170, rue Montcalm, Gatineau, Québec, Canada
Time to first beer: N/A
It’s typical that most of us get off work early on the last work day before Christmas. I used the time wisely, making the trip across the river to visit this brew pub for the first time. The heritage stone building is the old Hull waterworks. There’s a bar side, a restaurant side, a tiny gift shop…even a few historic artefacts that they optimistically call a museum. I bet this location is great in the summer.
The Twelve Beers of Christmas
I didn’t think it was fair to time the first beer, since my first beer was a sample tray of 12 beers called “l’horloge” (the clock). The service was a bit inattentive, though. The beers are arranged in the order on the menu, but you taste them in a slightly different order, also indicated on the menu.
On the first day of Christmas, bartender poured for me…
- Et la lumière fut! – A lightly-hopped pale ale with some pear notes and a strong, malty finish with some caramel in there. I found the contrast between light start and heavy finish was not to my liking.
- La pommée – This is a beer that looks like and tastes like apple juice made from tart red apples. It’s not sweet at all (happy face), but not beer-like enough (sad face). Might be a good food match, but I haven’t ordered food yet. It’s beer for the cider drinker.
- Kaputt Mauer – It’s supposed to be a “Weißbier Dunkel” (dark white), but it doesn’t seem dark enough…here’s a darkish orange beer but I’m expecting something like deep mahogany. It tastes like banana bread. Banana bread would be darker than this.
- ESB 1821 – Their “extra special bitter” is a lighter variety with some timid floral notes on the palate. The finish was a bit short, but I found it highly drinkable. Just don’t order this beer expecting to actually get a British-style ESB as promised.
- L’allumante – Ah, here’s one that’s right up my alley. It’s somewhere between a red and a nut brown ale, with a long and complex flavour profile and finish. (Spoiler alert…this fifth beer was my pick of the crop, but I didn’t know that at the time.)
- La nuit des temps – It’s a stout in the tradition of your typical stout, dark brown and pretty tasty if you like dark chocolate, but it’s lacking that creamy texture of its more famous Irish cousin. Sadly, it does not have the “lasting head” promised on the menu.
- La framboyante – It’s odd that they put a raspberry beer at this point in the flight, but as with the apple beer, it’s not at all sweet. It tastes of raspberries, not raspberry jam. Expect it to have some bite like most unsweetened fruit. It’s beer for those who like fruit wine. Maybe it’s a bit too tart.
- Carpe Diem – Sieze the beer…a Belgian style blonde with lots of citrus and spice: tangerine and cardamom if I had to name them. Some might put an orange slice on it for show, but good beer needs neither decoration nor post-brewing flavour enhancement to correct it. Nice!
- Diable au corps – The flavour is definitely stepping up a notch or two as I move into the stronger and pricier beers. It’s not as bitter as the 100 IBU statistic might suggest, mainly because the bitterness is balanced with the sugars found in a beer of this strength.
- La messe de minuit – “Midnight mass” comes a day early for me. Do you like Christmas candy? You know, that mix of licorice and mint in those striped hard candies that old ladies seem to always have on hand. This tastes exactly like Christmas candy. I don’t like the taste of Christmas candy myself.
- Mea magna culpa – To be fair, I think the Christmas beer messed up my palate. I think this was my favourite of their strong beers, but maybe just because it washed away the candy flavours of the previous beer. I’ll have to try it again sometime on it’s own. Ooh, gift shop!
- Obscur désir – Steve likes a stout, and didn’t realize that this Imperial stout has twice the punch of a typical stout for commoners. It also has twice the stout flavour: a real sipping beer. When your extremities go numb and jokes seem funnier than they should be, you realize the power it has.
It was mid-afternoon, but some snacks were in order. Steve started with “Simon Bolivar” nachos for sharing. They come with finely diced chicken in chipotle sauce on top. Salsa, guacamole, and sour cream are in little plastic containers…kind of tacky. The entire bottom layer of nachos fused with the paper lining the plate. A good dish served very poorly. I was still a bit hungry, so I had a “Poutine chic” that comes topped with smoked meat, gouda cheese, and a rather plain gravy. Not bad. Hmm, I’m still thirsty…I was just not content with only their 12 house draughts. Next, I drank a “special guest” stout named Greg. Good thing my friend Greg was not there or this could have been confusing.
Next Week: The Manx