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Winter Solstice. Solstice D’Hiver. A Barleywine Cinderella at the Russian Lord Stout’s Ball.

February 10, 2010

Tonight was the first time since the Winter Solstice began in late December that I actually noticed the days beginning to lengthen again.  The winter solstice marks the day where we get the least amount of sunlight in a day.  From that point on the days get incrementally longer.  This became apparent to me for the first time as I was leaving work at 5pm and headed west for my 45-minute commute home.  Sure, the temperature was still in the teens, but the sun was shining and that was all that mattered.

So, it’s quite a coincidence that I randomly decided that tonight I would be reviewing Brasserie Dieu du Ciel’s Solstice D’Hiver.  As I would come to find out Solstice D’Hiver translates into “winter solstice” in French.  I had picked this bottle up awhile ago and didn’t really look into it until I sat down to drink and write this review.  I guess my subconscious beer drinking self was ready to celebrate the lengthening of days.

Solstice D’Hiver is an American Style Barleywine from Brasserie Dieu du Ciel.  Dieu di Ciel is based out of Quebec, Canada with a brewpub in Montreal and the Microbrewery in St-Jérôme.  The website currently lists 12 brews that are bottled out of the microbrewery and close to 100 brews are listed at the brewpub page, but I highly doubt even half of these are on tap an any one time.  Styles range from Belgian Quads to a “Peppercorn Rye Ale.”  It doesn’t look like Dieu di Ciel is lacking in creativity.

This barleywine is brewed at the end of summer and then is sold in December for as long as the yearly supply lasts.  I picked up a bottle at Friar Tuck back in early January for  less than $5.  After brewing it is aged 4 months in order to achieve the necessary balance between malt and hops.  The bottle tells me that English yeast is used and to expect high bitterness along with fruit and liquor notes.  The label art is a forlorn human huddled under an equally forlorn looking tree.  At 9.8% ABV it seems this is the perfect beer to enjoy on a cold winter’s night.


Beer: Solstice D’Hiver (Winter Solstice)

Brewery: Brasserie Dieu di Ciel, Quebec, Canada

Style: Barleywine

ABV: 9.8% ABV

Serving: 11.5 oz bottle,  snifter glass


Solstice D’Hiver pours a gorgeous deep mahogany with streaks of penetrating throughout.  The head is tight and the color of khaki while the lace is pretty much wallpapering the side of my Michelob  Celebrate snifter glass..  This brew is in fact clear, but the darkness of the color makes it appear anything but.

The aroma is flush with notes of alcohol and brandy.  Strong toasted malt follows closely behind and leads to soft fruity undertones.  I’m picking up quite a bit of “bready-ness” as well.

The flavor is toasted malt and caramel up front.  This continues on leaving you feeling like you just took a big bite of un-buttered toast.  The high ABV asserts itself in the middle of the flavor profile as a strong alcoholic bite interrupts the malt.  The flavor finishes surprisingly bitter as the hops balance out the profile.  The strong malt qualities cover up any traces of hops until the very end.  I would almost go as far to call this roasty, but I think it misses the mark by just a tad.  A subtle fruitiness is here in the form of dried prunes or plums.

Winter Solstice sits quite heavily in the mouth thanks to the 9.8% alcohol-by-volume.  It feels like 50-50 water and syrup mixed together.  For having such weight this beer goes down quite smooth.  I am forcing myself to take my time and enjoy this glorious creation as warmer temperatures bring out greater complexity.  I am already  looking forward to sampling another Brasserie Dieu du Ciel product as soon as possible.

The more I sip this brew the more I am drawing comparisons to an Imperial Stout.  Its not as roasty, but many of the King Stout’s qualities are showing up in this Barleywine.  Barleywines, by nature, are big, full, flavorful brews just as Imperial Stouts are.  However, this Barleywine is lacking many of the fruit notes you come to expect and instead is exhibiting the darker tones associates with big stouts.

I would love to get another bottle of this stuff and lay it down for a year or two to see how it develops.  I would imagine the alcohol would mellow out and this one would be something to write home about.


Appearance: 4.8/5

Aroma: 4.0/5

Flavor: 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: 4.2/5

Drinkability: 3.7/5

Overall: 4.24/5

Chance of Craft Beer Epiphany: 80%

I know one thing.  This beer is good.  Had someone given this to me back when Corona Extra was “the best beer ever!” my head would have spun around 12 times and I would have punched them in the face for lying to me.  Shortly there after I would apologize and meekly accept the fact that this is beer and it tastes nothing like the Corona+lime I had been coveting for so long.


Brasserie Dieu du Ciel



One Comment
  1. I love Brasserie Dieu du Ciel. Had their Rigor Mortis quad a few meeks ago … it’s also quite good. I saw this when we bought the quad and wondered about it — might need to pick it up next time.

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