It is no surprise to my readers that Microbrasserie Le Castor is one of my favourite breweries from Quebec. Thus far I have covered beers which can be a little bit more easy to drink for the everyday drinker. But this article will cover some of the more tough to digest beers, or in other words, beer for champions. Having come from an IPA background, my exploration of craft beer has really taken me from a very narrow minded view to a more encapsulating view of craft beer. I have delved into beers I would think my taste buds would not fancy. However, tastes are an ever growing entity, and to my surprise my taste has truly evolved. The much harder beers for the average drinker to swallow down include the bold, crazy experimental, barrel aged beers and heavy body styled ales. The experiment doesn’t lay with the complex scientific process of ageing, but rather it’s dependant on the brewer choosing a beer style and a barrel type to transform the beer into a more complex work of art.
Barrel ageing is a very complex process. It involves four major factors, the beer style, the type of barrel, time and temperature. Any beer can be barrel aged, but that doesn’t mean that each style will be successful. Beers with a higher alcohol content and strong flavours are usually the ones that are considered for barrel ageing.
Each beer is brewed using its normal process and is then placed in particular barrels for ageing. What barrel aged entails is the brewery purchases empty barrels, in which previously a particular type of liquor was distilled, to place a particular product of theirs for ageing. There are various types available in the market from oak to rum to bourbon. Bourbon does seem to be the most popular, being popularized by Goose Island Brewery and their highly rated and sought after Bourbon County Stout. In this case a stout is brewed and then tossed in bourbon barrels and left for a certain period of time at a certain temperature. Time and temperature are the most essential of the entire process. The time frame you age has a distinct effect on the beer. There is no particular way when it comes to time, it’s all up to what the brew master is looking for and which flavours he wants to bring out more. But generally the longer you age, the more delicate the beer. And Alas! Barrel aged beer is produced.
I caught up with the brew master and co-owner of Le Castor and you can view my conversation with him below.
Daniel Addey-Jibb, the man, the myth, the legend. Co-owner and brewer of Le Castor
HopCitizen: Are there any new exciting surprise awaiting us for this year and next?
Daniel Addey-Jibb: Yes, we always have new beers being developed and we should have some new ones out very soon, but of course we can’t say anything about them as we sometimes have issues at the last minute that might delay a release, so we have learned to say nothing until the beer is in bottles and on the truck, otherwise people get disappointed if it doesn’t happen.
HopCitizen: Yakima IPA in my opinion is the best IPA in the Quebec market, it captures that distinct hoppy west coast character quite charmingly. What was the inspiration behind this IPA? Any plans for another flagship IPA, or maybe some special release IPAs?
Daniel Addey-Jibb: Thanks – we’re glad you like it! When coming up with ideas for our IPA, the original idea was to maybe produce a couple test batches first that included a west coast styled IPA and an east coast styled IPA, and see which one we liked better. Then I remember bringing back a bottle of Stone’s IPA from a holiday in the USA, and it was pretty clear which way to go. I had personally never had a true West Coast interpretation before then. More pale, drier and fruit forward!
Not sure if we would add another year-round IPA. It’s very tough with hop availability, and brewing capacity. Seasonals would work better. We also have a lot less varieties of hops to work with on the organic side – most of the newer hops are not produced organically, so we don’t want to repeat ourselves either – we would want it to be different from the Yakima.
Regarding brewing capacity, right now the only beer we can produce full time is Yakima IPA. Keeping in mind that we are still a very small brewery, and with summer demand so high, we have had to drop several other beers that used to be full time offerings, and make them seasonal. We have also had to put other projects on the shelf, or cancel them outright, due to the capacity issues we have right now, including a collaborative beer we were supposed to be brewing with LABAQ, a Quebec home brewing association.
HopCitizen: How did you and your partner Murray Elliot get the idea to start brewing and what was your goal and inspiration of doing it all organic?
Daniel Addey-Jibb: We got into home brewing as we had some free time on our hands when our specialized timber frame construction business had a very slow summer back in 2009. After those first few batches of homebrew – we were convinced we wanted to try to do it commercially. We developed our love for good beer in the UK when we worked there as carpenters. Our other passion was actually whisky, as we lived in Scotland during our timber frame carpentry apprenticeships.
Going all organic was a natural extension of our practice of using sustainably harvested wood in our carpentry projects. It’s the same idea. Organic just felt like a logical choice. It does cost a lot more for raw materials, and there are less ingredients on offer, but we have what we need to make interesting beer.
HopCitizen: You mentioned in a Montreal Gazette article from November 2014, that you would plateau in 2015, and hopefully look to expand, any plans or intentions in the works?
Daniel Addey-Jibb: That was the plan! But no, we have not plateau’d yet. Maybe next year. We just finished a building expansion and we are already low on space. We have some more tanks to add this year, and some other important pieces of equipment, and then we have to take stock of where we are and what the next logical move is. There is always a new space to build or new piece of equipment to buy in a brewery. It’s endless. You can easily invest $100,000 in lab equipment – and that’s for a small lab!
We have just started sending our wild beers outside of Quebec as well, so we have to see how that goes over the next year as that will influence future decisions. The other issue is that if we do decide to expand the brewery again, it will be a big project as we are pretty well maxed out on our brewing system. So it’s not just a question of adding a few FV’s (Fermentation Vessel). We would need to double or triple our building size and add a new brew house. It’s a big project so it needs to be planned very carefully. We aren’t quite ready for a project of this size yet. We would want to do something special with the building as well – something that reflects our passion for architecture and sustainability.
HopCitizen: What variations did you make if any between the 2016 Barley wine and the 2015 Barley wine. I had a taste of both and felt that the 2015 was much more to my liking a year aged. Do you feel the BWs should maybe sit and age for a while to really get the feel of the beer, or is it more of a taste bud preference?
Daniel Addey-Jibb: The main difference is in the aroma/flavour hops used. There are lots of ways to brew an American Barley wine, so it’s really up to the brewer’s fancy. And once it’s in the consumer’s hands, they can then decide if they want to drink it fresh for the hop forwardness, or let it age and mellow – both in terms of alcohol bite and hop attack. It’s the kind of beer that benefits from consumer involvement, meaning it’s great for cellaring. Totally up to you as to how long you let it age. We always suggest you try one every 3 or 4 months, and see how it evolves, and if you like it more or less. This idea holds equally true with Brett beers, even more so.
Thanks again Daniel for taking the time out!
Now to geeky beer talk. Just like Jack Sparrow I was unable to stand still after the consumption of these beers and the world seemed like a better place. Until the rum was gone, why is the rum always gone?
I have always been a very honest guy, I’m not one to falsely write my opinions on any beer, and like I stated they are my opinions! They do not reflect on the quality of the beer or the brewery. As each beer drinker has a different palate, some may not agree with my palate or opinions. Do not be turned off by anything you read on this blog, I urge you to go and explore for yourself!
Scotch Ale || ABV: 11%
A scotch ale aged in South American rum barrels, this beer boasts a big bold boozy and malt aroma. A scotch ale, also known as Wee Heavy, is essentially a malt forward, bold beer which tends to be higher than 7% ABV and has a fuller body, with more sweetness from the malts and a very minor hop profile. They are beers for the bold! To me they are overwhelmingly malty. The Wee Heavy from Le Castor comes aged in Bourbon as well as, covered here, the Rum aged version.
Russian Imperial Stout || ABV: 11%
Bottled: Feb 11 2015 || Drank: June 25 2016
Song of the week:Some may know but most may not, but I’m a hardcore metal head! You may find some tid bits here and there on my articles. Make Them Suffer, is a band hailing from Australia, they are in no way a new find for me but I did recently come across a new release from them titled ‘Ether”, it combines tranquil and heavy in a very serene manner. It has the heavy hooks and leads which are followed by some melodic progressive notes and some angelic female vocals during the chorus which make you thump your feet as well as sway ever so gently.Be sure to check out their full length album Neverbloom and some of their newer work!
Barley Wine || ABV: 9%
Bottled: – || Drank: April 19, 2016
Even though this is primarily a series on rum aged beers, I really wanted to bring in their regular barley wines as a way to compare it with the barrel aged version which I will dwell into below.
This ones aromas are a lot more subtle than the 2016. The 2016 boasts aromas with crazy malty sweetness. The 2015 having aged for a year has a very light soothing malt aroma. Smells a lot less sticky too in my opinion. The taste has a nice rustic malty sweetness along with a nice mellow raisin feel. It has got a rough sharpness and heartburn feel to it but these beers aren’t for the faint hearted. I have not had this one fresh so I can not compare how it’s aged. So it’s hard to gather how it has developed as a beer, but I can safely say I like my Barely Wines a bit aged rather than fresh. So surprisingly I might like the subtle flavours of this aged a bit more than the in your face fresh Barley Wine. I feel like the ageing adds a sense of connection between all the flavours and creates a great balance.
Barley Wine || ABV: 9%
Has a very malty aroma and is pretty redish in color. I feel like I enjoy the Solstice D’hiver style Barley wines a bit more than this. The first taste of it is a mixture of a lot of flavours that aren’t settling well on my palate. Not as bad as the start, with time it really mellows out. With such strong bold flavours, sometimes you need to let your palate adjust a bit because the flavours can be a bit over powering. It gives off notes of dates, dried fruits, and sweet malts. A large snifter of this was finished really quickly actually. I wouldn’t categorize Barley Wines as my top style. But so far what Le Castor and Dieu Du Ciel have to offer up have been more than satisfying!
Barley Wine || ABV: 9.5%
Bottled: November 30 2015 || Drank: June 25 2016
An article by HopCitizen. Photography by HopCitizen.