Friday, 16 November 2012

Blanche de Trois Rivières

I will continue this weekend with a recent effort to review a number of different wheat beers, the wheat beer being the exception style that proves the rule of the Reinheitsgebot passed by Duke Wilhelm of Bavaria in 1516 that "no other items be used for beer than barley, hops, and water." Note of course that because it was not yet known with certainty until Louis Pasteur's work in the 19th century that yeast is an essential part of beer making, this magical micro-organism is omitted from the list of acceptable ingredient. But more to the point of this post, wheat malt was included as a notable exception in Bavaria even during the old days, when the Reinheitsgebot was used more for taxation purposes and granting monopolistic power to brewers than for ensuring that what beer drinkers got in their beer was not made from saw dust porridge flavoured with dandelion.

I'll take this opportunity for an initial jab at the Blanche de Trois Rivières, made by the Frères Houblon brewery from Trois Rivières in the Mauricie region of Quebec, since they state on their website that this wheat beer is made with not just barley and wheat malt, but also with oats. Now I do not mind the use of oats at all, and my experience as a home brewer has taught me that using oats in your beer gives it a wonderfully creamy foam head. I have to say that this beer did not pour a nice foam head at all and was surprisingly fizzy from the moment it left the comfy confines of its 500 ml bottle, a home that enticed me to pick up this specimen in the first place (regular readers will be well aware of my aversion to midget extinguishers). The Blanche de Trois Rivières is of course also a Belgian style wheat beer (wit), and made in part from organic barley malts, which is quite laudable. However, with the notable exception of Beau's, I have yet to taste a beer made with organic ingredients that has quite measured up to the standards of those made with regular raw materials (I suppose inorganic would be an entirely inappropriate choice of words for the opposite of organic in the modern sense of the word).

Rarely have I given poor reviews to beers, but this one simply does not measure up to what my humble, if snobbish, palate demands (is a humbly snobbish palate an oxymoron?). I do expect certain malt notes from all my beers, but especially from my wheat beers, and when I sampled this beer all I could think about was Homer Simpson saying "Hello, taste, where are you?" Other than the foam head, the beer did have a very nice appearance, but despite the visual evidence of abundant suspended yeast particles, there was no discernible flavour of fruit, spice, bread or other yeasty goodness in this concoction (or rather, decoction). There was an acidic yeast flavour akin to plain yogurt, as well as plenty of ashtray flavour, which is hard to describe because most of us don't go around licking the remnants of ashtrays, but think of the effect on your palate of someone blowing the contents of an ashtray into your mouth. And given the lack of sweet malt flavours in this beer, the hops were also out of balance, with too much lingering bitterness than is appropriate for this style of beer. Blah - I think the Frères Houblons would bet better off sticking to making what their name implies - hoppy bitter beers.

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