The history of Unibroue dates to 1990 with its foundation by André Dion and Serge Racine, who acquired 75% of financially troubled brewer La Brasserie Massawippi Inc. ("Massawippi") of Lennoxville, Quebec. They purchased the remainder of Massawippi's shares in 1991 and then transferred their interest in this company to Unibroue. In 1992, Unibroue partnered with a Belgian brewer specializing in beer on lees, and launched its Blanche de Chambly. In 1993 Unibroue moved to a new production facility in Chambly, Quebec, and gradually started to build its export capacity. Brewmaster Paul Arnott joined the company in 1999. In 2004 Unibroue was purchased by Sleeman Breweries Ltd., which was in turn acquired by Sapporo International of Japan in 2006.
Today, Unibroue makes a wide range of beers, including its previously mentioned Blanche De Chambly, Blonde De Chambly, Noire De Chambly, Maudite, La Fin Du Monde, Trois Pistoles, Don De Dieu and Ephemere Apple.
On this occasion, we sampled Unibroue's Blanche De Chambly ("Blanche") in a 341 ml bottle purchased from the LCBO. Date code on the bottle read B171101570 and Blanche was 5.0% alcohol by volume. Blanche De Chambly poured a cloudy light orange colour, which took on a more yellow/orange tint when held up to the light. Pouring produced a fluffy white head of about 1.5 inches, that lasted for roughly 5 minutes before shrinking to a collar and thin film that left no lacing or spotting down the glass. A fairly steady stream of slowly rising bubbles could be seen, with a small amount of particulate matter in the bottom of my glass. Here's an odd phenomenon...the particulate matter rose piece by piece slowly from the bottom of the glass, reached a certain point about an inch from the bottom and then seemed to explode back into the body of the beer. The aroma was fabulous with cloves being dominant, and with lemon and yeast also noticeable. Taste began with the cloves and yeast, transitioning to a lemon/orange citrus flavour with a dry finish and a clove/yeast aftertaste that lasted just a few seconds. The aroma of Blanche seemed to become stronger as the beer warmed. Carbonation was fairly modest and contributed to the light mouthfeel of the beer. A very refreshing beer and an enjoyable drinking experience...I will certainly be adding this one to my list of regular purchases. My only knock against this beer would be its relatively poor head retention.
For our second Unibroue beer, we tried their Grande Reserve 17 ("GR17") in a caged and corked 750 ml bottle purchased from the LCBO. I read the production date on the bottle as May 26, 2011, and GR17 is a healthy 10% alcohol by volume.
Pouring GR17 produced a 1.5" creamy beige coloured head with a beautiful convex cap. The head lasted for over 5 minutes before fading to a thin film and collar of foam, leaving moderate spotting and lacing down the glass. The beer itself was a dark brown colour, which lightened a few shades around the edges of the glass when backlit. Its aroma was of sweet malts, chocolate and alcohol, with hops in the background. As the beer warmed the alcohol aroma became more noticeable and a strong candied fruit smell arose. The taste began with a sweet chocolate flavour, giving way to candied fruit, with a mild (and not at all unpleasant) alcohol burn, finishing with a mild hop bitterness. A mild bitter aftertaste was evident, but balanced the initial sweetness of the beer nicely and did not overstay its welcome. GR17 is best described as a rich, full bodied beer, with just the right level of carbonation and a creamy mouthfeel. The 750 ml bottle is best shared with a friend..I would have struggled to finish the bottle alone, as much as I enjoyed the beer. Overall, a wonderful brew from the good folks at Unibroue...I can understand why GR17 has won several international awards. My only knock against the beer is its $9.95 price tag which holds it back on the "value for money" factor and puts it into my "occasional treat" category. Assuming I have the discipline, I plan to save my second bottle for a few years to see how it develops with cellaring.
After enjoying the brewery's Unibroue 17, we were looking forward to sampling their U Miel, described on the brewery's web site as a honey pilsener. It was duly smuggled across the Quebec border with a couple of other Unibroue brands, and we tried it in a 341 ml bottle with a production date of October 5, 2011 printed on the neck. U Miel was 4.9% alcohol by volume and has been produced since 2005.
U Miel poured a clear copper/gold colour, with the gold become more noticeable when backlit. Plenty of small, fast rising bubbles could be seen and a fizzy, off-white head rose to about 1/2". The head lasted for 2-3 minutes before receding into a foamy collar and thin film that left minimal spotting and lacing down the glass.
I found the aroma to be a bit too subdued...the honey aroma wasn't as strong as I had been hoping, and hints of hops and caramel malts were detectable. U Miel's taste followed its aroma. Again, the honey was a bit too subdued for my liking, though its taste was a bit stronger than its aroma. The subtle taste of caramel malt was followed by a bitter finish, with a slightly bitter/honey aftertaste that lingered for a few seconds. U Miel was light bodied with what I'd describe as a medium level of carbonation.
Overall, I was a bit disappointed in this beer after my experience with Unibroue's bottle conditioned beers. U Miel is not a bad beer by any means...it would make a decent summer brew, but there just wasn't much in the experience to make me want to buy more. If I was in the mood for a good honey beer, I'd reach for Old Credit's Holiday Honey.
Smuggled out of Quebec thanks to A.T., we sampled Unibroue's Don De Dieu ("DDD") in a corked and caged 750 ml bottle with a production date of November 23, 2011 printed on the neck. DDD is billed by Unibroue as a Triple Wheat Ale, and is 9.0% alcohol by volume. Unibroue has produced this beer since 1998.
DDD poured a lightly cloudy orange/golden colour that took on more of a peach hue when held up to the light. Pouring produced a 2" bubbly white head that receded fairly quickly and left no spotting or lacing down the glass. Despite the cloudiness of the beer, a steady stream of fine bubbles was visible. The beer's aroma was nothing short of wonderful...a big aroma of cloves, with banana, apricot and yeast evident. I think I spent more time smelling this beer than drinking it. The taste began with cloves and banana, giving way to the apricot and yeast, finishing with a modestly sour note which lingered for a few seconds as an aftertaste. As the beer warmed, the apricot aroma grew stronger, and an alcohol aroma became noticeable...not surprising at 9.0% ABV. Warming also enhanced the taste, with the apricot again becoming stronger, and orange, plus a warming alcohol taste emerging. The further down the glass I drank, the better this beer became. DDD had a lively carbonation that contributed to a crisp mouthfeel, and I would describe the beer as light to medium bodied.
The verdict...brilliant stuff from the folks at Unibroue. My only complaints would be the relatively poor head retention, and DDD's $9.99 per bottle price tag which cost it a couple of points on the 'value for money' factor. This definitely goes onto my 'special treat' list, and becomes a must buy when in Montreal.
Obtained in a trade with the boss, we tried Unibroue's U Rousse in a 341 ml bottle with a production date of November 22, 2011 printed on the neck. Unibroue has produced U Rousse since 1999, and it is 4.9% alcohol by volume. I like the golden gargoyle printed on the label...and it's good to see that Unibroue has gone to a brown bottle. I understand that at one time this beer was packaged in clear bottles.
U Rousse poured a clear copper/amber colour, with a 1/2" off-white head. The head receded quickly into a thin film and collar that left minimal spotting and no lacing down the glass. A steady stream of fast rising bubbles was visible. Its aroma was pretty straightforward...roasted malts with a modest hop presence. Likewise with the taste...toasted malts up front followed by a slightly bitter finish and a lingering bitter aftertaste. The aftertaste wasn't especially strong or long lasting though...nothing offensive here. U Rousse is light to medium bodied with an active carbonation. Overall, this is a simple, straightforward brew, not to be compared with Unibroue's Belgian style bottle conditioned beers. A decent but uninspiring summer beer...still better than North America's mass produced beers.
Bucky bought two bottles of Unibroue's "Terrible" when it appeared in his local LCBO just before Christmas. It came in a 750 ml corked and caged brown bottle with a production date of August 28, 2012 printed near the neck. Terrible was a healthy 10.5% alcohol by volume.
I let this bottle sit for about 45 minutes before opening given the recommended serving temperature of 10 - 12C. As soon as I opened the bottle and the aroma wafted out, I suspected that I was in for something special. Terrible poured a nearly opaque brown/black colour, with just the slightest of hint of ruby at the core when backlit. Pouring produced about 1.5" of tan coloured foam that lasted for 3 minutes before fading to a foamy collar, leaving some modest spotting and lacing down the glass. Its aroma was fabulous...dark fruits, fortified wine, yeast and alcohol. The taste did not disappoint and was dominated by fortified wine, dark fruit (with cherries in the mix), alcohol and yeast, with occasional hints of vanilla...no bitterness at all in this beer, yet not too sweet. Unibroue 17 was a very good beer, but Terrible is in a different class again. Terrible's mouthfeel was smooth, creamy and rich, and Unibroue has the carbonation just right. As much as I enjoyed this beer though, I'm glad I shared it...I think I would have struggled through a full 750 ml bottle given the overall richness of the beer.
In summary, a world-class beer produced by a Canadian firm, and a multiple award winner to boot. My one and only complaint is the lack of availability in Ontario...even though I understand that it is available in the US year round. When it appears again, I'll be stocking up. Assuming that I can resist the temptation to drink it soon, I'll cellar my second bottle for a few years. Who knows...it may get better still! Just before Christmas, Terrible was selling for a rather pricey $10.95 per bottle, costing it a few points on the "value for money" factor.
Based on past experience with Unibroue's wonderful bottle conditioned beers, Bucky snatched up 3 bottles of Unibroue's Seigneuriale when it appeared in his local liquor store. Seigneuriale came in a brown, 750 ml corked and caged bottle with a production date of February 21, 2013 printed near the neck. The beer was 7.5% alcohol by volume.
Seigneuriale poured a cloudy dark amber colour with plenty of small, fast rising bubbles visible despite its cloudiness. Pouring produced about 1 inch of fluffy off-white head that lasted for a very long time, but left little spotting and lacing down the glass. The beer's aroma was quite complex; orange peel, yeast, and spice, with just hints of banana and some alcohol as the beer warms. Its taste began with a fruity sweetness, quickly giving way to yeast, coriander, a slight sourness, and a bitter orange peel finish that lingered on for quite some time as an aftertaste. As is usually the case for Unibroue's beers, the level of carbonation is quite high, but stops short of prickly. Seigneuriale is light to medium bodied, with a creamy mouth feel from the head that never seems to fade. Overall, I wouldn't mind if the bitterness in the finish was toned down somewhat, but when it comes to Unibroue's bottle conditioned beers, it would seem that these folks can do little wrong. Not my favourite of Unibroue beer's, but I'm glad I picked up a few bottles rather than just the one. Seigneuriale sells for $6.95 per 750 ml bottle...a reasonable price.
A salute to Bucky's local liquor store for deciding to bring in a rotating selection of beers from his favourite Canadian brewery, Unibroue. Over the last 12 months Bucky has had a chance to try some Unibroue beers that seldom make it across the Ontario border, on this occasion Ephemere Cherry from Unibroue's line of fruit flavoured beers. Ephemere Cherry came in a corked and caged, brown, 750 ml bottle with a production date of March 22, 2013 printed on the neck of the bottle, and was 5.5% alcohol by volume.
The beer poured an opaque amber/red colour, producing about 1.5" of pink-tinged, frothy white head. The head lasted for about 5 minutes, after which time it faded to a 1/8" cap, leaving some minor spotting but no lacing down the glass. Its aroma was pretty simple and strong...an appealing sweet cherry juice. Its flavour was sweet cherry juice up front with just a hint of cherry cough drop, with a mildly spicy finish that gave the beer a good balance. Light to medium bodied with a higher carbonation level, Ephemere Cherry is a crisp refreshing summer patio beer, but just not in the same league as some of Unibroue's other bottle conditioned beers previously reviewed. At $6.95 per 750 ml bottle, it was a worthwhile experiment though.
Reviewing another beer from that magical factory known as Unibroue, this time Bucky picked up a 6 pack of Maudite from the beer store. Maudite came in a 341 ml brown bottle with a production date of September 20, 2011 printed on the bottle, and was 8.0% alcohol by volume. This beer has been in my cold cellar for nearly 2 years and the usual warning applies for aged Unibroue beers...have your glass at the ready because very shortly after opening, a gusher of foam will come racing up the neck of the bottle. Discovered this the hard way!
Maudite poured a murky brown/amber colour, with plenty of small carbonation bubbles rising through the murkiness. Pouring produced about 1.5" of long lasting beige coloured foam that eventually faded to a 1/8" cap that lasted all the way down the glass, leaving some lacing and spotting as it retreated. The beer's aroma was of orange peel, spice and alcohol. Its taste began with orange...a sweeter orange at first which gave way to orange rind, followed by coriander, with a mildly bitter finish. As the beer warms its 8.0% alcohol becomes more noticeable. I would describe Maudite as medium bodied, with a crisp carbonation and creamy mouthfeel. Unibroue rarely seems to miss the mark, and they have another winner here. At $14.95 for a 6 pack, equal to $2.49 per bottle, Maudite is reasonably priced.
Bucky bought a 6 pack of Unibroue's Trois Pistoles at The Beer Store for $14.95... about $2.50 per 341 ml bottle. Trois Pistoles was 9.0% alcohol by volume, with a production date of September 11, 2011 printed on the neck. This particular bottle has been sitting in my cold seller for about 14 months. A warning for those of you who have aged your Trois Pistoles for a while...about two seconds after you open the bottle a whole lot of foam will come gushing out of the bottle, so be ready with the glass. Trois Pistoles poured a dark mahogany colour, with about 2" of fizzy beige head that faded to a thin cap and collar within 3-4 minutes, leaving a little spotting down the glass. Its aroma was fabulous...plums, powdered sugar, pink bubble gum and red wine. The beer's taste began with sweet ripe plums and raisins, which gave way to powdered sugar and pink bubble gum, ending with a red wine flavour which lingered for a few seconds as an aftertaste. There's very little bitterness here, but beer's sweetness is kept under control. The 9.0% alcohol is very well hidden, both in the aroma and the flavour. The mouth feel is smooth with the carbonation being much softer than previous Unibroue beer's that I've sampled...possibly as a function of being cellared? I'll have to try a fresh bottle some time for the answer to that question. Trois Pistoles is a medium bodied brew. The verdict...yet another winner from the good folks at Unibroue, and the price is not unreasonable. Looking forward to trying the remaining bottles after they have aged even more!
Believe it or not, some beers do actually improve with age. This was certainly the case with a 2 year old bottle of Unibroue's La Fin Du Monde. La Fin Du Monde was purchased as a 6 pack from the Beer Store, and came in 341 ml bottles with a production date of August 31, 2011. This Unibroue offering is 9.0% alcohol by volume and the price of a 6 pack works out to $2.49 per bottle. A warning if you're planning to age this beer for a while: when I opened the bottle, even though I was prepared for it, a large quantity of foam came gushing up the neck of the bottle and sadly some of this fabulous beer was lost to spillage. Let this beer warm a bit before drinking...you won't get all of the flavours and aromas if you drink it straight from the fridge.
La Fin Du Monde poured an opaque orange/gold colour, and because of the huge quantity of foam mentioned earlier, I had to wait for the off-white head to settle down to an acceptable level before drinking. Its aroma was wonderful, which I could tell right away just from the foam that spilled out onto my counter top. Apricot, peach, coriander, orange peel and yeast. The beer's flavour didn't disappoint either...it started off with sweet light fruits including peach, apricot and orange, which gave way to yeast and a coriander spiciness, finishing with a mild bitterness and warming alcohol. The sweetness was quite strong but was nicely balanced out by the spiciness and slightly bitter finish. The carbonation was much more mellow versus a fresh bottle, and I would describe La Fin Du Monde as medium bodied, hefted up a bit by its significant alcohol content. Unibroue always manages to avoid the alcohol burn associated with a lot of high percentage beers, leaving just a nice warming sensation in the finish.
If you're a serious beer fan, you must try La Fin Du Monde...ideally after having been aged in your fridge or cold cellar for at least 18 months. Unibroue appear to be the Canadian masters of bottle fermented beers.
Upon its Ontario debut, Bucky picked up a few 750 ml bottles of Unibroue's Noire De Chambly ("NDC") with a production date of August 6, 2013 printed on the neck of the bottle. NDC was 6.2% alcohol by volume.
NDC poured an opaque black/very dark chestnut brown colour with about 1 " of beige coloured foam. The head lasted for several minutes before fading to a thin cap of foam, leaving no spotting or lacing down the glass. Its aroma was a combination of that unique Unibroue yeast and burnt coffee. NDC's flavour began with a sweet yeastiness, followed by a very brief flash of unsweetened mint, giving way to a dominant burnt coffee flavour and mildly bitter finish. The burnt coffee bitterness lingered on as an aftertaste, but was not overpowering. Carbonation level was relatively modest for a Unibroue beer and NDC had a dry mouthfeel to it. I would say that the beer was (surprisingly) light to medium bodied. Another solid beer from Unibroue, but not quite up to the standard of its richer more flavourful dark beers. Noire De Chambly was selling for $6.80 per 750 ml bottle.
Making no secret of his fondness for Unibroue's beers, Bucky jumped all over a bottle of their Blonde De Chambly when it made a rare appearance at the LCBO. Blonde de Chambly came in a corked and caged 750 ml brown bottle designed for sharing. It was 5.0% alcohol by volume with a production date of April 13, 2014 printed on the neck of the bottle.
Blonde De Chambly poured a very cloudy yellow/orange colour with only a steady stream of fine bubbles visible through the haze. Pouring produced about 1/2" of pure white head which lasted for a couple of minutes before fading to a thin collar and patchy film of foam that left some minor spotting and lacing down the glass. Its aroma was of lemon citrus and yeast with undertones of honey...very nice so far. The beer's flavour was a combination of yeast and lemon, with an underlying sweetness to the beer...no bitterness at all here. Its carbonation was lively but not so strong as to fight the flavours, and I would say that the beer falls on the light side of light to medium. In summary, another winner from Unibroue which is very crisp and refreshing, well suited to a nice summer's day.
Selling for $6.95 per 750 ml bottle.
Always a pleasure to see a new bottle-conditioned brew from Unibroue, one of Bucky's favourite Canadian breweries. On this occasion Bucky sampled a 750 mL corked and caged bottle of their La Resolution Extra Strong Ale, bottled July 2014. La Resolution was 10% alcohol by volume.
The beer poured a very dark brown colour bordering on black, and was topped by about 1.5” of fluffy, beige-coloured head. The head faded over the next 3-4 minutes to a collar and thin film of foam, leaving some modest spotting and lacing down the glass. The aroma is truly unique with toffee, mint, gingerbread and yeast discernable. Its taste very much follows the nose with an almost candy cane mint flavour becoming more noticeable as the beer warms. Sweet and spicy at the same time, with the active carbonation typical of Unibroue's bottle conditioned beers. I would describe La resolution as medium bodied with a crisp mouth feel imparted by the champagne-like bubbles. No hint of the 10% alcohol content at all and no bitterness here. Unibroue's reputation for producing quality beers remains intact…I wonder if there are any more bottles left at liquor store?
Another beer smuggled across the Ontario border at great personal risk to L.K., Raftman from Unibroue of Chambly, Quebec came in a 341 ml bottle with a production date of March 21, 2014. The beer was 5.5% alcohol by volume, and the label on this beer reminds me of that old CBC vignette about the log drivers' waltz. You know the one… “the log driver's waltz pleases girls completely.”
Raftman poured a truly unique muddy orange/brown colour with plenty of fast rising bubbles visible despite the murk. The 1” of off-white head had some decent staying power but produced no lacing or spotting. Raftman's aroma was sweet above all else, with notes of vanilla and caramel. Its taste was yeasty with a caramel and vanilla sweetness, green apple, and little hop presence. The level of beer in my glass recedes far too quickly as this is a very easy-drinking brew. Raftman has a crisp mouthfeel imparted by its fine bubbles, and I would describe it as being fairly light bodied. With the exception of the vanilla, there's not much indication from its aroma and taste that the beer is made from whiskey malt, though. All in all, yet another enjoyable beer from one of Bucky's favourite brewers.