Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Quaff Review #11: La Loubécoise

One thing I've had to adjust to since moving from Ontario to British Columbia is the nature of the beer market. In my experience, the BCL just overall has a poorer selection of beer varieties than Ontario's LCBO; even the Signature BCL outlets I've come across don't have vastly better selection than the small but reliable Parkdale LCBO.

Fortunately, the BCL is not the only game in town here - there are also a profusion of private liquor stores, something that took a bit for me to get used to. Many of them are attached to bars, but some stand independently, and some give far wider selection than the BCL at the cost of being somewhat more expensive. But for some things, it's worth it.

Like La Loubécoise. Even in Ontario, I'd never come across this beer. I found it at Firefly Fine Wines and Ales on Cambie, right across the street from Vancouver City Hall, in the big walk-in cooler there. I could have gone the Dieu du Ciel route, since I've finally found a retailer in BC that sells its products - but that's the past. I wanted something new. I wanted the future!

La Loubécoise is actually a Belgian beer - strong Belgian ale, the label says, with 8% alc./vol. It's made by Brasserie d'Ecaussinnes in the town of Écaussinnes in Wallonia, which Wikipedia informs me has "well-known blues festival." The town, that is, not Wallonia. If my limited capacity for French literacy isn't failing me, the brewers describe La Loubécoise as a craft-brewed brown Belgian beer that is made with maple syrup from Quebec. The back label gives the particulars in French, German, English, and Dutch, specifying it as a "top-fermented beer" and misspelling "syrup" as "sirop" in the English text. But that's something I can overlook for a beer such as this.

I've had plenty of beers in my time that say they're brewed with some taste sensation or another, but in my experience very few of them actually measure up to the claims. Kinds like Route des épices from Dieu du Ciel manage well - because, really, how would you hide the taste of peppercorns in beer? - but they're rare. I was glad to find out that La Loubécoise wasn't talking itself up.

I tell you, drinking this is like drinking candy. Maybe you'd call it alco-candy or something. When I got the top off a bit of the head fizzed out immediately, accompanied by a good maple-and-wood smell. Going down, it was smooth and sweet and tasted strongly of maple syrup, and though the taste of the alcohol was detectable it didn't detract, just made it a bit weird and unusual.

My opinion - this isn't the sort of drink you should drink to get over how shitty your day was. That's what Lucky Lager is for. This is one of the best examples of beer that I've come across. La Loubécoise is something that should be savored.

And no, I don't know what the deal is with the wolf and beaver on the label. There are some mysteries, I suppose, that only the Belgians can explain.


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