Schoune Brewing Co. bills itself as a farm-brewery and promotes their beers with the tagline: “From the land to the beer.”
In fact, the brewery was founded by a family of Belgian farmers who immigrated to Quebec. I don’t know exactly how many breweries grow the barley that is malted and used in their beers, but Schoune must be one of the few. Sure, the big corporate brewers probably own or contract their own barley crops, but that doesn’t count. These guys actually use their very own hands to both grow their own barley and brew their own beer. Now that’s local beer.
Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a trend toward more use of local ingredients in beer, and it need not stop with the barley. Many breweries are growing at least some nominal hops on their premises or at nearby farms. But plenty of other brewing herbs and spices can be grown in backyeard garden plots. And barley isn’t the only grain that can be used for brewing, though it does lend itself fairly well to the growing conditions in most of northern America. That may all change with global warming, but for the time being, I hope more breweries will consider planting trial plots of grains, adjuncts, hops, and other spices.
As for the Schoune beers, I’ve now had the five bottles that didn’t break (see yesterday’s post), including:
(6.9% ABV), a “strong red ale”;
l’Erabiere (4.5% ABV), a “maple pale ale” which was way sweeter than I was expecting, since I assumed all the maple syrup would convert into alcohol rather than leave a residual sweetness, but given the low alcohol content listed on the bottle and the heavily sweet body, I guess maple syrup doesn’t ferment as quickly as I assumed it would;
La Belge (7% ABV), a strong golden Belgian ale, also on the sweet side;
La Ambree (5.5% ABV) a basic amber style beer meant for session drinking;
Blanche de Quebec (4.1% ABV), a Belgian style white ale, which is one of my favorite beer styles, especially during the spring and summer, this one has the hallmark spice (clove) and citrus notes that distinguish the style.
Judging from the entries in ratebeer.com, Schoune makes a very wide range of beers, including many seasonals from the looks of things. Their quality control may need some attention though, as a number of the above samples exhibited some off notes. And the bottle labels were a little too superficial “curvaceous girly” for me. But behind that, these guys are doing the real deal – growing their own barley! I also like that their web site (which is only in French) has a section pairing each of their beers with food selections. They’ve only been around for about six years, so I’m hoping that Schouner or later they’ll get their production issues worked out, and I wish them the best in their efforts.