For my first review under my new system, I’d like to do something special.
As everybody knows (because the world loves Canadian history), it is Quebec city’s 400th anniversary. It may not compare favourably to cities in Europe and Asia, but, in North America, Quebec is winning.
And beer drinkers are winning too. Unibroue, the Quebec-based Belgian-style brewery responsible for Maudite, Trois Pistoles, Blanche de Chamblix and a number of other fine beers, released a 400th anniversary limited edition Belgian ale called Quatre Centieme.
I’m a fan of Unibroue’s beers even though they are now owned by some international mega-brew conglomercorp. Actually that might be why it is so easy to get their beers here on the other side of the continent. My favourite is their dark-strong Trois Pistoles, but I will quite happily imbibe anything they have to offer.
Enough rambling, lets drink some beer.
Connect the Dots
My first impression is that this beer is sort of like Orval without the Brett. I think the two beers share citrus-like characteristics which I guess must come from the hops, but I had always assumed the citrus flavours in Orval came from the Brett. I like the Brett in Orval, so Quatre Centieme doesn’t doesn’t score as high as Orval, but it’s still quite good.
One of the first things I react to in strong beers is phenols. Phenols are fine in most Belgian beers according to BJCP guidelines. To my pallett, phenols impart a rubbing alcohol character (although it is most commonly described as medicinal). According to my guidelines, however, phenols had better be at a minimum. I don’t like phenols in my beer. Quatre Centieme sits at the low end of the Belgian-beer phenol spectrum so I’m quite pleased. Quatre Centieme is better than Unibroue’s Maudite and definitely better than their Fin du Monde.
I’d love to get confirmation on this, but I think Unibroue uses the same yeast for all their beers and I think this comes out in the aromas of their beers. I’ll definitely be paying more attention to this aspect of other Unibroue beers in the future.
The Fly is Supposed to be in the Beer
Going back to the citrus flavours and the Orval comparison, I wonder if maybe this beer doesn’t have a little Brett and was just released earlier than Orval. I suggested earlier that the citrus flavour came from the hops, but I haven’t convinced myself. If I can find another bottle (I bought the last one at the local liquor store) then I will cellar it and try not to drink it too soon.
How Would I Brew It?
Ignoring the fact that I have no idea how to produce a similar beer, I might try adding yuzu juice to the beer. I think the yuzu flavours would blend well with the citrus-like characters of the beer.
As a short aside, yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit that tastes like a cross between an orange and a grapefruit except that it is too dry and bitter to eat on its own. Normally, you (I, because Japanese people use yuzu for more than just liquor) sqeeze a few drops of yuzu in to a glass of warm sake. Drinking sake this way is called atsukame and is definitely worth trying before you decide that you don’t like sake.
Definitely hang-over worthy. Because it is limited edition, I recommend you try to get your hands on Quatre Centieme the next time you are at a beer store that has a decent selection. But if you can’t get it, don’t go on a pilgrimage to Quebec just to find Quatre Centieme. It is very good, but not great.