It seems sort of appropriate to be writing about a beer called Péché Mortel around the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition – which, incidentally, occurred on Dec. 5, 1933. You see, Prohibition sought to quell cultural vices in an effort to slow what some saw as the moral decline of American society. Ban the booze, they said, and we’d all be the better for it. As it turned out, they couldn’t have been more wrong.
Why this background, you ask? Well, the English translation of the French phrase Péché Mortel is “mortal sin,” and were a modern-day version of Prohibition to be enacted, this beer would be a bootlegger’s dream. It brings together elements of dark chocolate, fair trade coffee and alcohol in a beer that would seem to be the very definition of vice.
Originally brewed in 2001, Péché Mortel was developed at Dieu du Ciel!, a small brewpub in the Canadian city of Montreal, Quebec. This imperial coffee stout went on to become the first beer bottled by the brewery and subsequently the first of its products to be distributed to the United States. Brewed in small batches with a rotating status, it is available only a few times during the course of the year.
As for its look and feel, Péché Mortel revels in its darkness, which is fitting given the sinful status. Emerging as a black pool, it settles in the glass beneath a shroud of foam while emitting aromas of dark chocolate and rich coffee grounds. Characterizing these aspects, the beer has an earthy tone, most likely coming from the coffee, while the chocolate reminds one of baking squares or semisweet morsels.
The nose favors chocolate, but there’s a noticeable shift in character about midway through the taste. It’s here that the coffee takes over, as deep, dark roast fills the flavor, adding bold bitterness without any off-putting astringency. It also feeds a seemingly never-ending aftertaste, which leaves you with a lasting reminder the beer is brewed au cafe, as the French say.
Péché Mortel is full-bodied, but not really dense, with a fair amount of warmth and a chewy palate. It’s a surprisingly easy drinker, owing such a description to a slick feel and unobtrusive carbonation. There’s some dryness in the finish, which does nothing but tempt you towards another sip if there’s still liquid left in your glass. Should your vessel be empty, though, the unquenched thirst and enduring flavors may have you seeking to secure another bottle.