Thursday, October 17, 2013

What's Jayme dinking?

Le Terrible Beer Unibroue
Today was one of those very much not good days. Suffice to say, once I got home I wanted something to drink to help me relax and chase away the tension currently grinding the bones of my back and shoulders into powder. In my mind, there was no debate: Time to pull out the big gun. Where beer is concerned, the "Big Gun" is Le Terrible, a dark Belgian from the Quebec brewery Unibroue. Now, I'm not going to lie--most of the time I plan on using this "What's Jayme drinking" feature to share my first impressions when sampling a new brew, but in this case, Terrible is far and away my favorite beer/ale of all time. I have a waitress from the Flying Saucer in Austin to thank for this discovery. When she asked what I wanted, I told her to surprise me. After ascertaining I wasn't a hop-head and that IPAs were right out, she came back with this wonder. With most beers, I have to consider them for a while before I know what my long-term feelings are. Not this time. Love at first sip? Pretty much.

A word of warning, if you're only used to drinking watered-down horse piss like Budweiser, Coors and the like, this ale will knock you on your ass. It's alcohol content is 10.5 percent, which is higher than some wines. What's more, you can't really taste it. Tread carefully.

It pours a rich coffee umber, and is so dark in the glass as to be nearly opaque. The head is creamy and short-lived. The scent is spicy and decidedly un-beerlike, with hints of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, dark fruits and a suggestion of citrus. It does, in fact, smell more like a mulled wine than a beer. So going in for that first sip, you know this is going to be a little different than your normal brew, but wow, not even the nose can prepare you. This is a big, malty brew, sweet as you'd expect, with a muscular, creamy mouthfeel. Carbonation struggles to be felt through the dense liquid. The flavor is fruity, yes, with plum and cherry notes, but there's a equal amount of bitter dark chocolate and coffee. Spicy undertones include nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, along with some oak.

Simply put, this is a stunning beer. Bottle-fermented, it has all the complexity you'd want in a powerhouse Belgian and then some. Every time I come back to it, I remember how much I like it, but my memory of the rich tapestry of flavor exposed as but a poor after-image with every sip. Make no mistake, this is a sipping beer. It's weight and spice make it an ideal brew for cold winter nights, but the sweet frutiness is appropriate for summer sipping as well. In either case, this ale is at its best (in my opinion) when drunk at about 10-15 degrees below ambient temperature. It's fine straight out of the refrigerator, but as with most complex dark beers, the flavors unlock as it warms. Room temperature does nothing for the flavor, so slightly chilled works best. This ale is also a good option to spring on wine snob friends who dismiss beers as hopelessly unsophisticated. Especially if they like "complex" sweeter wines. I love a good Riesling, but unfortunately, most affordable Rieslings are pretty crappy affairs. And Moscatos, in my experience, are little more than alcoholic Kool-Aid. Hit 'em up with Terrible and they'll never quite look at beer the same way ever again.

So yeah, this is a good one. You can thank me later.

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