In these dying days of summer, we often turn away from light and refreshing beers and choose to drink something with a bit more oomph.
With fall in full swing, there are few more oomph-y beers available from the Whitehorse liquor store than Unibroue’s Maudite.
The Name, the Legend, the Label
The word maudite is translated from French as damned. The beer’s name refers to a popular French-Canadian legend that has a group of lumberjacks who, wanting to see their families for the holidays, make a deal with the devil.
He can transform their canoe into a chasse-galerie – a flying canoe – so they may cross the 300 miles of wilderness and arrive in their village in minutes, and it will transport them back for work the next morning.
The catch? The lumberjacks are not to mention God, touch a church’s steeple, or consume any alcohol during the voyage.
Endings of the tale vary, but more often than not it doesn’t end well for the lumberjacks. They get rip-roaring drunk, and they blaspheme as they struggle to drunkenly steer the canoe home before they crash it into a snowbank or pine tree.
Sometimes they keep their souls but, often, they forfeit them to the devil; you know how it is. Their journey is depicted on the bottle’s painted label, a flying canoe with eight lumberjacks paddling through the sky.
So, a little fact to go with the fiction
Unibroue is based out of Chambly, Quebec, and has grown tremendously since its start in 1990.
Founders André Dion and Serge Racine started out by purchasing the Massawippi brewery, which was in financial trouble. They immediately got to work, and in 1992 released both their flagship Blanche de Chambly, North America’s first Abbey-style beer, as well as Maudite.
By 1994, they were shipping internationally and had opened subsidiaries in Europe and the U.S. 1997 saw Unibroue listed on the TSX, and they were bought out by Sleeman Brewery (forming Sleeman-Unibroue Inc.), which was bought out by Japan-based Sapporo International in 2006.
Throughout, the quality of the beer has stayed remarkably consistent.
Unibroue takes its beer seriously, and crafts Belgian and European-inspired beers.
The beers are steeped in centuries-old brewing traditions, are intensely flavourful, and are only partially filtered so as not to strip away flavour.
Corks and baskets, along with beautifully painted labels, accompany the ornate 750mL bottle of highly carbonated beer. Their beers have won many prestigious international medals, Mauditeincluded.
The Dammed has 12 gold, six silver and a bronze stashed in her canoe at last count.
This beer is an amber coloured, 8 percent ABV, Belgian Strong Dark Ale. As it is bottle-conditioned (some yeast is still inside), be gentle as you pour, leaving the last tablespoon or so in the bottle.
Maudite forms a huge, frothy head from the high degree of carbonation, which leaves a beautiful lacing on the glass as it slowly recedes.
Aromas of fresh fruit and spice are evident. The taste is amazingly complex, with cloves, black pepper, caramel, fruit, and a tartness that borders on sour. Its light hop bitterness balances the sweetness without taking away from the depth of flavour.
We love it.
Because it is bottle-conditioned, Maudite will age exceedingly well. Unibroue suggests that the beer will continue to improve over five to eight years, and we’ve read that it becomes increasingly port-like after a few winters have passed.
A note on aging a beer like this: it’s difficult. Really difficult.
Before setting out to write this article, we bought two bottles – one for the article, and one for the cellar. But in the name of ‘research’, both ended up being consumed rather quickly, and our cellar is now without an aging Maudite.
Tuck it away in a cool (but not cold) dark place, and try your best to forget you have it.
Oh yeah, and for the love of Pete, also don’t cuss or touch a steeple.
Please enjoy this article responsibly.