I am unsure why so many people seem to have a different view on Dunham Brewery than I do, but to me they are the example of quality, class, and unique creations that often is not seen in Quebec. Where most Quebec breweries are sticking to the norm of beer making, Dunham is experimental and expansive in what they undertake. An experimental brewery like Dunham can gain inspiration from numerous places, “My ideas in brewing also come a lot from other experiences that I have with food, tea and other beverages. Inspiration is not only coming from the brewing world, although I still get a lot of inspiration from tasting my peers creations and travelling is always great for that.” Eloi explains. Eloi Deit, is the head brewer at Dunham and has been in charge of the ship since Dunham began its journey almost 7 years ago. Although Dunham is still a fairly young brewery, Eloi began his journey sometime back, while I was a mere 1 years old, “I started as a home brewer in 1988! I quickly became hooked-upon brewing and became obsessed about the idea of doing it professionally. In 1995 I worked as a manager of the Café de l’Usine C in Montreal and introduced some craft beers into the menu. At that time that meant Boréale, St-Ambroise and Le Cheval Blanc. I then became friends with Le Cheval Blanc owner and he hired me to be a bartender at his brewpub. I quickly became assistant brewer too and 4 years later, main brewer there.”
There can be some areas of experimental brewing that may not always be stable, but such is the case with any brewery that is so experimental. That is the reason why they have my attention and continue to keep it there. They make a wide variety of beers and all of them are fantastic! The have a solid range of IPAs, some great stouts and some spectacularly funky wild/sour ales. Sometimes a lot of experiments can go just as you planned them and often times they can go astray, making a mistake in the process, or a fluke accident can actually lead to a different yet unexpectedly more successful direction. Not everything successful in this world happens through planning and consistency, sometimes things just happen by accident. Other times unexpected visits can lead to the brewers having to think quickly on their feet as Eliot Diet, head brewer, explains, “Our collab with Clos Saragnat. We had been talking about doing something together for over 2 years and we talked a lot about spontaneous fermentation and Christian offered to bring me his own spontaneous flora to try in the beer. He just showed up one day, without any prior notice with 300 liters of unfinished fermenting spontaneous cider! Everything was in buckets, and he was like, you need to do something with it right now! By chance, we had a spare fermenter that was empty and I was able to rack the cider and 225 liters of unfermented Saison Rustique that we were brewing that day! It became Pourquoi Pas… I just added seabuckthorns to a beer, that were sent to me by Gaspésie Sauvage without notice. I love those incidents! It forces me to be creative and top think quick and react!”
Dunham Saison Reserve
Saison || ABV: 6.5% || IBU: 45
Bottled: Unknown || Drank: March 27 2016
Aroma is bold on the rustiness and the taste hits you hard. Not a light saison at all, nor one for the weak! Spicy and very sharp with hints of citrus. Fairly dry with a bit of a bretty taste. Pretty dry. The combinations of the leos early breakfast and saison rustique work really well, and the pinot noir barrel only adds a bit of a woody flavor. I don’t feel much of the fruityness from this beer, but def has a strong attack of the rustic taste. For me it’s a gorgeous combination with a solid execution on part of Dunham.
With the new year upon us Dunham has decided to make some changes to their bottle release. Along with their usual Summer and Fall releases this year they have decided to add a smaller winter release as well, as you may now know with Dunham’s recent announcement. Details here. They have also moved away from their pre-order system and changed to a first come first serve basis. “Well, Sirkawa will be the first new beer to come out this month. Release is planned for February 25th. It will be an almost all black release this month! We’re planning to have a winter black beer release every year, smaller than our 2 big releases (may and October). So this one will have Sirkawa – Zonder Goblins (only the second time we’re releasing it) – Imperial Black IPA and Lapatt Porter special edition. It’s going to be the end of Lapatt Porter! We’re retiring it along with the Rye ESB! We felt the life cycle of these 2 beers were done! But, we’ll do it a bit special. We will brew the Lapatt with Pat Roy from Sutton brewey and we might ferment it differently, with brett, and also do a dry-hopped version of it.” I personally am very sad to see the Lapatt porter go, it is by far my favorite porter from Quebec. But along with that news, there seems to be some really exciting stuff happening with Dunham this year, “Oro Zuur batch 3 (don’t know yet the hops we’ll use in dry-hop). 2 beers made with grapes. One is a lightly hopped saison fermented with Vidal grapes from L’Orpailleur and barrel-aged in wine barrels. The second one was made with Ice Wine from vignoble du Marathonien and will see barrel-ageing as well. We have a collab with Le Cheval Blanc for their 30th anniversary coming up in April. It’s a mixed fermentation saison aged in Pinot Noir barrels. We’ll have declination of it. Some with seabuckthorns, some with different barrel-ageing.”
Dunham Oro Zuur Batch 1 (Mosaic)
Sour/Wild || ABV: 5.5% || IBU: 8
Bottled: July 14, 2016 || Drank: October 29, 2016
Aroma gives off an amazing saison style zestyness with similarities of Dorothy. Taste is wonderful! Has a nice hoppy saison zestyness, very citric and fruity. Very very similar to how Dorothy taste, but more on the sour side of things rather than an earthy rusticness. Very smooth and very easy to drink. The flavors really shine and dance together well creating a very nice sour, tart, saison stlye beer. Can be very enjoyable during the summer time on a warm day, but even during the cold it is still fairly enjoyable. I honestly did not expect this beer to have such a splendid flavor!
Dunham Oro Zuur Batch 2 (Amarillo)
Sour/Wild || ABV: 5.5% || IBU: 8
Bottled: September 27, 2016 || Drank: Dec 8, 2016
Amarillo isn’t one of my favorite hops, and in comparison to batch one, which utilized Mosaic, I wasn’t expecting to be amazed by this batch 2. The aroma smells fantastic, It has that great Hill Farmstead saison yeast and sour smell. It also has a bit of a candy aroma. Taste isn’t as wonderful as the batch #1, as I suspected. But thats more of a personal choice rather than a portrayal of the beer itself. This one is more subtle on the tart, and a bit more earthy. It starts with a tad sweetness and then moves swiftly into a very dry earthiness.
It seems there is never a dull moment in Dunhams march forward to domination of Beer Quebec! I am excited for some of these releases as trying new beer is always an exciting routine in our beer geek fandom. And the fun does not stop there, Collaborations are a big part of craft beer. Often times breweries will collaborate with each other to create a beer inspired by both brewers near by, far and wide. It is a opportunity for people with similar job titles to get together for some brewing and fun! Trou Du Diable recently released Argan, their collaboration with Hill Farmstead Brewery in Vermont, and Dunham has been known in the past to collaborate with some interesting breweries and will continue to do so in the future, “More collabs, already planned one with Vox Populi, J.Wakefield coming this spring, away at Cambridge brewing, and also I have a project of a smoked tea beer with Tête d’Allumette” I am always interested in collaborations to see how two brewers from different background, locations, aesthetic styles come together and create something balanced between both their worlds, or experiment and try something from neither of their expertise.
Draft magazine recently did an article covering the industries current shift from 22oz bombers to 12oz smaller more manageable formats. One of the big names that decided to make this shift for the year 2017 is Firestone Walker with their special reserve line. The likes of Velvet Merkin, Parabola, and many others will now be sold in 12oz (355ml) formats rather than 22oz (650ml) formats. The reasoning behind this shift was due to the price margin on a 22oz bottle being upwards to $25 where as a smaller 12oz can be sold for $10, as well as a more wider distribution, giving everybody a chance to try some of these tasty brews. Dunham’s Stout Imperial Russe has already been in a smaller 355ml format, but the reasoning behind their decision to keep things small doesn’t correlate to Firestone Walkers idea, they are more supportive to the beautiful art of labels! When asked about their format Eloi had this to say, “Yes and no. We try to have a certain balance in our lineup between small and big format. And yes, we thought the RIS was fun to have in 341ml bottles. But we’ll be releasing Sirkawa in february, a coffee imperial stout, and it will be in 750ml. One thing that we consider also is artwork. The 750ml labels or 375ml labels (Petite Mort) gives us more room to be creative on the labels. So, when it’s a special beer and we ask an artist to produce a label, it’s fun to do it in 750ml.!” I would have to agree with Eloi’s statements here, however as a consumer I do find that my 650ml bombers are sitting in my cellar gathering dust, for the simple reason that they are 11% ABV or higher and can be tough to handle on your own. One thing is certain, Dunhams support of creativity and the culture of art is firm and commendable!
Dunham Stout Imperial Russe (Bourbon)
Russian Imperial Stout || ABV: 9.5% || IBU: 75
Bottled: September 29 2016 || Drank: Dec 20, 2016
Aroma has a great earthy/woody character along with the bourbon dominance. The taste is simply amazing and complex. Getting notes mainly of the wood characters of the barrels, with end notes of tobacco and coffee at the end trails. A wonderful barrel age for the Russian imperial stout. I honestly feel like bourbon barrel age is my go to with aged beers. This beer was released in several other versions and I have yet to taste some of the others, but so far this one is solid! The bourbon has a general sweetness but it’s not very strong in this beer which is nice. I’m really enjoying the woody character, bourbon BA is always a seller for me!
A head brewer can face many challenges during his day to day routine and is essentially the captain who steers the ship. From creating ingredients to brewing schedules, from tastings to managing overall production, and sometimes a little bit of travel for inspiration, “with the success we’ve had in the recent years, we’ve been invited to so many events in the US, the rest of Canada and a bit in Europe, that travelling has became part of my routine too! In 2016 I did at least 6 trips related to craft beer. I’m leaving for California this Thursdays for the Ratebeer Best awards and Festival. So, I’ll have the chance to try new beers and… a lot of great wine from Sonoma valley!” I am certain Eloi is happy with this being a part of his job description!
Some of the more boring tasks can be more administrative tasks as Eloi explains “First thing in the morning is generally going through all the e-mails. With a coffee… I’m now doing more office work than brewing per se. A lot of my time is spent making sure everybody has everything they need to complete the brewing schedule. Scheduling is also a big part of my daily routine now. Scheduling and…re-scheduling, as it seems that a brewing schedule is meant to be broken all the time! If not by a good idea, a change of plan in the brewing, it can just be because of a breakage somewhere. Glycol system, gas leak, etc…” But being a head brewer contains lots of exciting and fun activities, “Another thing I try to do everyday is keeping an eye (and tasting!) on the fermentation process of all the beers. I will sit at least once a week to do comparative tastings with our own products and with beers from other brewery sometimes.” If I could get paid to do tastings, I would be there. Barrel ageing began with Goose Island and their Bourbon County Brand Stout, they were the first to successfully experiment with barrel ageing and pretty soon after, many other breweries began this great journey into barrels! As a head brewer, you must overlook the barrel program at the brewery, by spending time making decisions on which barrels to purchase, utilize, and experiment with, “And lastly, there’s the barrel program. I’m honestly not spending enough time sampling the barrels. I would love to spend at least a day / week being close to the barrels. These days, it’s more a day every month!”
Dunham Berliner Mango Weisse
Berliner Weisse || ABV: 4.2% || IBU: –
Aroma is an interesting spicy sour and peppery sharpness. Taste is fantastically sour and very light with easy drinkability. Great beer for a hot summer day. A bit strong on acidity which makes it hard to down fast, but I don’t know anyone who would want to drink this down quickly. It is absolutely fantastic. Very well executed by Dunham and an absolute delight. Enjoying this more than Solstice D’ete, but thats my personal preference. In general I am not a fan of the berliner weisse styles, but this beer by Dunham suits me just fine.
I have continually been amazed by Dunhams Cyclope IPA line and have hailed them as the hop devils of Quebec previously. In more recent times a brand new face has started to take that torch away from them, of course I am speaking of Auval! However, Dunham still ceases to amaze me when it comes to their IPAs and recently I have seen a huge turn in their direction for this line, “The idea behind this series was to be experimental with the hops. And although we were quite happy with the first 2 incarnations (Alpha and Bêtà), it was more difficult with other (Delta…). We were kind of sticking with a more west-coast style of IPA. But Max Cloutier did a lot of research on NEIPA and we finally decided to go full NEIPA style with Thêta. We liked it so much, as well as the public, that we decided to take this route for all the Cyclope series. Cyclope Alpha is about to be re-bottle for the second time only, a year and a half after its original brew, and I think it’s going to be a blast. We also have Iota fermenting (Denali + Calypso hops) that will be hop bombs Neipa. I don’t think anybody will complain…” Do my eyes deceive me!!! Cyclope Alpha making a return, wow.. now I’m excited!
Culinary arts and wine has long been a staple in our appreciation of combining two aspects of indulgence into perfect balance and a complimentary dance. There are specific wines said to go well with certain types of foods to enhance your palate and create an experience that is beyond the normal plane of perception. In most recent times and with the rise of craft beer, the culinary arts have been combining with different styles of beers and oh what a wonderful world it is. Finally I can go to a restaurant and have a beer that pairs well with a delicious meal. For those that may not know too much about beer and food pairings, fear not, some waiters may have the knowledge, otherwise here are some tips on Dunhams beers and what Eloi suggest pairs well! “I think beers like coco chipotle porter can pair well with desserts made with chocolate, Gouden Meyer with its citrus zings can be fun with seafoods or chinese cuisine, Leo’s also pairs well with salmon gravlax!”
Dunham No Tahoma Farmhouse
Farmhouse Pale Ale || ABV: 5.9% || IBU: 58
Bottled: Unknown || Drank: May 22, 2016
Very subtle spicy aromas. Taste is very interesting, similar to the fleurs sauvages. But pretty much what it describes, a wild pale ale fermented with bretts. This is when I really like bretts in a beer, when it’s utilized perfectly like with the Tahoma. Ads just a little extra kick to a hopped up farmhouse. It works spectacularly with a pale ale, or hopped saison. It transitions a regular saison, or pale ale into a wild, spicy, interesting and beer. It gives the beer a certain character. When the bretts are too dominant it can be too much for me to enjoy. Where as some people are running after bretted beers, I’m running the other way. But this beer was an odd delight!
This year is going to be an amazing year for Dunham, and I am very excited to be able to explore more of their beers and partake in the further expansion of Dunhams beers over the landscape of Quebec.
Words + Photography by HopCitizen