Tasting the Unibroue Raftman

I really consider Unibroue to be one of Canada’s best breweries, and one of the best in the world. Unibroue produces 16 different beers right now ranging from classic Belgian Styles, to simple blonds and reds, to unique and exciting beers like the Quelque Chose. I’ve ready discussed the Chambly NoireMaudite, and Ephemere Cassis, but on yesterdays hot and Sunny Sunday afternoon I went back to one of the first that ever hooked me; the Unibroue Raftman.

Raftman was brought to the market in 1995 to commemorate the courage of the lumberjacks and log drivers of yesteryear. It is brewed with peat smoked barley and is bottle conditioned with delicate ale yeast. It has all the classic Unibroue characteristics, and is 5.5% abv, making it a delicious session beer, and perfect for the heat. It is unfortunately not available at the LCBO, and is only sold in Canada, so you will have to make the trek to Quebec to find this treat.

The Raftman, like many Unibroue beers comes in both a foil wrapped 355ml capped bottle, and in corked 750ml bottles. I brought the Raftman out cold around 5C (40F) and poured it into two Unibroue tulips. It was a classic Unibroue pour with lots of life and excitement building a frothy and lush head right from the start. It produced a transparaent golden amber beer with bronze and orange streaking through it. Carbonation was visibly apparent holding up a one and a half to two inch white pillowy head which did fade quickly to a shadow on the beer.

The Raftman is not heavy or powerful like the Maudite or Don de Dieu, so you shouldn’t be expecting anything like that. As I mentioned earlier, it is a great session beer. The nose is soft with sweet malts and fruit. Pale malt floats into the air with touches of caramel and apples. Hints of yeast and earth show themselves, as does notes of lemon peel and orange. It is soft and delicate, and also hides a bit of alcohol which shows through a touch.

The beer enters your mouth still with classic Uniboue character. Light and delicate carbonation tickles your palate lifting flavors of lightly sweet malt, tart apple, soft caramel and inches of toffee from front to back. When still cold it is exceptionally refreshing and shows much spice, citrus and touches of hop crispness. But slowly as it warms more malt comes through with the slightest amount of peat and smoke.

This once was one of my most favorite beers, but I think as my palate has matured and become more accustomed to enjoying more full bodied and richer beers, great session beers like this have fallen off my top list. I was enjoying the Raftman, but I did want the malt and the whisky to be more prominent and more powerful.

More into the beer and the malt warms a touch with added smoothness and greater notes of the yeast and vanilla. This beer is bottle conditioned, but shows no signs of sediment or sever funk. It is lightly earthy, but citrus and hops are sure to wash that out. The finish is clean and dry with a hint of sweetness and perfect balance. This is a great session beer, but I think my tastes have moved on to heavier beers.

Nonetheless, the Raftman is thus an excellent beer if you are just introducing yourself to a new world of flavor, and it is also amazing for anyone looking for a great session beer. It would pair nicely with a wide range of foods from grilled or smoked meat, to earthy cheeses, spinach salads, nuts or even light vanilla cakes.

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