time.

Corps Mort by À l’abri de la Tempête in L’Etang du Nord, Que.

On my last Quebec trip I went to Gaspé and found a pilsner from these guys that I loved, so I was eager to visit the brewery on this trip. I took a trunkful of their beer home, and this English-style barleywine was my favourite. Sticky, rich, currant-sweet, and smooth. With 11% ABV, it’s another big boozer, but it’s so beautifully crafted you’d never know it. Aggressively flavourful yet quaffable. Often this style starts to feel like work after I’ve had a couple sips; this one went down easily, leaving me wondering why I hadn’t bought more. Best beer of the trip (and of the year, so far).

~

Regular contributor and guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing). You can see what Trevor is drinking on Untappd and follow him on Twitter.

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A Quebec beer adventure

You know you’re in a province with a good beer scene when the gas station has a better craft selection than your local liquor store. Recently, I took a road trip through Quebec’s Gaspé region, and had the chance to explore some of La Belle Province’s fine brews. Read on for my five favourites from the trip. Note: I’m not saying these are Quebec’s best beers; they’re my five favourite discoveries from this trip. Post a comment below to share your favourite Quebec beers.
L’Épiphanie by Brasserie Artisanale La Fabrique in Matane, Quebec. The best thing about a province with a mature and thriving craft-beer scene is that you find great beers in the most expected places. This little brewpub boasts 20+ taps, mostly pouring house-made beers. This tart, light, and refreshing sour is my favourite. Flavourful without being overpowering, and a great pair with an Oktoberfest sausage that I’m still thinking of a week later.

 

Écume by A l’abri de la Tempête in L’Étang-du-Nord, Quebec. My most common review of a pilsner is “Meh, it’s a pilsner” so I’m still amazed at how much I like this Magdalen Islands creation. Slightly grainy and roasty, with a faint briny character: especially tasty with a smoked-salmon mousse.

 

Rosé sparkling cider by Cidrerie Michel Jodoin in Rougemont, Quebec. Man, I wish I’d encountered more ciders on this trip. This rosé-style cider is a big tasty bomb of fresh-apple flavour: slight sweetness balanced with lively acidity, with tart berry and floral notes. Perfect on a summer day by the ocean.

 

La Gaspésienne Robust Porter by Microbrasserie Pit Caribou in Percé, Quebec. Belgian brewers heavily influenced this part of the world, so you don’t see a lot of porters. But that doesn’t mean they can’t make textbook porters. This beauty is dry and bitter, with complementary hints of chocolate, black coffee, and caramel.

 

Chantier Naval – La Carrick by Microbrasserie Le Naufrageur in Carleton-sur-Mer, Quebec. This isn’t just one of my favourite beers from the trip, it’s one of my favourite wee heavies ever. It starts with an explosion of chocolate and toasted nuts, which quickly gives way to smoky whisky flavours and a long warm finish. Beautifully crafted.

 

 

Regular contributor and guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing). You can see what Trevor is drinking on Untappd and follow him on Twitter.

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Les Trois Mousquetaires – Hopfenweisse

Les Trois Mousquetaires Microbrewery is one of those breweries that seem to just real release one great beer after another. Brewing award winning beers in Brossard, Quebec since 2004, they continue produce beers that are prized not only in Canada, but the US, Europe, and Brazil.

From the Brewery: Wheat ale mixing the flavors of Germany’s hefeweizens and America’s typical hops.

Appearance: Golden yellow, straw, and slightly cloudy. There’s great carbonation cascading up the glass. Big fluffy white head that stands tall, even above the glass.

Aroma: Aroma of fresh oranges with some herbal notes.

Taste: The orange from the aroma persists into the flavour but more orange peal. There’s a firm bitterness which isn’t normally in a traditional weissebier, but it’s a refreshing change. There’s some floral notes coming through from the hops.

Mouthfeel: The light body is showcased by the high carbonation. Also a bit of slickness from the hops used.

Overall: I like this. It’s different then any hefeweizen I’ve ever had, but it’s well crafted. It’s like a Hefeweizen and an IPA had a love child. I can see enjoying this on a hot day.

84/100

Les Trois Mousquetaires Microbrewery can be found on the web, Facebook, and Twitter.

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~Cheers

Microbrasserie Charlevoix – La Vache Folle – Imperial Milk Stout

IMG_1996.JPGThere is a great number of micro breweries throughout Quebec that are producing outstanding Belgian styled beers for many years. But there are now an ever growing number of breweries producing excellent English styled beers, and MicroBrasserie Charlevoix – La Vache Folle (translates to The Mad Cow) is following that path. Their take on a milk stout (also known as a sweet stout, its a less roast-more body version of a stout that utilizes lactose (milk sugar) for body and sweetness) crosses the threshold from ordinary to big and bold.

Appearance: Black, nearly completely opaque. Pours with a nice, dense, creamy, tan head. Great lacing on the glass – right front top to bottom.

Aroma: The aroma is of sweet malt with a bit of chocolate and dark fruit. There’s hints of spice and roast and just a faint note of floral hops, barely enough to say it is there.

Taste: The first thing that hits is the alcohol, its right up front – not burning, but smooth – you know this is a high-test beer. Next comes the sweet malt flavours, not to say this is a sweet beer, but it is not like a dry stout or a hoppy imperial stout either. The flavour is of bread and stone fruit, with slight hint of roast. There is a bit of milk chocolate mixed with hits of dark chocolate.

Mouthfeel: The body is creamy, medium body – maybe a little thiner than I expected, but that lets this big beer be quite drinkable and not heavy. The carbonation is fairly light letting the beer keep the creamy texture.

Overall: Not too bad. It gets a bit better as it warmed up a little and allowed the alcohol notes fade slightly. Be warned, this can be a little dangerous because it is rather easy to drink, but at 9% ABV you might just find things becoming a little wobbly.

82/100

MicroBrasserie Charlevoix can be found on the web, Facebook, and Twitter.

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 ~Cheers!

Cannery Brewing Company – Wildfire IPA

IMG_1955.JPGRarely have I sampled a beer I’ve been so excited to try. For starters, Cascadian dark ales don’t exactly abound out here in the Maritimes. And ever since my brother moved to British Columbia, I’ve been listening to him rave about the great craft-beer scene out there. One of his favourites is the Cannery Brewing Company in Pentincton. I found some of their Skaha Summer Ale in Moncton last summer—just enough to pique my interest. So recently, I prevailed upon my brother to send me “their most unique beer.”

From the brewery: This unique black India Pale Ale is a tribute to the firefighters and emergency service workers who help fight our Canadian wildfires each year. Wildfire IPA is intensely dark and smooth. This black IPA has complex hops that rage through to the finish. Fierce hop, gentle bite! A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this beer go to the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

Appearance: A beautiful inky black pour—it looks like midnight in a glass. A rich aromatic head, with thick off-white froth and lacing that goes on for days.

Aroma: A little hit of wildflowers at first, followed by strong roasty smell—think burnt toast with a hint of sweet malt.

Taste: That burnt-toast sensation carries over into the first taste, but quickly gives way to big waves of grassy hops, one after the other. With lively carbonation and a light mouthfeel, it’s much easier-drinking than the aroma or appearance would suggest.

Overall: Complex without being overwhelming, deliciously hoppy without going too far—this is a well crafted, nuanced and surprisingly subtle beer. It was a fantastic introduction to the style, and well worth the wait.

86/100

Cannery Brewing Company can be found on the web, Facebook, and Twitter.

Guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing).

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Uncle Leo’s Brewery – Vohs Weizenbier

IMG_1753Apparently the folks at Uncle Leo’s Brewery in Lyon’s Brook, Nova Scotia aren’t given to bragging. Their sparse description of this German-style wheat beer scarcely does it justice. Smooth as melted butter with wave after wave of flavour, every mouthful is a delight.

From the brewery: A tribute to our neighbours, Matt and Brenda Vohs. Owners of Piper’s Landing Restaurant, Lyon’s Brook and our first customer to put us on tap.

Appearance: Beautiful golden pour, with a thick pearl head and lacing that goes on forever.

Aroma: Smells like a hot summer day in the country. Fresh and spicy—I swear, there’s a hint of sage in there.

Taste: The most dominant, and surprising, flavour is sweet corn and melted butter, followed by a hit of over-ripe banana. Just when you think it’s done, there’s a little smack of cloves.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and buttery, stimulates every taste bud without puckering the mouth or overwhelming the palate.

Overall: I hear that when Uncle Leo’s first offered this beer, it suffered from some quality-control problems, leaving an unpleasant soapy aftertaste. On the last two bottles, there wasn’t a hint of that problem—there’s nothing like that going on now. This is one of the finest beers I’ve tried all year, shockingly quaffable for a weizenbier. This pairs like a dream with a roast-chicken Sunday dinner.

88/100

Trevor J. Adams is a regular contributor to Drink N Brew, reviewing beers and curating social media. An award-winning journalist and editor, he’s been writing about libations, entertaining and related topics since 1998. He’s a beer enthusiast at heart, senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine by day. An avid sports fan, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing) in 2012.

Great Lakes Brewery – Canuck Pale Ale

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Building on the popularity of its signature pale ale, Great Lakes has become one of Canada’s top craft brewers, winning Canadian Brewery of the Year in 2013 and 2014. This summer, the brewery relaunched and rebranded the ale. Launched in 2010 to dovetail with the Vancouver Olympics, it was originally known as Crazy Canuck and brought the West Coast pale-ale style to eastern Canada. “While the name and branding change, the wonderful liquid inside the can remains the same,” says brewery owner Peter Bulut Jr. “Our version of a West Coast ale has been turning heads since we launched it in Ontario in 2010 and because it’s a serious beer, we wanted to give it a new look more in line with our increasingly popular Tank Ten series.”

From the brewery: “It’s been said that ‘Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity.’ This beer doesn’t help much with that crisis. From the fiercely irresponsible stereotypical image on the front of the can to the distinctly American style of the beer inside it we’ve really made a mess of things. What have we done? Sorry.”

Appearance: Rich golden colour, hazy; thick, creamy head.

Aroma: A slight hoppy nose, with whiffs of fresh grapefruit peelings.

Taste: A nice refreshing hit of grapefruit-citrus at the start, but not as much as your nose tells you to expect. A dry hoppy finish, which stops just on the right side of overpowering. The taste stays with you, but that’s fine, because odds are good you’re going to drink another one anyway. It’s that kind of beer.

Mouthfeel: A little soft for my taste, but not under-carbonated… I’d just prefer a bit more.

Overall: This is pigeonholed as hot summer-day beer, but don’t let that stop you from trying it this fall. Its flavours are nicely layered and balanced. It’s a crisp, refreshing beer. Easy and pleasant to drink. Potentially deadly—you could drink a case of this and not notice it until you tried to stand.

85/100

Guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing).

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