Tag Archives: from Canada

Dieu du Ciel! ‘Rigor Mortis’ Abt and Invercargill ‘Men’n Skurrts’

Dieu du Ciel! 'Rigor Mortis' Abt
Dieu du Ciel! 'Rigor Mortis' Abt

Back when I was less behind in my posting of Diary entries — before I reached a full-calendar-year transcendental state of lateness — there were frequent strange moments of sitting in the sun writing about a moody winter beer, or vice versa.1 But not right now. Here I sit, drinking a rather-charming Fuller’s Double Stout on a drizzly, cold evening and looking back over notes from somewhen similar and two differently-seasonal beers enjoyed in succession.

In combination with the weather, the fact it was my Canadian friend Jillian’s birthday prompted me to grab a Quebecker beer from the Hashigo fridge that I’d been eyeing up for a while — especially after a positive experience with one of its stablemates.2 I didn’t know it at the time, but there are evidently a whole slew of Rigor Mortises — or Rigor Mortii, or Rigors Mortis, or however-the-fuck that should take the plural — but this one, the “Abt” / Quadrupel seems to be the most common. It’s wintery and huge, and I can’t tell if it’s an Adorable Snowman dressed as the Abominable kind, or the other way around. It doesn’t feel like it’s 10.5%; there’s no hot or fumey booze to it, it’s just all deliciously decadent warm, dark, fruity gorgeousness. But maybe that’s just its game; to entice you to drink pint after pint (or oddly-volumed bottle after oddly-volumed bottle)3 until it justifies its ominous name.

Invercargill 'Men'n Skurrts'
Invercargill 'Men'n Skurrts'

And then, something that looked vaguely similar in the glass, but which has a rather different character, a strikingly different history, and its origins in one of the most different things to come along in a good while. At the time — i.e., today, last year — the story of ‘Men’n Skurrts’ was one of those weird middle-ground “open secrets” that you get in a close-knit minority-sector community like that which surrounds craft beer: Yeastie Boys’ ‘Rex Attitude’, brewed — like all their beers — at Invercargill Brewery, had so tainted the system with its gloriously / glaringly smoky flavour that it peatified4 the next brew through the pipes, namely Pink Elephant’s ‘Mammoth’.5 It frustrated me that everyone involved wasn’t just more open about it; there’s no shame in the “mistake”, it hardly being a mistake at all, and literally no point in opening the valves and dumping a few-thousand litres of perfectly-delicious beer down the municipal pipes. So it wasn’t what it originally set out to be — very many good things aren’t.6 In the intervening year, everyone’s been getting better at this, at just owning up to these random mutations and embracing them honestly. But there’s still a long way to go. I’m firmly of the belief that more information is more good, and that — done properly — letting consumers in on these things will only help increase their engagement and grow the community.

Anyway.7 The World is richer for having ‘Men’n Skurrts’ in it, however the beer was begat. It’s got a wonderfully relaxing kind of subtle, rewarding complexity to it; big warming malt flavours (without too much strength) and a winning hint of soft smoke. If you were sitting in your big, comfy chair, reading an enthralling book and slowly drinking this — it’d make up for the fact that your cold-but-charming house doesn’t have a fireplace.

Original Diary entries: Dieu du Ciel! ‘Rigor Mortis’ 24/7/11 — Happy Birthday Jillian! — $11ish from HZ 341ml (crazy Quebeckers) 10.5% which it doesn’t taste like. It’s a softer, less-tart Trois Pistoles. Similarly hugely, only warmingly boozy; not fumey or instantly hot. Although actually succumbing to the temptation to have pints might be fatal, and justify the scary name. Pleasantly a little sweet.

Invercargill ‘Men’n Skurrts’ 24/7/11 $8-ish 330ml from HZ Apparently, you know, rumor has it, this is a Rex Attitude side-effect. We’re told that the next beer was still so heavily peatified, it became this instead. And it’s really good fun. You can taste a cold-smokey sideline, but nevermind the story, it’s a worthy thing.

Invercargill 'Men'n Skurrts', bottlecap
Invercargill 'Men'n Skurrts', bottlecap
Diary II entry #125, Dieu du Ciel! 'Rigor Mortis'
Diary II entry #125, Dieu du Ciel! 'Rigor Mortis'
Diary II entry #126, Invercargill 'Men'n Skurrts'
Diary II entry #126, Invercargill 'Men'n Skurrts'

1: Admittedly, I wasn’t necessarily a whole season out of synch; Wellington’s famously idiosyncratic weather played a large role.
2: And, just because I’m like that, I can’t help but notice that I’ve here referred back to a beer a had immediately after 8 Wired’s ‘Tall Poppy’ — to which I harked back in the blog post before this one. If you keep detailed enough notes, and have Just One Of Those Brains, nice little coincidences are everywhere.
3: 341ml? Really? Three hundred and forty-one? It doesn’t even translate to a sensible amount of ounces; it’s eleven and a half. (Although, admittedly, I’d be angrier if they wrote “11.5 floz” on the label. Something about decimal points in non-metric measurements gives me spasms.)
4: Now that I actually type that word out — rather than just hear it in my own brain — it occurs to me that you could pronounce it to rhyme with “beatified”, which would fit nicely with the reverential attitude some people have to those wonderfully sharp phenols.
5: Which, coincidentally, Alice Galletly wrote about recently. Another pleasant coincidence.a
— a: See above, n1.
6: Possibly my favourite example: Dr. Strangelove was written as a thriller, not a dark, satirical farce.
7: If you did want more, I recommend the write-up on the subject by my friend and former Malthouse colleague, Jono Galuszka — which he wrote the same nightb I speculated (incorrectly, it turns out) that Moo Brew’s lovely new ‘Belgo’ might be another Happy Accident.
— b: And another. See above, n1 and n5.

St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout (My house, 8 May 2012)
St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

My Canada Day last year then continued with this, a Quebecker Oatmeal Stout, there at my desk at home (with the Diary itself and my rather-lovely Hashigo Zake bottle opener visible behind it, and it perched on ludicrously-extravagant Moa Beer leather-and-felt coaster). And, just for a sense of continuity and appropriateness I’m now — as then — listening to The Tragically Hip, who I’ve been fond of for ages and to the extent where it appears as a data point to those not-insignificant numbers of people who assume me to be Canadian.

This is a massively well-renowned stout, and it was being consumed by someone to which oatmeal stout is a kind of wintery, liquid Kryptonite.1 But it and I just didn’t get along fantastically well. Its company was pleasant enough, but it should’ve been like a fireside chat with Stephen Fry himself, given the circumstances. This just didn’t have the glorious smoothness that is half the reason I go so wibbly for a good oatmeal stout,2 and there was a faint tinge of metal that made it reminiscent (not entirely unwelcomely) of a thick foil bag of chocolate-chip cookies.

It just seemed a little past its prime — though the Best Before date was impenetrably Hieroglyphic, smooshed and encoded. Consensus from a few at Hashigo was that it probably had been around for a while and had come via a third party somewhere, this not being one of their ultra-cautious imports. While neither a disaster nor a complete swing-and-a-miss, certainly, it simply wasn’t quite what I wanted and seemed unable (in that time and place) from making good on its promise. Mercifully, in the same takeaway-shopping trip, I also bought another ‘Péché Mortel’ from the equally-Quebeçois Dieu du Diel!, which was completely delicious and undegraded and thereby rescued the evening convincingly. Now I just want another of those.

Diary II entry #119, St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout
Diary II entry #119, St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

Original Diary Entry: St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout 1/7/11 continuing the theme. $9.5 @ HZ, 341ml only 5% Another hundreder,3 which didn’t immediately grab me. The smoothness of the oats (and of the online praise), just isn’t so much there. I initially thought I just had it too cold. But it’s still having the same sharp uptick ride on the palate. Not unwelcome, just unexpected, unplanned. Slightly metal? Can’t decipher the best before. “12 B? 30 / J2010” Hopefully the latter isn’t it… Not sure. Smells like a bag of cookies. [2nd Péché Mortel was way better.]

1: Damnit. Now a Superman reference seconds after talking about Canadian music has the Crash Test Dummies firmly stuck in my head.
2: See, for example, Liberty’s stupidly-fucking-fantastic ‘Never Go Back’ — or, if you think that might be cheating a little, with its hugeness, just look to Firestone Walker’s ‘Velvet Merlin’.
3: By which I mean it scored a full 100 on RateBeer.com. I probably use that word as short hand because I really loved Neal Stephenson’s Anathem (in which it means something very different).

Molson ‘Canadian’

Molson 'Canadian', on Canada Day (Malthouse, 1 July 2011)
Molson 'Canadian', on Canada Day

I do plan on going through the ‘backlog’ of the pen-and-paper Diary, still. The Great Rethink wasn’t me walking away from that so much as it’s just me giving myself room for other things as well. I’ll probably be a little more fast-and-loose with some of the intervening entries — I do have nearly ten months to catch up on, after all. Sheesh. (Onwards!)

It was minutes past midnight, as the basically-anonymous 30th of June transformed into the 1st of July — Canada Day.1 I had a few ideas burbling in my head for the much-more-famous Fourth of July and so felt some sort moral obligation to celebrate this national day further North, too. I’m a sucker for Occasion Beers, and national days make excuses for such — Australia Day being my personal favourite, for various reasons.

Molson isn’t any kind of craft darling; it’s ultra-massive mainstream golden lager. But I can happily report that it’s not crap. Were it smuggled very-slightly back in time and into the ‘Chosen One’ Choosing Session we’d had a few days prior, it would comfortably take second place: no real trace of faults, but no real substantive charm, either.

Molson 'Canadian', thinks it's Spiderman (Malthouse, 1 July 2011)
Molson 'Canadian' thinks it's Spiderman

But what it does have is the single-greatest health warning / mandatory Take It Easy message I think I’ve ever seen: “Great Beer. Great Responsibility.” It’s mere inches away from quoting Spiderman, which makes me very happy indeed, giant nerd that I admittedly am. Obviously, the logic of it doesn’t go through, since this is very definitely not “great beer”, but it’s a rather delightful way of putting things, all the same. I’d suggest that other people adopt the phrase, but it turns out that they went and trademarketed it, the hockey-loving bastards. Beer-and-trademarks is becoming a truly depressing ongoing theme — though this is a very minor instance of it — and doubtless one I’ll have to get back to and give a proper going-over one day.2

Diary II entry #118, Molson 'Canadian'
Diary II entry #118, Molson 'Canadian'

Original Diary entry: Molson ‘Canadian’ 30/6/11 →3 1/7/11 Happy Birthday Canada! I’m a sucker for an Occasion Beer, and had never had this, so here we go. Doesn’t really deserve a reputation as a Budweiser of the North. Is perfectly clean and easy. Would be a very comfortable 2nd place in the above, for example. Only the merest hint of funk on the nose, otherwise a good example of lawnmoweresque blandness-as-a-virtue.

1: The Blessed Wikipedia assures me that, here in New Zealand and Australia, the first of July is ‘International Tartan Day’, which I hadn’t previously heard of — though it does seem to have a nicely defiant origin, which I could probably get behind.
2: It got something of an airing in the write-ups of Invercargill ‘Sa!son’, Budweiser, and the Stoke beers, among other random mentions here and there. (If you were curious / couldn’t find the “search” box.)
3: Good thing I changed post-dating regimes. God knows what I would’ve done with that.

Dieu du Ciel! ‘Péché Mortel’

Dieu du Ciel! 'Péché Mortel'
Dieu du Ciel! 'Péché Mortel'

First, it must be said that a brewery which insists on ending their name with an exclamation point deserves a bucket of Awesome Points right out of the gate. Next, I’m delighted to have a second Canadian beer in my book so relatively-soon after my first.

I’d enjoyed my Tall Poppy (and its accompanying Japanese Chicken Curry pie) so much, and my ‘early’ night’s time off spent just mooching in the pub was doing my brain a world of good, so I decided to stay for another — and then spent an agonising seeming-eternity trying to decide just what my ’nother would be.

Evidently, I settled on this. Adjusting for the Frogspeak, the brewery is called ‘Oh My God!’1 and this ridiculously good little ‘Imperial Coffee Stout’ is named ‘Mortal Sin’ — though they don’t explicitly indiciate which one they mean… It’s freaking delicious. Big and gloopy and dark with an appropriately crema-looking head, it’s a lovely thing to look at, and a serious wallop of chocolate and coffee up the nose when you give a swirl. The coffee flavours aren’t all just bitter, plenty of that chocolate from the nose is there in the taste, too, along with nudges of smoke and earthy hops to dry out the back end of each sip, and send you back on another go-round of the gawp-swirl-sniff-taste cycle.

Dieu du Ciel! 'Péché Mortel'
Diary II entry #25, Dieu du Ciel! 'Péché Mortel'

Verbatim: Dieu du Diel! ‘Péché Mortel’ Imperial Coffee Stout 13/10/10 $16 @ HZ 341ml(?) What better way to visit more often than just to stay a while longer? Also, it’s a bit of a Bad Brain Day, in both senses. So: reward self. Quebecker beer. I’m told the favourite of a recent tasting. Gorgeously dark, crema-ish head, appropriately. Superblunt coffee / chocolate nose. Slightly syrupy body, borders closer to Big Dark Choc than classic dry bitter coffee. Places an even hundred on rateBeer, and some people there rightly note that it’s not all coffee; much more complex + better for it. Smoky, earthy, grassy hoppiness. No way a one-note showpony. Impressive. One of those beers you just keep taking big whiffs from.

1: Well, literally ‘god in the sky’, but it’s an idiomatic exclamation — much like the German ‘gott in himmel!’ — for surprise or suchlike.

Unibroue ‘Trois Pistoles’

Unibroue 'Trois Pistoles'
Unibroue 'Trois Pistoles'

I get mistaken for Canadian, sometimes (I have very idiosyncratic accent — and no idea why I do). I have Canadian relatives, I’ve been to Canada (though I was not of beer-buying age), one of my favourite bands (The Tragically Hip) is Canadian, as are some of my most-beloved TV shows (Wonderfalls, Due South). So, how the hell did I get to Diary II without any Canadian beer, so far? And how the hell did I get this far without this legendary Canadian beer,1 in particular?

I don’t really have an excuse. But here I am, solving both problems at one delicious time. Because this beer is very much not one of those times where you finally try something much-hyped and are left with a confused look on your face, wondering what everyone elses’ fuss was all about. This deserves the not-insignificant fuss it generates.

It’s a dark, broody looking brown with purply highlights that show up against the light or during a swirl — and which suspiciously-well match the Apocalpytic-looking painting on the bottle. Compared to its big, chewy, Belgian-esque brothers, this one has a fresh, ‘uppy’ and particularly plummy fruitiness that brings a whole smackload of deliciously tart flavour into your face — like a crabapple straight off the tree. I do love the more-typical sticky fruity Belgians like Kwak, but this is just utterly fantastic as itself, and as a comparison.

Unibroue 'Trois Pistoles'
Diary II entry #11, Unibroue 'Trois Pistoles'

Verbatim: Unibroue ‘Trois Pistoles’ 18/9/10 9% 355ml $9 from Rumbles. Ticking off another of those embarrassing Never Hads. Very dark brown-with-reddy-purply-highlights-on-the-swirl. Suits the broody Apocalyptic painting on the bottle. The nose is fresh, uppy and plummy, and that nicely tart fruitiness carries on into yer face. Almost crab-apply. Nice to have that side showing up in one of these big Belgian-esque ales — a fresh change from the stickier sweeter ones like Kwak. Old Port wine character, they say, which is fair. (And hey, Three Pistols was always a favourite Tragically Hip track.)

1: The aforementioned favourite band, The Tragically Hip, even did a song (on their 1991 album, Road Apples) called ‘Three Pistols’. I can only assume it’s not directly related — it’s likely that both are named after the Quebec town. I’m a big enough nerd that I made sure I listened to it while drinking the beer — and while writing up this entry, weeks later. These things have to be done, really.