I started drinking Unibroue beers about 15 years ago. That was when they were often considered the best brewery in Quebec, if not the best Canadian brewery.
Their beers were consistently ranked near the top of almost any “best beer” ranking when it came to styles like Belgian Tripels or Strong Belgian Dark Ales (and they still are). I had friends who thought I sometimes drank Unibroue beers simply because they were high alcohol and I wanted to get drunk. But I actually enjoyed the 8% and 9% beers.
For a few years I’d treat myself to these great beers whenever I wanted something more than the generic lagers that dominated most nights out with the boys. But, slowly I was able to get others to start to enjoy trying different tasting beers. It started when I used to work near the original Bier Markt in Toronto. A group of us would go out and try different Belgian and German styled beers. Soon it wasn’t just the Belgian-influenced Unibroue beers I was picking up at the LCBO, but other fine beers like Westmalle, Rochefort and Chimay.
I had found a niche of beers that I really enjoyed, all thanks to Unibroue. If you like La Fin du Monde, then try Westmalle Tripel…if you like Trois Pistoles, then try Rochefort 8. Belgian beers were my thing. I started to shun all other beers.
Then, my next job was in Belgium. How cool was that? In Toronto at the time, you were almost limited to the Bier Markt or Beer Bistro when it came to trying some great Belgian brews. Now I found myself in a small town in Belgium, where every little restaurant and bar had 100 or so bottles of beer to choose from, it was overwhelming.
My beer growth started. I expanded into trying beers like lambics and sours. I discovered Oerbier, Delirium Tremens, Struisse, Bernardus and other fine Belgian beers. Well, I cut that job short after some colleagues were thrown in jail, and found myself back in Canada again.
My fascination and appreciation with Unibroue continued, this time working on an international marketing project to export their beer to Sweden. No, it wasn’t officially working for the brewery, it was for a course I was taking, but I made Unibroue beer my “research”, not bad huh?
This Unibroue passion continued on and soon I had new people experiencing and enjoying their beers. It wasn’t always the big, strong ales either. Quelque Chose became a favourite for a number of friends, especially when it was served warmed up at Beer Bistro in Toronto. It’s a beer that is still a sentimental favourite of mine, but sadly no longer in production. I have one bottle left from 2002 and the Unibroue website says it can age for 15 years, so I am hanging on to it for as long as I can.
Even after being bought out by Sleeman and then by Sapporo of Japan, Unibroue has maintained a unique identity. Their signature beers have a common yeast quality to them, which many people love, including myself. I think I could tell you I was drinking a Unibroue beer even if I was blindfolded.
Even with all this positivity, Unibroue has always been a source of frustration. I worked near a bar for about 5 years that served Unibroue beers on tap. They always had two rotating Unibroue beers. Usually one of the Éphémère fruit flavoured beers and one of the stronger ones like Maudite or La Fin du Monde. But never Trois Pistoles.
Far and wide I searched, for over a decade, to have a glass of Trois Pistoles in Toronto. But it seemingly only comes in bottles in Ontario. It is my favourite of the regularly produced Unibroue offerings, yet not even the LCBO carries it.
This beer is the only reason I ever go to the Beer Store in Ontario. When I need a fix for Trois Pistoles, I go and buy a 4-pack.
Recently, I got to share my Unibroue passion with people from around the world, as I was guiding tours in Quebec. Access to so much Unibroue! I could find beers we don’t get in Ontario, such as Noire de Chambly, Quatre-Centième, Don de Dieu and U Blonde. I’d take groups to bars like La Ninkasi in Quebec City, where they served many Unibroue beers on tap. My world travellers loved it, although I’d often have to make sure everyone stumbled back to the hotel safely later that night.
The ultimate Unibroue beer experience for me was in Quebec was always hanging out at the funky hostel in Tadoussac, where Quebecois culture would embrace me and my travellers from around the world. Bonfires, live music and Unibroue on tap, it was a perfect little place. A full pint of Trois Pistoles went for $5. Crazy. Amazing.
And, every time I visited that little hostel I would be envious of their monstrous (empty) bottle of Unibroue they had on display. I think it was a 3L bottle of Maudite. It may have been 6L, it may have been La Fin Du Monde. But it was big and I could imagine the festive night that must have brought about.
So, when Unibroue recently announced that they were selling, for the first time ever, some 6L bottles of La Fin du Monde through the LCBO, I had to check it out. I had the pleasure of chatting with Unibroue Beer Sommelier Sylvain Bouchard and Unibroue Brewmaster Jerry Vietz at the event and learned that a new incarnation of Quelque Chose could appear down the road one day. I also nudged them to try and get Trois Pistoles on tap here in Ontario. As far as brewery folks go, these are two great guys who have a strong passion for their brand and their beer. Sylvain has been with Unibroue for 14 years and Jerry joined in 2003.
After enjoying the event, which officially launched the new beer La Résolution, I was lucky enough to obtain one of those huge 6L bottles of La Fin du Monde. It’ll be a big beer night whenever I crack the new bottle open, but I’m more excited about keeping it around as a memento and “thanks” to Unibroue for brewing so many great beers and kickstarting me down the path of enjoying flavourful craft beer in Canada.