Sunday, September 30, 2012

Storm Watcher Winter Lager (VIB)

The Storm Watcher from VIB will be their winter rotation beer. It replaces the Beachcomber for Victoria's cold season. Hopefully this beer will not be overlooked, but I fear it might. In the winter there is always a plethora of big and bold releases: pumpkin beers, fresh hopped ales, barley wines and stouts. Hopefully this one is not lost in the rush of releases, because it is a nice little brew. I got my six pack early, but the Storm Watcher should hit the CBAW shelves Monday morning.

Storm Watcher Winter Lager = 6/10

This ruby red brew is nice to look at, even though there is no foamy head. Despite the lack of head, it still offers up hints of vanilla and caramel with little hop presence. A cool creaminess delivers lots of malts - think toffee, caramel, slight coffee, honey and biscuits. There is also a continuous presence of vanilla that is not overpowering. The ending is sweet, quenching and ever so slightly astringent.  The storm watcher will appeal to beer drinkers who like their brews on the sweet side. This would pair perfectly with an unsmoked ham and cheese sandwich on rye. Perhaps a caramelized onion and mushroom cream sauce over buckwheat noodles. Maybe a desert of sticky toffee pudding would accentuate this lagers sweetness. Come to think of it, the Storm Watcher could be used to make a hot toddy. That would help to keep the winter chill away.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5.5
Value +1
Appearance +1 (really nice artwork and a good description of flavour)

Other Wintery Reviews:
Red Racer Winter Warmer

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sartori Harvest IPA 2012 Driftwood

This is the closest convergence of wine and beer; perhaps I should explain. Wine makers talk about terroir and vintages. So and so wine had a great year because the grapes had ample sun in mid July with humidity that was perfect for this grape variety to flourish. Conversely, vintners can also blame a lackluster wine on weather adversely affecting the grapes. Most beers cannot make this claim. Many of the variables in beer making are constant. Malts are very consistent in flavour and colouring. Hop flavour profiles are fairly predictable. I'm sure at least one brewer is scoffing at my previous two sentences.
With fresh/wet hopped beers their is no luxury of making a test batch or receiving acid analysis. It is simply: pick, brew and pray. Home brewers and professionals are in the same situation for once. I find it exciting to sample each yearly release of a fresh hopped beer. Is this year better than last year? Is it hoppier, any new flavours? Cork dorks have their Beaujolais nouveau; we have our fresh hopped beers.

Sartori Harvest 2012 = 9/10

Deeply juicy and intense is the only way to describe this multi-citrus nose. There might be a bit of flora and composting earth in there also (think mushroom caps). Each strikingly astringent sip warms your navel. I'm sure there are Mike's malts in there somewhere, perhaps it is hidden behind the wall of peppery and oily citrus hops. It is oddly not as bitter as the nose would suggest. Must be big IBU's because the linger is long with a slight numbness of the tongue. Well done! Get it soon; actually it might already be sold out.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 7%
Value +1
Appearance +1

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Why am I doing this? And a Hoyne Beer Review

Why am I doing this? Does beer blogging really matter? My reasons for these introspective questions are not entirely clear. Perhaps it was the poor sleep last night. Being dozy makes me sensitive. Not crying at long distance phone commercials sensitive, but more ponderous about myself. Does this belt make my gut look big?

Why do people blog? People blog for personal gratification. I do enjoy the creative avenues that arise from writing about no set topic. Beer blogging combines my love of craft beer and writing. My bill paying writing is focused on Pharmacist education. I need to get creative after writing lines like this: "The mechanism of action was not given, but another study demonstrated reduced levels of interleukin 4 (IL-4) at similar spirulina doses." To answer your next question, yes, it made me just as sleepy writing it as it made you reading it.

People blog to express opinions. This I do. Beer reviews are all about opinions. Are there people with greater knowledge about beer in Victoria? Sure there are; I have met them. For the most part they agree with my opinions. Often they disagree. Luckily, no one has said that I am full of crap. I'm sure that this day will come. I try and keep my opinions unbiased and provide good rationale. People have told me that they have not bought a beer based on my review, so I must be cautious. Then again, most beer drinkers will drink everything that is released. If a beer sucks, it will not get a repeat purchase.

Bloggers do it to share information about Victoria's craft beer scene. This is what is all about. Almost every brewery in town is social media savvy. Often I am the last to learn about a beer release or tasting event. The long lineup for growler fills at Hoyne Brewing today is proof that beer lovers know what is happening.

Bloggers do it for money and fame. Ya right. Google cancelled my Adsense account right before I was going to get a cheque. I rarely get free beer these days. Fame is not an issue; no one knows who I am. My reader list is rather low. At beer events I rarely mention my blog. Most of the comments on my blog are from spambots attempting to sell me erectile dysfunction pills. I also don't get out much; hence the lack of need for these pills.

So why do I do it? Because no one else is doing it. Victoria has a vibrant craft beer scene and no one is blogging about it. At one point there were four blogs about Victoria's craft beers; now there is only one. I don't know if my writing will actually make an impact on out city's brewers. I doubt my blog will sway the macro drinking masses to try a local beer. Sometimes you have to do things without thanks, reward or personal gain. You do it because it needs to get done. Kinda like cleaning the cat litter box. Not once has my cat every expressed gratitude for the weekly maintenance of her crapper.

If for no other reason, I blog because it gives me an inflated sense of purpose. It also gives me an excuse to drink beer and shoot my mouth off. This are a few of my favourite things to do.

Oh right, beer reviews. The Hoyne Wolf Vine is a fresh hopped pale ale. Cascades and Centennials were picked on Wednesday and brewed on Thursday.

Hoyne Wolf Vine = 7/10

The nose is more India than pale. Big, juicy citrus aromas leap from the glass. Each sip is tingly, spicy, slightly tacky and bright. The malts are withdrawn but still provide a bready backdrop for the heavy citrus hops. Citrus tastes dominate with a mixed of fresh grapefruit rind, blood oranges and candied orange peel. I know these 'C' hops are meant to be floral, but I'm not getting it. That growler does not seem big enough. Well done.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5.3%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (growlers are great)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Beer Allergy?? Maybe it is the Adjuncts.

At first, one might think this is a sad story. Can someone actually be allergic to beer? Luckily, it has a happy ending. This tale of woe, comes to us from the journal Allergy. A sad man reported shortness of breath and skin rashes after drinking beer. At first, it sounds like an allergy to everyone's favourite fermented beverage. A man's dreams of Oktoberfest debauchery might evaporate like the Angel's share. Luckily a team of researchers at the Allergy Unit of the Faenza Hospital, in Italy took pity on this man and went all CSI on his immune system. Allergies to cereal products (i.e. beer) might be due to a nonspecific lipid transfer protein (LTP). With the vast variety of cereals used to make beer, the researchers proposed that only one kind of cereal might contain a LTP responsible for this allergy. This brave - allergic - soul was subject to a vast number of reaction inducing skin puncture tests. His skin was violated with all sorts of beer related allergens and 36 different commercial beer samples. The list of beers used was extensive, and included: Duvel, Chimay, Leffe, Bud, Franziskaner and Judas. Oddly he was not allergic to yeast, hops, rice, barley, wheat nor six styles of beer. However an allergy to maize extract was noted. Maize grits are a common flavour adjunct used in certain beer styles. The patient said that he had no issues with eating polenta and pop corn. The researchers speculated that brewing the maize, it's interaction with hops and alcohol might cause it to become an allergen.
What about the good news? The subject was permitted to drink the six, non allergic beers at home. He did not report any further reactions. Five of these beers were lame Euro lagers but the sixth has Hoegaarden. The researchers ended their report by stating that an extensive diagnostic workup can, "certainly improve the quality of life of the allergic patient." This is good science! Beer drinking certainly improves my quality of life.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Non-Alcoholic Beer Helps With Sleep

New research in the online journal, PLoS ONE, confirms what beer drinkers have known for years: drinking beer can help you sleep. In the July 2012 edition, female nurses were given non-alcoholic beer to determine if it helped them sleep better. In case you were wondering, the beer was San Miguel 0.0%. One group of nurses were given a bottle to drink in the evening after a stressful shift, while another group got nothing. After only two weeks, the nurses who drank the near-beer experienced a better quality of sleep than the other group. The total length of sleep did not change. However, sleep latency (the time needed to fall asleep) was reduced in the beer group.
This improved sleep had other measurable benefits. Improved sleep also reduced the level of anxiety experienced by nurses in the beer group compared to their abstaining counterparts. The reasons for this improved sleep was not clear. However, it is known that hops can increase the activity of the brain chemical GABA (Gamma-AminoButyric Acid). GABA tends to have a sedative effect in people. Another suggestion is that a chemical in hops (2-methyl-3-buten-ol) can act like a narcotic. Hops might also affect serotonin and help melatonin work. Both of these brain chemicals help people sleep.
The researchers suggested that increasing the hop content could lead to a greater sedative action. I don't think San Miguel is the hoppiest beer out there. Sadly, drinking a double IPA might not help you count more sheep. This exponentially greater hop intake is also paired with more alcohol. Alcohol can sometimes interfere with a good nights rest.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Iron Plow (Marzen) - Vancouver Island Brewery

No one will fault VIB for launching an Oktoberfest beer a tad early. Any new release after a quiet beer summer is greatly appreciated. VIB has talked big about seriously participating in the craft beer scene. We are starting to see it: bomber releases, growler fills, casks and rotating seasonals. While the styles chosen have not been overly adventurous (except for the Flying Tanker), each release has been solid and embraced by the beer masses. The Iron Plow marzen/Oktoberfest is no exception. This style is inherently drinkable yet overlooked by beer makers. Perhaps the stigma of oompha music, massive jugs of beer, bigger jugs in ladies' shirts and drinking in big tents has frightened off brewers. This is sad. The marzen should be available all year round, so that you can enjoy oompha music and pretzels in the privacy of your den.

Iron Plow = 6/10

The nose predicts drinkability with few surprises. A long lingering, fluffy head emits an aromatic toasted cereal and an essence that can only be described as 'lager'. Sweetness is the first thing you notice; it is similar to chewing on a piece of toast for a long time. Its creaminess only perpetuates a chewy sweetness which the dry, herbal hops end abruptly. The linger is a little longer than expected, a tad sticky, but nothing out of sorts. This is not a palate challenger; the flavours are straight forward and enjoyable. An ideal food pairing would be anything roasted: pulled pork sandwich, veggie kabobs, bison burger with caramelized onions and smoked Gouda or prawns. Maybe a plate of hummus and pita or falafel burger. Just give me any whole wheat sandwich with cream cheese and I would be happy.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5.8%
Value +1 (A very pleasant brew)
Appearance +1 (Good description of beer on label. Why are everyone's labels starting to look the same?)

More Marzen
Paulaner Oktoberfest
Gordon Biersch Marzen
Buckerfields Lederhosen lager

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Beer Tickers Guide to GCBF 2012

Those who follow my blog, all 8 of your, know I am a beer ticker. This stems from a love of trying new beers; it is also influenced by increasing my score on Untappd. What will I be drinking at the Great Canadian Beer Fest this year? It can't be one of each, that would be dangerous. This is going to be a great year for beer fest; mostly due to the heavy representation by Canadian craft brewers. The brewers list is a who's who of Canadian craft beer.

Here are my top picks for this year:

1. Lighthouse Sazerac Saison. I'm assuming this oak cask is on loan from Clive's Lounge. Clive's like to barrel age cocktails. A strong saison aged in a rye whiskey cocktail oak barrel; I will be first in line for this one. The blackberry black saison cask sounds good too.

2. Noble Pig, yes all of those. Their Belgian pepper saison uses a Trappist yeast. Also a cask ESB.

3. Swan's Oaked Legacy, Hello! I was lamenting to Andrew about missing the taste of the Legacy ale. Now it is in back and oaked and in a cask!

4. Salt Spring gruit ale. I almost passed this one by. A gruit is an ancient style of ale bittered with local herbs and not hops. If it works, it will be something very interesting to try.

5. Beau's is bringing a blend of four Ontario beers that has been aged in bourbon barrels.

6. Coal Harbour is bringing one of everything, including their rauchbier (Smoke and Mirrors) in cask. There is also a rye ale.

7. Parallel 49 will be bringing an imperial stout in cask. This same beer will be released later after it spends some time in whiskey barrels.

8. Crannog. Enough said

9. Cannery has two casks. A "Drei" hopped IPA and a Jack Daniels splashed amber ale. Worth a dry.

10.  Moon Under Water has a hop harvest ale. Might be fresh hopped, will have to ask.

11. Vancouver Island Brewery will have two casks. Their Marzen (to be released in bottles Friday morning) and a blueberry wheat.

12. Banff/Jasper Brewing has a cask of nitrogen infused Reverend Rundle Stout. All their beers are new to BC.

13. Driftwood has a cask of Old Cellar Dweller 2011.

14. Central City has a Kolsch made with real Kolsch yeast, I love a good Kolsch.

15. Half Pints is bringing Humulous Ludicrous DIPA: one of the hoppiest things I have ever tasted.

16. Wellington Brewery imperial stout. Perhaps the best thing to ever come out of Guelph.

17. Trou du Diable is bringing a cask conditioned IPA. This will be a very well traveled cask.

18. R&B is bringing a cucumber mint IPA. Ooookaaayyy, worth a taste

See you all there. I will be wearing my fancy blue Hawaiian shirt. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Electric Unicorn White IPA

The non-traditional IPAs seem to be all the rage these days. We have white IPAs, Belgian IPAs and IPA lagers. While the style oriented side of me rejects these new styles as passing fads, the beer geek side loves the creativity expressed by our local brewers.

Electric Unicorn White IPA = 8/10

The aroma of spicy, dry citrus jumps from the glass and carries a linger of yeasty wheat. A dry, spicy and warming mouthfeel was expected, but the slight vegetal was not. It was only faint until the Seville orange, pomelo and tropical hop blast put a creamy coating on the tongue. This mixed nicely with the cream of wheat, floral citrus, bananas and whimsical dry spiciness to leave an extended, tingling linger. I liked it, but would not considered it suitable for cellaring.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 6.5%
Value +1
Appearance +1

Other Odd IPAs
Flying Tanker (VIB)
Belgian White (Lighthouse)