La Terrible is the subject for the second of three First Draught posts that I’m catching up on re-posting this week. This ale, brewed in Quebec, in the Belgian style is another to add to the list of beers worth sipping in contemplation. That we’re now well into the fourth month for these “winter warmers” has me contemplating the arrival of Spring.
I’ll offer a note on serving this beer that I didn’t get to in my original post on Post City. Like with sparkling wine the two goals to consider when opening a cork-and-cage bottle are: that as many of the bubbles as possible stay in the liquid; and that no one takes a cork to the eye. The in-bottle fermentation has created gas that wants to expand and push the cork out (though not as much pressure as you would find in a typical bottle of champagne.) While opening the bottle keeping it pointed towards the ceiling and away from other people. After the cage is removed, grip the cork tightly in one hand and turn the bottle with the other—not the other way around. The beer should be served in a chalice (a large wine glass can stand in nicely) and will be best at a relatively warm 10 – 12°C.
Ontario’s craft beer industry has grown at a steady clip over the last three years, and while the gap is closing, we’re still playing catch-up with our neighbours to the east. Since 1990, Unibroue (now owned by Sapporo, via Sleeman) has been one of the leaders of a class of Quebec breweries that borrows heavily from the Belgian playbook.
It seems that every Ontario student who spends a summer studying French in Quebec picks up a taste for the regular Unibroue staples like Blanche de Chambly and La Fin du Monde. But once they leave their twenties behind, they should be willing to move up to more complex, special releases like Terrible.
I’m going to simplify things a bit here, but if German beers are known for their austerity and strict adherence to style, and if Americans are known for a heavy hand with flavourful hops, then the Belgians have carved a niche for themselves with beers that highlight the aromas and flavours derived from their particular strains of yeast. These are enhanced with the (entirely acceptable) addition of spices and other flavourful ingredients. As a strong, dark Belgian ale bottled on lees (a dose of the yeast is added to each bottle), Terrible fits that description.
The suggested serving temperature for Terrible is between 10 and 12 degrees Celsius, so it needs a glass that will allow heat from your hand to warm the beer. A chalice, tulip or snifter would all work well.
Once poured, this beer shows as a very dark brown with a black centre and a light mocha head. The smell has the sweetness of raisins and plums, accented with a bit of bread yeast, and the flavour pulls this together with toast, fruit cake and a hint of vanilla. Even at 10.5 per cent, the alcohol is only a subtle note on the finish, but the heavy carbonation one expects from a Unibroue beer is obvious throughout.
When trying to pair this beer with food — and this is a dinner beer much more than a just-shoveled-the-driveway beer — think about where those dark fruit flavours would be most comfortable. A crisp-skinned duck breast with a Madeira sauce or a Moroccan lamb tagine would top my list.