Decibel Metal and Beer Fest Brewery Profile: Unibroue

Chambly, Quebec
Start Date: 1990
Signature Metal Beer: A Tout Le Monde Dry Hopped Saison

Quebec’s Unibroue is from a much earlier era of craft beer than many of the breweries that will be pouring at Decibel Metal & Beer Fest on April 22-23 in Philadelphia, but it laid the ground work in North America for the proliferation of Belgian-style brews. Its untouchable core brands—La Fin du Monde, Maudite, Les Trois Pistoles, Don de Dieu and more—are multiple global award winners and continue to be brewed with incredible skill and consistency year after by Director of the Brewing Department and Brew Master, Jerry Vietz. Vietz’s newest project is his collaboration with Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, a dry-hopped saison called A Tout le Monde. Vietz and Mustaine will appear together at the Decibel Metal and Beer Fest on April 22 and will be pouring this amazingly flavorful light-bodied beer. Vietz gave us the details of the collaboration.

How did you first meet Dave Mustaine?
Dave and I actually met in Quebec City back in July 2015. I was on vacation with my family in Maine at the time and I got a call from my brand manager for the U.S. market saying that we received an email from Megadeth’s manager. [They] wanted to meet us in Quebec City the following weekend; Megadeth was the headliner at a big festival there. They expressed a wish to meet with us and talk about a project involving brewing a beer. So, I said, why not? It’s always a pleasure for me to talk about beer and with one of my favorite guitar heroes, all the better!

How did the two of you decide what the Megadeth beer would be?
When we first met at the hotel in Quebec, I brought along eight or 10 different beers for him to try. I had in mind that if we were going to taste some, beer then we could at least start to identify what his personal tastes are. At that point I had no idea if [a collaboration] would work or not, because I had no idea if we would get along well, or whatever. But when we met that first day, we got along pretty well and it clicked. The chemistry was so strong, and we both felt like we’d known each other our entire lives, you know? We were like old high school buddies.

At that point, when I had Dave tasting all these different samples, I already started to identify what he didn’t really like and what he would like. And I started to influence him on the style of beer that would probably be better for his fans, as well.

With so many of Unibroue’s beers in the higher ABV (alcohol by volume) range, some people were surprised that A Tout Le Monde is only 4.5%. Was there a conscious effort to make a smaller beer?
When we started to talk about the different beer styles, I started to educate Dave on that, like what is a saison, or a Belgian wit. Saison is historically a Franco-Belgian style. These are beers that were brewed by the farmers in the winter in preparation for the long summer season. They were meant to be a good, refreshing beer that could be drunk in the hot summer days in the field, even at a warmer temperature, and still be enjoyable. Historically the saison was not very high ABV, first of all, so that was part of the reason why we aimed that way. But the other reason is, for all Unibroue beers, it’s very important that the liquid is perfectly connected to the image, the artwork. The color of the label and the [story] is so connected to the liquid, so we didn’t want to do something different for this beer.

When we talked about the potential names for the beer, to me that was an easy fix. As you know, Dave has his own winery and all of his wines have been named for his songs, and the fact that Megadeth only has one song name in French, and Unibroue gives all its beers French names, it had to be A Tout le Monde. A Tout le Monde made sense for both parties. A Tout le Monde translates into, “for everyone.” I really wanted a beer that would appeal to everyone. A beer at 8% or 9%, the beer geeks really love it, but I know there are a good portion of beer drinkers who are afraid of the high ABV, even if the beer is very well balanced, the way we brew our beers. It was also a challenge for me to a beer at a lower ABV than what we usually do, but still have the complexity that all Unibroue ales are renown for. The goal was reached because, since we released that beer in October, the feedback is huge from the market, very positive. It’s definitely a beer that appeals to everyone, a tout le monde.

It seemed like there was a little bit of push back initially from Megadeth fans who were expecting a head-crushing high ABV brew. How did you deal with that?
It was pretty tough for us. As soon as you announce what the beer is, obviously it’s going to be a great partnership and people were excited about that, but there were also quite a few people that started to judge the beer, even before they drank it.

This subject about the ABV came back so much. As you may know, Dave is really active on social media and he was always asked by people, “what the fuck is that?” People at the beginning were expecting a very high ABV, I guess, because of the combination between Unibroue, renowned for brewing these types of well-balanced but higher octane beers, and Megadeth. But at the same time, I want people to be able to enjoy these beers at the concert and keep enjoying afterward.

For those who aren’t familiar with the saison style, how would you describe it?
With a saison you typically have lots of herbal flavors. This could come from dry-hopping, which I did with [A Tout le Monde], but you can brew it with different types of herbs, as well, or hops that will give more herbal flavours. From the yeast perspective and the overall reaction of the ingredients, most of all you have some white pepper undertones. It’s most of the time at a higher bitterness than I did for A Tout le Monde. It’s meant to be drunk in the summer and back in the days before lager existed, there was the Belgian witbier and the saison that were the most refreshing beer types if you didn’t want to drink a porter or stout or stuff like that.

For tickets to Decibel Metal & Beer Fest, go here.