It's hard to beat a cold white beer on a warm and sunny late afternoon -- the clean, somewhat yeasty flavor and the snow-white lacy head of a good white makes the long day at the office worth the wait.
Here in Quebec, Blanche de Chambly is perhaps the best known of the local white beers, and deservedly so. It's pale yellow color and clean taste is very refreshing. But I've noticed a few other local white beers on the shelves, so I thought I'd give some a try.
First up was the angelic-sounding La Biere des Anges from Micro-brasserie Saint-Arnould, in Mont-Tremblant. I've had a few beers from Saint-Arnould, and while I find them quite interesting, there's a certain sharpness to them that doesn't quite sit right on my palate.
However, it's exactly that sharpness that makes La Biere des Anges very interesting as a white beer. It is more robust than what I expected from this style of beer -- which is usually quite crisp, almost citrusy in flavor with a fine yeasty aroma. It was also a deeper golden yellow than one would expect, and the characteristic yeastiness was not as pronounced.
While the above might sound a bit negative, the result was a very tasty brew that seemed more like a Czech pilsner with a white beer afterthought. Purists might balk, but if you're looking for a good, "pilsy" white on a hot day this summer, you won't go wrong with La Biere des Anges.
Next up was La Blanche from Cheval Blanc. Cheval Blanc is a well-known and long-standing brew pub in Montreal that expanded its range by bottling a number of very unusual brews. The pub has a sort of cult following, but it hadn't really been a big threat in the microbrew market until 1998, when it's brewing arm merged with two other microbrewers to create Brasseurs RJ.
The Cheval Blanc line is probably the least known (or, more charitably, "the most specialized") of the three or four brand mixes at Brasseurs RJ. That might change with La Blanche. It too is a bit more robust in flavor and color than one usually expects from a white (at least for those of us who use Hoegaarden as a sort of benchmark). However, the effect is beautiful.
Imagine a brew with the body and texture of (again) a Czech pilsner, but the head and aroma of a white beer, and somewhere in the mix just a slight hint of something toasty. This one is a winner, and I'm not the only one who thinks so, judging by it's sudden surge in popularity (which may be partly due to the new label).
Finally, there is Blanche de Quebec, brewed by Ferme-Brasserie Schoune (map). This is, to me, more what I expect of a white beer -- a pale lemony-yellow and slightly cloudy brew with an excellent white lacy head and a nice fresh yeasty flavor and aroma. This is my classic white beer of choice -- I prefer it even over the champ, Blanche de Chambly, because it has just a bit more oomph!
If the summer shapes up and gives us plenty of those long, golden evenings, I'll have at least three choices of white beers by which to enjoy them. Here's to summmer!