Grande Cuvée Stout Impériale
Les Trois Mousquetaires — Brossard, Québec, Canada
[Imperial Stout - 11.5% ABV]
Les Trois Mousquetaires got its start back in 2004, shortly after its three founders lost their jobs after a production plant was moved to Ontario. Using their experience as production engineers, they decided to purchase a small brewing operation along the north shore of Montreal. We're glad they did. In 2008, brewer Alex Ganivet-Boileau took over brewing responsibilities, and in the years since the company has expanded from a pair of lagers to its current expansive range of German-influenced creations and beyond. The brewery exports only a handful of occasional offerings, particularly their hefty Porter Baltique. This month, we're pleased to introduce our Rare Beer Club members to arguably the finest beer we've had from these folks thus far: a beautifully hopped imperial stout, brewed almost entirely with Québec-grown ingredients. This one is very limited stateside, with less than 50 cases to be available outside the club, heading to a limited set of VA and DC markets.
The Grande Cuvée Stout Impériale is a generously built take on the style, packed with dark specialty malts and resinous hop character. It's deliciously potent, with decadent roasted malts, chocolate, and bitterness throughout, striking a nice balance between specialty malts and resinous hop additions. Loads of cocoa, baker's chocolate, and roasted malts lead the initial aromatics, supported by licorice and bright anise character, along with hints of rye bread and caramelized sugars. We love just how detailed this imperial stout is, without any barrel aging or fancy special additions.
This is full-bodied on the palate, with dense chocolates and anise, cocoa and baker's chocolate offering exceptional lush chocolate/cacao vibes, with little occasional glimmers of sweetness. There's also a wealth of generous bitterness (85 IBUs) keeping this impy stout on course, with lots of mineral, herbal edges to balance out that inky sweetness from the specialty malts. We were enamored by this beer: a lux, incredibly nuanced imperial stout that's basically a love letter to the beer ingredients of Québec.
BJ's Barleywine Ale
BJ's Brewhouse Beer Club — Temple, Texas
[American Barleywine - 10.5% ABV]
Our history with BJ's brewmaster Alex Puchner goes back a long ways. Back in 1994, Alex served as a founding brewmaster on the club's selection panel, working with us for our first three years and providing invaluable insight into Belgian-style brewing. Alex had been homebrewing for nearly a decade at that point, and was brewing for what was Laguna Beach Brewing. He also had honed his skills at Newport Beach Brewing, Huntington Beach Brewing, and Westwood Brewing. Today Alex is the Sr. Vice President of Brewing Operations at BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse, and we've been looking forward to securing another one of his beers for our members after previously featuring Camaraderie Ale - a BJ's collaboration with Belgium's Brouwerij Bavik - as well as BJ's Grand Cru, a spiced Belgian-style Strong Ale. It's great to have Alex involved with the club again, and this batch of BJ's Barleywine might just be the best beer we've ever had from him. It sees very limited distribution overall, and it will only be available through the Rare Beer Club and directly through BJ's restaurants.
BJ's Barleywine is an exceptionally full-flavored and full-bodied release, with 55 IBUs of bitterness thanks to Citra and Ekuanot hops providing a delicate balance via generous levels of citrusy, tropical, herbal notes throughout. Deep reddish-brown in color and capped by off-white foam, this barleywine presents aromas of ripe red fruits and candied oranges, along with caramelized sugars and some herbaceous qualities from the hop additions. Touches of burnt sugars, honey, currants, and blackberries serve as periphery notes.From the initial sip, this proves to be smooth, beautifully developed, and packed with a generous fruitiness and assertive tropical, herbaceous notes. This strikes a delicate balance between a rich fruit-focused maltiness and the bittering impacts of specialty malts and hops. We got some nice touches of tropical notes like fresh tangerine and lime, subtle undercurrents to the main emphasis of herbaceously hopped, lush barleywine. Lots to dig into with this beer, and the subtle zing of core bitterness slowly aggregates with each sip, such that the sweetness here never manages to dominate the presentation.