It’s safe to say that Canadian craft beer is not terribly well-known internationally. Ask the average British beer aficionado, for example, and it’s likely they’ll be able to tell you more about Italian or even north Yorkshire craft beer than they will about the Canadian stuff.
Where Canada has made a mark on the world stage, however, it has been largely through the efforts of Québécois brewers, first the folk at Unibroue – now Sapporo-owned, but still turning out fine ales – and more recently the talents behind Dieu du Ciel. And now I will add a third to the list of French Canadian beer names to watch: Le Trou du Diable.
Based in Shawinigan, mid-way between Montréal and Québec City, Trou du Diable has been slowly and surely upping their game for years, first with a pair of tasty barrel-influenced beers, La Buteuse and Dulcis Succubus, then with a series of other impressive brews, some stronger and others more sessionable, some conditioned in wood as part of an extensive and growing program and others simply brewed and bottled. Each year since my first encounter, the brewery has grown more noticeably confident and impressive.
It was a portfolio tasting in Toronto this past summer, however, that cemented in my mind just how far Trou du Diable had come. From their porter, cleverly named Le Porteur, to their political in-joke brew – don’t ask! – Shawinigan Handshake, at 7% alcohol, a frighteningly thirst-quenching “Shawiniganer Weisse,” the brewery just keeps cranking out tasty, unapologetic beers one after the other.
The brewery name literally translates to “Devil’s Hole,” but refers to a set of Shawinigan rapids and not what you were probably thinking. Like most of the brewery’s beer names, it’s very French and very local, and for Anglos likely very hard to pronounce. None of this will matter in the long run, though, because it’s the quality and character of what’s behind the difficult names that will have you hearing more about this brewery in the months and years to come, and makes Trou du Diable my pick as Canadian Brewery of the Year for 2013.