Solstice d'hiver - Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel, Quebec
Today is the Winter Solstice so it's only fitting that I crack open a bottle of Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel's Solstice d'hiver. This beer is a 9.8% Barleywine, a style of beer that is almost as big on flavor as it is on alcohol. I haven't had much luck finding a Dieu Du Ciel beer I've liked so I'm holding out hope that this is the one. Barleywines are a style of beer I drink rather sparingly because of their incredible richness and double digit ABV. Will the planets align today, on the shortest day of the year? Will this Canadian Barleywine be a hit or a miss?
This beer has a lot going for it. It's got an interesting avant garde label, a fancy French name and it's a Barleywine. It definitely looks like an expensive beer, and it is... Brasserie Du Ciel's beers are priced at $5 for each 12 oz bottle. Pouring this beer into my snifter I noticed that there was practically no head and this deep copper colored beer seemed more or less flat. The aroma of this beer is pretty spot on, it's more grainy than other Barleywines I've had but the usual characters are all there. Tangy fruit sweetness and a chocolaty smoothness make for a great smelling beer.
The flavor of the Solstice d'hiver is... disappointing. There is no strong fruit flavor like other Barleywines, in fact, this beer has very little in common with most Barleywines I've had before. The dominant flavor in this beer is a dry earthiness that takes some getting used to. At first it just tastes bitter, but as the beer warms up you can pick up on other flavors... you just have to stick with it. There are hints of cherries and chocolate hidden under the warm alcohol flavor. The finish of this beer remains bitter throughout the entire glass.
The Solstice d'hiver certainly isn't the best Barleywine that I've had, but I keep finding bits and pieces that I like about it. Once your palate gets accustomed to the bitterness you'll be able to pick up on some pretty good flavors. That being said, I doubt I'll ever bother buying another bottle of this beer...