Why does Canada's Frenchiest province, Quebec, love Belgian-style beers so much? Is it the shared language? Is it something in the Quebec palate? Or is it just disdain for anything English in origin? We have no idea, but if we want a killer Belgian brew without going to Belgium, there are plenty of options from Quebec. Unibroue is the best-known example available throughout North America. But there are others. Thanks to an export/distribution deal with Shelton Brothers in the U.S. more amazing Quebec beers from breweries like Le Trou du Diable and Dieu du Ciel! are finding their way into bottle shops around the country. And, yep, they rely heavily on Belgian brewing tradition, but they also frequently put their own New World/Quebecois twist on it. This beer, whose name we could not freakin' say no to, is definitely very trad. RIGOR MORTIS ABT Quadrupel Brasserie Dieu du Ciel! St. Jerome, Quebec, Canada 10.5% ABV
First of all, who names a beer Rigor Mortis? French Canadians, that's who. You might recall that Unibroue also has cheery beer names like La Fin du Monde (End of the World) and Maudite (Accursed), so clearly the irreverent, fun-loving tone of many U.S. craft breweries is lacking up here. And who is the stiff on the label of this beer supposed to be? Jesus? Whatever. We saw the name and the beatific label art and immediately thought of "Re-Animator" by Texas's finest death thrashers, Rigor Mortis. Pondering what it all meant didn't occur until we were half way through this beast.
You'll see above that this is a "quadrupel." That's a style—like the commonly known dubbel and tripel—developed by Trappist monks who brewed beers in their monasteries. This would be the biggest beer a Trappist brewery would make and it would easily reach double-digit ABV. It's typically dark in color, lacking much in the way of hops and is big on the malt, like a barley wine.
Poured form the bottle, Rigor Mortis looks not unlike a barley wine. The deep chestnut color is a little on the dark side for the style, but it's within the range. However, it smells nothing like one. This is largely due to the use of a Belgian yeast strain, as well as the addition of candi sugar which gives the yeast plenty to chow down on to get the ABV up so high. The main difference, though? This offers more fruit aromas—like plum, raisins and dark berries—mingling with the strong scent of booze. It smells something like a rum-soaked fruit bowl. A barley wine would have some fruit notes, but it's more about the malt.
Taste-wise this isn't too far off from Gulden Draak. There is a strong sweet component up front, along with a big wallop of boozy fruit that gives way to a bitter chocolate finish. It's like a dark chocolate version of Cadbury's Fruit and Nut candy bar (which is actually made with milk chocolate). You'll definitely feel the heat from its strength long after taken a pull or two. It's big.
After extensive, uh, testing, we can report that this brew did not cause any stiffening of our limbs. Or death, for that matter. It did, however, cause inebriation. Rather quickly, in fact.
Adem Tepedelen's new craft beer book, Decibel Presents the Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers: An All-Excess Pass to Brewing's Outer Limits, is now available in the Decibel online store.