It really is remarkable how much our mood and place impact our intuitive reaction to things … reactions which might be quite different if we sat down to really dissect what we’re experiencing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for a careful dissection of life. It’s more an observation.
Here’s a beer that I practically did cartwheels for when I first tasted it late fall a few years ago. I was on vacation, it was a rainy day afternoon, and I was in a Zen-like state of just being watching the mist sweep over the Gatineau river. Life was great. And if I was a beer and I was picking a moment to be discovered, that wouldn’t be a bad one to pick. Thus it was that I first picked this beer up from a Dépanneur and brought it back to the cottage. Thus was my state when I poured it the next day while I created smoky goodness over the Big Green Egg I got to play with as part of the cottage-rental deal. I loved this beer. I was exhilarated by the grapefruit in it and thought, this is better than those pink Woody’s someone stuck in my hand on fishing trip on Great Slave Lake one afternoon a decade ago. And I lamented when I discovered it was seasonal and I stomped my feet when I missed it the next fall … until I spied it in the scrape-the-drool-off-my-feet beer store (aka Bières du Monde) in Aylmer a few months ago. I rejoiced and bought two bottles which I’ve squirreled away till this moment.
This is a beer that isn’t so much complicated as it elicits a complicated array of emotions when I taste it … again. The first emotion is probably indifference, sort of like seeing that girl you had a crush in high school 20 years later and going “Hmm” and continuing to walk by and inwardly reflecting “What were you thinking?” The second is curiosity like “Hmm — that’s different” as the floral essence of grapefruit sort of perfumes your mouth. Next is recognition and appraisal with “Hmm … I don’t really like wheat beers.” But next is that which comes with considered contemplation – like, “Haa, that kind of grows on me.”
I know, that’s a lot of Hmm’ing and Haa’ing but, really, that’s the way of this highly contrived beer from RJ Brasseurs, one of the bigger producers of beer in Quebec renowned for their “Belle Gueule” line of mass-produced beers.
I like the idea of this beer, still. One of the things so many hop heads love about the westcost IPA style is the American hops that bring intense citrus flavours like grapefruit and orange. So how good would it be for non-hopheads to access those flavours in a beer without the associated bitterness? I’ll grant you, I’m not a huge fan of the wheat ales out there: I find them insipid, shallow, and sour without any depth. Saint Paix is no different but it is perhaps a better version than the Anheuser-Busch’s attempt at craftsmanship aka: “Shock Top” (cringing).
The grapefruit is pronounced … very pronounced. The other flavours are slight at the top of the tongue, but the orange is there; in the middle, the carbonation quickly washes the residue from the tongue leaving you with an astringent aftertaste that is complicated, very layered, but about as subtle as smashing your thumb with a hammer and some definite peppered grapefruit to end (the pepper being a kind way of describing the astringency). The carbonation is a key element of the beer, tight and fizzy, making this taste a bit like cooler without all the sugar.
All in all, I would say that Saint Paix will appeal to those that like wheat ales, like Shock Top, or quite frankly want something at bit different on a hot day after mowing the lawn or while at the cottage. Ultimately, I would say that you have to be “in the mood.” But on a cold winters day? Not for this boy ….
Stats: Fruit Beer. 5% ABV. Montreal, Quebec.
Colour: Medium amber, unfiltered (on lees).
Mouth Feel: Medium carbonation through the middle taste, refreshing, but light ending.
Purchased: Bières du Monde