As relatively disappointing as my last few tastings have been, and with a bizarre spring storm brewing that has sucked the light out of the air last weekend, it felt right to return to Quebec and a darker brew. This is also a nuanced type of beer I haven’t hitherto tasted: Brown American Ale. I’ve had a few brown ales in my life which I quite enjoyed, but they tended to be a bit sweeter than your typical ale. The addition of the “American” in this context led me to believe this would have some IPA qualities.
Produced by Pit Caribou, a brewery I sampled and liked at the winter beer festival, the label itself is something the deserves a digging into, in particular because it’s a six-pointed star with the words “eau, air, terre, and feu” (the four earthly elements) on the corners. When you think of it, beer is indeed an elemental creation born out of the firing of the malts, the addition of ingredients to water, the carbonation of air, and the organic earth itself.
The beer pours with a full, tanned head of mixed bubbles: it’s clear that it is a well carbonated creation. There’s also an odd mix of creaminess the forms around the large bubbles pocketed throughout so perhaps it isn’t surprising that it falls quickly and leaves a fine lacing on the glass.
There is a strong aroma of yeast the comes off the top and this is followed by a deep bit of caramel and some coffee and a ton of earthy hops. It reminded me of some of the black IPAs I’ve tasted this year but somehow ‘richer.’
In terms of appearance, my picture above nowhere near does this brew justice – but hold it up to the light and you’ll witness an absolutely gorgeous colour: a clear, deep rusty brown/red, sort of the color of dried blood … but much more pretty here (trust me).
The first taste is yummy but slightly overwhelmed by the carbonation that is tight but plentiful. What follows next, however, is pure joy. There is a lot of caramel and tonnes of creaminess in the mid-taste and a little bit of wateriness which considering it reels off at 7% suggests the alcohol is well masked. Again, the aftertaste is just as earthy with that same abundance of hops. Yes … yummy.
Now, take a gulp; let it fill the mouth; swallow. The bigger mouthful allows the taste to be brilliant as you avoid the carbonation and all you get is the creaminess in the middle of the tongue and an aggressive but perfectly balanced aftertaste which is the citrus hops with some good backing from the malt’s caramel tones.
I have to say, this is a near perfect beer. The only knocks are the upfront carbonation and bit of wateriness in the midtaste. But the finish on this beer is a long way better than most. What makes this totally compelling is that it cuts a near perfect line between a black IPA and and a regular IPA and brings the strengths of both to bear. The result is a beer with the refreshing hops and citrus finish but the flavour structure of a dark beer. What’s truly amazing is that I can see myself drinking this beer outside on a hot summer day while barbequing up my favourite ribs and I don’t think you can say that about many ‘dark’ beers. Brilliant!
Stats: Brown IPA. 7% ABV, Anse-à-beaufils, Quebec.
Colour: Dark amber
Mouth Feel: medium-high carbonation with a tonne of creaminess in the middle.
Pairing Notes: Messy ribs, beef or pork; braised short ribs