Beer Review 0062: Unibroue Noire de Chambly

Noire de Chambly, or Black of Chambly, is produced by the great Unibroue, which happens to be located in Chambly, Quebec, Canada. As the name suggests, this is a dark ale, brewed in honor of the soldiers of the Carignan-Salières Regiment, famous for their black musketeer hats.

In 1665, King Louis XIV sent the regiment to New France to defend against the Iroquois, and had a fort built (Fort Chambly) along the Richelieu River. Many French-Canadians are direct descendants of the regiment.

Noire de Chambly is relatively new to the Unibroue portfolio (compared to their other offerings) and recently won two awards at the World Beer Championship, held in Chicago: gold in 2010, and silver in 2011.

This beer is bottle conditioned, meaning it can be aged. The brewery recommends no longer than 4 years. Remember, when storing beer for aging, do so upright, not on its side, as one would do with wine.

Before pouring, I gave the bottle a quick upside down turn to distribute the yeast put in for bottle conditioning. That’s why this is called an ale on lees (if you ever wondered what that meant). Release from bottle gave what was promised, a dark, black ale. The head was small and quickly dissipated, reminding one of soda. The body was cloudy, and I’m going to guess there is some light sediment going on since this is a bottle conditioned brew, but it’s hard to tell because the drink is opaque. There was no lacing.

The aroma section is going to require a little explaining. Unibroue beers, at least to me, are unique in the fact that they all generally tend to have what I call the Unibroue yeast funk scent going on. Noire de Chambly most certainly has it; it’s earthy and musky. I find that people are either white hot turned on or vehemently dislike this aroma, so your mileage may vary. I like it. It’s unique and no other brewery is doing whatever Unibroue is doing in terms of yeast. The rest of the aromatics are very complex — there’s hints of citrus, specifically lemon and orange, and the malts are present with caramel and little whiffs of smoke. Then there’s the dark and brooding scents: I get some raisin and licorice, all balanced by an underlying pepper spice. The aromatics get a perfect score. The complexity is amazing and so great!

The complexity continues on the palate, where this dark beer unleashes a candy-like wave up front, followed by a transition to notes of citrus, and then washing down with a little caramel. The finish is wheaty with hints of those delicious dark fruits and a fair amount of spice, paired with a lively carbonation that prickles the tongue. Couple that with the fact that this is a fairly creamy beer, and the texture is a winner along with the flavors.

But here’s the thing: although Noire de Chambly is an excellent beer, it’s by no means Unibroue’s best. Check rankings for other Unibroue beers on this site: Trois Pistoles got 95 points, La Fin du Monde comes in at 94 points, and Don De Dieu got 92 points. That’s quality!

Definitely try this one, but keep in the back of your mind that there are even better beers by this brewery to be had. Which is a very, very, very good problem to have.

Unibroue Noire de Chambly, 89 points. Price: $1.49 US for one twelve ounce bottle.


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