Montreal

'Like an oatmeal stout with a twist,' says Quebec brewer behind cricket beer

Its makers say the beer has chocolate and coffee tones, and pairs well with oysters, ribs and, fittingly, chocolate-covered crickets.

Jérémie Tremblay hopes to challenge assumptions with the frothy, protein-rich stout

Beermaker Jérémie Tremblay was excited by the challenge of using crickets to make a stout. (Submitted by Jérémie Tremblay )

A pair of microbreweries in the Lower St-Lawrence have released a new signature beer that uses a surprising ingredient: thousands of roasted crickets.

La Baleine Endiablée in Rivière-Ouelle, Que., and the Lion Bleu microbrewery in Alma teamed up with a cricket farm to develop Stout Aux Grillons, or cricket stout.

Its makers say the beer has chocolate and coffee tones, and pairs well with oysters, ribs and, fittingly, chocolate-covered crickets.

Baleine Endiablée co-founder Jérémie Tremblay told CBC's Breakaway that he was approached by a friend, cricket farmer Maxime Dionne, about breaking the taboo around farming and consuming the insect.

"I thought it was a good project and a good challenge," Tremblay said in a recent interview. "It was uncharted territory ... [and] that thrilled me."

But when Tremblay searched online, he couldn't find any information about how to incorporate the crickets into the beer-making process.

He first tried using crickets that had been ground into a kind of flour, but he found the results were too "gooey."

Then he tried using whole crickets in the beer. That made it taste too much like Tex-Mex. "It wasn't bad, but it didn't taste like a stout," Tremblay said. 

So instead he roasted the critters. This, he found, gave the beer a more malty flavour.

"When we did a test that was really good, I was very hyped," Tremblay said.

After a few false starts, Tremblay settled on roasting the crickets before integrating them into the beer. (Submitted by Jérémie Tremblay )

'Nobody is indifferent' 

Tremblay uses the crickets in the same way he would use a grain, and doesn't think consumers will be able to tell the difference.

"It tastes like an oatmeal stout with a twist," he said. "If you don't know [it's crickets], I don't think you can tell."

A big advantage of the cricket stout is that the added protein from the insects keeps the beer foamier and gives it a better head, Tremblay said.

Reactions to the beer have run the gamut, so far: some people are angry, some say they can't taste the crickets and some are excited.

"I like the fact that nobody is indifferent. Everybody has their reaction, good or bad," Tremblay said.  

The beer is available at La Baleine Endiablée, about 150 kilometres northeast of Quebec City, or wherever Lion Bleu distributes its products.

With files from CBC's Breakaway

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