Friday, March 22, 2013

Creme Brulee Vanilla Stout (Saltspring Island)

This, I believe, is a first for BC craft beer. Notice I said 'craft'. Liquor Plus worked in collaboration with Salt Spring Island Brewing to create one unique beer. Essentially Salt Spring Island brewed a one-off batch of beer and Liquor Plus bought it all. I can think of a few people who would shudder at this idea. But bravo to Rod Phillips of Liquor Plus, for taking a risk to further craft beer in BC. Collaborations like this are not new in Canada. The EPIC Sherbrooke Liquor store in Alberta has worked with a few breweries to create their own beers, the most noteworthy is Paddock Wood.

Creme Brulee Vanilla Stout = 8/10

An inky black pour with a tan head is a sign of a stout that means business. The first point of order is the real caramelized vanilla aroma. It reminds me of Madagascar vanilla in full fat ice cream. A lighter than expected body, for an 8%ABV brew, touches almost every stout flavour. There are berries, milk (lactose), caramel, faint coffee, vanilla creamsicles and cola. The slight tongue slickness is easily overlooked because the long finish is all sweet, milk chocolate and vanilla. It is a sweeter stout, but not excessively so. People will like this beer, especially fans of the Lighthouse and Phillips chocolate porters. The Creme Brulee flavours are not robust enough to warrant cellaring. This beer is only available at Liquor Plus starting this upcoming Monday, March 25th. How did I get my hands on a few bottles? I would like to think my l33t blogging status places me into the in crowd. Most likely, Rod let me buy a bottle early so I would not harass him all weekend.

Taste +3 (Bonus points for organic malts)
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 8%ABV
Value +1
Appearance +1 (Good description of flavour and elegant label)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Belle Royal 2013 (Driftwood)

It is with great trepidation that I open this bottle of Belle Royal Sour Cherry Wild Ale. Opening a bottle of Driftwood used to be a feeling of great excitement; now that has been replaced by apprehension. You may have noticed that there was no review of the Singularity 2013 this year. Others couldn't care less what I think. This is the third sour by Driftwood. The Bird of Prey was a glorious thing. The Mad Bruin was also a solid performer but paled in comparison.

Belle Royal 2013 (Sour) = 7/10

Sitting in French and Appalachian oak does funny things to a beer. It gives the nose a funky, muddled cherry aroma. The sip is mild at first with the predictable tart cherries, wool blanket and oak tastes. What is lacking is the sweet vinaigrette. Perhaps all I want is for every sour beer to taste like Rodenbach or Monk's Cafe. Then the lemon and pineapple acidity wash over the tongue with a slight numbing sensation. It feels like my tongue is being digested by fresh pineapple enzymes. The ending is very dry, refreshingly tannic with a slight fruity rawness. If someone gave me this drink blindfolded I would have guessed it was a sangria with too much pineapple juice and oaked chardonnay.
Upon reading my above review, it sounds so horribly pompous and biased. Buy this beer, you will enjoy it. It is mildly sour, tart, fruity and very refreshing. I has hoping to relieve my first sour beer experience. Your first bottle of Rodenbach Grand Cru will forever be the unobtainable benchmark. Mestreechs Aajt is a second best.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 8%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (great art as always with good description of flavour)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Absolute Darkness (VIB)

This the forth bomber release by VIB. A unique India Dark Ale release is the flavour this quarter, even if the style name is unspeakable. Like always, VIB lets loose the marketing machine and highlights something local. In this case it is the Horne Lake caves and campground. The very busy release party had several people promoting this Island attraction. Well done for supporting Island events.

Absolute Darkness = 7/10

The first thing to hit you is the grassy and floral hop nose. It is quite pronounced, but I don't seem to mind. This grassiness takes a backseat to the sip of equal parts floral, lemongrass and slight spruce hop assertiveness. Then the dusty, milk chocolate and toast malts make an appearance. They are all in perfect balance, but the floral grasses never really go away. The aftertaste reminds me of lavender candies I got from Harrods.  It is a tasty beer and no doubt people will enjoy it, but something is out of sorts. Maybe the nose is a tad too grassy and the body a little thin, but these are my delusions of beer critic grandeur speaking.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 6.5%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (supercool glow in dark label)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Cabin Fever BIPA (Phillips)

What are these kids at Phillips doing? The new releases keep coming, or do they? Today it is a Black IPA. No one these days will dare use the 'C' word, but I won't go there. Next week Vancouver Island is releasing an India Dark Ale. Someone might steal the name, but no one can steal our lust for dark, hoppy beers. So is this beer actually new? Well.. check the ABV compared the Phillips Amnesiac: same. Smell compared to Amnesiac: same. The taste is well.. similar. Could this be the Amnesiac with dark malts added? Who knows? Irregardless, it is hoppy and fault free: hence, everyone will love it. I did, but is it actually new?

Cabin Fever BIPA = 6/10

This starts off with the classic, and glorious, Phillips hop nose. Once whiffed, a special set of brain cells is dedicated to its recall. You all know it: part sweet citrus, part floral pine with a hint of spun sugar. An oddly thin mouthfeel delivers the goods: a hop forward astringency with slightly chocolate and bready malts. The ending is smooth, sadly short lived with only an ounce of alcohol warmth. There is just enough grapefruit and pinesol to make the mouth happy. Is there anything wrong with being aggressively popular? Next year, perhaps more dark malts and a thicker mouthfeel please.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 8.5%
Value 0 It is good but not really new
Appearance +1 always great art.

Smokeshow Rauchweizen (Moon Under Water)

Rauchbiers are rarely pretty beverages. This uniquely smoked beer dates back to the days when all malts were dried by wood fires. Often the smoke left residual flavours which were transferred to the beers. Modern malting methods do not use wood smoke anymore. If one wishes to taste history, search out beers from the town of Bamberg, Germany. Many breweries there still use beechwood to dry their malts in creating these characteristic beers. The definite example, with its memorable label, is Aecht Rauchbier Marzen. Sadly, it is rarely found in Canada. The initial smokiness is hard to take, but after a few sips it grows on you.
Why the sudden interest in smoked beers? I have no idea. Perhaps it is brewers wanting to experiment with forgotten styles. Personally I would have hoped they would try to brew a Gose instead. Maybe it is the local fascination with bacon and its smoky flavours. This is also something I do not understand.

Smokeshow Rauchweizen = 7/10

There was only the mildest of wood smoke surrounding the bready and fruity malts. It tasted the same from start to linger, which was good. The pleasure was pale fruits, mild apple and whole wheat bread with a tannic/astringent addition from the smoked malts. I couldn't drink too many, but the one I had was very enjoyable.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value +1
Appearance +1 always better from the source