Up until recently I assumed Unibroue was a Belgian brewery. They are best known for their Belgian-style ales and the names of their beers are all in French. Imagine my surprise when I found out they were a French-Canadian brewer out of Quebec. Then imagine my surprise upon discovering a place could be simultaneously France and Canada without being caught in some sort of temporal flux (or another similarly vague, scientific-sounding phenomenon I’ve probably lifted from the Star Trek universe).
Since I’d already begrudgingly acquired knowledge, I decided to use the momentum and find out the translation for “Unibroue.” Turns out it’s not technically a French word at all. Their website didn’t clear it up either. The derivation of the Unibroue name is likely to remain a secret forever unless its founding brewer or a member of his family opt to break the silence.
Terrible (10.5% ABV)
Unibroue’s “Terrible” is described as a “Dark Ale on Lees.” Lees are the spent yeast left at the bottom of a fermentation vessel. They are usually filtered out, but occasionally left in place to nudge the flavor in different directions. In the beer world, lees are more strictly the remnants from secondary fermentation as the deposits in the first fermentation are called “trub.” I wouldn’t normally delve so deeply into the specifics, but I find it amusing that so much brewing technology sounds like rejected Dr. Seuss characters.
Here’s something else to consider. Yeast are living creatures. Laymen don’t consider them so because yeast don’t display the characteristics shown in higher orders of life, such as violence and racism, but alive they are. In that light, the Unibroue brewers aren’t content to just kill off a few million innocent yeast for their beer, but insist on serving us the long-bloated corpses of their dead. Terrible, indeed.
This portion of the review may speak more to my current fixations in the soft drink universe than my precision as a reviewer, but the look of this beer is eerily reminiscent of Dr. Pepper. Dial back the carbonation and bolster it with a more pillowy, resilient head and it’s a dead ringer. The aroma thankfully does not repeat on the Dr. Pepper experience, serving up banana, raisin, alcohol and a touch of mustiness as well.
The flavors on this one are all over the chart. I caught lots of tangerine, cloves, some alcohol, and, as it warmed, ginger. The biggest contributor to the palate would have to be a flavor I can only describe as teriyaki sauce. It’s a sweet, smoky and even salty flavor that is kind of a study in the basic umami taste. Without delving into a lengthy explanation, it is a savory flavor that a Japanese researcher demonstrated in an effort to prove American tongues are weak and inferior.
A beer with this many strong flavors is bound to divide opinions along personal tastes lines. It’s certainly not an assembly of my favorites. However, it’s remarkable, dynamic and I honestly am anxious to test drive it again. That deserves props by itself.
Blanche de Chambly (5% ABV)
This beer is named for Jacques de Chambly, a military Captain tasked by Louis XIV to settle the Richelieu River region of what is now modern Quebec. I wasn’t able to source a decent picture of this intrepid soul, but modern scholars believe he may have looked something like this:
The Blanche De Chambly is a hazy amber color with a pillowy white head. It’s got a sweet citrus and orange peel note to the aroma with a slight hint of coriander.
The first taste is very sweet and tangy. Orange and dried apricot flavors jump right up front. It’s not cloying, but there’s no discernible hop note in this to cut those flavors either. That’s not unusual for the style, but it always leaves me with sadpants.
Drinking a white ale is kind of like watching a movie with Minka Kelly for her sex scenes. No matter how steamy it might be, you know you’ll never get to see the full monty. Similarly, a white ale can be all kinds of good, but it’s always lacking that last finishing touch to push it into the “Great” category.
La Fin Du Monde (9% ABV)
This beer holds the unique honor of having a name even more ostentatious than Stone Brewing’s Arrogant Bastard series. Unibroue claims the name is a reference to European explorers believing they had reached “The End Of The World” upon arriving at North America, but I’m not buying it. This is clearly a challenge to the brewing universe, loudly proclaiming that theirs is the only beer worthy of your dying sip.
If you think I’m being conspiratorial, just look at the original artwork for the label:
They suggest that you drink this one at room temperature. I’m sure that will really open up the flavors and all, but there’s just one problem. Is that room temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit?* Jeez, Unibroue, think it through next time.
La Fin Du Monde is a yellow-hued amber brew. The nose is very apple-centric, with bits of both spiced apple cider and green apple as well. There’s a little bit of pear and mustiness as well.
The flavors on this represent a barrage of Belgian-osity. There’s a mild lemon tartness, some white grape and peppery spice. When you combine all that with the prickly mouthfeel, it is definitely reminiscent of champagne. It diverges from that experience with the noticeable farmhouse funk and flowery bitterness that is beautifully nested in the tripel experience.
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