Belgium: Amber Ale, Brasserie Caracole, Falmignoul

Arrosto misto. That is what the Jamie Oliver book I was thumbing through this morning called it. Mixed roasted meats. What better way to see out January, that month that begins with a hangover and ends with February. The meats were rolled in olive oil with rosemary, lemon and a little smoky chili. They were also wrapped in lean pancetta. Including the sausages. A worthy addition to my life. All slow roasted with thick slices of onion, apple, lemon and carrot. The side dish is a sort of scalloped spud, mushroom and anise thing I made up.

I needed a beer to go with it and the earthiness of Caracole’s amber ale was just the thing. It pours still with a quickly resolved head giving it the appearance of scotch. On the nose, plenty of nutmeggy spice as well as sweet malt. In the mouth, fall apple, cream, nutmeg, raisin with a solid level of twiggy and slightly minted hopping. Really lovely and very good with the smoky, meaty, root veg meal. BAers give solid respect.

National Six-Pack VIII: Raftman, Unibroue, Quebec

You think it is February. Nothing will surprise you in February when you are as many weeks from Yule as you are to spring. Month o’ the rut. Then, you try a brew that you have never gotten around to trying and the world is all sunshine and love…or at least has one more good brew to tell folks about.

I really like this ale. Likes it, I do. 5.5% at a pretty basic price at the Beer Store. It is like a cross between a great Belgian witte and a great Canadian pale ale. A bit spicy, gingery orangey/lemony but also a big husky grainy profile as well. There is a yeast deposit that tastes decidedly spice-a-lee Belgian but a careful pour leaves the ale bright in the glass. The colour is more deep dark straw than amber – no red to my eye. The head stays around in a nice lively fine foam. It is the kind of beer you could smell for an hour, sticking half your face in the glass – you could if your wife or pals or children would not laugh at you for being a dork.

The brewery, Unibroue says of one of its lighter offering Raftman:

Launched in March 1995, Raftman is a beer with a coral sheen that is slightly robust. It contains 5.5 percent alcohol and combines the character of whisky malt with the smooth flavours of choice yeast. It has a subtle and exceptional bouquet that creates a persistent smooth feel. Raftman complements fish, smoked meat and spicy dishes. It is brewed to commemorate the legendary courage of the forest workers. These hard working men knew when to settle their differences and share their joie de vivre with a beer and a whisky.

The brewer twice notes “smoked whisky malt” as a part of the mash but it is a pretty subtle smoke if it is there at all. Still, it is Big Joe Mufferaw ale. Ale for men in plaid. Beer for lumber bars like Fred’s in Chapeau or the Silver Maple back of Shawville. Click on the photo for a plaidly scale version. The beer advocates do not go all rang-dang-do ever it but lots like it.So far, tied best of the National Six-Packs along with St-Ambrose Pale. Two Quebecers leading the pack. Who knew?