I first tasted a Unibroue beer — the spicy Maudite, I think — when I was about 18. (This should in no way be construed as an endorsement of underage drinking. Beer writers sometimes tend to get early starts.) It’s fair to say I was suitably blown away. Now, more than 10 years later, Unibroue is still one of my favorites. And as it celebrates 15 years of churning out some of the best strong, Belgian-style refermented (“on lees”) ales in North America, the brasserie in Chambly, Quebec, debuts Unibroue 15, a potent special-edition ale that’s a fitting birthday present for us all.
Pouring a robust, hazy golden yellow, topped with a thick meringue-like head, it’s a beaut to look at. It smells great, too, blooming into a mellow, musty-yeasty nose sweetened with sweet-and-sour hints of lemon, green apple, banana, and pineapple. A generous sip reveals an assertive, almost mouth-puckering citrus presence that’s counterbalanced with a strong yeasty character and a pleasing white-pepper-like spiciness, which soon fades into a long, dry finish.
It’s another fine beer from Unibroue. The only drawback is its limited availability. The beer can be found in most better liquor stores while supplies last, but it can also be sampled — along with other delectable Unibroue staples, such as the blond, triple-fermented Fin du Monde; the dark, port-like Trois Pistoles; and the fruity aperitif Éphémère — at the excellent Mondial de la Bière, one of the biggest and best beer festivals in North America, which takes over Montreal’s Windsor Station from May 31 through June 4. It’s a great way to try some of the fine beers from north of the border that aren’t available in the States. And speaking as someone who’s kicking himself for having to miss it this year, I highly recommend that you attend. Santé.
Available at most fine liquor stores for $8.99 for a 750-milliliter bottle. For more information on Mondial de la Bière, visit festivalmondialbiere.qc.ca.