GIVING IT ITS DIEU

Dieu du Ciel signMy first experience with a Dieu du Ciel offering came from a bottle of Corne du Diable, the Montréal-based brewpub’s standard IPA. At the time, I wrote “If you’re expecting a generously hopped beer with hints of spice and grapefruit, as you would in most IPAs, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Malt rules the day with this IPA, overpowering the hops that I love so well in IPAs. I look forward to tasting their other selections, but its lack of balance just didn’t impress this alehead.”

Whenever my first impression of a brewery is disappointing, my tendency is to 1) generalize that impression to all subsequent beers I sample from that brewery, and 2) proceed with unhealthy cynicism, rather than healthy skepticism. I’m sure I’m not alone in that behavior. In fact, I’m willing to wager that it’s the norm. First impressions are so ridiculously important, because frankly, they’re usually pretty accurate.

I sought to supress my M.O. on my most recent trip to Montréal, when my brother-in-law and I abandoned my other relatives and headed over to the brewpub itself. Forget about proceeding with caution: I wanted to put the brewery through its paces.

Brasserie Artisanale Dieu du Ciel is located at the corner of Laurier and Clark, in the neighborhood that denizens refer to as “the plateau.” The plateau is considered a bit of a melting-pot: liberal, bohemian, young, and while it’s predominantly Francophone, the ethnic and racial diversity of the area gives the impression that the French speakers in this area aren’t exactly Les Separatists. This rare combination makes it one of the more desireable places to live in the city.

The context is important. This brewpub strongly reflects the vibrant and diverse community in which it operates. We arrived at 10:00 on a Saturday night, and the place was absolutely packed with some of the most

One out of the 50 days each year that the plateau is not covered in 4 feet, errr...1.3 metres of snow.

diverse people you’ll ever see. The DJ looked like he was multi-racial and pushing 70 years old; we sat next to a Manitoban woman with pink hair; across from us were people of Asian and Middle Eastern descent.

It was a white supremacist fire marshal’s worst nightmare.

Behind the bar I noticed something surprising, though upon further reflection, it shouldn’t have seemed odd at all. They have lined their shelves with dozens of empty beer bottles from all over the craft beer world. I saw bottles from Stone, Rogue, Great Divide, Lagunitas, Sam Adams, and Victory, just to name a few. I found it to be a solid, public homage to their craft beer brethren, and completely consistent with their uber-diverse setting.

Diversity is also embraced in terms of the array of beers they serve on any given night. The “big board” of beers-on-tap boasted easily 30 offerings. They were listed in no particular order, and they consisted of some of the more intriguing and experimental beers you’ll come across. With such an array of exotic beers, they’ve made sure that there’s something for everyone. And I imagine most are happy to oblige by digging through and finding the ones that strike the right notes.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that some of their beers didn’t hit all the correct chords for me that night; but of course that was clear going in. After all, I didn’t (and still don’t) like their standard IPA–a beer than most of the major players in craft brewing get right. And their hokey combination of natural (Pioneer, Vernal Equinox) and macabre (Last Will, Mortal Sin) beer names annoys me. But my goal that night was simply to find a few diamonds in the rough so that Dieu du Ciel could be redeemed in my eyes. Here’s a rundown, from my lowest rated to the highest:

FumisterieFumisterie (Smoke Screen). Spiced Ale, 5.5%. Oh, man. This beer was just a mess. Hemp is fine on 4/20, and its cousin belongs in beer. But hemp itself? In the beer? It does something bizarre to the palette. This is perilously close to real bong water. 1 hop.

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Dieu du Ciel Route des épices (Spice route)Route des épices (Spice Route). Rye ale, 5% ABV. I get what they were going for here. A double dose of spice: one from the rye, one from peppercorns. Problem is, peppercorns should be added to the list of “ingredients you should never use in the brewing process.” 1.5 hops.
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DIEU-DU-CIEL-EQUINOXEEquinox du Printemps (Vernal Equinox). Wee Heavy, 9.5% ABV. Talk about experimental. A Scotch Ale brewed with maple syrup? While I was intrigued by the departure, the sweetness of the syrup masked much of the peatiness/earthiness I love in the style. 2 hops.
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dieu-du-ciel decibeldéCIBeL on cask (Decible). “Extra” Pale Ale, 5.5% ABV. It was on cask, so I had to give it a try. The beer was heavy on the citrus and off the charts on the bitterness. Not the kind of bitterness you get from tasty hops, though. Just really bitter; imagine something that cools your mouth off, like strong peppermint gum. Now take away the peppermint taste. I give you déCIBeL. 2.5 hops.
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dieu-du-ciel hibiscusRosée d’hibiscus (Pink Hibiscus). Fruit/spiced ale, 5% ABV. I must say that I was the most skeptical about this one. It’s a wheat beer brewed with hibiscus! Who wouldn’t be? Now, you won’t find me on the golf course drinking this beer, but I have to say that I was surprised by the well-balanced taste. The flowers were present, but nothing was over-powering about it. 3 hops.
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DerniereVolonteDernière Volonte (Last Will). Belgian Pale Ale, 7% ABV. This is a great session beer. Hops and fruit and all kinds of yeasty goodness. 3 hops.
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Product - Dieu du Ciel Blanche du ParadisBlanche du Paradis (Paradise White). Belgian White, 5% ABV. I appreciate a brewery that’s willing to challenge itself by making a few Belgian offerings. I’m not a huge fan of unfiltered witbiers, but this is a solid and intriguing version of the style. 3 hops.
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dieuduciel_aphroditeAphrodisiaque or Aphrodite (Aphrodisiac/Aphrodite). Stout, 6.5% ABV. The market is glutted with great stouts. Chocolate, bourbon, coffee all make a well-balanced cameo in this brew, but it’s the subtle vanilla that brings this one home. It’s a winner, even though they need to nail down the real name of this beer. 3.5 hops.
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Dieu du Ciel Péché Mortel (Mortal Sin)Péché Mortel (Mortal Sin). Imperial Stout, 9.5% ABV. Doc already handled this one. And he’s right: 4 hops all the way.
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Dieu Du CielPionièrre (Pioneer). Imperial Black IPA, 9.5% ABV. This beer, however, triumphed over all the others. The citrusy hops are the stars in this show, but the supporting cast of complex malts is what really makes the beer shine. Imperial black IPAs are exploding onto the scene, and I love it. This is my kind of beer. 4 hops.
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Lord Copperpot

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6 comments

  1. Mashtun “Flower Power” Copperpot unexpectedly enjoys a beer brewed with pink hibiscus. I’m shocked as well- I have to sit down, the room is spinning.

    Great post. Made me reevaluate some conceptions I had about this brewery. Is the Pioneer distributed or a one-off type thing?

  2. As far as I can tell, Pioneer is a one-off. But it’s clearly one they should bring to scale. That was a really good beer.

    One of my preconceived notions about the place was that it was the Canadian version of DFH. And absurd variety of selections, some dopey names, no real focus on quality.

    But after my visit, I feel differently about them. Sure, they could bring more of a focus to their brews and do without the hemp and peppercorn (but for the love of God, don’t get rid of the pink hibiscus!). But in a way, that kind of experimentation makes a ton of sense. They’re situated quite differently than DFH: they’ve put themselves on the polar opposite end of the Canadian beer world, far from the Molsons, Keiths, and Sleemans. A lot of experimentation is what they need to break away.

  3. Kid Carboy Jr. · · Reply

    The only one of these I’ve ever had is the Peche Mortel, which I naturally enjoyed. I’ve seen a few others (at least one other) at my package store, but typically I only see them in individual 12 oz. bottles. EXPENSIVE individual 12 oz. bottles.

    I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve seen these beers going very pricey. I can’t quite recall, but I feel about right in saying that each 12 oz’er of Peche Mortel was like $4 or $5. And this isn’t in Chicago, this is central Illinois.

    It’s hard for me to get behind that sort of brewery, if that is going to be the normal price point. I’m really not a fan of the “expensive 12 oz bottle special release” style, like say Dogfish Head does with Worldwide Stout or 120 Minute. Especially when it’s up there like $10, I’d like to be getting a bomber for my trouble. <— Perhaps that explains why I've never tried the Worldwide Stout or 120 Minute.

  4. Kid, having tried the Worldwide Stout and 120 on multiple occasions (Including first releases of each), let me tell you that the world will come to an end if they ever make it into 22oz bottles. In fact, they’d be better off using those little pony bottles Rogue used to use (I think 8oz, but not sure). Just a taste of a sugar-bomb like the WWS or 120 is plenty.

    I agree with you though on the pricing of Dieu du Ciel though. I’ve been lucky with the few samples I’ve tried, but I’d be pretty pissed if I paid $8 for a 12oz beer that turned out to be shitty.

  5. Yes, but remember it’s 8 CANADIAN dollars for 12 METRIC ounces. If you do the math, that adds up to about three loonies for every hogshead which is quite reasonable.

    Of course, I don’t really understand “math”.

    Or “metric”.

    Or “reasonable”.

  6. Great post, I presume. You know I don’t speak French.

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