Unibroue (now owned by Sapporo, via Sleeman) has been one of the leaders of a class of Quebec breweries that borrows heavily from the Belgian playbook.">

First Draught: Terrible, a dark Belgian ale that is definitely not terrible

Not as bad as it sounds (Image: David Ort)

Ontario’s craft beer industry has grown at a steady clip over the last three years, and while the gap is closing, we’re still playing catch-up with our neighbours to the east. Since 1990, Unibroue (now owned by Sapporo, via Sleeman) has been one of the leaders of a class of Quebec breweries that borrows heavily from the Belgian playbook.

It seems that every Ontario student who spends a summer studying French in Quebec picks up a taste for the regular Unibroue staples like Blanche de Chambly and La Fin du Monde. But once they leave their twenties behind, they should be willing to move up to more complex, special releases like Terrible.

I’m going to simplify things a bit here, but if German beers are known for their austerity and strict adherence to style, and if Americans are known for a heavy hand with flavourful hops, then the Belgians have carved a niche for themselves with beers that highlight the aromas and flavours derived from their particular strains of yeast. These are enhanced with the (entirely acceptable) addition of spices and other flavourful ingredients. As a strong, dark Belgian ale bottled on lees (a dose of the yeast is added to each bottle), Terrible fits that description.

The suggested serving temperature for Terrible is between 10 and 12 degrees Celsius, so it needs a glass that will allow heat from your hand to warm the beer. A chalice, tulip or snifter would all work well.

Once poured, this beer shows as a very dark brown with a black centre and a light mocha head. The smell has the sweetness of raisins and plums, accented with a bit of bread yeast, and the flavour pulls this together with toast, fruit cake and a hint of vanilla. Even at 10.5 per cent, the alcohol is only a subtle note on the finish, but the heavy carbonation one expects from a Unibroue beer is obvious throughout. 

When trying to pair this beer with food — and this is a dinner beer much more than a just-shoveled-the-driveway beer — think about where those dark fruit flavours would be most comfortable. A crisp-skinned duck breast with a Madeira sauce or a Moroccan lamb tagine would top my list.

Unibroue’s Terrible, $10.95 for a 750 ml bottle, LCBO #288720

In addition to covering beer, new restaurants and food trucks for Post City, David writes about food and drink for several Toronto publications including Spotlight Toronto and his own site, Food With Legs. For more of his thoughts on food, beer and life in general, follow him on Twitter.

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