My “workflow”* process for writing the First Draught posts is pretty simple: drink the beer, take notes, shoot a photo, do some quick background reading and write it up. This time out, that fourth step ballooned into a bit of a paranoid obsession. I was bothered by the feeling that I had missed something while searching for a unified definition of “Grand Cru” beer. But, from a living room covered in beer books (not to mention a computer screen covered in browser tabs) I can report that there really isn’t a single meaning. It sometimes means “this beer has spent time in oak barrels” and more often “this is the best beer we make.”
The St. Feuillien Grand Cru (also in the LCBO’s Spring release) is an exception on both counts. It isn’t aged and they also brew a Grande Cuvee and a Grand Cru Reserve. Bottom-ish line: regardless of what the name really means the Brasserie des Rocs Grand Cru is an excellent beer and a great deal for $3.10.
*obligatory quotations for referring to work that involves drinking alcohol, sometimes before noon even.
Those who market beer for a living can get a bit prickly when their product is compared to wine — except, of course, when they lift terminology directly from wine labels.
In Burgundy, for instance, “Grand Cru” is a protected label reserved for the region’s top-tier wines. For Belgian beer, “Grand Cru” sometimes indicates aging (or blending aged beer with young beer), but ultimately, it just means, “Well, we think this is pretty much the best we make.” The Grand Cru from Brasserie des Rocs is an example of a beer that deserves that lofty moniker.
From its bottle-conditioning and being left unfiltered, this beer gets a cloudy, auburn-to-dark-brown appearance. The nose on the Grand Cru shows notes that are common to most dark and strong Belgian ales: sweet and biscuity, with hints of figs, maple and wood. The first sip opens on toffee and butterscotch before moving into a dry and lemony middle that leads into a long-lasting, aromatic finish.
Take this one out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before you want to drink it, because it really needs to be around 12 degrees Celsius for all of the yeast-created complexities to come out. A wide glass that you can hold in your hand — like a chalice, or at least a large wine glass — will also help warm the beer.
I could see this beer matching well with the sweet spiciness of Korean bulgogi. I’d also keep it in mind for desserts like crème caramel, which lean more towards the flavours of burnt sugar rather than cloying sweetness.
Those in the beer-drinking peanut gallery tend to agree with the superlative designation for Brasserie des Rocs’s top offering. Voters on ratebeer.com (a cross between the populist voting system of Yelp and the geeky weighted average of IMDb) put it in their 100th percentile.
Bottles are starting to trickle onto LCBO shelves, but this is a limited release, and ones rated this highly don’t tend to last for long.
Brasserie des Rocs Grand Cru, $3.10 for a 330 mL bottle. LCBO #305896