Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Our Emily Summer Ale (Spinnakers)

Relax people, this is a review from an old notebook. It is not in stores currently

Our Emily Summer Ale = 8/10

The nose was slightly lemony, with tart wheat and yeast. A flavour followed the nose with a slight sourness and barely any hops. This was a very nice summer session ale, hopefully it is released again.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 3.9% WOW
Value +1
Appearance 0 OK label

Highland Challenge (Lighthouse)

Sometimes reviewing a beer is hard. Beer geek bloggers love to rave about the biggest, brashest and most obscure beers. If the beer spent 16 months aging in 16 different barrels, we want to try it. If the malts were hand picked by the brewmaster, the resulting brew must taste better. Rare cat shit coffee beans always produce a better beer.
No one gives a crap about the everyday beer. The lagers, mild ales and common pints are always sneered at. This is where the Highland Challenge come in. The Highland Challenge is not a flavour powerhouse, nor is it going to make you regret not buying two six packs. You are not going to line up for your allowable allotment. Take it for what it is: an 80 shilling Scottish ale.

If you look at the style, this not an exciting category. The word 'low' appears too many times to count in the BJCP style guidelines. Please don't confuse this with the familiar strong Scottish ale - a more exciting brew. The Highland is session like at 4.4% ABV. So what did the beer prick think? I get to use my favourite phrase in this review!

Disclaimer: This was a gift from the very nice people at Lighthouse Brewing - thanks Wade. However, a favourable review cannot be bought with a six pack of beer. If a keg of Switchback IPA were included, the answer might change.

Highland Challenge = 3/10

This beer might be considered boring. It is, from a certain point of view. The nose is faint of caramel, fruits and floral. Sniff reallyyyy hard and you can pick up a slight earthly/peaty smell. If you have a cold, it might not work. Each sip is a thin with a slight slick buttery mouthfeel. This is appropriate for the style - I love that phrase! A sessionable gulp is rewarded with a light fruitiness and mild caramel flavour. Then comes the medium linger of earth, butter and toast. It is all just a little bit sticky. That being said; I have gone through three beers while doing this review. I find myself wishing I had put the whole six pack in the fridge. While this may seem like an unfavourable review, it - in fact - is not. Most likely this is the secret favourite beer of a few people, perhaps supertasters. For those who like a sessionable low hop ale, this is the one.

Taste +2
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content = -1 4.4%
Value +1
Appearance 0 (no fun artwork)

MacPelican's Scottish Ale

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Phillips Analogue 78

I hesitate to review this beer because it isn't that bad, but it isn't a proper representation of that style. There have been several Kolsch style ales unleashed into Victoria recently. Here is the rundown: Craig Street (bleck, very unlike Craig St. stuff), Nelson Harvest Hemp (meh), Spinnakers Swan-Lake Kolsch (depends on how long it has been in the tank) and now this Phillips thing. If you truly want to make your tastebuds happy, get them a real Kolsch. A true Kolsch is one of those hybrid beers; an ale that has been lagered for a while. This style of beer can be lagered for up to a month. Only certain breweries with the German city of Cologne can call their beers Kolsch. They even have their own glass: a 200ml cylinder called a Stange.

Phillips Analogue 78 = 1/10

Ratebeer 2.2/5  percentile
Beer Advocate No one even bothered

Let me break it down by the BJCP guidelines. Aroma should be very low and perhaps a bit of fruitiness. This Analogue stinks of sulfur, corn and wet grains, best drank cold - very cold. Sulfur in low amounts is OK, but not like this. Drink this one straight from the bottle. A true Cologne Kolsch is a delicate beverage. There are faint fruits, mild spicy noble hops and a very dry finish. On every Seattle trip, I make an effort to pick up a bottle of real Kolsch. The Analogue mouthfeel is oily and chewy. I can't quite put my finger on the flavour, perhaps a recently dry-cleaned wet blanket. Don't forget the cereal, lettuce and musty/skunky hops. I shouldn't have left this beer warm up. There is still one bottle in my fridge; if anyone wants it let me know. Call this brew a cream or blonde ale and don't taint the noble German name.

Taste 0
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value 0
Appearance +1 (fun Edwardian/Steampunk label)

Other Kolsch Reviews
Gaffel Kolsch
Reissdorf Kolsch
Hale's Ales Kolsch Style

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thirsty Beaver (Tree Brewing)

I admit it; this was an impulse buy. Rarely do I succumb to point of purchase marketing hijinks. How bad could a $2 can of beer be? Recently more money left my hands to purchase sugar water in a phallic shaped bottle. 

Thirsty Beaver = 4/10

Yup, it's an amber ale alright. The vague nose of buttered toast, caramel cubes is there. Each sip is mediocre with caramel malts, faint citrus and luckily low vegetal. Every creamy sip goes down real easy. For a $2 tall boy can, I was impressed. Sure better than those Holsten offerings.

Taste +3
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value +1
Appearance 0 (almost got a +1 for the beaver)

Does Beer Actually Make You Smarter?

I'm sure you have heard about this new study that says drinking beer makes you smarter. If you actually read the article it tells a slightly different story. Researchers in the Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, recruited 40 guys from Craiglist and got half of them drunk while watching the Disney movie Ratatouille. Subjects were given vodka (Smirnoff) and cranberry juice at a dose of 0.88g/kg of body weight. To put this in perspective: I'm a big guy at 106kg. This would put my dose at 93 grams of alcohol, or almost an entire six pack of 6.5%ABV Switchback IPA! All this booze was consumed in 10 minutes. This was supposed to make you smart? I doubt I could talk after this.

Boozy and sober subjects were asked a series of questions that used more creative thinking, rather that analytical problems. The creative test used was the Remote Associates Test (RAT). RAT is thought to be a more creative test which challenges subjects to find proper word pairs. You are given three words (Peach, Arm and Tar) and must find a fourth word that will pair with them. In this case, the best answer would be 'Pit'. These question were given in a rapid succession with limited time to solve them. The results were striking: drunk people solved 40% more problems than sober people. They also solved them quicker. It took the imbibers 12 seconds as opposed to the teetotalers with 15.5 seconds.

How is this possible? There is the popular belief that substance abuse can lead to creative thinking. Many great artists were perpetually whacked: Hemingway (booze), Coleridge (opium) and Hunter S. Thompson (uummm, everything). There are a few theories about how this can be possible. Working Memory Capacity (WMC) in the brain is associated with the ability to concentrate and solve analytical problems. Think of this as left brain (logical) function. This WMC is useful for certain tasks but might be detrimental for the creative process. Creative processes often requires divergent or discontinuous thinking. The authors of this study surmised that intoxication lead to a less focused mind (suppressed WMC) and a more diffuse attention state. In other words, your logical left brain takes a break while your creative/intuitive right brain takes over. Seems logical, however after a few it may seem like a creative solution.

I also wondered why the animated movie Ratatouille was chosen. Do animated mice have a neutral effect on cognitive function. Dr. Jennifer Wiley, one of the authors of the study, said, "we actually used it because the other alcohol lab in our department used it and we were just trying to keep the procedure as similar to the "standard" as possible." Perhaps it was a better choice than Fantasia

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Old Peculier (Theakston)

This is one of those beers that they say you must try before you die; rather like Westvleteren and Pabst Blue Ribbon. PBR might actually hasten death.

Old Peculier (Theakston) = 7/10

Ratebeer 3.59 96th percentile
Beer Advocate 88th

An unassuming nose doesn't allude to this beers approaching greatness. There is only a faint whiff of lactose, earth and berries. The sip doesn't knock you over, but it does make you weep. It is all there in perfect balance: raisins, berries (blueberry, blackberry), sherry, caramel and Terra Firma. It is clean as a military barracks floor but a bit warmer. I wish I had bought two bottles.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5.6%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (Classic English style label: a crest, bold lettering and words why this beer is awesome)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

BC Craft Beer Goes Far

On a recent trip to Seattle, I was greeted by an unexpected sight. Smack in the middle of my favourite Whole Foods was a display of Driftwood Singularity and Fat Tug. Upon further examination, there was Red Racer, Howe Sound and more Driftwoods in the beer cooler. The stack of Unibroue Ephemere by the green apples was appropriate, but BC craft brewers in the States?
Email is wonderful: let's go to the source and ask why our great beers are leaving the province?
"We [Driftwood] are really a result of the Cascadia craft beer renaissance that originated from Northern California, Oregon & Washington State," explains Gary Lindsay from Driftwood. "We don't consider international borders when looking at a relevant market to share our efforts."
Dave Fenn (one of the HoweSound owners) agrees, "We think it's important to compete in these markets, much like US breweries are competing with us in British Columbia. We get recognition within a huge market, and many search us out when visiting Canada."
The bigger beer market not gone unnoticed by Gary Lohin of Central City, "We look at North America as our market, and hope to build some traction when the new brewery opens." Central City can be found in Chicago, Boston, Philly, and Portland (Maine). Howe Sound sales in Washington, California, Wisconsin and Minnesota. These markets are a small percentage of overall Howe Sounds, but they are growing steadily.

Shipping product stateside is not always about sales. Gary Lindsay explains, "I think we feel we belong in the Seattle market and it and gives a bit of a 'personal' validation to be able to sell our beer in an extremely discerning market." Dave Fenn concurs, "We started our US work about 4 years ago, and participate in local festivals where our beer is sold.  I believe this is one important way for our brewery to grow in terms of knowledge and new ideas."

Thankfully the local brewers are not forgetting their local markets. Gary Lohin never forgets the locals, "We in fact sell all over BC, and in Alberta and Manitoba selectively. Red Racer was just given a general listing on Ontario, which means access to 264 of their stores."
"This market in no way compromises our [Howe Sound] ability to distribute in Canada.", say Dave Fenn. Howe Sound is in 180 BCLDB stores, over 200 private stores in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and soon Ontario.

What does this mean for local beer drinkers? Who knows? Hopefully access to bigger beer markets will spill over into more seasonal releases and a greater chance for experimentation. This will only make things better for the craft beer scene in BC.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Moon Under Water Red India Ale

This is a classic example of how a brewery will have it's signature flavour. If you drink enough brewpub stuff you will understand. The Bradley's at Moon Under Water quietly toil away and repeatedly produce tasty brews. Try the food too; it's dang tasty.

Moon Under Water Red India Ale = 8/10

This beer smells a lot like their IPA and their bitter. Which is good, because I quite like them both. The hop aroma is characteristic of other Moon Under Water selections but with toasted bread. It is a sweet smell of various PNW C-hops (orange, tangerine and grapefruit); not crazy but pleasant. Smooth, cooling and creamy, each sip consistently delivers toasted bread with plenty of citrus hops. A long finish is pomelo rind, dry and mildly astringent. Sadly, this red India ale will be on tap for a short period of time.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 6.5%
Value +1
Appearance +1 always looks better at the source

Other Red Reviews
Green Flash Hop Head Red
Captain Sig Northwestern Ale
Big Red Imperial Ale (Southern Tier)