3.8AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 16/20
When I was given a bottle of Dieu du Ciel’s Route des Epices from a friend and told it’s brewed with peppercorn I couldn’t quite believe my ears. I’ve heard of beer brewed with spices like nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, etc., but never peppercorn. But there is a very small section of deliberately spicy craft beer that I’ve never tried until now. I was pleasantly surprised by how much the beer drank like any other good craft brew - this one just happened to have a noticeably spicy component to it that didn’t seem gimmicky at all.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
I poured a 341ml (11.5oz) bottle into a tulip glass. The beer has a very dark body with shades of maroon, burnt umber or dark orange comprising the color scheme. It’s fairly clear and low in carbonation but generates a perfectly-proportioned off-white frothy head. I was impressed by the head retention and lacing it left on the glass.
The scent is much more mild than you’d expect: it’s almost lager-like with a somewhat grainy but mostly malty scent with a bit of dark fruits as well. The peppercorn spice is present but it’s more akin to rye and doesn’t seem to hint at how spicy the palate actually is.
I love it when a beer has a distinct surprise flavor. Obviously, I knew Route des Epices was made with peppercorn before I drank it, so I expected that flavor to be homogenous throughout the palate. What I got was very different: up front it’s a sweet, malty and fruity palate with apple, plum and cherry flavors combining to give the beer an almost juicy quality. The best analogy might be to a very mild barley wine or old ale. It’s actually quite sweet and refreshing.
The peppercorn doesn’t show up until the finish and it’s one of the most prolific aftertastes I can recall a beer ever having. It’s a dry spice that you get in a seasoning and it’s very clearly peppercorn and not much else. This spice really makes itself known, but because it’s on the aftertaste it fades away before the spices can tear up your palate.
As I drank on I noticed chocolate and caramel became prominent flavors to the palate, giving the beer a rich malty sweetness that complimented the dark fruit flavors perfectly. I drank this beer while eating a mushroom and peppercorn steak and it was quite a delight. The sweetness from the beer was thirst-quenching and the peppercorn from the steak paired perfectly with the beer’s aftertaste.
For an overtly spicy beer, Route des Epices is surprisingly drinker-friendly in its approach. The sweet components are refreshing and the mouthfeel is thinner and softer than you might expect. The peppercorn aftertaste diminishes when paired with food, but even by itself it doesn’t stick around very long.
At only 5% ABV it’s a borderline light beer which makes it a superb beer to have with dinner since it won’t weigh you down at all.
My only complaint about Dieu du Ciels’ Route des Epices is that this beer wouldn’t work well on its own - you pretty much have to pair it with a meal. I think the peppercorn aftertaste might accumulate on the tongue and become a bit too dry (and possibly hot) to appreciate (I did notice this on the first few swigs I had before I began eating).
Regardless, this is still a really enjoyable beer made even more impressive by how complex and genuinely tasty it is. It’s a beer worth trying because it’s so unique without any gimmicks.