Mondial de la Bière

Since The Guru wasn’t able to make the trip to the 2010 Mondial de la Bière in Montreal, Quebec, he asked me to offer some thoughts on the event.

First, the disclaimers.  I am not a beer judge and I have not been brewing beer for any real measurable amount of time.  I love beer, especially big dark porters and stouts, and hoppy ales. I work with The Guru at the South Royalton Market, and have tried my best to absorb some of the wisdom he passes along, but I’m the first to admit that I am more like the Karate Kid at the beginning of the movie; still painting the fence.

My whirlwind trip — 30 hours including driving time — to Montreal was planned to coincide with the beer festival, but also in order to visit with friends who recently had a new baby. I spent about two-and-a-half hours at Mondial de la Bière on the second day of the 5-day event. Because I tend to focus on big beers, it was probably a good thing I didn’t have more time … especially since my host and I were expected at a birthday cocktail party immediately afterward.
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And now for something a little different…

I really have no idea when or how the idea for this beer came to me. I lived with it for a long time before finally deciding I’d better brew it or go mad… With some perspective, it’s really not that weird or unusual a beer, just not on a logical radar screen…

I’ve decided recently that I am just not a big fan of wheat beers, especially true-to-style hefeweizens. I can certainly appreciate a well-made one like the one my friend Ben gave me the other day. I do like a good Belgian Witbier from time to time, and I can appreciate a wheat-based lambic or other fruit beer. But the banana/clove/bubble gum aromas and flavors of the typical weizen or weissbier just don’t do it for me. I do feel the need to brew with wheat, however, and will on occasion make what I call an “American Wheat Beer” – which is basically a Pale Ale with a substantial percentage of wheat in the mash, hopped like a West Coast ale, and using a neutral (i.e. non-fruity) ale yeast. But this one is even less like a Hefeweizen. It’s amber to reddish, with some nice roasty notes, substantial hop bitterness but little aroma, and I decided to use an Irish ale yeast just to mix things up… It will be on the light side in terms of body and alcohol, so it will be a summer beer, but because of the color and malt flavors I expect it should still be my kind of beer…

Amber Waves Red Wheat Ale

5 gallons, all-grain


  • 4 lbs. lager malt
  • 2 lbs. dark wheat malt
  • 1 lb. light wheat malt
  • 1/2 lb. 120°L crystal malt
  • 1 oz. roasted barley
  • 1 oz. Styrian Goldings hop pellets (@ 7.0% aa)
  • 1 oz. Cascades hop pellets (@ 7.3% aa)
  • White Labs Irish Ale yeast (WLP004)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Procedure: Crush grains. Heat 14 quarts water to 165°F. Mash in grains and hold at 154°F for 60 minutes. Heat another 14 quarts to 170°F, begin runoff and sparge. Collect 26 quarts sweet wort. Bring to boil, add Styrian Goldings hops. Boil 75 minutes, add Cascades hops. Boil 15 more minutes (90 total), remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take hydrometer reading. Pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Add yeast, seal and ferment at 70°F for 8 – 10 days. Rack to secondary, age 10 – 14 days at 65°F. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and condition 10 – 14 days.

OG: 1050

IBU’s: 40.6

Notes on style: There are none, as this is something I made up. Well, there are dark wheat beers and amber ales with wheat in them, but not like mine… I expect this will be like a medium-bodied “amber ale”, whatever that is, with a slightly breadier/more cracker-like malt profile… not much hop aroma, more focus on the malt in general…

Notes on brewing: Wanting to get a dryer, less full-bodied beer, I went with a higher mash temp than I usually do, as well as a shorter mash and a bit thinner consistency…

This is crazy…

It’s 3:30 in the afternoon and I am tasting and commenting on a beer. Honestly, I don’t often start drinking beer before dinner, but… Over the last couple days, the Northeast has been smothered by clouds of smoke from a bunch of huge wild fires in southern Quebec, which the prevailing SW winds were kind enough to blow our way… so everything has smelled and tasted like smoke, ash, etc. since the middle of the weekend… So I’ve got this beer which I am hoping will work as a “palate cleanser”, or at least a “fire-break”…
For the last several months a small brewery in Scotland has been making headlines by brewing… unconventional? eclectic? iconoclastic?… beers, including trying to brew the world’s strongest beer… Brewdog is hard to find, so when I saw the bottle of Paradox Smokehead on the shelf, I grabbed one. It’s described as an “Imperial Stout matured in Islay whisky casks.” Islay is the home of the most strongly peat-flavored single malt whiskys in Scotland, so I knew what to expect.
Yumm, in a word. Dark rich stout, at 10% abv, 70 IBU’s, with the most amazing smokiness, peat and iodine, phenolic and sweet at the same time… This is like something I would brew!