Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Beer and Cheese: Torte Mascarpone and Category 12 Saison

Another week another cheese, this time it was the Torta Mascarpone. A rough translation of 'torta' is cake or pie. Torta Mascarpone is a cake with alternating layers of Mascarpone and Gorgonzola cheeses.  Mascarpone is an Italian equivalent to a soft creamy cheese like ricotta.The Torta has a smell similar to a blue cheese and cream cheese mixed together. The spicy and funky aromas of the blue were there along with the citric tang of the Mascarpone. These flavours melted together to form this wonderful funky, tart and citric creamy delight. It was a spreading cheese as the Mascarpone made the combo very soft. The perfect beer would be something with ample carbonation to help lift the fat off the tongue. An ideal beer would also need a residual fruity sweetness to balance the tart Mascarpone and funky blue-veined Gorgonzola. A saison immediately sprang to mind.

Yes, I know this is cheating; every fatty cheese goes well with a saison. The classic Saison Dupont would be too dry and floral hoppy with this milder blue combination. So I picked the Category 12 Unsanctioned Saison. I wouldn't call the C12 a saison, it is too malty. I think the Unsanctioned is closer to the French style saison called biere de garde. The saison style is more familiar to beer drinkers than biere de garde.

This combination was beer and cheese heaven. The carbonation of the C12 lifted the fatty cheese off the tongue to reveal a citric, fruity tartness. There was enough fruitiness in the C12 to draw out the lemon citrus of the Mascarpone. Malty sweetness balanced out the bitter and tartness of the blue Gorgonzola.

New week I shall try and find the idea cheese pairing with a Victoria classic: Lighthouse Keepers Stout.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Legacy Ale Barley Wine by Swan's

It might be a little late in the season for a barley wine. Barley wines invoke images of cold evenings curled up next to a crackling fire while reading Chaucer. In my demented world, barley wines are enjoyed while feeling the warmth of an overclocked GPU while playing online video games. Does pwning some person named Chaucerdude232 count? I digress. Last year this was my favourite beer. How could you not enjoy a pre-aged barley wine for only $7?

Legacy Ale = 8/10

I found this years version a little hot and syrupy. It was still quite nice, but it had big expectations placed upon it. The alcohol warmth and apricot sweetness became apparent as soon as I removed the cap. Sweetness was a major flavour of this barley wine; lots of peaches, apricots and marshmallow. The booziness and mild earthy hops tried their best to temper the syrup. Still, it was a tasty barley wine that is ready to drink now. I'm looking forward to seeing if the alcohol calms down in about six months.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 10.3%
Value +1
Appearance +1

Glassware: Chalice or tulip

Food Pairings: The dish would have to be big, rich and fatty. How about duck pate?  Desert might be nice. I'm thinking apricot upside down cake. As for a cheese, a blue would be bold enough to stand up to this warming beer. It might pair well with a quality feta; the salty feta would be a good contrast to this sweet beer.

Cellar: Might be worth the effort. The malts are pretty thin, but if the alcohol fades....

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Spinnakers Belgian Porter

Why can't someone just release a normal porter? There are flavoured porters, imperial porters and now a Belgian porter. The porter is a wonderfully drinkable beer. It is a perfect blend of equal parts
roast, chocolate and earthy hops. I'm not sure how a usually spicy yeast will play upon a balanced dark ale.

Spinnakers Belgian Porter = 7/10

The nose is very porter-like with dark fruits/berries, dry chocolate and a slight bit of ash. There is a mild hint of the spicy yeast flavours apparent in the nose. This porter is a smooth sip with one surprise. A slightly minty hop flavour is balanced with bittersweet chocolate, dried berries and potted plant. The Belgian yeast only provides the slightest of spiciness. It is most noticeable in the short lived, calm spicy chocolate linger.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 6%
Value +1
Appearance +1

Glassware: A tulip would be optimal but anything will do

Food pairing. Think of things roasted, earthy or fruity. Might be nice with a spicy Mexican chocolate cake. I would choose a grilled Portabello mushroom burger.

Cheese: This beer could stand up to some potent cheeses. A mild Stilton would be nice or a smoked Gouda.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Beer and Cheese: L'Hercule de Charlevoix and White Bark by Driftwood

Remember resolution #1 and #6? This post combines them both. Another resolution that I didn't share was that I plan to try a new cheese every week. This is mainly to explore the possibilities of beer and cheese pairings. My knowledge of cheese is very limited; there will certainly be some mistakes. At
least on the cheese side; feel free to correct me.

The first cheese that caught my eye was the L'Hercule de Charlevoix. It is a unpasteurized cheese made with Jersey cow milk. This hard cheese is brine washed and similar in flavour to alpine cheeses like Gruyere. I will not be providing too much information about the cheese mainly because of my lack of knowledge. An alpine cheese originates from the Alps mountain range. Animals that graze there consume lush grasses, flowers and herbs. These flavours are transferred into the cheese and can vary depending on season and location. Quebec does not really contain any high mountain ranges, but the processing of the L'Hercule and the milk selected produces a similar flavour.

So what does this cheese taste like? The initial aroma was that of feet and funk. Luckily, this did not transfer over into the semihard texture of the cheese. It was rather mild with a slight nutty, fruitness. The ending was a calm tartness. Perhaps a good pairing for this beer would be an equally calm and fruity beer. Swan's Arctic ale/Kolsch came to mind. A blonde ale or a calm pilsner would do nicely also. A pale ale or hoppy saison would have overpowered this cheese. I planned to head downtown to pick up a bottle of Andrew's Arctic Ale, which would have been perfect. The lazy factor kicked in, so another local favourite was chosen: Driftwood's White Bark witbeir. I thought the creamy wheat, orange peel and slight spiciness would compliment the flavours in this cheese. Sadly, this did not work out too well. The White Bark was spicier than I remembered, so it rather overpowered this delicate cheese. It wasn't bad, just not optimal. This beer would have been better with something a tad more robust, like an Emmental or young goat cheese.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

New Years Beer Resolutions

Can there be such things as resolutions for beer drinking? Why not? It seems like more fun than the regular resolutions. So along with getting more exercise and reading more fiction, I plan to do the following:

1. Start drinking the Victoria classics. This is hard for an Untappd beer ticker. Why would I spend good money on a beer I have already tasted? I can't recall the last time that I drank Driftwood's White Bark or a Hermann's.

2. Work really hard to try every new release in Victoria this year. At least, those worth trying. This is harder than it sounds, Moon Under Water released a few beer I had never heard of.

3. Go on a brewery tour. I have actually never been on one. Maybe Jeff from Category 12 can show me around. 

4. Visit the Four Mile Pub. Yes this does directly conflict with number 2, but I want to see if it is as bad as everyone says it is.

5. Start homebrewing again. All the gear is in the shed. My low ABV English style bitter was quite tasty.

6. Blog on a regular basis. Enough said. Did you know that this crappy blog has been running since 2007?!

How about you readers? Any Brew Years resolutions?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Top 10 Victoria Beers of 2014 According to ME

Again it was another great year for Victoria craft beer lovers. New to the brewing scene was the 4 Mile Pub (boo) and Category 12 (Yay). It was also the first time there was a true collaboration brew between two local breweries. Sadly this beer did not make the top 10. The other collaboration brew will not be spoken of again. We also experienced the opening of two great, uber-taplist pubs. The Churchill/Garrick's Head and this supercool place called the Drake. My 2014 list is a little thin as I was not able to review nor taste all the beers in Victoria. Next year I shall try harder. But enough of my ramblings, how did these beers stack up according to ME?

1. Moon Under Water - Bench Warmer = 9/10

This was a wonderful collaboration beer. A spicy, bretty Belgian blonde with lots of oaty malts and hints of flowery and spicy hops. Well done John Adair (now Gladstone) and Jeff (MUW)

2. Category 12 - Disruption Black IPA = 9/10

A lot of black IPAs are potent and painfully hoppy. This new kid hit a nice balance between griping citrus and floral hops with roasted and chocolate malts. Yum

3. Entangled - Driftwood = 8/10

What happens when you mix the hoppy Fat Tug and a creamy wheat beer? Something wonderful.

4. Keg Tosser - Spinnakers = 8/10

A great strong Scottish ale that delivers deep peaty malts, lots of caramel and abundant fruitiness. Don't mind if I do.

5. Sauerteig - Lighthouse = 8/10

A little on the weird side. Who would have thought a rye sourdough bread yeast would work with a saison style beer? I'm glad someone tried.

6. Sea Port Vanilla Stout - Lighthouse = 8/10

Would could you not like a dry chocolate Keepers stout with added earthy vanilla.

7. 13 Knot - Phillips = 8/10

This was perhaps the greatest marketing tactic by Phillips to date. Bundling a hop flavoured liqueur with a double IPA.

8. Maxminer's Altbier - Moon Under Water = 7/10

Great balance between tame chocolate, caramel, bread, raisins and floral/spicy noble hops.

9. Surfrider - Vancouver Island Brewery = 7/10 

What can I say, it's a well done Pilsner. So good that they released it twice.

10. Chico Nico - Swan's = 7/10

It was a simple blend of tropical citrus hops over a bed of biscuity malts. Simply delicious.

Honourable Mentions

These beers never got a full review due to laziness, but would have ranked up with these top 10.

Pilsner Doehnel by Driftwood - a hoppy pils with local malts: ohh yess!
Rhubie by Lighthouse - the unintentional sour rhubarb beer. The only bottle I bought three times.
Lighter Side of the Moon by Moon - A simple, light lager in a super cool can.
Soma II by Moon Under Water - the keg didn't last long enough for me to try. But one might appear at the Drake soon
Oud King Crow by Moon - a lovely approachable sour.
Year Two Wheat Wine by Moon - no one wanted to share this lovely bottle with me. I took a peaceful nap afterwards.

Best Packaging of the Year

Hands down is was the Entangled by Driftwood and Hired Guns Creative. Perhaps the most elegant label I have ever seen. The Phillips 13 Knot was a close second.