Photo | Wikimedia commons
Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde, described as a triple-style golden ale, recreates the style of beer originally developed in the Middle Ages by Trappist monks
As June rolls around and everyone in Lower Alabama’s attention turns to hockey’s Stanley Cup Finals, I thought I’d examine some of the local beers from the finalists in the Sin Cities series. But as neither Las Vegas nor Washington, D.C., seem to produce any decent beers (or at least any that we can find around here), I decided to look to the home of Lord Stanley’s Cup — Canada — a place with a rich history of great beer, before we break off all diplomatic relations with our neighbors to the north.
To many Americans like myself, Canadian beer was the original craft beer of the 1980s — it was different, came in green bottles, had a richer taste and was stronger than most of the American lagers we were weaned on. Moosehead, Molson and Labatt’s could be found on most grocery shelves then, but that’s no longer the case as American craft beers have begun to push into the market that once was open to imports from Canada and Europe.
I sought out some of the beers of my youth and, after a great deal of searching, my wife was able to find both Labatt’s Blue (now owned by Belgium’s InBev, which also owns Budweiser) and Molson Canadian (now owned by MillerCoors) at the Piggly Wiggly. Labatt’s Blue, its flagship brew, is light and sweet, not bitter, but with a bit more heft than we’re used to from American pilsners.
Molson Canadian — which myth used to hold was only available in Canada, while Molson Golden was the lesser beer sent south to the Americans — is now about the only Molson product you can find in many parts of the U.S. It is also light — especially compared to today’s craft beers — but not as sweet as the Labatt’s, a lager with barley notes and a hint of bitterness.
Like the U.S., Canada has also gone through a craft beer revolution, but most Canadian craft brews are not available in the U.S.; those that are exported here are often found in New England and the Pacific Northwest. However, while not easy to find in our area, LoDa Bier Garten did have a couple of styles from one of Canada’s best-known craft breweries, Quebec’s Unibroue.
Founded in 1992, Unibroue focuses on producing beers in a traditional Belgian style. It puts out more than a dozen beers, including specialty brews, most of which are bottle-conditioned, allowing for natural fermentation. There were six Unibroue styles on the menu at LoDa, including a Witbeir and an apple fruit beer, but, unfortunately for me, some were already gone when I was there.
I had the Maudite, a Belgian dubbel. At 8 percent alcohol by volume, the Maudite (which translates to “the Damned”) was strong but not at all overpowering, and actually very smooth for a dubbel. It had a deep red color, with good malt flavors and a touch of caramel sweetness. Not for everyone, but if you like strong Belgian ales, it is certainly worth a try.
For those willing to travel up north for some good beer — but not as far as Canada — the Rocket City Brewfest is this weekend, June 8-9, at Butler Green in Huntsville. Tickets cost $40 and there will be more than 200 beers, meads and ciders to sample at a penny per pour. More information can be found at rocketcitybrewfest.com.
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