This week’s Canada’s Craft Beer post comes from our Ontario and Quebec craft beer guy, David Ort. He’s visiting two breweries — Quebec's Dieu du Ciel! and Ontario's Wellington — to check out two stouts.
We did it. We made it through another seemingly endless winter. And also dodged the green-beer bullet this month, right? I'm not one to rain on any beer-related parades but food colouring in beer is just uncalled for.
If it's not going to be green, the next obvious choice for libations on St. Patrick's Day is Irish stout and that almost always means Guinness. The remarkably recognisable brand has slipped in the past couple decades (I'm told — I was 14 the last time it was good) out of the frighteningly small group of beers that manage the one-two of international mega-success and good quality. But Guinness isn't the only choice in the style and Irish isn't the only type of stout.
I think the first days of spring, when the weather in many parts of Canada can still be quite frigid, is the perfect time for stout. Irish stout tends to be dry, low in alcohol and in possession of a smooth, creamy mouthfeel provided by the proteins in the unmalted barley that often makes it into the recipe. To demonstrate the wide spread of the stout family tree, I'd like to take a quick tour of two examples that have none of these essential characteristics.
Dieu du Ciel! Aphrodisiaque/Aphrodite
I'm surprised it took this long to come across a beer with a substantially different name in French and English markets. It was decided, several years ago, that consumers (and market regulators) in Ontario, western provinces and the US wouldn't appreciate the humour of a beer called Aphrodisiaque, so around Cornwall it changes its name to Aphrodite.
A deep-black body with a frosting of tan foam starts the chocolate cake associations at first sight. The added vanilla and cocoa both make strong (but balanced) cases for their sides on the nose. Flavours are of more of that dessert duo, plus roasted coffee and a slight hop bitterness for punctuation. There's a nice creamy carbonation to carry this after-dinner stout into a graceful, lingering finish.
The Montreal brewery Dieu du Ciel! makes a wide range of great beers and is especially gifted when it comes to stouts — this is a world-class example of the flavoured section of that style.
ABV 6.5% Available in QC and ON
Wellington Imperial Russian Stout
The story that Catherine the Great's court picked up a taste for the stouts at the boozy, export-strength end of the spectrum is a key chapter in the stout mythology. This one, by Canada's oldest craft brewery, Wellington, fits nicely into that sub-category.
It's jet black and has a tight, tan head that lingers nicely before giving way to an attractive ring. I pick up chocolate and coffee with a background of fermented fruit aromas. There's more of the dry roastiness of cocoa and espresso on the palate balanced by a nice boozy sweetness and a hint of licorice. This is one of the best imperial stouts made in Ontario.
ABV 8.0% Available in ON
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David Ort 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]