Ambition can be a dangerous thing.
Doc’s Feet is going to challenge you as much as the label challenges convention. I’m not sure if this some homage to Hello Kitty fitted as a west coast totem (I fear to ask) holding I don’t know what (a beer cap? the sole of a Doc Marten?). I don’t know … they lost me at the cat with the paw in the air. And, yes, I’m laughing and smiling, but I am totally confused at this beer label.
Labels aside, anyone who knows and loves beer knows of the Belgian influence and importance of the so-called “Trappist” beers which one could argue is the origin of the artisanal and crafted beer movement. I won’t go into their origins (read it on Wikipedia or any number of other sites), but these Trappist breweries are special and their story is as intoxicating as are their brews. Fascinating stuff, really, and worth a read. The point is that there are less than a dozen abbeys in the world that can legally label their wares as “Trappist” – the rest are Trappist-styled. To style your beer after one of these ten, well, that’s what I call ambition ….
Thus is the latest entry from Beau’s brewery and my second review in my “Best of Beau’s” series. The question is, can a small town Canadian craft brewery pull off the feat? The answer is yes, and remarkably well at that … but you’re going to have to work hard to experience this because this particular beer is only sold in their “Best of Beau’s 2013 Mix Pack,” so it is not only a limited production, it’s a package deal. Based on the first two reviews, I say, commit and buy it … now.
This dark beer is full of rich caramels that are produced both from the huge dark malts that provide this beer its character and the organic cane sugar that’s introduced as well. And if you’ve tasted dark caramelized sugar, or even a dark maple syrup or candy, you’ll know that this intense caramelization also brings with it a surprising bit of “spiciness” which distinguishes this so called “dubbel” (one style of Trappist beer) as well as many intense winter beers like an eisbock. This is further reinforced by the use of the Perle hop varietal which is also known for bringing a bit of “spice” into beers in which it is used. The result are strong flavours – and I mean strong – which you’re either going to love, or hate. As is typical, Doc’s Feet has pronounced clove, anise, and I’d even say cardamom. And if you’re looking for a flavour to describe the caramel and sweetness, then dried fruits like figs or currents would be my appraisal – earthy and sweet. The strength of these flavours and the corresponding alcohol is why your typical Trappist brew comes in a small bottle. I’ve never in my life seen it served in a pint … let alone Beau’s classic 600mL bottle. Truly, very drinkable and one to buy … but sharing is almost a necessity.
A few other notes with this beer: it pours with a tonne of carbonation, but the bubbles are big and don’t last. Indeed, both in terms of colour and level of carbonation, as I was pouring it, it reminded of Coca-Cola (I know not particularly complimentary). As a result, I was not so enamoured of my first few sips. This is the key to this beer: let it sit, let the head die away, let the bubbles calm and disappear, and a remarkable beer will emerge. The colour is as dark an amber as you’ll see before it turns to brown. It is gorgeous held up to light – but pour slowly at the end because the residual sediments are at the bottom of the bottle. Off the nose, again, it’s the caramelized malts that predominate with strong support from the spices you’ll pull off the tongue.
There is no subtlety to this beer – it is as honest as it is ambitious, but it does what it sets out to, and does it exceedingly well. If you can’t tell, I’m impressed … and this is not a beer I would personally normally go for as it is all malts and minimal on the hops. However, this is a winter beer with incredible character, balance, and execution.
If you’re looking to experience Trappist brewing style and want to buy local (even local to this continent), then you have a great option in this ambitious beer which I highly recommend.
Stats: Dubbel (Trappist-Style). 7.6% ABV. Vankleek Hill, Ontario.
Colour: Very dark amber – dark-brown
Mouth Feel: Medium-high carbonation that fades quickly to produce a creamy mouthfeel with a crisp finish.
Pairings: Steak and Fries … or even Mussels and fries (Moules et frites)
Have you seriously never seen a Lucky Cat (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maneki-neko) before? If you’ve ever been to any sort of Chinatown they’re all over the place… Even just Asian restaurants will pretty commonly feature them. Sure, the connection between a Belgian beer and a Japanese figurine is a bit unclear – but it’s hardly a “weird” piece of art.
Ok, you definitely win the sleuthing of the weird beer-connection prize. Brilliant and well-done. You’re right, I’ve seen that figurine often, but not a million years would I have made the connection with a Canadian Belgian-styled beer. I still think the markings on the cat, however, bear resemblance to West Coast native-American depictions. Perhaps just a “stylization” in this case, but still intriguing. Thanks for solving part of the riddle. We now know “what” — the question is still “why”?
Hah, why indeed. In any case, I wish I could get my hands on a bottle, as I love the art! By chance do you know if it’s still possible to track down, or is it something that was only on shelves for a brief time? If it’s still out there I’m going to try to find someone to trade me for one.
Doc’s Feet was only sold as part of their seasonal “Mix Pack” and it is my best understanding is that it is “sold out” as described here:
Perhaps it will appear again in time for the holidays this winter. Sorry about that ….
Hmmmm…. probably one I would normally avoid but if it comes in the Mix Pack…well, I’ve got to try it!
You might want to find someone with whom to share it … it packs a punch that will test most people at 600mL.
Good to know!