Belgium has a long tradition of brewing strong, full-flavored beers. Many recipes started life in Trappist monasteries and often include special ingredients such as spices, caramelized sugar, and special strains of yeast and bacteria. Beer is often categorized by strength, with tripel, or 9% alcohol, being the strongest.
Unibroue began making Belgian-style beer in 1990 with the establishment of their brewery in Chambly, Quebec. They brew a wide range of beer, with La Fin du Monde (French for “The End of the World”) being one of their most famous and celebrated varieties.
With a pale straw color and a effervescent foam, La Fin du Monde looks much like a typical light lager, but with a slightly hazy appearance and a much more complex flavor. The body and mouth-feel are both light and dry, which is unusual for such a high-alcohol beer. In fact, it is difficult to taste the alcohol at all. Belgian-style yeast dominate the smell with spicy clove and banana esters. Yeast is also prominent in all aspects of the taste, adding a bread-like quality to each sip. Citrus flavors from orange peel stand out at the beginning of the flavor, although an acidic lemon taste stands out more than any orange flavors. Hops lend subtle floral notes and a strong sourness, perhaps aided by special acid-producing bacterial. Between the hops, the orange peel, and whatever other methods Unibroue might employ to achieve this sourness, La Fin du Monde tastes almost like fermented lemonade. Coriander seeds add a spicy and fresh dimension at the finish.
While La Fin du Monde is mostly very dry, there is a light, smokey sweetness similar to a spicy but light pipe tobacco. As the beer warms up to room temperature, more of these subtle flavors come out, giving a new taste with each sip. Overall, it comes across like a higher-quality, less sweet version of other Belgian-style ales such as Blue Moon. Fans of Belgian-style ales would be wise to try Colorado’s own New Belgium brews, especially their Trippel, which has a subtler and clearer taste than Unibroue’s offering.
At $8.50 for a 750 mL bottle, La Fin du Monde is best saved for special occasions and is best served by itself or with similarly strong-flavored foods. Although it might not please everyone’s pallet, La Fin du Monde earns a rare A+ score for being an excellent example of what a Belgian-style tripel can be.