Beer Shop: Marché Jovi, Gatineau, Quebec

A run to Ottawa to see the Billy Bragg show on Saturday meant the opportunity to do a Sunday morning run to one of the better shops in Western Quebec for craft beer, Marché Jovi in Gatineau, Quebec. The shop is handy for anyone near Ottawa’s Island Park Drive and the bridge to the other side and sits near the gate of Gatineau Park.

Inside you are met with one of the tidiest depanneurs I have ever come across. I asked if I was able to take some pictures and, one bien sur later, was being escorted around the place by a very friendly guy in a dapper white grocer’s jacket. He was proud to show of the selection, let me know that there was new stock coming in and took particular pride in noting the selection of glassware – quite the thing for what you would think was a corner store – and the fact that the regular customers were quite knowledgable in their correct use. I also picked up a copy of the autumn issue of Le Sous-Verre: L’actuality de la biere!, a free craft beer newspaper out of Montreal…a review of which Google has butchered in translation here.

 

 

 

 

As Blork noted almost two years ago now, buying beer in Quebec is similar to much of the States. You can get your beer and your corn flakes and your milk all in one stop. Usually this means one large stack of macro brew – as it does most place in the states – but where the owners have imagination and the knowledge, you can create a small oasis like you find at the Galeville Grocery near Syracuse or in pretty much any place in Portland Maine. Usually it also means a walk in cooler.

 

 

 

 

Most of the stock was Quebec products including macrobrews (inlcuding Labatt Porter) but also many craft beer from breweries like Unibroue, Saint-Arnould, Les Brasseurs RJ, Ferme-Brasserie Schoune. Blork has already reviewed the white beer made by each of the last three. I picked up mixes sixes from Saint-Arnould and Schoune for ten bucks each as well as a couple of large format imports from Saint Sylvestre of France (on special for $5.79) as well as a 330 ml Floreffe dubble from Belgium. Interesting to note that Blonde d’Achouffe is being brewed by license by Les Brasseurs RJ and was included in their six pack.

I would definitely go again, especially with the indication that there were going to be additions to the stock on a regular basis. Clean and helpful with a good selection and good price. What ele could you want from a corner store?

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?

Quick Note: Labatt Porter

labportWhile on the road, I chanced by a depanneur near the pulp mills in downtown Hull and found an artifact, Labatt Porter. This beer is a vestige of an earlier style of Canadian beer which died away as lagers came on to the scene. Old lumberjack taverns up the Outaouais may still have old sign for porter painted on their outside brick walls. Ten years ago Molsons still produced a competing beer under the brand Champlain Porter. Now only this one is left and likely has one of its few remaining bases of popularity, such as it is, on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. It is really a sweet milk stout. It is chocolatey, lactose sweet, a bit like a richer cola with low carbination and the aroma of new baked bread and caramel. It is not hoppy like the Sleeman Fine Porter or roasty like Cooperstown Benchwarmer. Not profound but comforting. Probably the best tasting beer for style Labatt still brews – which is not a great compliment. It may be gone itself in another decade. Click on the photo for a better view.

Buying Beer In Quebec

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National Six-Pack III: Labatt 50, Quebec

fifty50. portland asked me to. And worst of all, this is actually a case…which I can never remember what they call in Ontario where a case is really a two-four. In Halifax, a case was 12. I don’t know what I will do with the other eleven. A slice of lime won’t even make it a Molrona as this is from Labatts.

50 was exotic in the early 80s Maritimes. You paid a premium under the category “western beer”. Why? Twelve years ago I might have had a few quarts of 50 on Friday night at the Lockmaster in Ottawa listening to bands. Having brewed my own beer for a long time, a beer like this stands out for its cheap ingredients – rough hops, sourish yeast and that funny coated feeling on your lips brewer’s sugar leaves behind. Here is one Minnesotan beer advocatonian‘s take:

This is pretty much a bizzarro world beer. Answers the question “What would an ale taste like if it was made by a macro brewer?” And it’s just as bad as a macro lager, maybe even worse. Flavor smells grainy, musty, and only faintly of the hops that a Pale Ale should have. Barely any hops at all, tastes pretty much labatt blue. It is crap. Since only respectable brewers pretty much make PA’s, against the style this is the bottom of the barrel. I feel bad that I could have gotten a 6 pack of summit, schell, flying dog, goose island, or many other far superior pale ales for the price. If ever offered one, just say “no.”

Twenty years ago Harpers magazine ran an article on the Seattle micro-brewing scene which ended with the reaction of one beer lover having a mass produced beer after a number of micros. He said “did I miss my mouth?”. This sets the benchmark for the low end of the Canadian pale ale scale…but you know I bet it doesn’t, if you really hunted them out. I won’t be bothering. I have my eye on Kawartha Lakes Pale Ale or Big Rock Traditional for the next examination of our national pale ale heritage.

I think I remember that 50 goes well as a red eye with V-8. It’ll be ok.

National Six-Pack I: St. Ambrose Pale Ale, Quebec

 

As I walk through this troubled world hunched over starting at my feet I sometimes wonder things. Things like why do the Red Ensign bloggers let me hang out when we don’t believe in too much in common. Things like why golf is. Things like why can’t Canada make good beer like the British and Americans do. Then I stand up straight and say out loud – “did I really think that?!?”

Through this summer’s examinations of all things aley, I have realized that I am not being much of a homer. Now, to be fair, no one is as attractive as the foreign girl at the party and when you travel it is nice to try different things so it is some what natural that you might pass the familiar confines of the Beer Store and trip down to the LCBO for a daring fling now and then…and who can blame you if you drag some friends news home after shopping. No one can – but now I’m coming home because for the next while, every couple of weeks or so, I am going to buy a six-pack and test it out. And I am going to try them pale (not necessarily my first pick on a trip to the power house) and see if there are any good Canadian ales that I can call my own again. Requests for test drives will be entertained.

The first guinea pig is McAuslan’s St. Ambrose Pale Ale from Quebec available at the LCBO and I think the Beer Store as well. This beer advocatonian hit the nail on the head:

Taste: Biscuity malt goodness with a nice smack of peppery/grassy hops on the finish.

When I think Canadian pale ale, I think pepper and grass thing that a certain type of our barley must add. This has it big time. Tastes like the beer your Dad drank in the 70s…no better as I think that is what I am going to say about Brick Red Cap. No big floral hoop-la over hops either, just a jaggedy bitter edge. The kind of beer that goes with a shot of rye. Grain as much as malt flavoured. Not sweet either. Both English and American pales are sweeter generally. The brewer says:

St-Ambroise Pale Ale is the brewery’s flagship beer. Introduced in February 1989, it is a hoppy, amber, full-flavoured ale. In The Simon and Schuster Pocket Guide To Beer , beer critic Michael Jackson gave it three stars and described it as: “An outstanding ale… amber-red, clean and appetizing, with a very good hop character, from its bouquet to its long finish. Hoppy, fruity, and tasty all the way through.”

Only available in half the Canadian provinces and apparently in Switzerland, too.

Assorted Darks

Three New Yorkers and one each from England, Quebec and Ontario
 

Here are six dark ales which I have stuck away over the last while to describe some of the differences. This is a special message to Nils who I think can start his hunt for a beer he likes with some of these.

If you were buying beer in 1880, these might appear ranked on a brewer’s list they are degrees of the same thing. On the light side in the latter part of the 19th century, pale ales ranges from light (dinner ales) through bitter/pale ale, extra special bitters, India pale ales to barley wine. Similarly we have the dark range from mild, dark, porter, stout (porter), extra stout, Russian/Baltic/Imperial stout. Gradations were marked by combinations of capital letters the most well known of which would be of the “XXX” label which would be a fairly strong pale. On top of that, just as browns are not all the same, neither are stouts. There are dry dry stouts like draft Guinness, extra stouts like Guinness in the bottle, strong stouts like Trinidad’s 7% Lion Extra Stout, milk stouts like Lancaster Brewing produces and Sweet Stouts which can be a light and 2.9%. Oatmeal stout, like these, is a sub-class all its own.

McAuslan’s St-Ambrose Oatmeal Stout: second from the left. When I see adds that make fun of American beer I think – what Canadian beer do I actually drink? This is it. From Montreal, St. Ambrose from McAuslan is on tap here in town at the Queen’s Grad House and at the Kingston Brew Pub, this stout had big body and the velvet touch. Tied with the products of Unibroue, also from Quebec, I cannot think of a finer Canuck brew. Licorice, coffee and chocolate in a sip that approaches thick and textured like espresso. McAuslan says:

At the World Beer Championship in 1994, St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout received the second highest rating of the over 200 beers in the competition and won one of only nine platinum medals awarded. Brewed from 40 percent dark malts and roasted barley, this intensely black ale carries strong hints of espresso and chocolate. Oatmeal contributes body and a long-lasting mocha-colored head to this well-hopped beer.

Paddock Wood reminds us that rolled oats are added pre-gelatinized directly to mash. It “improves head retention, body, adds grainy flavour” all of which is on display with the McAuslan – very highly rated here, too.

Wagner Valley Caywood Station Oatmeal Stout: far left. This beer from Lodi New York in the Finger Lake district makes for a great comparator with the St-Ambrose as it also an oatmeal stout – which is really not a very popular style. The brewery says of the beer:

This robust, full-bodied oatmeal stout is rich in highly roasted malt flavor, rounded off by a touch of oats, caramel malt and Fuggles and Willamette hops… This robust, full-bodied oatmeal stout is rich in highly roasted malt flavor, rounded off by a touch of oats, caramel malt and Fuggles and Willamette hops.

Comments here include “like a mouthful of dirty pennies” and “silky smooth and sumptuous”. This stout is a little less carbonated than the St-Ambrose, which is good. Carbonation, along with acidic water, is a way of creating mouthfeel without spending money on hops or grain. If I have a complaint with the St-Ambrose, it is the carbonation level in the bottle that is not present in the draft. Wagner Valley does not have that. Not as death by mocha chocolate rich, it is nonetheless a fine example of the style.

Fuller’s London Porter: third from the left. A full pint sets you back $3.20 at the LCBO but it is worth it as there are few real porters going around and this one is one. Porter brewing was the vanguard of early industrial standardized production capturing much of the English speaking world’s beery imagination from around 1720 to about 1840. Just one London brewer in 1820 produced 300,000 barrels – nine million US gallons in a city of around 2 million. In 1814 one single vat of porter burst flooding local streets and drowning eight people.So when you drink porter, you are drinking history. As stated above, stout was originally stout porter and side by side it is clear. Where stouts rely on the darkest malts, the burnt flavors of black malt and roast barley, porters use chocolate malts and brown malts to provide a similarly big but more mellow flavour. As a result, hopping is also lighter than, say, Guinness Extra Stout which is one of the most highly hopped common traditional beers there is. It is still a mouthful, however, as Fuller’s example shows. Coffee with a hint of licorice, unsweetened cocoa, pumpernickel. Fullers says:

Fuller’s London Porter is a superb, award-winning beer. We’re proud to have won gold and silver medals at the 1999, 2000 and 2002 International Beer & Cider Competitions. The origins of Porter date back to London in the early nineteenth century, when it was popular to mix two or three beers, usually an old, well-vatted or ‘stale’ brown ale, with a new brown ale and a pale ale. It was time consuming for the publican to pull from three casks for one pint, and so brewers in London tested and produced a new beer, known as ‘entire’, to match the tastes of such mixtures. Using high roasted malts, ‘entire’ was dark, cloudy and hoppy. It was also easily produced in bulk and ideally suited to the soft well-water of London. Very quickly, it became popular amongst the porters working in Billingsgate and Smithfield markets, and gradually, the beer took on the name ‘Porter’, in recognition of its main consumers. Fuller’s London Porter captures the flavours of those brews perfectly, although you won’t find a cloudy pint these days! Smooth, rich, and strong (5.4% a.b.v.), our London Porter is brewed from a blend of brown, crystal and chocolate malts for a creamy delivery balanced by traditional Fuggles hops.

These guys like it – here is a good comment:

The mouth feel at the end is water which leads to a high drink ability, smooth and almost creamy. They way that all the flavors blend smoothly and subtly together in this beer is what makes it great. One that will fool people who don’t know that dark beer doesn’t necessarily mean strong and bold flavors. This is what I would call a perfect intro to porters.

I used to brew a pumpkin porter that needed a few pounds of roasted mashed pulp to show up in the flavour profile rather than just add body – bodacious it were, by the way. If you want to try a dark beer and like a good black coffee, you can’t go wrong with Fuller’s London Porter. A standard in the fridge around my place.

Southern Tier Mild: second from the right. Well I never expected this. A pale mild. So it is definitely the far end of the scale of darks. Why so? Because it is soft, it is lightly hopped and it is built for a session. Other pale milds I can think of are Manchester’s Boddingtons and Newfoundland’s Black Arse Horse. All look like a pale ale but are so recessed in flavour you would think you were drinking a light ale. Then you notice it taste good. Then you realize that your beer is not largely made up of Irish Moss and other seaweeds. Then you think mild is interesting after all. Maybe there’s a hint of orange peel and a little honey and a little sugar cookie – but only a little of each.The brewer, Southern Tier (of the very lower corner of western New York) says it is a beer that “deserves to be imbibed often”. As it had a little sweet, a little hop, a little grain, low carbonization and a soft water background that is a pretty good recommendation. These guys talk about its biscuit malt, doughy, bready. A small beer but that is what it wants to be.

Waterloo Dark Ale: far right. This is a beer I have liked but, like most Canadian micro-brews, is lighter in taste than the US brewers would make. How odd given our mass produced stuff holds itself out as being stronger than our southern cousins. Brewed by the Brick Brewing Company of Waterloo Ontario, who says:

A dark beer can be a very scary thought to some people. Surprise, surprise. There’s no other beer quite like Waterloo Dark, refreshingly light and delicate in taste but rich in colour. Don’t be afraid of the dark. surprise yourself.

Hmm. Not very hope instilling. Well, it is a dark…but a dark lager. I would have thought it was a dark ale, a little brewed style that is way less than a porter but bigger than a brown. No hop imprint like a US brown would have. A little molassas and a little brown sugar and a little lighter mahogony in hue than a cola: “After seeing this dark colour, I expected quite a bold, rich taste…” was a particlarly prophetic comment. Beer advocate gives it a 74% thumbs down. Yikes. They also categorize it as a Munich Dunkle lager, not something I would say I have had a large acquaintance with. I think that is actually pushing it. As I think this is really a pale ale with some caramel and maybe some other malts added. Watery end with a sour tang left in your mouth. I can leave it with this wag’s comment:

I’ve come to the conclusion that from my experience their beers seem to be very lacking in flavour and body. I do however love the stubbies though.

I do like stubbies, too, but from now on I will stick to Brick’s original Red Cap revival in the little tubby bottles.

Southern Tier Porter: The last of the set. It has sat for weeks in the back of the fridge, the ur-porter incarnate…or at least the ur-porter of the back of my fridge. Smelly of coffee and licorice. Tastey of coffee and blackberry and cocoa and tobacco. Easy-peasy good beer. Big and fresh. We like that on the committee. I did tell you there is a committee behind me, right. Anyway, the advocatonians say this, including the following:

After a hard pour, beer produces little to no head, and is not quite as dark brown/ruby as is to be expected by the style. Too much light gets through this one. Sweet roasted malt and chocolate are the predominant odors. More reminiscent of a milk stout than porter. Smokey in character, with a definitely sweet malt presence on the tongue. Not as complex and chewy as I like my porters, but thoroughly drinkable.

I have had smoked porter and smoked herring and smoked cheese so I am a wee bit surprised by the call that this is a smokey beer. A wee bit less than smokey but the faintest hint might be there. I do not know why a call can be made that something is more milk porter yet also smokey but go figure. The brewery talks about “overtones of chocolate ans espresso beans” – a bit blabalonian for me. It is bigish and yupping. Eat steak, drink this, live long.