On numerous occasions I have listed Ommegang as the best brewer of Belgian ales in America. And I still cling to that statement without any anticipation of letting it go at any time in the foreseeable future. However, about 270 miles north of Ommegang’s Cooperstown, New York brewery there is another gem of a Belgian style brewer in Quebec, Canada. I’ve been drinking their beer for about 10 years. But I have never reviewed any of them. This is my first one. Ladies, gentlemen, scholars, and readers of BaDoink magazine: meet Unibroue, French Canadian purveyor of fine Belgian style ales. And when I say “fine” I mean “Rosie Mac’s ass marinated in baby oil” fine.
Trois Pistoles is the name of a town in Quebec, and this Belgian strong dark ale, in case you haven’t already guessed, is named after it. The name (as well as the artwork on the label) comes from a local legend in that area. I love legends, and urban legends. So, naturally I researched this particular one to learn about what I could only assume was an amazing and epic story about an unbelievable battle from a bloody war, a skyscraper sized fire breathing monster that decimated an entire village, or a deranged axe murderer that went on a dismemberment spree of every household’s first born daughter. But I was dead wrong. The “legend” alleges, that a long fucking time ago, a team of builders was falling behind schedule on erecting a new church. One day a wild, black horse showed up wearing a mysterious, blessed bridle. How they knew it was blessed I do not know. The workers employed the horse to haul large stones from the river to the building. A rumor spread that if the horse’s bridle was removed it would run away. So, naturally this rumor caused such a goof to occur, and the horse fucking ran away, and then flew up in the sky, with just one stone left to put in the church. And to this day that stone has not been installed. The end.
For flying fucks’ sakes, is it possible to pen a more anti-climactic and excitement deficient story? Why didn’t the men just get together and put that one last stone in? Why didn’t the horse do anything cool like stomp out some guts and eat some children before promising to come back every year and haunt the town? There are over a million possible routes this story could have taken to be cool, and the author managed to circumvent every one of them as if he purposely found a way to only be smacked with a cock in a storm that was raining down vaginas.
But I digress…
Thankfully, Trois Pistoles the beer is not dull and pointless like the story after which it is named. It is spicy, sweet, strong, and incredibly flavorful. Belgian beers are known for their intense flavors (so intense, in fact that they can make even me feel ill if I do not show some respect and sip them). The American versions tend to tone down the intensity, ramp up the hops, and lower the overall palate intimidation factor, which is why I tend to stay loyal to the authentic drinks. But like Ommegang, Unibroue respects the origins to a fantastic degree, and Trois Pistoles does not disappoint.
From the pour, the liquid looks like root beer with tiny off white bubbles climbing up the walls of the glass. The aroma is refreshing with cherries, cola, cloves and a pinch of sourness. Its head is off white, foamy, and fizzy, and very lively as it dies down. It shimmers and sparkles as it settles. When I first poured it I thought it would die very quickly but the velocity of its receding slows down dramatically and it stays at a nice, manageable, 1-finger thickness. The upfront taste starts off immediately with a splash of tart berries, and then it moves to berries and chocolate, and finishes with clove, cinnamon, yeast, black pepper and a little bit of remaining chocolate. The aftertaste of Trois Pistoles is its shining star: a very earthy chocolate and port wine that remains planted in your taste buds for a while. A phenolic flavor enters the mix in overtime and gives your mouth an encore of aftertaste flavoring. Its texture is very carbonated, light, and fizzy. The lacing is a velvety off-white coating that slowly falls down the glass. It is very pretty to watch, despite the fact that it in no way means anything about the flavor of the beer.
Trois Pistoles is a solid example of Unibroue’s dedication to replicating the intense and complex authentic ales from Belgium. And they distribute widely so do yourself a favor and seek one out before the end of the day. If only they could find a more exciting story after which to name this brew instead of a yawn-inducing fable about a horse that got fed up with hauling rocks from a river to a church, said, “Fuck this shit”, and left to go back to the cloudy sky in lieu of into the lush forests to graze on leafy greens and hump the mares.
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
PS. Here is a video that explains the story of the dark horse of Trois Pistoles. If you’re suffering from extreme insomnia, this is your cure. I could grind a bottle of Viagra and a fistful of cocaine into my 22oz. coffee after a 12-hour sleep, chug it, and still get easily misdiagnosed with narcolepsy after trying to make it through this boring fairy tale.