Saturday, December 22, 2012

Spinnakers Two-Fer review

It is coming to the end of the year and I need to get my notes typed up for the 2011 year in review. This will be a double Spinnakers seasonal review. No photos because I was out with my family for dinner

Baltic Porter  =  8/10

I have had many a Baltic porter and this was a decent one. The body was a tad thin, but the slight smoked malts made up the difference. If you follow the local blogs: these malts were smoked in house with apple wood. All the needed bits were there: weak coffee, bittersweet chocolate and minor fruitiness. The linger was short lived with a dark lager smear. Very nice. I wish my glass wasn't a sampler size.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1
Value +1
Appearance +1 Always nice in brewpub

Biere De Noel = 6/10

This tasted almost identical to the Hoyne Gratitude. Nicely warming with a balance of sherry, wood, bready plums and mild spices. Very clean ending with only a hint of warmth. Well worth the price of admission.

Taste +3
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content +1 
Value +1
Appearance +1

Trainwreck Barrel Aged Barley Wine 2012

So I made it my mission to try every Victoria release this year. This was not an easy task; it was a great year for Victoria's beer geeks. Some releases I never bothered blogging, most of them I tweeted or Untappd. This is the case with Phillips Instigator 2012, not worth mentioning. The only thing worse you can spend $8 on is a parking ticket.
Now we come to the Trainwreck. I remember the days when a pre-2010 Phillips barley wine was something to look forward to. The same can be said for the Instigator and the Double Dragon. What I wouldn't give for a 2008 Double Dragon! 2011 was the year I started skipping Phillips regular seasonals. Even the freeze distilled 2011 barley wine (Mass Extinction) was tasteless. This years edition was aged in bourbon barrels. So what does the #yyj beer geek think.

Trainwreck Barrel Aged Barley Wine 2012 = 7/10

I can already hear the shouts of "WTF are you talking about?" Hear me out. This is a very approachable barley wine. The nose is calm with sweet vanilla and caramel. Maybe there is a bit of cheap Alberta vodka and nailpolish in the nose - but we are not going to mention that. People will be drinking this cold. The body is not insinuatingly bold nor painful to ingest. Perhaps I am alluding to another local barley wine that is not for the faint of heart. Every sip exhibits a nice barrel aged blot. Sweet vanilla, bourbon, rum and wood chips is what you will get. This ravels nicely with the caramel malts and earthy hops. Yes, it is a tad thin and overly boozy (especially at room temperature). Not everyone has the patience to sit on a bottle of barley wine for a year until it is ready to drink. This facts becomes painfully apparent as I stare at a bottle of Mill St. barley wine and ponder, "When?" It reminds me of an Innis and Gunn turned up to 11; or else with a depth charge of Grey Goose. Cellarable? Not likely, the alcohols are not fusel and all ethyl. In some communities you must build. Perhaps after tasting this barley wine; people next year will branch out and try others. I think the only ones who buy OCD are myself and my beer prick friends. You always find old vintages of OCD mysterious appearing at cold beer and wine stores. 

Perhaps this review was influenced by recent events; last week I interviewed Matt Phillips. Albeit was for only 3 minutes and 12 seconds. But the man I met was passionate about craft beer and knowledgeable about flavour and taste sensations. I was very furtive and never mentioned who I was. We chatted and I asked stupid, opened ended questions. He gave vague but intelligent answers.  It changed by perception of Phillips. It makes me wonder if the vision in his mind hits the bottles on the shelf. Who knows? Whenever I see a bottle of Analogue 78 on the shelf, I must remind myself: people are drinking local, craft beer. 

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1
Value +1
Appearance +1 Lots of big people love the label also.

Blasts from the past:
OCD 2009
Old Fat Cat Barley Wine 2009
2010 Battle of Victoria's Barley Wines

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Eric Jourdan Northwest Amber Ale

I am sooo far behind in my beer reviews. I am not even close to choosing my top ten beers of 2012! It will be a long few weeks; please don't let there be any more Victoria beer releases. Enough self-indulgent first world problems. This beer was Phillips Breweries choice of beer to brew from the winners at the CAMRA 2012 homebrew contest. Eric won first place in the American Ales category. Quite the honour; but how does it taste?

Eric Jourdan Northwest Amber Ale = 9/10

If I judged this beer at that BCJP contest, it would not score high. Ambers are not usually this hoppy. But for enjoyment and drinkability; it scores top marks. It delivers everything a hophead wants: juicy citrus, floral, hints of pine and an abundance of caramel malts. Each sip was full and creamy, yet satisfyingly astringent. The NW amber ale was hop forward with a massive mixture citrus hop punch, backed up with creamy and toasted bready malts. A long, smooth finish left a sweet citrus astringency.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 6.2%
Value +1 this was nice
Appearance +1 nice label art with fairly good indication of beer taste

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gratitude Winter Warmer (Hoyne)

Everyone knows I'm a sucker for great packaging. Perhaps this is why I dropped $17 on a bottle of Mill Street barley wine. Props to Hoyne for bringing us the most elegant bomber to date. The packaging reminded me of the paper wrapped De Ranke releases.
The style of winter warmer is all over the map. It allows for the brewer to impart their creativity in a bottle. Spiced or unspiced, high or low ABV, additional fermentables (molasses, honey) can be used, fruits added, the possibilities are endless. 
But how does it taste?

Gratitude Winter Warmer = 8/10

A bright sherry red elixir hits the glass and displays an ample rose coloured head. The grateful nose is fruity (cherries, rosehips), with biscuits, toast and wood. Nothing new in the sip but there is a bit of spiciness present; from the alcohol perhaps? This beer reminded me of a slightly thin version of Fuller's Vintage. Once the warmth fades, a little herbal honey with spices remained. Very nice. I don't think this one will cellar well, so drink it fresh.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 9% only adds a bit of warmth
Value +1
Appearance +1 Too bad after you finish the bottle the poetry is hard to focus on

Friday, November 30, 2012

Super Krypton Rye (Phillips)

Have you ever thought that the sequel was not as good as the original. I have felt with way with the Matrix movies and Star Wars. Another sense of disappointment happened with the Super Krypton. It is not that this beer is bad, it is quite tasty. I was expecting a super charged version of the regular Krypton. This is my favourite part of the Hop Box. Maybe this is where expectations tainted experience.

Super Krypton Rye = 6/10 

Super's nose is massive of citrus, booze and a slightly dusty rye. Things start to fall apart at this point. The sip is full but boozy and syrupy. Hops are a big part of this brew: spicy, citrusy and slightly medicinal. What is oddly lacking is the big rye. There is some dry, dusty flavours of this desirable grain but it is overshadowed by the booze and regular bready malts. Don't get me wrong, this is a tasty brew. But I think we were all craving more rye. There could be no other food pairing than a Reuben sandwich.

Taste +2
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1
Value +1
Appearance +1

Dough Head (Vancouver Island)

This is the first repeat of VIB bomber seasonals. Oddly I had a hard time finding this beer, it was sold out everywhere I went in Victoria. Perhaps this is a good sign. So what did I think?

Dough Head = 6/10

It is what it is: gingerbread beer. People who like this holiday delicacy will be all over this bottle. Those who are creeped out by simulated festive cannibalism (eating gingerbread men) should probably choose another bottle. The Doughy nose is delightful of wet gingerbread dough, heavy nutmeg, cloves and all spice. Might be a little ginger and cinnamon in there too, but mostly nutmeg. The sip delivers the same flavours in liquid form. Perhaps it feels a bit thin in the mouthfeel, but that is just me being picky. Enjoying one bottle is enough for me this year. Food pairings? Save this one for dessert; it would go well with pumpkin or sweet potato pie. This might actually taste pretty good warmed with a side dish of shortbread.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5.5%
Value +1 it's nice
Appearance +1 (label adequately describes flavour)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Siren Imperial Red Ale - Lighthouse

At first I thought this was not actually a real beer style. I was mistaken, it is according to the Brewers Associations beer style guidelines. The description does sound overly vague though. But Dean at Lighthouse was never one to dwell upon style. He once said to me, "We should embrace the inherent variation that exists within beer and discard the dogma of rigid styles and categories. Truly great beers transcend these boundaries and are as sublime as they are fleeting." This poetic quote has always stuck with me. Mostly with help from Google mail search. But I should get on with my review as the bottle is almost gone:

Siren Imperial Red Ale = 11/10

The hop smell became apparent right after the bottle cap hit the desk. Centennial, sometimes you are my only friend. Your citrus peels are almost as spicy as the label. Image the label as Old Milwaukee afterdark. Is it hoppy? Dang right it is. Is it balanced? Barely: the caramel, bready and bruised apricot malts and barely holding it together. Maintain focus, right. The subdued floral and assertive grapefruit/pomelo citrus hops floated over the toasted bready malts. It's linger was as long as a cat's tail in a room full of rocking chairs. Your only thought will be: more hops! Astringent? Oddly not. Will the beer cellar well? Absolutely! Just make sure you tweet your vacation plans so I can plan my midnight excursions. Are you sure this beer is only 8%ABV/6.4% ABW? Well done. Hopheads stock up.

Taste +6/5 You don't like my score? Get your own blog!
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 8%
Value +1 GREAT
Appearance +1 Nice and tasteful label art. Even the Misses approved. Also a flavour description that matches the beer

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Victorious Weizenbock - Moon Under Water

In case you missed it: Moon Under Water changed hands. Clay Potter is now brewing up some new stuff for local craft beer lovers to devour. Their Pilsner was great, dunkel ditto. The newest brew is a weizenbock. This style is essential a strong wheat beer. While other bocks are lagers, weizenbock are generally ales. The definitive example of a weizenbock is Aventius, by Schneider. I think you can find it in bottles around town, or Clive's Classic Lounge has some. These brews have a high percentage of wheat malt in the recipe and often uses a specialized yeast strain. A combination leading to big flavours of bananas, cloves, wet cereal, caramel and figs. So how did the Victorious fair?

The Victorious Weizenbock = 9/10
Ratebeer  = 4.1/5.  Thanks Capflu

WOW, party time in ester town! With a big nose of Wheaties, bananas and cloves, you know the flavour will be equally as large. The creamy and full mouthfeel adds no new flavours but does provide a bit of warmth. All the way to the end, the bananas prevail. Sweet tapioca, figs and cloves end in a longer linger of banana puree. Well done. For all you savages out there, a perfect food pairing would be heavy game. Think about duck, venison, or pork stew. For the more gentle folk; mushroom paté or tempeh stroganoff would be suitable. Both could agree on flambé bananas for dessert. 

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 8.2%
Value +1 worth trying
Appearance +1 not served in proper glassware, but the tulip was close enough

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stout Beer School - Sunday Dec 9th

After an epic beer shopping trip to Seattle, it is time for the next beer school. This one will be all about stouts. Sorry, I don't have a clever name for this school. Perhaps a prize will be awarded to the person who comes up with the best name for this beer school.

Fall is upon us, and nothing keeps the chill away like strong stouts. The next beer school will be Sunday, December 9th, 7:30ish at Clive's Classic Lounge in the Chateau Victoria. Here is a list of the beers to be sampled:

1. Milk Stout by Left Hand Brewing (Longmont, CO) Sorry Janine, it is full of lactose

2. Celebration Stout - Imperial Irish Stout by Porterhouse Brewing (Dublin)

3. Cavatica Stout by Fort George Brewing (Astoria, OR)

4. Temptation Russian Stout by Durham Brewery (Bowburn, Durham, UK)

5. Guinness Foreign Extra 7.5% by my buddy Arthur (Yes is it the REAL foreign extra, now available in the States)

As always you are there to learn. There will be history, glassware lessons, food pairing suggestions, a cheese plate to nibble on and prizes. The same format as always: bring a pen, your palate and $20. Email me or leave a comment to reserve your spot. There will be around 18-20 spots for this event. If this event fills, and I'm sure it will quickly, I might attempt an experiment. It will involve a instantaneous stout nitrogen system.

Please forward this to any other craft beer loving friends who might like to attend. As always plan for a safe trip home.

Looking forward to seeing everyone again,

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pott's Pilsner (Moon Under Water)

I like not introducing myself. Maybe it makes me feel like some undercover beer agent snooping around for the latest news. This sounds better than I'm an antisocial jerk that doesn't like to talk to anybody. So I sat at the bar at Moon Under Water and talked to no one. Actually I sat next to Dustin from Central City, but he left as soon as I sat down. This happens often to an antisocial jerk - me, not Dustin. Dustin is very pleasant, but I don't talk to him much (see above)

I did learn a few things while silently seated at the bar:
a) Moon Under Water has a rotating guest tap. Not big news, but they do have what is up next on the chalkboard. Clay mentioned - not to me- that he would be getting Coal Harbour stuff on tap soon.
b) Next up on tap is a weizenbock!
c) People really like the wings.

I tried the cask of dunkel, it was OK. I little thin, but ok.

Pott's Pilsner = 7/10

It is not often I give a Pilsner a high rating; usually these beers are inherently boring. They shouldn't be boring, but often they are brewed that way. This is the second best pils I have ever tasted. Prima Pils by Victory brewing is #1. The nose is very agreeable: minor DMS, good amount of straw, spicy hops with a citrus tinge. Something very unexpected happens when you take a sip, there is flavour. Quite a bit for a local Pilsner. It's the spicy hops that grab you first, not too assertive, they are comforting. Then the lemon-lime citrus steps in and says hello. This is followed closely by straw malts with faint pale fruits. To finish it off, there is a lengthy linger of dry, spicy citrus hops. The DMS only adds body; it doesn't increase your daily intake of veggies. Well done. I also like the fact that it is unfiltered. There is nothing wrong with a little cloudiness.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 4.9% (know it should get a -1 but it's my blog)
Value +1
Appearance +1

Other Pils reviews
Pacific Pilsner
Hoyner Pilsner
Swans Trumpeter Pils

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Saison Beer School

Beer geeks like to gather and discuss things. We discuss many things, but the main focus is always beer. This beer school was all about the Saison style. Thanks to Clive's Classic Lounge for allowing us to use the back snug room.

The Saison style originated in the southern region of Belgium called Wallonia. This French speaking area of Belgium was historically an area of agriculture. Every farmhouse produced an ale for both nutrition and enjoyment. This is why the Saison is sometimes called a 'farmhouse ale'.

'Saison' is the French word for season. This beer was brewed in spring, la saison de mars (March), to be enjoyed during the summer months. A hearty brew was needed to last for an entire season. It's higher alcohol content and generous hopping were qualities need to make a beer last for extended periods of time. Some Saisons were lightly spiced with star anise, coriander or orange peels. Others used a yeast strain that naturally produced a spicy taste. This yeast is thought to have been a hybrid of red wine yeast, hence the spicy/phenolic characteristics.

The definitive Saison is from the DuPont brewery. It is only brewed with Pilsner malt, East Kent and Styrian Goldings; no spices are used. It's bottle conditioning makes an idea beverage for short term cellaring. Despite its world wide appearance, DuPont is still a small family run brewery. Their annual production is only 15,000 hectoliters. By comparison, Lighthouse is 14,000 hectoliters. Central City is aiming for 35,000 hectoliters.

This dry, effervescent brew never disappoints. Every taste is an explosion of lemon citrus aromas, followed by sips of spicy pepper and dry bread. It pairs with anything, but Thai food is especially nice.

Next on the sampling list was the American/Belgian connection. Brewed by Duvel in Belgium, the Hennepin by Ommegang was another classic. This one is spiced with coriander, orange peel, ginger  and grains of paradise. A little zestier with mild honey sweetness, Hennepin would be a perfect accompaniment with sushi.

Le Merle is the American interpretation by North Coast brewing. This was a calmer beverage, but still packed 7.9% ABV punch. An approachable Saison with mild pepper notes, sweeter malts and a restrained floral hop profile. Let this brew shine alongside salmon steaks with cracked pepper and gouda. It was originally brewed for Whole Foods silver jubilee.

8 Wired Saison Sauvin was a southern hemisphere take on this classic style. Its southern hemisphere hops delivered something very different: lots of tropical fruits and tongue tingling spiciness.This was the crowd favourite. A perfect food pairing would be lobster with mango chili sauce.

Lastly we had to decide if the local version could hold its own against the best Saisons in the world.We all thought that it did. It had ample spicy hops, bready malts and a yeasty character that gave a dry finish. A divine dinner: match with beer with Thai curried mussels.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spring Fever Gruit (Salt Spring)

Huh, so a gruit eh? This one is hard, how does one evaluate a beer style you rarely get to taste? Perhaps we should discuss what a gruit is. That is simple: "gruit" refers to a mixture of herbs that is used to help bitter the sweet wort in beer making. This was how beer was made prior to 1000CE. It terms of world history, hops are a relative new comer.
I had to chance to sample this beer twice tonight. The variety in cask at Clive's Classic Lounge had a tad more cinnamon flavours. Then I had a bottle at home to sample. We stared at this glass a long time, all hesitant to talk about it. It was different. In some cases, different is good.

Spring Fever Gruit = 6/10

The gruit nose is very herbal, duh. There is a lot to take in: fireweed honey, buckwheat, tobacco, heather, lobelia and lavender. A light-medium body gave the palate a lot to thing about. It is very floral sweet, but yet not cloying. What is in the herbal mix? Marshmallow, yarrow, buckwheat, honey, heather? Sadly the flavours ended clean at the end of the sip. You wanted to go back, again and again to discover more earthy flavours. I liked it, but not everyone will.

Now a bit of contention about the labeling. Brewed on a full moon to bring out the potency of the botanicals. I had little difficulty with this claim. I would like to think that if the herbs were harvested on a lunar significant night, there would be more influence on potency. There is a wealth of information about circadian and seasonal variations on plant constituents. For a great summary read the Spring 2010 issue of the American Botanical Council's journal HerbalGram. Did I mention that I am an Herbalist also?

Taste +4
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content 0 5.2%
Value +1
Appearance +1 great new labels and reasonable description of beer.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Green Reaper (Phillips)

This is going to be a rough week. Four beer reviews this week. I forgot to try Moon Under Water's fresh hopped IPA. The Phillips fresh hopped IPA release is peculiar. I wonder if the timing for picking of the hops had anything to do with it? Driftwood picked hops September 5 and Satori hit shelves and it hit shelves September 26th (21 days). This is consistent with Oregon Hop Commission recommendations to pick hops mid August to mid September. Phillips' hops arrived past mid month on September 20th and brews hit the shelf October 22nd (32 days). All photos and release dates came from brewer's facebook pages. Makes you wonder is this made any difference; this is no Sartori.

Green Reaper = 3/10

The nose starts off well with muted floral hints and mild fruits. Once the fluid hits the tongue, things go wrong. There is just not much there. The hop residue is a tad flat, maybe a hint of mint, citrus, cotton candy and photocopy paper. The malts are almost non-existant, no chewiness, no breadiness, no nothing. Luckily the ending is nice, only a mild tongue coating of tired citrus hops remain. Maybe it was the picking time, who knows. I have had wonderful IPAs from Phillips. Usually the single hop IPAs in the Hop Box are golden. If you release a fresh hopped, or any IPA, in this town you will meet some fierce scrutiny. It's OK, but I was expecting more.

Taste +1
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 6.5%
Value -1 was not impressed
Appearance +1 Always great label art and good description of beer

Beer and Wine Can Help Heart Disease and Cancer

Well, this is a great news. Beer can help fight heart disease and cancer. According to an article in the online journal Nutrients, beer can do just that. Wine has better evidence for disease prevention when compared to beer. Most likely due to its higher concentration of antioxidants (polyphenols). About 30% of the antioxidants in beer come from hops while the other 70-80% come from the malts. This is another good reason to drink darker beer: more antioxidants.

There are multiple ways that moderate alcohol consumption can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Moderate imbibing can act as a mild anti-coagulant (blood thinner), increase good cholesterol (HDL), and increase your body's sensitivity to insulin (reduce risk of diabetes). This blood thinning effect of alcohol is interesting. In one study, moderate alcohol intake with dinner was able to thin the blood throughout the night. This is thought to be responsible for reducing the risk of early morning cardiovascular events (heart attacks and strokes).

The evidence associated with alcohol consumption and cancer is complicated. The World Health Organization considers ethanol to be carcinogenic (cancer causing). However there is evidence to suggest that beer (and wine) can help to prevent certain types of cancer. Xanthohumol is the most studied compound in hops that can help prevent cancer. It acts as an antioxidant, promotes formation of enzymes responsible for detoxifying carcinogens and can prevent the early growth of cancerous tumors. So far, this cancer fighting evidence has only happened in a laboratory petri dish. Melanoids in beer, amino acid and sugar combinations formed during the Maillard reaction, are thought to be anticancer, antibacterial and can help promote growth of healthy intestinal bacteria. The authors mention one Canadian study that demonstrated moderate protection from prostate cancer in men who drank beer.

There is much more research to be done. Beer and wine are rich with various antioxidants and cancer fighting compounds. However, which one of these compounds is responsible? Do they work synergistically (better together)? This is complicated by the fact that many of these compounds are not well absorbed by the stomach. I personally vow to dedicated by body to (non-invasive) science and drink a lot of craft beer. This is purely for the benefit of future generations.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Puzzler Belgian Black IPA (Phillips)

This is like Deja Vu. At the end of last year, there were tonnes of new releases. It was hard to keep up. Luckily there are many options for Victoria beer drinkers to enjoy. I only had space in my backpack for one beer tonight: Puzzler by Phillips and Great Lakes Brewery. Not to be confused with Great Lakes Brewing in Cleveland, OH, of the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter fame. The Toronto based Great Lakes makes the Devil's Pale Ale. The last year GCBF mashup was with Garrison's; they attempted a Baltic porter. This year it's the Puzzler Belgian Black IPA.So what does it taste like?

Puzzler = 6/10

This is a typical Phillips hop bomb; so it will be well liked. There is a little voice in my left ear saying, "Remove your bias, ignore the label. What would you say about it now?" Before you attempt to medicate me, the voices were from my spouse at the other end of the couch. This is a hop bomb from the moment you crack the seal; floral and citrus ooze everywhere. Massive aromas of floral and miscellaneous citrus cloud all other nasal intrusions. Maybe a bit of chocolate.. perhaps roasted coffee..maybe some spices.. Each sip reveals little else; tonnes of hops with enveloping astringency. Don't get me wrong,  being from the PNW, I love a good hop bomb. The label eludes to flavours of Belgian yeasts, I'm not getting it. Aging might lesson the hops, but that space should be saved for something else. Perhaps a slightly more spicy Skookum? I'm going to have to use steel wool to remove the hop resins from this glass.

Taste +2
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1  9.1%
Value 0
Appearance +1 great art and description of beer taste

Monday, October 22, 2012

Voltage Espresso Stout (Hoyne Brewing)

I love going into BCAW stores. Not just to buy beer - which is nice - but to observe people. My regular haunt is the Hillside liquor store, it is the closest to my house. Most people walk through the front door, open their favourite beer cooler, grab whatever and leave. They never browse. I'm sure you could paint the walls pink and most people wouldn't notice. There are a few things I notice: people drink a lot of FAXE, high alcohol beers sell well on Fridays and people drink a lot of Hoyner Pilsner. Your arm has to be pretty long to grab that last bottle deep in the fridge. The staff also seems to know a lot about beer, or local beer releases are posted in the staff washroom.
Nice clerk, "I see you got the newest one by Hoyne."
Me, "Yup"
Nice, observant clerk. "It's a stout made with local coffee."
Me, "Yup"
Good memory clerk, "It's like the beer he used to make at the other place."
Me, "Yup"
Fictional clerk,"You don't say much, you pompous twerp. I'm trying to be sociable."

Voltage Espresso Stout = 5/10

The nose is fairly straight forward: powdery espresso, slight chocolate and mild earthy herbals. Nothing new in the sip, just a dry stout ending. In the middle is a slight cooling wateriness, but it's nice. Not the most exciting beer of the year, but it is solid and I am sad that my bottle is empty. Well done.

Taste +3
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content 0 5.6%

Value +1
Appearance +1 (great art, but should have a description of the beer. I like the random story on the side)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mad Bruin by Driftwood

Have you ever opened something that was not what you were expecting. Imagine a present wrapped up under the Christmas tree; it looks like a hockey stick. Sweet! A new hockey stick for Christmas day road hockey. Your excitement grows the more you look at this stick. Christmas morning arrives and your rush downstairs to check the flex on your new Easton. Shredded wrapping paper flies to reveal ... a golf club?
I think people were expecting another Flanders red Bird of Prey; a brew that could suck your eyeballs in. I honestly thought Driftwood has nuts to release a Flanders red. This is not an approachable beer. Oud bruins are generally less sour than the Flanders red. This lack of overt sourness and more malty makes them a little easier on the palate.
That year I cried when sampling the Bird of Prey: it was gloriously sour and it aged well. Beer geeks were pleased to have another cellarable beer. The Misses didn't like it - too sour. This year the Misses loved the Mad Bruin. It was fruitier, complex and not too sour. Again I cried. I wanted something with more face twisting sourness. After finishing off a box of tissues, I reflected:

Mad Bruin = 8/10

The slight addition of tears to the glass released the nose. It was tart- yet sweet - with predictions of sourness, root beer and wood vanilla. This was not a face puller. I did long for another sip. It was tart and dry, almost cider like. Except this cider carried wood hints, vanilla, plums and miscellaneous sour fruits. The ending was dry, short and left an impression of fruity balsamic vinegar. Delicious and sessionable sour. Cellaring a few might be in order.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 7%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (great label and perfect description of the beer's flavour)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Season for Saisons Beer School

Every so often I do these 'Beer Schools'. A group of local beer geeks gather in the back room of Clive's Classic Lounge to sample and discuss a particular beer style. Here is a posting of the previous Cascadian Dark Beer School. The upcoming school has a few spots left.  If anyone wants to attend, leave a comment below with your email and I will get back to you. You do not have to be a beer expert, have an uber palate or recite obscure facts about a particular brewery. Sounding pompous is my role. However, you must have a desire to enjoy new beers and meet other beer geeks.

Summer is over, so it is time to restart the beer schools. The next one will be Sunday, October 21th, 7:30ish at Clive's Classic Lounge in the Chateau Victoria. This school will be "A Season for Saisons". I have not even chosen the beers yet; there are a lot to choose from. But it will involve the following:

1. Saison Dupont (the gold standard)

2. Ommegang Hennepin (the American Contender)

3. Le Merle - (The American interpretation)

4. 8 Wired - Saison Sauvin (A New Zealand version)

5. Another surprise

As always you are there to learn. There will be history, glassware lessons, food pairing suggestions, a cheese plate to nibble on and prizes. The same format as always: bring a pen, your palate and $20. First come first serve. This will be around 18-20 spots for this event.

Please forward this to any other craft beer loving friends who might like to attend.

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)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Triple Phillips Review

I have not posted in a couple of weeks because blogging is hard to do in the forest. Those who follow me on Twitter or Untappd, will have seen that I was busy. This will be a quick and rambling review of three Phillips beers that I found interesting; Did I just say that?

Phillips Amarillo IPA = 8/10

This was a single hop IPA in the Phillips Hop Box - perhaps the greatest bit of marketing I have ever scene. It is too bad you have to drink all those other beers to enjoy the special guest. Both hop heads and beer geeks will enjoy this brew. Yes, these two classes of beer drinkers are different. The hop head will enjoy the gripping spiced orange rind and floral tastes that are amarillo. Beer geeks will enjoy learning this hop flavour profile so they can detect it in other beers.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 6.5%
Value +1
Appearance +1 always fun art and a good description of the beer's flavour

Evergreen Ale = 3/10

I liked this beer for it's originality and uniqueness. Bonus points for the Phillips boys and girls for trying a new style of beer using locally sourced ingredients. Sadly this beer tasted like unhopped Blue Buck with only a hint of spruce. The spruce did come through with it's characteristic flavours of yellow mustard and table grapes. While these flavours may not sound appealing, in the right balance, spruce produces a stellar beer. The only other spruce beer sampled was Fort George's glorious Spruce Budd Ale. I look forward to sampling the Evergreen Ale if they attempt in again.

Taste = +1
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value +1
Appearance +1

Pandamonium 11th Anniversary Double IPA = 9/10

Why a giant panda spreading fear in a Tokyo cityscape appears on bottle of beer evades me. Perhaps 'panda' is a prefix for the number 11. Nope, that prefix is undec. You can read all about the undecamonium on the Phillips website. Lots of hops and lots of boiling. So how did they do?

I am certain to take a lot of heat by saying this; I liked it. This was a vast improvement over the 10th anniversary ale. Despite the fact that the undec was the hoppiest thing ever sampled, it kept drawing me in for another sip. The nose didn't add much: only an unassuming hint of sticky citrus and pine resin. Each heavy, astringent hop slap made this beer almost undrinkable. The hop flavour list is huge: tropical fruit, every citrus, lemons, pine resin, passion fruit and jack fruit. Pick your hop taste and it was there, especially amarillo (see above). This barrage left a dry tongue tingle of alcohol and sweet Drambuie mixed with club soda and honey.  Each painful sip revealed further flavour discoveries. I suspect this one will age well, it would benefit with some mellowing of the hops.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 11%
Value +1
Appearance +1

Friday, July 20, 2012

Phillips Amnesiac Imperial IPA

A long time has passed since drinking a Phillips beer. Perhaps it is my pompous beer persona that has stopped me from drinking Victoria's most popular brewery's offerings. 'Perhaps' is not the right word.. 'certainly' seems more appropriate. The Amnesiac caught my eye and spoke to me. After standing in line - behind a guy with an armful of Corona light - I bought my beer and cycled home. How can they brew a Corona light? I hope that guy buys a lime, because he might mistake his beer for bottled water.
My current beer selection seems to take a back seat to the two current IPA showdown contenders: Fat Tug and Switchback. These two newcomers have shadowed Amnesiac's trend setting appearance. Certain Victoria beers drinkers have lamented about this Phillips product being hoppier in the past. I think the hoppy measuring stick has just been raised over the years.

Phillips Amnesiac Imperial IPA = 9/10

The nose is like walking through a Christmas tree sales lots; fresh cut pine smells are everywhere. Trees yield to a creamy tingle of resin, tangerines and Five Alive juice. Amnesiac is a frighteningly easy drinking beer for 8.5% ABV. After the sip you are left with a long, and slightly astringent, memory of tangerine marmalade on whole wheat toast. I should make my tasting reviews longer; hiding my thesaurus might help.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 8.5%
Value +1
Appearance +1 always the best, and tongue in cheek, labeling

BrewDog Sink the Bismark
Central City Imperial IPA and Gary Lohin interview
BrewDog Hardcore IPA

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Swans Trumpeter Pilsner and Eat Your Veggies

Before I rate this beer, we need to have a quick discussion. It is about everyone favourite beer friend: dimethyl sulfide (DMS). DMS is the aroma of vegetables, creamed corn or asparagus. This is not to be confused with diacetyl; which is the flavour of butter and adds a slick mouthfeel to your beer. These flavours are permissible in some beer styles, such as German pilsners. From a judging standpoint this is acceptable, but from a drinking standpoint this might be unacceptable. I have this argument with EskimoDave from time to time.  He is a DMS hater. Conversely, I am a DMS fan. In the right amounts it adds body and sweet vegetable flavours. EskimoDave thinks it provides grossness in a glass. Now that I think about it, I don't think I have even seen EskimoDave eat a vegetable.

Swans Trumpeter Pilsner = 7/10

A soon as the nose hits the glass, the aroma of creamy vegetables and spices fill the nostrils. A slick and chewy mouthfeel delivers spicy hops and big carbonation up front. This settles down to reveal dry straw,a hint of honey and creamed corn. The nice long finish reminded me of pistachios and limes. Very refreshing, if you like your veggies.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 ?
Value +1
Appearance +1 always better in the pub

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lighthouse Tasman Ale and a Chat With Dean

This interview almost never happened. I was to met Dean McLeod, Head Brewer at Lighthouse, after work. I arrived first and sat on one side of Swans Pub. Dean arrived later and sat on the other. After twenty minutes my phone chirps. It's Dean:"Ian where are you? I'm thirtsty." Swans in not a very big pub, nor was it particularly busy. The amateur should be easy to pick out at this point.

After an apology, from me, we sit down to talk about this new brew: Tasman Ale. The idea for this beer came from fond memories of sampling low alcohol beers available in Australia during the 70's and 80's. Most of them were awful. Dean begins, "I wanted to create a light bodied, sessionable, easy drinking, dry, thirsty quenching beer that has flavour." He looks me in the eye and continues: "This is never going to be a beer bloggers will rave about. It is not the intention of it. It is a beer for home, standing around the BBQ with a bunch of mates."

I change the subject and ask Dean about his affinity for southern hemisphere hops. This is a pale ale made exclusively with southern hops that we might not have tasted before: Topaz, Summer Saaz, Motueka and Rakau.  "I really in particular like New Zeleand hops because they are all spray free," he explains, "so most of the organic hops in the world come from New Zealand because it is very short leap to go from spray free to organic." North American brewers were first exposed to these hop varieties during the great hop shortage about five years ago because it was all they could get. Dean adds, "then they found out that they were actually really tasty."

So what did this beer blogger think about the Tasman Ale? I liked it. The use of southern hemisphere hops is very apparent; this is not your usual pale ale. The slight citrus hops are there, along with new flavours of tropical fruit and lime. This is balanced nicely with a soft bready and toasted maltiness. The sip ends clean with only the slightest lingering of sweet bread and mineral hop bitterness. No, this will not be a beer bloggers will rave about.  However, if my hand plunges into an ice cold cooler of beer at a BBQ and finds a Tasman Ale, I will be very happy.

Lighthouse Tasman Ale = 6/10

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (nice label art)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Nothing to Say and Ola Dubh 18

I have nothing to say. This is troublesome, as Victoria's eminent beer blogger, I should have lots to say. Perhaps I should substitute "eminent" with "only". Even Leapbeer is blogging about Victoria beers more than I am. Perhaps my articles are too short. Joe Wiebe's review of Central City's Imperial IPA was three times as long as mine. Making note to self: pull socks up, get off ass, do something.

In my defense, things have been quiet in the Victoria beer scene. Releases have been slight. Swan's does have the Tessier's Witbeir on tap, one of my favourites. Moon Under Water's summer hefe is not due out for a week or so. Lighthouse will have a new ale coming next week, whenever the caps arrive. Hoyne has a summer wheat beer (not hefe) with honey sourced withing walking distance.

There has not been any good news about beer/alcohol and health. Unless you count the Tim Stockwell media machine that says private BC liquor stores are killing us off. Mice got a bit of good press, demonstrating that they didn't get fat when given a rare nutrient found in beer.

Might as well fall back on an old formula; import beer review.

Ola Dubh 18 = 10/10

Ratebeer 3.84 99th percentile
Beer Advocate 93%

To smell this beer, is to understand the life of a Cooper. Roasted cocoa nibs, peat and ash aromas start the Pavlovian response. You don't sip this beer; it is more like chew. I don't mind a thick and full mouthfeel with abundant tastes of dark chocolate, pecans, whiskey, black berries and #2 HB pencils. Scotch vapours can sometimes fade, but Ola Dubh never leaves. The only downside to this beer is the bottle is too small. I would like to obtain a growler fill of this stuff! Look closely at the label. I want George's job: Master of Wood. 

Taste +5
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 8%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (simple and elegant labeling with great description of beer)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hoyne Summer Haze Honey Hefe

Every once and a while you get a beer and it is not as expected. A classic German hefeweizen is a glorious beverage. Each sip is an adventure in spicy yeasts with dominating phenols of cloves and esters of banana and bubblegum. If lucky, one gets a tart dose of lemon and yeast. The Summer Haze is not a hefeweizen, none of these flavours are there. This is OK, we can move on.

Hoyne Summer Haze Honey Hefe = 2/10

The nose is faint on this brew, let's call it an American wheat ale for now. There is a slight aroma of juicy wheat and asparagus, not too much. Each sip is smooth, cooling, light to medium and slightly sweet. This is where things go funny. When you look at this beer, you notice an absence of cloudiness. True, this beverage is a bit nebulous, but a true hefe looks like a golden snow storm. Nothing really dominates flavourwise. Yes, there is a pleasant honey taste, blended with wheaty bread and a slight bubblegum linger. Don't get me wrong, people will enjoy this beer. This is a very drinkable beer, but beer geeks will stomp all over this brew. Take it for what it is: a light summer wheat ale with added honey. Did I mention that the honey came from beehives at the Fairmont Empress?

Taste +2
Aftertaste 0 it ends clean
Alcohol Content 0 5.1%
Value 0 I was really looking forward to a hefe
Appearance 0 nice label art. But when you say hefe, please put a hefe inside.

Other hefty reviews
EdelWeiss Snow Fresh
Franziskaner Hefe-weissbier
GIB Hefeweizen

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Gary Lohin talks about Imperial IPA and a Review

When talking to brewers, in the limited extent that I do, I find that they fall into two categories. They are either very brief or they love to talk. It seems Mr. Lohin likes brevity; perhaps he is just short with me. This does signal a big day for beer geeks in BC. Central City has announced that they will produce a limited release line of 650ml bombers. The first is their Imperial IPA followed closely by two versions of Thor's Hammer barley wine (bottle conditioned and bourbon-barrel aged). Both brews have wracked up an impressive amount of awards.
This new line will not sport the famous Red Racer name. "We will not be calling it Red Racer as we may start another brand in the future for high ABV beers," Gary explains. Big IPA indeed: it clocks in at 9.5% ABV and 90 IBUs. These IBUs are real; Gary says they were measured in a lab.
The next question all beer geeks want to ask is, "What hops were used?" Mr. Lohin was a tad vague with his answer. There was only one "C' hop used but also features an "A", "S" and a "M" hop. He wouldn't drop names, but leaves us to speculate. Gary describes the taste as, "a big floral aroma with mango, tangerine, and citrus notes, followed by a long lingering finish."

Central City Imperial IPA = 9/10

The pungent hop aromas are apparent intermediately after the bottle opener does its thing. The nose is very sweet with tropical fruits (mangoes and papaya) and grapefruit rind. Each sip is full and griping with hop bitterness; this is enhanced by a pleasant alcohol warmth. The Central City is quite sweet for an Imperial IPA. Hopheads will delight in the abundance of mangoes, flower essence, guavas, oranges and grapefruit rind. The hops blast begins upfront, last all the way through the sip and lingers for an eternity. Malts are rich, but play a secondary role. A whole wheat bread and nutty malt backbone is but an afterthought. Pair this hoppy brew with a spicy Indian dish for added palate satisfaction. Not into spicy foods? Perhaps a grilled salmon steak topped with a creamy peppercorn sauce would be more to your liking? Myself, I went with a spicy Mexican enchiladas.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 9.5% frighteningly drinkable
Value +1
Appearance +1 Simple, elegant label with good description of flavour

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Naughty Hildegard (Driftwood)

I usually review new, or noteworthy, releases in Victoria. While this brew is not new, it is notable. While a ESB is usually a balanced beverage, this naughty one leans towards the hops. This seems appropriate for the hop-happy PNW palate. If someone put club soda through a hop back, locals would line up for a taste.

Naughty Hildegard (2012) = 8/10

Once the nose hits the glass, you know your hophead cravings will be satisfied. It is all here: floral, sweet ruby red grapefruit and pine hop nasal offerings. At the start, hop astringency alerts you as to its intentions. It is not gripping like an IPA; more like a hernia exam. Hops start with an even mix of cedar/pine, sweet grapefruit and hidden bubblegum. This yields to a malt middle of caramel/toffee and bread. After the liquid descends with a warm passing, the vapours reincarnate the hop invitation. It is a vicious palate circle that we are all doomed to repeat. This brew excels in its simplicity but enjoyable predictability.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 6.5%ABV
Value +1
Appearance +1

Naughty 2011
Naughty 2010

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Belgian White (Lighthouse)

This is the yang to Lighthouse's previous yin Belgian Black brew. The Belgian White is a ramped up imperial witbier. Dean from Lighthouse describes it best, "Belgian White is different. We took the classic wit and gave it a good old west coast make-over: bigger and lots more hops! What I love about this beer though is that the wit characters are still there; coriander, clove, bitter peel, bready wheat and almond notes. Spices up front, classy soft malt mid palate and a dry, lingering bitter finish." Sounds like a good description but what did the beer prick think?

Belgian White (Lighthouse) = 9/10

The first first thing you notice, obviously, is the nose. This would be the perfect beer to drink while playing Diablo 3, it smells a bit like fire and brimstone. Lots of sulfur, coriander, oat straw, hot and dry spices leap from the glass. You better like it because these aromas never leave; after a while they morph into a very inviting scent.  Full and spicy sips reveal a cornucopia of flavours. First there are the grains: oatcakes, cream of wheat, marzipan and fresh bread. Next you must sort through the spices; coriander is king closely followed by cloves and maybe a little cinnamon. To make matters worse, you must contend with the southern hops and fruitiness from the yeast. You can pick out various tropicals, mangoes, jackfruit, slight lemon and other citrus fruits. Nothing is overpowering. It just slides down the throat, giving the uvula a crosscheck on the way past. Very complicated, it might take a few bombers to sort it all out.

Taste +5
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 7.5%ABV
Value +1
Appearance +1 Great art by Michelle Landry again

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Talking with Chris at VIB about Flying Bomber

I was a little too quick with my posting about VIB's new release, The Flying Bomber. Chris, on of the brewers at VIB, never had a chance to talk about it. Here is what Chris had to say about the white IPA:

The W.I.P.A. was a fun challenge for me, in that they asked me to brew a style I'd never tried before. I could guess by the name that it should be a hybrid of Witbeer and IPA styles, but as for which elements of each should show up in the finished beer... well, that's where the fun came in.

For the malt, I basically took a witbeer composition, and increased the total malt bill to bring things up to IPA strength.  As you can tell, the bittering hops (Galena) are definitely from the IPA side.  This beer has far more hops per hectoliter than have ever been put into any beer that VIB has made!  Of course, I used our newly acquired Weihenstephan yeast, and this is where things really got interesting.  I knew that this yeast can impart a big fruity nose, and I knew I wanted big hop aroma,  but how the two would work together was a bit of a gamble.  In my opinion, it paid off BIG TIME!  The two seem to take turns -- tropical fruitiness when first poured, but as the beer warms up, the Cascade hops really start to come through.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Flying Tanker (VIB)

This is the first bomber from Vancouver Island in recent history. It is a very good sign for Victoria's beer drinkers. Here are the reasons why. The first is that there is now another brewery in town producing limited releases. The second is that this release is a new style and not a duplication. The third is that this beer is hoppy and really good. The fourth is that VIB doesn't export to the mainland, which means more beer/casks for us.  It is good to see the local boys/girls trying new styles, giving us beer geeks something new.

Flying Tanker White IPA = 9/10

I am aware that this is probably the wrong glassware choice for an IPA, but I never get to use my massive Hoegaarden glass. The first thing you will notice is the massive floral, citrus hop nose which hides the slightly spiciness of the Weihenstephan yeast. Next comes the chewiness of the hefe with all the tart yeasty goodness. In quick succession is a slight sourness blended with cream of wheat, lavender, grapefruit rind, lemon and wool. This beer is great and should - no make that will - sell out quickly. I don't think it will cellar well, but who has that much patience. Well done!

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 6.8%
Value +1
Appearance +1 fun and descriptive label

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Beer School #? "Baby Got Bock"

I forget how many beer schools there have been. Some are documented, some are not. This was all about the wonderful world of bock beer. 18 craft beer geeks descended on Clive's Classic Lounge for an evening of great beer.
What is a bock beer anyways? Think of it as a dark German lager with a kick. We don't tend to get many bocks on the West Coast. If we are going to drink something dark, it will most likely be a stout or porter. We do love our hops; perhaps it is time to get in touch with our malty side. This is what bocks deliver in abundance: rich, dark and sweet malts. Let's explore this classic beer style and maybe a malt amour will mature.

The bock beer style began back in 14th century Germany. At this time the brewing powerhouse was not Munich, but Einbeck in the North. From Einbeck, beer flowed south into Bavaria and Munich. In the local dialect this beer was called 'Oanbock', which was shortened to 'bock'. For some strange reason goats are often found on bock beer labels. 'Bock' is also the German word for billy goat. By definition a bock is a dark, sweeter lager with low bitterness (20ish IBU) and a bigger alcohol content (6-7% ABV). It will certainly appeal to the beer drinker with a sweet tooth.

Luckily there are a few bocks in the Garden City. Hoyne Brewing has the Big @#$# Bock year round. Hoyne is restrained with the malts, but there is plenty of richness to appeal to a beer lovers sweet side. When you pair bocks with food, think sweet and rich. Wild game, pork and roasted foods all work with bocks. Anything caramelized will mesh nicely. Caramelized onions, seared portabello mushrooms on whole wheat pasta drizzled with sweet balsamic crema; now this meal calls for a bock.

Did I mention that there were multiple variations of bocks? The helles (pale) bock was brewed in response to the pilsner phenomenon that was sweeping through Europe. At first, Munich brewers swore they would never brew a pale beer. Spaten blinked first and brewed their first Helles in 1894, over 50 years after Pilsner Urquell was unleashed. No one said old world brewing was a dynamic industry. Helles bock still retains a thick, chewy maltiness but the hop bite is curtailed. Maibocks and helles bocks are very similar styles; maibocks are generally released in spring (May) and can be slightly hoppier and marginally darker. The food pairing for lighter bocks are similar to pilsners. Spicy foods and sea food are optimal. Our example of a helles bock was the Rogue Dead Guy; surprise it's a maibock. The Dead Guy is a tad hoppier and less malty that one would expect from a helles bock, but it is brewed for the North American palate.

Dopplebock: double up on an already strong beer? The 'dopple' part is not a literal description. But yes, the ABV of dopplebocks is raised (7-10%) and so are the malty flavours. The original dopplebock is the rich and caramelly Paulaner Salvator. There are many imitators and they use “-ator” ending names in homage. Victoria has had no shortage of these brews; we like our strong beers. Instigator (Phillips) and Navigator (Lighthouse) are local favourites, while Captivator (Tree Brewing) is imported from Kelowna. The food pairs are similar to a traditional bock. This sweeter beer can also be enjoyed with deserts. Imagine this caramel malty beverage with crème brulee. 

More variations of strong bocks are always welcome. The Aventinus wheat-dopplebock is truly world class. With the inclusion of at least 50% wheat malt, you get a beer with all those wheat tastes we love. Dark, rich, raisiny with spicy cloves, caramelized bananas and cream of wheat. If you can find the eisbock version of this beer, purchase several without hesitation!

What was once an accident is intentionally enjoyed every year. The eisbock (ice/frozen bock) beer style is made using a technique called freeze distillation. Beer is frozen which causes water-ice crystals to form. This ice is removed to further concentrate the alcoholic beverage. Fort Garry Brewing in Winnipeg makes the other Canadian eisbock. There are few foods that was stand up to the thick, chocolatey maltiness of an eisbock. Grilled game, duck, caviar and rich Stroganoff are big foods that can handle a big beer. A brandy snifter of Hermannator and a caramel flan or chocolate cheesecake with ginger/plum sauce would be a decadent end to a meal.

Looking forward to the next beer school, "Pucker up Buttercup". This will be a sour beer bonanza.