Here’s a brewery, À l’abri de la Tempête, that I’ve been tantalizingly saving to re-explore since I tasted one of the most striking beers of my life: that beer was La Belle Saison. Based on the two I’ve now tasted, this is an amazing brewery and one which is all the more impressive owing their location. The brewery is all about sustainable development and agriculture and which I highly approve — what amazes is that they they achieve this whilst located on Iles-de-la-Madeleine (i.e. the Magdalen Islands), a very small archipelgo of islands in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. A pristine area with less than 15,000 people, it is also blessed with a challenging growing climate: cool and damp. It’s an area I’ve long wanted to visit and yet feel fortunate that I’ve got a chance to visit it through their amazing beer export.
Yet as amazing as La Belle Saison was to taste, given our own season and my focus on winter beers, I thought it made sense to start introduce my blog to À l’abri de la Tempête via their winter beer: “Corne de Brume,” or foghorn.
I knew before I flipped this cap that this was going to be a consummate winter beer. At 9% and with “Strong Beer” on the label, this could either go well … or very badly. I knew I’d either end up with a boozy bunch of spices and caramels or I’d end up with something that navigates all those strong components and finds balance in a storm. I’m happy to say that Corne de Brume achieves the latter … and it navigates it with grace and aplomb, like a ship navigating the dangerous, fog enshrouded shores of the Iles-de-la-Madeleine.
Poured into the glass, it is a filtered beauty. It looks dark, to be sure, but hold it up to the light and you’ll be impressed by its deep, deep (very deep) dark red colour. Darker than a blood red, ruby port, but still unmistakably red. The carbonation is light and and delicate and the lacing produced slides down the glass effortlessly as it wanes. The aroma reminds me of black treacle: there are huge sugars in the smell. But unlike some of the sugary strong beers I had at Le festibière d’hiver, this one isn’t “sickly” sweet or cloying. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a “bitter” beer, though it has some good hops that cleanse the end – but the malts don’t overpower as much as they’re present to impress and coat the palette. The upfront taste starts with some dark, dried fruit like prunes or currants and then finishes with the sweetness of a Medjool date. I’d say there is a little clove in there as well. Mostly, though, it is a very beautiful dark roasted malt, almost toffee, that is sustained throughout.
There is definitely a watery essence to this beer which is strange to be experiencing at all in a beer that weighs 9%. Generally I’d take points off for this absence of a mid-taste, but in this case, I give it high marks because it is this absence, I’d conjecture, that allows this big, strong, dark beer to be so very drinkable. And if you’re going to pay $7 for regular-sized bottle of beer (note: that is not $7 in a pub – that’s $7 from BroueHaHa), then you want to enjoy it right to the end. I also give them marks for putting this strong ale in a right-sized bottle, perfect for one person. And I give them many marks for making me a lover of a Scotch Ale, something I’ve typically not enjoyed. All in all, this is a balanced beer that I personally think hits the mark very well and it has to be the easiest drinking strong beer I’ve ever had.
Stats: Scotch Ale. 9% ABV. L’Étang du Nord, Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec.
Colour: Dark, dark ruby red.
Mouth Feel: Minimal carbonation, watery mid-taste, and creamy.
Purchased: Quebec (e.g. BroueHaHa)