Awesome post. I’ll give you credit for being brave enough to try Costco beer…althought Gordon Biersch does make pretty reliable beers in their restaurant. It’s funny, I thought they pretty much only did lagers, so it’s surprising that these ones were all ales.
Belgian whites (witbiers) are brewed with a large amount of (un)malted wheat, coriander and orange peel (at least, that’s what makes them special). The wheat adds a lot of body to the beer, but not a lot of color (hence the “white” name). Usually the rest of the mash is lager malt because it contains enough extra enzymes to convert the starches in the wheat to sugars for fermentation…but doesn’t add much color (think Bud, etc.) I’m guessing they used pale malt instead, which gives it the deeper color you’re seeing.
Looks like they brewed the amber beer with amber malt (before you say, ‘well duh’, hear me out). Amber malt gives those caramel/toffee flavors you were noticing, but in my experience it adds much more brown than red to a beer. Often brewers will cheat and use roasted barley or another black malt to add the color to a pale grist, giving it a more red color but less sweetness/character. So props to GB for going that route. I prefer biscuit malt, which gives more orange/red color to the beer and a toasty/roasty flavor.
In my experience the IBU doesn’t matter as much for pales and IPAs as the manner in which the brewer uses the hops (that being said I’d never drink an IPA that had less than 50 IBU ;P). If you see “late addition of hops” or “dry-hop” on a label then you know you’ll have more hop aromas and flavors in the finished beer…a lot of the hop character is “volatile” and leaves the beer during the boil stage of brewing. Even though IBUs are capped at 100 (because of the solubility of alpha acids that give the bitterness to beer) brewers mention higher values, basically just to give you an idea of the amount of hop oils and other hoppy goodness you’ll get in the beer.
Dieu du Ciel is arguably the best microbrewery in QC, but there are better beers to drink here. The best microbrew (IMHO) is at Le Cheval Blanc in Montreal. They’ve got the experience to brew creatively…they just brewed a (delicious) beet beer, for example. If you want to try DdC I saw it at Whole Foods in SF last time I was there, but it’s prohibitvely expensive. I could just as well bring you a bottle next time I pass through Cali.
On that note, I’ll be heading to Cali in late January. May pass by Felton for a day or two in the process…let me know if I should bring you a Spiced Imperial Molassess Stout to critique ;).
I was thinking about you while I was doing this episode. Thanks for the insite.
I’d love to try your beer, along with anything else you got…
We could film an episode together, if you’re down.
Send me a message on Facebook, so we can exchange info.