This week's Canada's Craft Beer post comes from our Eastern Canada craft beery guy, David Ort
The lifespan of a bottle of beer once it is released from captivity (i.e. leaves the store) can be measured in days, if not in hours. That’s by design. By any measure, over 99% of the beer sold in Canada is meant to be consumed immediately.
It’s in the exceptions that we often find the interesting cases. Some of the world’s exceptional and captivating beers are built for distance and will improve with a year or more of aging in a cool, dark space. Here are two examples of excellent cellar-worthy beers from eastern Canadian breweries.
Amsterdam Brewing Co.’s Tempest Imperial Stout
Beer fans I meet while traveling in Quebec are most likely to mention Amsterdam Brewing Co.'s Tempest as an Ontario beer they respect. That’s especially noteworthy given that they have local access to excellent stouts from breweries like Dieu du Ciel and Le Trou du Diable.
Tempest pours the expected dark black with a wispy mocha head. Aroma notes include molasses, raisins, dark chocolate, and well-roasted espresso. With a sip, I added anise and some alcohol heat to that list. The boozy edge will drop out in older bottles and the roasted flavours will leave behind most of their acrid edges. Given proper handling, two to three years after bottling is the ideal window for Tempest.
This year, Amsterdam released a double version of Tempest. With twice as much malt and hops, plus nine months in Four Roses bourbon barrels the hope is that it will have even more longevity than the regular version.
ABV 9% IBU 100+ Available in ON and QC.
Microbrasserie Charlevoix Dominus Vobiscum Hibernus
Microbrasserie Charlevoix is a thriving brewery outside of Quebec City with no actual monks on the payroll, but they make some truly heavenly beers in the recognisable abbey styles. Hibernus is one of the highlights in an excellent lineup.
It’s worth pausing to appreciate the brilliant auburn-brown and off-white head of Hibernus. That will also give the spice-laden (cardamom, clove and nutmeg mainly) and fruity (apple, prune, and raisin) aromas time to come out. The flavour lands even more on the side of complex, dried fruit. Give this beer three years to fully spread its wings.
To celebrate their 15th anniversary the Baie-Saint-Paul brewery packaged Hibernus in an impressive 1.5L magnum bottle and sold it as Grand Hibernus.
ABV 10% IBU 10 Available in ON and QC
Good beer books devote a section to the topic of cellaring beer. Vintage Beer: A Taster’s Guide to Brews That Improve Over Time by Patrick Dawson is a great resource for those who want a guide to further explore the subject of aging beer.
Despite the impression that high-proof beers are only for winter drinking I wouldn’t shy away from serving a well-aged bottle at the end of a celebratory dinner in May. You don’t stop eating chocolate or drinking red wine in March, do you?
David writes about food, travel, and craft beer for various online and print publications. His first book, The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook, is in bookstores and available for purchase online. For more of his thoughts on all things edible and potable follow him on Twitter or get in touch with him at [email protected]