This week was really all about one brewery: Unibroue. Think of Unibroue as a society of sinister Belgian monks, banished to live in some dark monastery, hidden in the shadows of Quebec. That’s how I see it, at least.
In reality, Unibroue is the beer jewel of French Canada. Located in the town of Chambly, it’s deeply rooted in the province’s cultures and traditions. In fact, all of it’s beers are named in honor of local history. Trois Pistoles (Three Coins) refers to a legendary black horse that helped to build a local church. Don De Dieu is homage to the ship that discovered Quebec in the name of France. The brewery is as legitimate as it is respectful, responsible for the first trappist ale brewed in North America and recipient of countless accolades and awards. There’s no doubt that the love between Quebec and Unibroue is mutual.
One thing I can say about Unibroue beers is that they’re very very cool. Every one that I tried looked, tasted, and felt like I was truly experiencing something special – like I was bearing witness to something bigger than myself. For one, they were all 8% or higher. But more so, they were complex, pungent, and mysterious. Actually, every beer that I tried seemed to share a common thread. It was hard to identify – a mix between the slightly bitter, earthy finish, and the feeling of the beer coating the back of the tongue. Not necessarily desirable traits, but bold and very unique.
The two standouts of the four-pack I tried were Trois Pistoles and La Fin Du Monde. Trois Pistoles was an intense beer. Big, weird, and unapologetic – it’s a taste that takes a half a day to leave your tongue and never really leaves your memory. I liked it, but in the same way I would a haunted house: senses on overdrive, stomach in knots, not looking to repeat the experience anytime soon. It was evil, but it was just as stylish.
The second was the winner of the bunch: La Fin Du Monde. I had had this beer a bunch in college, but never appreciated just how good it actually was. A Belgian Triple, it wasn’t quite as sharp and citrusy as Duvel. Instead, it had that round, coating earthiness that characterized all of the Unibroues. But this time the flavor was bright and fresh, not dark and funky. I was surprised how clean the brother of Trois Pistoles – weighing in at the same 9% ABV – could actually be. It was delicious and impressive.
Touring Unibroue was a lightning bolt glimpse into the depths of what beer can be. The flavors were intense and strange – metallic, spicy, earthy – and the presence was just as assertive. I wouldn’t call Unibroue one of my favorite breweries, but I would definitely say it commands respect. I’m sure there are people that consider Trois Pistoles among their favorite beers. I just don’t ever want to meet them.