Belgh Brasse Roars Back

If you lived in or visited Québec a little over a decade ago, you may remember Belgh Brasse. Based in Amos, near the Ontario border in the Québec northwest, the brewery opened with significant fanfare, much of it playing upon the purity of brewing water available from the Abitibi esker, and a purportedly Belgian-influenced ale called 8.

8 was, ultimately, a dud. I tasted it a couple of times and was left unimpressed, while others complained of the beer’s inconsistency. It died. A resuscitation of the brewery followed, with an even less inspiring pale lager called Taïga. It also died.

Now Belgh Brasse is back for a third kick at the can, and in this case it appears that the third time is indeed the charm. I have sampled two beers from the new Mons line of “Belgian-Inspired” beers, the Abbey Witte and the Abbey Blonde, and was impressed by both.

Sandy gold in colour with a slight haze, the Mons Abbey Witte has a sweetish, perfumey and lightly peppery lemon aroma, accented by candied orange peel and perhaps a hint of cinnamon, and a rounded and citrusy, light-bodied middle and a drying and faintly spicy-peppery finish. Belgian-inspired, for certain, it has a decided lemony note to it that makes me think just a bit about Berliner weisse, as well. It might lean a bit too hard on the sweet and fruity side of things, but is still nicely refreshing and quaffable. Mons Abbey Blonde is certainly a fruity ale, with dried apricot and canned peaches in the nose and a malty, dry caramel and lightly spicy body with some tropical and peachy fruitiness. I sampled it at cellar temperature first and refrigerator temp second and found it more expressive and robust when colder, although not so cold as to suppress the fruit and spice.

I’m told now that the brewery has a dubbel out and a stout on the way, and is for sale in the U.S. as well as in Québec. Based on these first two tastings, I’d say that this time Belgh Brasse might be sticking around for some time to come.


Unicorns and Faeries and Quadrupels

While I’m on the topic of strong beer, a recent tasting conducted by Young Dredge over at Pencil & Spoon has stirred up some controversy over the style term “quadrupel” (or “quadruple” or simply “quad”). I feel compelled to chime in.

Like Tripel, Quadrupel is a term invented by a Trappist brewery for one of their commercial beers, the former by Westmalle and the latter by Koningshoeven/La Trappe. Both follow logically from the classic abbey designations of enkel, or single, being an everyday beer of low strength, and dubble, or double, being a stronger, more nutritious beer reserved for visitors, feast days and periods of fasting.

So one’s as legit as the other, right? Maybe not.

Westmalle Tripel, by most people’s calculations, was the first tripel, it being specifically created for commercial purposes and marketed under that name. It was “likely created,” speculates Stan Hieronymus, author of Brew Like a Monk, to satisfy “drinkers in the 1930’s who wanted both stronger beer and one the color of trendy, light-colored Pilseners.”

La Trappe Quadrupel, on the other hand, was created in 1991 to be the strongest beer of the abbey’s line, originally intended as only a winter seasonal. As its popularity grew, however, it became a year-round brand and the “quad” tag began to be stuck to beers of all sorts, which is where problems arise.

The style Stan calls “not quite a style” is now said to include beers such as Westvleteren 12, St. Bernardus 12 and Rochefort 10, all strong and dark ales that were included in Young Dredge’s tasting and all beers which pre-existed the La Trappe Quadrupel. The question which arises, then, is can a new style name and definition be applied to beers that were well-established long before its creation?