If ever a beer looked poured as it does in the bottle, this is surely the one. And, yes, it is a beautiful label – thoughtful, modern, and not overly designed. The beer looks pale, even without pouring it, and with the “Zen” language on the label, you’re expecting calm – like some Aphrodisiac blonde goddess (which is how déesse translates – well, I threw in the blonde Aphrodite imagery, I admit, but you get my point). I knew before I even poured it that it was going to pour ‘flat’ – I could just sense it.
The cap tossed, I couldn’t wait to ply those soft wispy tendrils out of the neck with my nostrils: a bit of yeast, but after that, it was soft notes throughout. And, if you’re looking at the picture, beer did indeed pour without head … not even enough to cover the whole surface of the beer. And, in the glass, it shines a bright filtered gold (see parenthetical footnote below). If you didn’t know better, you think you had a tall glass of chardonnay or a flat cider. The glass was totally still save a single strand of tiny bubbles.
The aromas off the top were a distinct herbaceous melon with soft tones of honey. When I looked at the label again, the au miel cru (i.e. ‘raw honey’) confirmed why ….
That first taste – wow. Not like anything I’ve tasted for a while. A beautiful nice mouthfeel with an essence of carbonation that lets you know you’re drinking beer (or “real beer” as proclaimed by the label). Nicely done – I wasn’t expecting that at all. Apples and a bit of honey up front – a very light mid-taste with some bitters, but very light at that, with a wee bit more honey to follow, and, with enough beer to hit the sides and back of the tongue at the same time, there is definitely some grapefruit and I’d even say guava, which would explain the “perfumey” taste. All these tastes, however, don’t linger long and the beer washes away to a bit of a watery finish with just a bit of a light, fizzy, aftertaste of more green apples. My guess is that the malts are very minimal in this beer and that they have indeed relied on the honey for sugar – which explains the lack of complexity in the flavours, the lightness of colour, and the watery finish. Kudos for the attempt to the sell ‘honey’ as the main taste point, but it doesn’t quite finish.
All in all, though, there are some very good things going on in this beer and there is a lot to it that would recommend it to those who don’t like beer a lot, who like ‘light tasting beer’ (though at 5%, this is not a light beer), and who tend to get ‘filled up’ by beer and all those unnatural bubbles. I know these descriptions may suggest this to be an unappealing beer for those who love a more ‘manly’ brew, but don’t get me wrong – this is a good pour which many would like. For those in the Ottawa region who love Beau’s Lugtread (soon to be reviewed just because it deserves to be on the list but most locals will know it well), this beer will also appeal. While an “extra pale ale” and therefore with a bit more hop and bitter in the balance, it drinks very similarly to Beau’s lager.
Parenthetical Footnote: Before I conclude, however, here’s an interesting footnote — and I know, what may be even more ‘interesting’ is that I stuck a footnote in the midst of my posting, hence parenthetical (and, yes, I just made that up). Here’s the thing: I had finished writing this entry, when, because this is a 500ml bottle, I poured out the last third of the bottle into my glass. As I began proofing my post, I looked at the bottom of the bottle and swore I could see a white circle. I looked more closely and, sure enough, there was a light, white sediment in there and when I looked back at my topped off glass, I was taken aback by how this once brilliantly clear beer had turned absolutely milky, like a weizen/wit beer. So I hustled my camera back out and snapped a second picture. That bit of yeast at the beginning I first smelled now made sense – all facts, including the low carbonation, suggest another sur lies beer. The addition of the sediment didn’t change things much with the exception that there was a bit more citrus in the taste than before. That taste change could be just elapsed time between sips, but there is no question, the beer changed appearance. Another first ….
In this case, the play on the notion of raw honey coming from Zen beekeepers (yes, that’s apparently where the raw honey came from) suits this beer well; then throw in a few hops and you definitely get an ‘extra pale’ goddess almost anyone could worship ….
Suggested Pairings: Déesse would be exceptional with pan-seared scallops, tacos (not too spicy), or even a Waldorf salad. The clean taste would cleanse the palette of the oils in these dishes and the bit of honey/apple would pair very well, much like you might pair a sauvignon blanc.
Stats: Extra Pale (English) Ale. 5% ABV. St-Joseph-De-Ham-Sud, Quebec.
Colour: Light, brilliant gold. Followed by milky golden/yellow.
Mouth Feel: minimal carbonation, watery finish, and very light on the tongue throughout.