TORONTO — You don’t know Jerry Vietz, but if you like beer he’s no doubt brought joy into your life. Vietz is the brewmaster of Canada’s most acclaimed craft brewer, Unibroue, which will exhaust you of superlatives if you try to describe what its roster of beers has meant for the international reputation of Canadian brewing.
Since debuting with Blanche de Chambly in 1992, Unibroue has delivered flavourful, Belgian-style ales that stand up to Trappist stalwarts like Huyghe Brewery’s Delirium Tremens and Rochefort’s top brews. It’s also earned all the accolades to live up to its stature as one of the best breweries on the planet. La Fin du Monde, the top-selling Unibroue beer in the U.S., has won five platinum and six gold medals from the Chicago Beverage Tasting Institute’s World Beer Championships, and Unibroue beers have won 152 awards overall.
On Wednesday, Vietz was at BeerBistro in Toronto to unveil perhaps Unibroue’s finest creation, Grand Reserve 17, which in 2010 was named the World’s Best Dark Ale from the annual World Beer Awards in London. About 30 of us were invited to the event that also featured servings of BeerBistro chef Michelle Usprech’s Unibroue-infused cuisine and a special serving of a Christmas ale Vietz first made in his home. It’s not a surprise that Grand Reserve 17 is a delicious beer, what you will raise your eyebrow at, though, is how light it feels on your palate. Rather than a thick, rich ale like Maudite that announces the intent of its 8-percent alcohol content upon the first sip, Grand Reserve 17 is immensely smooth and easy to drink. It costs $9.95 for a 750-millilitre bottle and is available only at LCBO stores.
This beer with 10-percent alcohol content was the first Vietz created when he took over as brewmaster in 2007, after working at the brewery for more than four years. He calls Grand Reserve 17 “my baby.”