Saturday, March 2, 2013

Day 30: The Hiatus Is Over! - Beers 33-36 St. Ambroise Taster Pack

After a brief hiatus and recovery from assorted nights of drinking, the beer blog is back and running again! And to keep the momentum shifted towards completing the required number and destroying the limp withered coffee filter I call a liver, I've opted to sample the four beers of St. Ambroise's special La Grande Selection pack. All low ABV's and easy drinking, they're meant to supply four varying types of beer for picky drinkers. With a combination of Apricots, Maple Syrup, Ultra-Blonde and a standard Pale Ale, the variety requirement is definitely covered. So let's dive in!

Beer #33 - St. Ambroise Erable

Astonishing that I've been in Canada this long and have yet to try a Maple Syrup Ale on my 100 beers run. I've previously sampled a Maple Cream Ale at Brutopia in Montreal, but that was in years past, so it's time to jump on the stereotypical Canadian dogsled and try Erable by McAuslan Brewing Co.

Erable is maple syrup in a bottle. It almost tastes of a lower grade carbonated maple syrup in total liquid form with a few hints of quote-unquote beer flavor. This is a beer you have to try once, though you may never drink it again. For those that have seen the film Super Troopers, and were envious of the scene where two troopers chugged bottles of maple syrup, this is your chance to emulate them and get buzzed at the same time. Other than that, it's a great unique taste, but definitely lacks repeat value.

St. Ambroise Erable
McAuslan Breweries, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 4.5%
Class: Amber Ale
Rating: 4 out of 10
Quote: "I will never buy this again, apart from having it with pancakes at brunch, and cooking up maple sausages in know what, I may buy this again."

Beer #34 - St. Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale

I should preface this by saying I am in no way a fan of fruit beer. If you like banana mango carbonated ales, then more power to you, but to me, they've just never clicked. Fruit beers couple with golden lagers and lighter beers as fantastic summer fare, and seen off-putting during colder times. St. Ambroise's Apricot Wheat Ale certainly fits the bill of proper summer fruity fare, but I'll try not to hold that against it.

The apricot flavor came through on most sips, a bittersweet fruit taste that threatened to overwhelm the beer, but was never too obnoxious. It seemed to hold back from completely being a fruit beer and likely kept the "wheat" in the title so drinkers wouldn't be convinced it was a failure for not tasting completely like apricots. (Known in the breakfast cereal circles as "Apple Jacks Syndrome"). St. Ambroise's apricot fare is definitely a fruit beer for those that like fruit beer, but don't love it. There's no solid jump to either side of fruit fare or wheat ale, and all in all, finishes as an average fruity beer.

St. Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale
McAuslan Breweries, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 5.0%
Class: Fruit Beer
Rating: 4 out of 10
Quote: "Just give me a Fanta and a proper ale. Fruit beers....I'll never understand them."

Beer #35 - St. Ambroise Pale Ale

Just a solid, malty, better than decent tasting beer. Back in the 18th century, pale ales were created when malts for beers were dried with coke, a coal-based fuel, to give it a fainter color (the "pale") and a more solid malty and hoppy taste (the "ale"). Dry roasting malts allows for the hops to break through in strong force (such as with IPA's) or to try to capture the grainy, wheaty taste of other malts (like with Amber Ales).

St. Ambroise Pale Ale is a no-frills and strong representation of pale ale at its finest. The smell is sweeter than the beer itself, and it presents a mix of malts and hops so a balance between the butterscotch and caramel malt flavor and just slightly bitter hops create a unique taste. I like this much more than I expected I would, and have to recommend it despite any unique hook or regular drinkability. St. Ambroise's Pale Ale is a beer done right, nailing the defining factors of its namesake while still offering something just unique enough to make it special.

St. Ambroise Pale Ale
McAuslan Breweries, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 5.0%
Class: Pale Ale
Rating: 8 out of 10
Quote: "Beeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! (This quote added out of the joy of recognizing a beer that tastes like,"

Beer #36 - St. Ambroise Griffon Extra Blonde Ale

Griffon surprised me as to its smoothness and drinkability. Most blonde ales can come off as bland attempts to highlight a wheat or malty taste that hits only one note. Griffon has a universal taste that stays a bit unique while is general enough to appeal to a wide audience. It's not sharp by any  means and even has a slight fruity taste and aroma to it, though all that's noticed is the smoothness of the malts, almost like an amber ale or golden lager.

The only issue is that since it doesn't break out with any particular flavor, it doesn't stand out for any reason. Griffon is a beer that would make a round of beer pong go exceptionally well, taking the sting out of drinking games with its soft flavor and ease of drinking. While it doesn't rise to levels of artistic flavor, it's a solid showing from St. Ambroise and doesn't pretend to be anything above its station; a delicious, easy-drinking beer.

St. Ambroise Griffon Extra Blonde Ale
McAuslan Breweries, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 5.0%
Class: Blonde Ale
Rating: 7 out of 10
Quote: "I know chugging beers isn't blog-friendly, but I could chug this beer. Do you dare me to chug this beer? Bah, I'll do it anyways!"

Final Note: St. Ambroise's La Grande Selection is definitely worth picking up, at least once. You've got two beers that are unique enough to warrant a one-time tasting and two others that will please any beer drinker, whether they are the picky beer snob or no-frills beer enthusiast.

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