Saturday, April 30, 2011

Discovery Low Gravity Ale (Spinnakers)

We need more low ABV brews. Not the 0.5% grocery store type, and certainly not the 4.2% macro pale lager swill. I'm referring to the 3.8%-4.5% brews that actually have flavour. I was out with the b oys at Moon Under Water last night. Their new brown ale was on my 'ticker' list; it was pretty decent. Dry toasted malts, faint herbal hops and a tad thin. Which is just what a brown ale should be: nice, simple and drinkable.

Then I had to go for another: the Blue Moon Bitter. This brew picked up top prize in the CAMRA Vancouver “Fest of Ale Spring Sessional Brewers" challenge. It was a much deserved nod of accomplishment. For a 3.8% brew it packs more aroma and taste than one would expect. If you like your bitters, this is one brew you must try.

This brings me to the new low ABV brew from Spinnakers. Their Discovery Low Gravity Ale floated in at a mere 3.8%ABV. But how does it taste?

Discovery Low Gravity Ale (Spinnakers) = 6/10

The nose is very faint of toasted cereals, grass and light minerals. As expected, the s ip it was thin and very light bodied with almost no carbonation. Only the faintest of flavours came up but they were enough to fill the mouth nicely. There was whole wheat toast, thin sherry, and a small slap of herbal/mineral hops at the end. As the brew warmed up, a bit of nut and citrus (lime) fruitiness came out. The aftertaste is almost non-existant; just a dry nut, tongue coating. This beer is not for everyone. The macro crowd will ask what those odd flavours are. The big flavour beer geeks will wonder.. actually they would never try it. I liked it: very easy drinking and refreshing. At the bottom of the glass, there was no noticeable influence from the alcohol.

Taste +3
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content +1 3.8% (normally this would score a -1 but I can do what I want)
Value +1
Appearance +1 (nice label)

Stone Levitation Ale

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Northumberland Ale (Church-Key)

This was most likely sampled on my trip to Toronto last summer. Despite all larger population and good breweries, it is actually hard to find good beer there. If you visit the LCBO, they have better selections of foreign beers that local ones. I think I had this at C'est What; a great gastro-beer spot with massive local selection.

Northumberland Ale (Church-Key) =5/10
Ratebeer 2.61 22nd percentile
Beer Advocate not listed

At first I was worried, vegetal and grass is never a good sign for a beer nose. Luckily things improved with each sip. It was light and effervescent with grassy/herbals hops, honey and a good dose of citrus. The pale fruitiness from the malts was nicely balanced. This was not an exciting beer, but a solid English pale ale. Easy drinking and mildly flavourful.

Taste +3
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content 0
Value +1 (great English Pale Ale)
Appearance +1 (nice local makes things look better)

Bass Pale Ale

Salt Spring Island Pale Ale
Mirror Pond Pale Ale

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Double Double 2009 (Paddock Wood)

If there were any reason to move to Saskatoon, this would be the only one. Every special release that these guys put out is just spectacular. Luckily I have a buddy that works near the brewery and ships me the limited releases. Thanks Nightware! This brew was sampled May 29, 2010; I gotta catch up on my notes.

Double Double 2009 (Paddock Wood) =7/10

Ratebeer 3.42 90th percentile
Beer Advocate B+

This is a strong nosed little ale. Abundant whaffs of fruit alcohols, solvents and light pit fruits make me worry about open flames. If you can taste anything through the alcohol burn your palate is very robust. Berries, light fruits and big citrus hops with resinous pals are everywhere. This brew is a tad big, boozy and hoppy. It will definitely benefit from aging. I have tried a few aged ones, but I will have to dig up those notes.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 10.5%
Value +1
Appearance 0 (boring label)

Dorothy Goodbody's Country Ale
Dix Grand Cru Damage Control

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Coconut Porter (Swan's)

This brew is always a yearly favourite. Andrew's Coconut Porter won a Gold Medal at the 2010 Canadian Brewing Awards in the fruit and vegetable category. This brew even beat out Quelque Chose by Unibroue.

Coconut Porter 2010 (Swan's) = 9/10

Served in a true pint glass; this brew let off faint aromas of bittersweet chocolate and dry coconut. It was full bodied that started off dry with cocoa but ended juicy. Each sip was creamy with bittersweet chocolate and dry cocoa and coconut. A long slick coating of chocolate coconut milk never went away. A very enjoyable pint.

Taste +5
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol 0 5%
Value +1 (even if the cover band was annoying)
App +1 no label but this is FTW.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

High Tide Hemp Ale (Howe Sound)

My opinions about hemp ales is pretty low. It is not that I don't like the style, but often they lack the flavours you would expect. Most of the ones I have tried are mostly hype and not a lot of actual hemp flavour. I am particularly suspicious when they are released in April.
High Tide Hemp Ale = 6/10

Ratebeer 2.98/5 (5 ratings)
Beer Advocate B+

The nose is very promising: vaguely nutty, toasted and caramelized. The medium-full delivers a standard sweetish ale (wee heavy) but the extras make this brew a unique one. You can actually taste the particularly nuttiness that is characteristic of hemp. The just right balance of hemp nuttiness, slight sherry malts and herbal hops makes this brew very drinkable. After every gulp, yup this is gulpable, there is a decent slick coating of sweet nuttiness.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5.5%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (great ruby colour and fun label: not overly 4:20 hipster)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Who says beer packaging is meaningless?

At first I thought this was another goofy college kid beer experiment: "The color of safety: Ingroup-associated colors make beer safer." American brewers have been making 'fan-cans', which are beercan colour schemes based on university sport team colours. This has really ticked off some people, forcing Anheuser-Busch to stop marketing them in certain markets.

Would you drink more because your beer can has your team's colours? This would never work, right? Think again. According to recent research from the University of Missouri, Department of Psychological Sciences, beer packaging can influence drinking habits. College kids were shown images of fan-cans or regular beer cans then asked questions about the safety of beer consumption. This part is scary: after viewing the fan-cans, participants thought beer drinking was less dangerous than when they viewed the plain can. There was a little more to the experiment that this, but I am leaving out the boring details. Other findings were even scarier. They had the students read a public service announcement (PSA) about the hazards of college parties. The authors reported,
"It is both interesting and somewhat disturbing that individuals exposed to the fan can found local parties less dangerous, an effect that may actually prevent them from adopting the harm-reduction drinking practices recommended in the PSA they read."

This does make sense. We normally believe members of a similar social group to be safer. This experiment demonstrated that a product's presentation can influence its perceived safety. A troublesome finding considering the staggering negative effects of underage drinking on university campuses.


My Father's brought this beer back from his trip to Estonia. You can tell from the can that this is a mass produced light lager. The taste will probable be predictable.

Hebckoe 2/10

Ratebeer (not rated)
Beer Advocate C (1 review)

Yup just as I expected: the nose is faint with honey, straw, lettuce and a vague iciness. With loads of carbonation, Hebckoe delivers its standard load of light grasses and off-sweet honey. Luckily there was little vegetal but sadly no hop snap. There was no linger. It was a plain, easy drinking and unmemorable foreign pale lager.

Taste +2
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value 0
Appearance 0 (plain, unremarkable 500ml can)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Imperial IPA (Granville Island)

I gotta be faster with these reviews. It seems this Damn Beer Blogger reviews most beers first. Often they are very quickly posted after their release. I'm sure he must follows brewery trucks around town waiting for their deliveries. Anyways back to my favourite subject: me. Any new release by Granville Island is worth a taste. Their Imperial IPA is certainly going to impress any hop head.

Imperial IPA (Granville Island) = 9/10

Ratebeer 3.55/5 (4 ratings)
Beer Advocate A-

The nose on this thing is massive: citrus (grapefruit rind) and floral. One can only hope this massive nose and 100IBUs are balanced with toasted caramel malts. It is close but the astringent and very full mouthfeel leans heavily towards the hop. The hop tongue tackle is fairly linear; just citrus (grapefruit rind, pineapple and Seville oranges), with a little pine and floral backup. You could claim to taste caramel, biscuit malts but the hop linger is too long. It is of no matter, hopheads will flock to this beer like {insert witty phrase here}.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 8.2% ABV
Value +1
Appearance +1

Previous reviews
Brew Free or Die IPA
Burton Baton
Half Pints Humulus Ludicrous

Monday, April 11, 2011

Beer School: Imperial Stouts

This time a full house of 13 people made it to Clive's Lounge to get schooled on Imperial Stouts. Most beer geeks know the story of why a strong stout (or any beer) is called imperial. The best story involved Peter the Great. Apparently Petey I fell in love with stouts on a trip to London in 1698. We wanted more but it always arrived in Russia flat, sour and undrinkable. So Barclay's of London brewed an extra strong stout that could survive the long journey to the Baltic Sea. This stout export continued through the reign of Catherine the Great. As many as 10 breweries were exporting to Russia. These strong brews were created especially for the Russian Imperial Court; hence Imperial Stout.

The first beer of the night was Eel River's Raven's Eye Imperial Stout. This was the favourite stout of the attendees. It was also the most...'plain'. Standard imperial stout stuff: massive fruity and chocolate nose, followed by a face slap of coffee, bitter chocolate and dark fruits. Oddly at 9.5%ABV, the ethanol was no where to be tasted but came across as a menthol coolness.

Back to the lesson. One of the major exporters of stout was Barclays. Their big salesrep was Albert Le Coq. He exported stout into Russia until tariffs got too high and reduced his profits. In 1912, the Le Coq company bought Tivoli brewery in Tartu, Estonia. The main brews were the imperial stout and a new strong porter. This new style was referred to as the Baltic porter. This is why imperial stouts and Baltic porters are grouped together, even thought some Baltic porters are lagers. Things went well for Le Coq until 1917. World wars and Bolshevik revolutions were not kind to Le Coq. The brewery was nationalized and the porter ceased to be produced.

The next beer sampling was Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout. I chose this beer because stouts are often blended with coffee to enhanced their roasted flavours. Lagunitas delivers! Great, powdery cocoa with bitter espresso and roasted peat.

We also sampled some Driftwood Singularity. This is a world class beer. Aged in bourbon barrels, the Singularity shows that strong stouts can be wood aged. A new flavour was present in this brew: umami. Umami is the fifth official taste sensation. First proposed by food scientist Kikunae Ikeda in 1908, it did not gain official status until 1985. This is the flavour of 'savory' or 'meaty'. The best sources of this taste sensation are soy sauce and Marmite. Glutamic acid comes from the fermentation of proteins and nucleotides. Fermentation of proteins - think yeast.

Next we enjoyed an Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout by Great Divide. Two words: great beer. Thanks to Dave for bringing a non aged Yeti. Everyone has their preference.

The final treat of the night was a Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel (Highland Edition). This is an imperial stout brewed with Civet coffee. If it is possible to make this beer any better, it was aged in Highland Park whiskey casks. The flavours were truly decadent: smooth and thick with coffee, oak, peat and so much more. Every sip melted on your tongue with bittersweet chocolate, strong espresso creme and toasted cocoa nibs.

Thanks again to Shawn at Clive's Classic Lounge for serving up a great cheese pairing plate. Only the strongest cheeses can stand up to imperial stout: stinky blues, sharp cheddar and Guinness infused cheddar.

Looking forward to the Black IPA school in early May.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Central City Tripel

This was a welcome surprise at Veneto Lounge. I was preparing for the standard offerings of draft beer, so this was a welcome surprise.

Central City Tripel = 6/10

3.13 47th percentile
Beer Advocate B+

The nose was spot on for an abbey: faint apricots, passion fruit and sweet. A creamy, full-medium mouthfeel carried a good amount of alcohol tingle. With no draft list in front of me the ABV was unknown, but you could tell the beer meant business. There was more fruitiness than expected. Lots of sweet apricots, guava, tropical fruits came in a smooth but warming package. The ending was good and dry with a tongue coating of floral hops. I found it a little sweet, but still enjoyable.

Taste +2
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 9%
Value +1 (free beer always rates high)
Appearance +1

Scuttlebutt Tripel 7
GIB Jolly Abbott 2009
St. Bernardus Tripel

Friday, April 1, 2011

Naughty Hildegard and beer snobbery at its best!

I read the blog of my nemesis yesterday and thought very hard about beer snobbery. Many people have called me a beer snob; some have gone so far as to call me a 'beer prick'. This is something I relish. So with this posting I shall fully unleash the beer snobbery within my (sadly-lacking) soul.
DISCLAIMER: I don't really think Brendan in my nemesis, but the illusion seems fun. Dan has actually called me a 'beer prick'. He even suggested that we have a T-shirt made stating his opinion of me. It was loud in the room when we called me this. Maybe he actually called me a ... nevermind.

Naughty Hildegard ESB 2011 (Driftwood)

Ratebeer rating: Who cares? It is all about my discriminative palate.
Beer Advocate: ditto!

Driftwood's yearly release is a welcome glassful to local beer connoisseurs. The Hildegard is a West Coast interpretation of the English extra special bitter style (ESB). It should be noted that this beverage is 0.3% above the BCJP guidelines for alcohol content of an ESB. The appearance is spot on with excellent clarity and only the faintest hint of cloudiness. A colour of tarnished copper and lightly roasted russet potatoes is pleasing. Low carbonation is permissible and welcome as it lends itself to the ease of consumption.

The aroma is refreshingly West Coast and moderate in hop intensity. No one hop dominated the bouquet: pine, faint citrus, herbal and slightly resinous hints nested together nicely. Not to be forgotten was the slightly subdued fruity, caramel and alcohol accompaniments.

Mouthfeel is a little more full than medium-full. This was expected with the slightly higher ABV content. The astringency was wonderfully restrained and set the stage for a pleasant alcohol warmth.

At the upfront taste, the first thought was overly hoppy for an ESB. Normally a more malty profile is presented. It is energizing to see Driftwood break the style and provide a hoppier version for Cascadian palates. The hop assault was earthy, piney (spruce), lightly citrus and spicy. It was been a long time since I have detected black currants in an ESB:well done! Once the hop wash evaporated, caramel coated pecans became present in the malt linger. A mixed fruit ester made is difficult ascertain a particular emphasis.

The finish was dry, mineraly, dusty and coated the tongue with long lingering resinous hops. There was no sulfur detected in the aftertaste. Overall I found the Driftwood 2011 release of the Naughty Hildegard to be F'IN AWESOME. April fools everyone. I know it is after noon, but I worked all day and never had a chance to trick anyone.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 6.5%
Value +1 Certainly a recommendation but not suitable for cellaring
Appearance +1 Driftwood has some of the nicest artwork in the biz.