Unibroue Trois Pistoles

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Brewery: Unibroue
Quebec, Canada
Belgian Style Ale
ABV: 9%
Rating: 4.3 Stars

The Bottom Line Excellent Canadian version of a strong Belgian Ale. Unibroue Trois Pistoles combines roasted malt, ripe red fruit and yeast with a port-like finish.

Unibroue Trois Pistoles, Unibroue, Quebec

Unibroue is a Canadian brewery, situated in Quebec, that produces Belgian-style ales. The company started off as a distributor in 1990, having purchased a 75% in the struggling “La Brasserie Massawippi”. By 1992, the brewery was wholly owned by Unibroue. Having started out with a brewing capacity of 30,000 hectoliters, a major investment increased this to 180,000 in 1996.

The Beers
The current range of Unibroue brews (in order of introduction) is:
Blanche de Chambly (listed on epinions)
Fin du monde
Quelque chose
Eau bénite
Trois Pistoles
Marie Clarisse

Unibroue beers are bottle-conditioned, with a live yeast sediment, meaning that they will referment in the bottle, carbonate naturally and improve with age. They are only partially filtered and brewed with only pure ingredients. Furthermore, the manufacture of a beer at Unibroue requires over eight weeks compared to 10-20 days for mass-produced beers and three to four weeks for most craft beers. The brewing techniques borrow much from traditional Belgian ale brewing, which are not unknown in North American, but certainly rare.

Unibroue beers, although I’m not sure which ones, are available all over the USA and Canada, and are becoming more widespread in Europe as well as Australia.

Trois Pistoles: First Impressions
This beer was introduced in 1997, and is described by the brewer simply as a “beer on lees”, which merely refers to the yeast sediment. You’ll learn very little else about the beer from the bottle or the website. It’s a Belgian style ale and it’s strong (9% ABV).

This beer immediately followed my Chimay Grande Reserve experience, a well known bottle conditioned Belgian ale which also happened to be the same ABV. So I wasn’t going to be fooled by any poor imitations.

There’s a reassuring best before date, no worries there, 06/29/03. In fact the beer is recommended to be stored and improves with age. There’s something of a mystical illustration on the from of the bottle, a winged horse flying above an old building with three domed spires, all shaded in various degrees of light crimson to brown. What exactly were the “trois pistoles” that the name refers to? “Pistolet” is the French word for gun, so the translation is not as obvious as it may seem. I searched in my dictionary to see if there were references to a spire or tower but was unable to find the answer. Why doesn’t the website or the bottle offer me an explanation? Is this all supposed to add to the mystique?

An explanation from the ever-wise Lew Bryson:

The image on the label is a scene from a particularly French bit of Quebeçois folklore. Short version: the Devil finds himself at loose ends one day, and takes a bet he can finish building a village's church in a day. He does, and a marvelous job he does.
The village? Take a look at a map of Quebec, along the south shore of the St. Lawrence, between the towns of Rimouski and Riviere-du-Loup. You'll find it.
And "Pistole" is Quebeçois slang for a small coin.
Thanks Lew

Trois Pistoles: What’s Inside?
The bottle opens up to a sharp fizz, caused by the natural carbonation. Once in the glass the beer appears as a reddish-brown color that is fairly cloudy. An impressive tan foam sits on top and stays throughout, resulting in nice layers of Belgian lace.

The nose offers up a deep sweet roasted malty aroma, and a fruity mix of raisin and prunes. Signs of a sherry-like aroma remind me a little of an imperial stout.

The first sip is something of a surprise. Having braced myself for something thick, it washes over very light and is a little too easy drinking. There’s a good fizziness on the palate as well as instant signs of alcohol which warn you to take things easy.

The initial taste is certainly sweet with a roasted malt and a mixture of ripe fruits, bringing to mind cherry, cranberry and prune, with an underlying yeastiness throughout. Further tasting also revealed a little spiciness, while there’s some coffee-like dryness in the finish. The aftertaste is very warming rounding out very much like a port.

This is an excellent version of a Belgian ale, combined with its own unique character. The only criticism could be an over sweetness, but not from me. If you wanted to try Belgian ales, or are already a fan, this beer is definitely worth your time, and for what it is at a great price too. I consider the $2.19 I paid to be a bargain for the quality, although I did get it at a store that is generally cheaper than grocery stores. I hope that others can find it at the same price, although I have paid $3.99 for the same size bottle of Orval, and while not the same I wouldn’t rank it too far behind.

The brewery recommends this beer with pastas, venison, game, pâté, or chocolate mousse, but this is probably their attempt to get into the restaurant industry. While the idea of pâté does appeal to me a little, I say forget the food. In my opinion, this is another one of those beers that just doesn’t belong on the dinner table. It would make a great after dinner drink or nightcap.

Another important note is that these beers will improve with age as long as they are stored in a cool dark place. If they have spent time in the refrigerator there will be no further improvement. The date on my bottle recommended 2003, and I will be saving the other bottle I bought for a while. The brewery suggests that these could be stored for 10 to 15 years. Maybe I’ll have the patience to keep mine that long, if so look out for an update to this review in 2016.

Recommended: Yes
Appearance 4/5, Aroma 9/10, Palate 3/5, Taste 9/10, Overall 18/20

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