Tasting Notes with JIm Beauregard: A bottle-fermented 'strong ale' that's versatile enough for summer

By JIM BEAUREGARD June 13. 2017 9:47PM

La Resolution from the Quebec brewery Unibroue. 

Last week, you may recall, I presented you a beer from Unibroue in Canada. Since I had Canada on my mind, on a recent trip to the store I picked up a different bottle from the same brewery that I thought I would share with you today.

Like last week’s La Fin du Monde, today’s La Résolution shares a trait with sparkling wines — namely, bottle fermentation.

What that means, in essence, is that the first, typical fermentation process takes place outside the bottle, but then a second fermentation takes place inside the bottle. You can usually recognize this by the fact that the bottle is under a Champagne cork and cage. (Since there is a lot of pressure in the bottle, there’s a higher risk that it would blow out a regular cylindrical wine cork.)

Now, when a sparkling wine is made, the wine (or in this case, beer) is bottled after the fermentation takes place. During bottling, a small mixture of sugar and yeast is added to the bottle just before it is corked. The yeast then proceeds to devour the sugar, because that is what yeast does, and in the process creates more alcohol and carbon dioxide. The result is a very sparkling wine — Champagne, Cava, Sekt, Prosecco, or whatever. (Just don’t call it “champagne” if it’s made outside the Champagne region of northern France, because if you do the Champagne police will descend upon you and carry you off to court. They are quite possessive about their name.)

There is second commonality between today’s beer and wine, also related to the second fermentation: aging on lees. Once the yeast has done its job and eaten up all that captive sugar and doesn’t have anything else around to devour, it does what most things do when their food supply is cut off: It dies, and then it sinks to the bottom of the bottle. It is then referred to as “lees.”

Now, at first, having dead residue lying around the bottom of the bottle may not sound like a good thing (but hey, just think about the dead worm in the bottom of a tequila bottle and it starts to look better already). But the dead yeast continues to add flavor to whatever liquid the bottle happens to contain. The end result is a much richer, flavorful wine or beer in the end.

Unibroue La Résolution, Extra Strong Dark Ale on Lees; 10% alcohol by volume; Chambly, Quebec. The label also mentioned that there are also spices involved in the brewing. This 750-mL bottle is available in a variety of places. I got mine at Harvest Market; the beer shops are quite likely to carry it as well. It’s under champagne cork so grasp the cork firmly and with your dominant hand and slowly turn the bottom of the bottle so that the cork is extracted very slowly.

I poured mine into a Chimay-style glass, meaning short and straight sides, then tapering down to a fairly thick bottom and stem. The beer has a thick, lasting, tan-colored, creamy head with a good number of bubbles popping out here and there. The beer is dark brown/black with very good carbonation. The nose is actually fairly light given the darkness of the brew, but fear not — it bursts forth on the dark, rich, palate.

This is a dark, rich, creamy, full-bodied beer, heading into the ballpark of a Belgian quadruple, which means both weight and flavor, and the profile includes some lighter spices, rich flavors of malt running from caramel to bread to cookie dough. That’s not to say that it’s sweet or cloying or anything of that nature; rather it’s definitely a strong, well-structured beer that can be drunk with pleasure on its own, but that would also stand up very well to grilled meats like sirloin or hamburgers and might even make a nice contrast-type companion to a marinated tuna steak.

In other words, it’s versatile and flavorful, and you can serve it ice cold for summer.

Contact wine and beer writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.


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