MCBW: Big Beer at Brasserie V

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Yesterday afternoon J and I were joined by a friend for a “Special Big Beer Tasting” at Brasserie V. The event was our second outing for Madison Craft Beer Week and was described as follows:

We will be offering a flight of five unique and hard to find big beers. Three beers from the Belgium Brewery Malheur – the champagne like Biere Brut Reserve and Brut Noir, and on tap the Malheur 12. Also on tap, the 12.9% ABV North Coast Grand Cru, and finally a unique sour beer from New Holland, Blue Sunday.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’ve discovered that I’m a big fan of sour beers in the Flemish Red Ale style, so the chance to sample Blue Sunday is what had me particularly excited for this.

The North Coast and Malheur distributor was a nice guy who confessed that the snug cyclist shirt hugging his beer-loving body was the only Malheur clothing he had, and this was the first time he’d busted it out. All of the beers were pretty great, and — as he told us — some of them were quite rare as promised. For example, the Malheur 12 on tap (our second taste) was one of only 2 barrels in Wisconsin, and there were only 16 cases of the North Coast Grand Cru (the first sample) in the entire state. Because of its short supply and Brasserie V’s commitment to offer the 5-beer flight until 7 pm, J and our friend couldn’t order pints of the Grand Cru after the tasting, despite the fact that it was their favorite of the night. The Brut and Dark Brut were both interesting; they are essentially the Malheur 10 and 12 respectively with the addition of champagne yeasts. We were told that both Malheur and the brewery that makes Pauwel Kwak claim to have invented the champagne style of beer; both are in the same small Belgian town but apparently maintain good relations despite the competing views of history.

The friendly New Holland rep drove in from Michigan just for the tasting. As he described and as the little handout card helpfully explained, Blue Sunday is “heritage blended from our library of barrel-soured beers.” Because of the care they take in blending, it’s a bit smoother and less aggressive than some sours. J and our buddy agreed that, though it wasn’t their kind of thing, it was more pleasant (less unpleasant?) than other similar beers. I found myself wishing it weren’t so coy, but I happily ordered a pint when I finished my sample. Not surprisingly, given how strong and distinctive it is, this sour brew was the last of the five to be served.

Although there were only maybe 10 early birds (including us) there at the start of the tasting, it didn’t take long for the entire restaurant to fill up with a boisterous crowd. The high alcohol content of all the beers (the Blue Sunday was the lowest at 8.72% ABV) had us happily buzzing, so the three of us just stayed put and ordered frites and sandwiches to accompany our full-sized round of beers. Another fun Madison Craft Beer Week event!

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