Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Simplicity Ale by Category 12

I'm trying a new strategy for beer reviews; 30 minutes or less. Mike is posting one beer review a day. I barely get one review per week. Something that caught my attention with week was a new one from Category 12. This beer first appeared at the Drake's Thirsty Chef as a limited release. People must have really talked it up because it is now in bottles. For those keeping tract of numbers, this should be categorized as a 31A Alternative Grain Beer because of the use of the non-traditional grain spelt. Also released this week is a Dubbel, but I haven't found that one yet. It is rare to run into a beer that is simple yet delicious. Most breweries are focused on imperial this, barrel aged that or soured whatever. Not that I mind this trend, but what happened to the simple, flavourful ale. Beers like this rarely get rave reviews, nor do people line up to get their two bottle allowance. Which is too bad because they are missing out.

Simplicity Ale = 7/10

The nose offers up a mild doughiness with a little bit of cereal and all spice. Each sip is no different. There is perfect balance between the clean, cereal and bread dough malts, slightly spicy orange peels and a dry Belgian yeast finish. A medium carbonation cleans the palate and leaves no aftertaste. Simple to drink and simple to describe.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value +1
Appearance +1

Glassware: A tulip or a convex pokal

Food Pairings: Something on the lighter side. Poached sablefish on risotto or wild rice. Start early in the meal with a fresh goat cheese and spinach salad. 

Cellar: nope

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Appleton Extra Special Bitter by Hoyne

It is hard writing a blog. Yes, I know, boo hoo, you have to do research and drink beer. Then you get to shoot your mouth off, figuratively, about what you think about this said beverage. Yes, yes you can feel my pain. Often in my blogs, I ponder food pairing options or try to give a little history. Then I think about whether this flavour is right for the style, what glassware is proper, are there any off flavours, etc, etc. The Appleton ESB halted this process very quickly. The current BJCP guidelines do not have an ESB category, it has been replaced by 11c Strong Bitter. Fullers has trademarked the term "ESB", which might have something to do with this change. Perhaps the Appleton has a little too much diacetyl and not enough hop character to really fit into this category, but that is beside the point. Flavours can be potent memory triggers of past events. The smell of pine can take you to a memorable Christmas where there was a freshly cut tree in the living room. Going to the movies can remind you of a certain place on the waterfront or a numbered pub. See, they are not always pleasant.

One sip of the Appleton pulled my memories to a recent trip to England. It took me right here.
We were walking along the river Thames and stopped off at the pub for a pint and nachos. Actually it was two pints; they were low alcohol and I was gathering Untappd badges. Now that I look back, the Runner was much tastier this the Hoyne. Regardless, the memory recall was there. The pen and notepad were forgotten and the feet rested themselves on the coffee table. A long drink of bitter blurred realities, the room temperature cooled, nostrils filled with the stench that is the Thames and the vacation mindset returned. This brief interlude was quickly dissolved by the sound of my cat hacking up a hairball in the bathroom. Although brief, it was pleasant. This beer gets an 8.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Super Cooper Phillips 14th Anniversary ale

Has it been 14 years already? Looks like it is time for another strong anniversary beer from Phillips. Don't get me wrong, I liked this beer but it just tasted the same as last year and the year before that. It tasted like the Monkey Drummer at year 12 and the Hangman's from year 13. Now that I think about it, if this beer has been aging for a full year in bourbon barrels, it very well may have been the same beer as last year. Why the number 14? Perhaps it might be in reference to 14 points of copyright infringement on the label. Despite the fact I am not a expert in copyright law, the resemblance to Donkey Kong and a Mario Bros character is easy to spot. I haven't even played these games in over two decades. That small hop guy in the bottom corner looks very similar to Goomba. And what other large ape with high eye brows carries a barrel? Am I the only one seeing the red tie with a logo on it?

Super Cooper = 5/10

The nose was a mix of dry hop madness and oak character. It was an overabundance of vanilla, tannins, pine, spruce and pineapple. My mouth felt violated with each fully, sticky, slick and bitter boozy sip. Complexity is the label on my glass. There was extensive mingling of vanilla, pineapple enzymes, syrupy spruce, bourbon vapours and canned pear syrup. The flavours hung around longer than the weird neighbour after a block party BBQ. Still it was a nice sipper, but it did border on undrinkable bitter and boozy.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 11.6%
Value 0 (same as last year)
Appearance 0 (Had to hide bottle to avoid litigation)

Glassware: Use a brandy snifter or tulip

Food Pairings: Almost too much for food. Maybe cedar planked salmon.

Cellar: The hop and booziness will certainly fade, but I'm not certain the malt contains suitable complexity. I'm going to say no.

Pacific Sunet by Lighthouse

Just catching up on old notes so no preamble.

Pacific Sunset = 7/10

Not familiar with the Belgo-American mild beer style, other than it is tasty. Tastes like a mix of various styles with a fancy yeast. In the nose there are grains, biscuits, a touch of citrus mixed with spicy yeast notes. A mild sticky mouthfeel yields crackers, tropical fruit hops, limes, bananas, tart wheat and again with the spicy yeast. Spicy and slick was the ending. Quite tasty. You might be able to still find this one on the shelves.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5.3%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (odd retro label but liked food pairing idea)

Glassware: Something clean

Food Pairings: Lets go with a banana loaf with cloves, allspice and nutmeg for desert.

Cellar: nope

Accelerated Transmission by Category 12

Hurrah for autumn. It means different things for different people: back to school, end of vacations or harvest time. For the beer geek the last item is the most important. Fresh hopped beers are a relatively new phenomenon in Victoria. Driftwoods Sartori first appeared in 2009 and Phillips Green Reaper in 2012. Now is not uncommon for a brewery to have a fresh hopped beer or cask this time of year. For the first time, there is even a Fresh Hopped Beer Festival in Victoria. Thanks Joe. Now back to the beer. These kids at Category 12 are doing everything right: experimental brewery only beers, soon to be barrel aging and now a fresh hopped beer. This one is in collaboration with Red Truck brewing. So how does it taste.

Accelerated Transmission = 7/10 

The trouble with some wet hopped beers is that they tend to have a grass like aroma or flavour. Especially if they are dry hopped. This transmission does not have this. The aroma is glorious with wet hop citrus, pine, lime, a tad of biscuit and only a trace of freshly cut grass. Bucking the trend of fresh hopped IPA, this brew has a medium to full mouthfeel and not overly bitter. Each juicy gulp follows the aroma with straightforward fresh hops and clean biscuit malts. It does linger very long. Unlike other fresh hopped beers, you can drink this one right away. Well done.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value +1
Appearance +1

Glassware: IPA glass or nonic

Food Pairings: Definitely something with aged cheddar or woodsy. Try this with a gently grilled cheese sandwich with aged cheddar or Maclaren's Imperial sharp.

Cellar: nope must be fresh

Can Science Help You Learn to be a Beer Pro?

I could not say "no" to reading this article,"Becoming a beer expert: Is simple exposure with feedback sufficient to learn beer categories?" This study seemed simple on the surface but had a lot of depth to it. It was especially interesting for anyone wishing to further their beer knowledge and obtain their Cicerone or BJCP Judge designations. The principle of the study seemed simple enough. A group of students were put through a 70 hour long beer sensory course. During this course, students were presented with either top-fermented beers (TF) or bottom-fermented beers (BF) and asked to determine which was which. No names or images were shown, just a bunch of randomly appearing clear plastic cups. Rather like a BJCP judging contest. Many of the same TF and BF beers were repeated during each session while new beers in each category were introduced. As expected, after repeated exposure to the same beer, subjects recognized that same beer and could correctly identify it as either at TF or BF. However, subjects did not always answer correctly for the new beers they had not been previously exposed to. Then subjects were introduced to a trap beer. This trap was a TF beer that shared many sensory traits as a BF beer. A similar BF trap beer was also given. In case you were curious, the BF trap beer was Biere du Demon and the TF trap beer was Hoegaarden. Not surprisingly, not enough subjects correctly identified the trap beers compared to just guessing.

So what did this tell us about learning to be a beer pro? Not much that we didn't already know. You can identify beers that you are repeatedly exposed to, but might not be able to extend this knowledge to new beers. What was interesting and helpful was that it did explain how people learn about new experiences and remember them for latter. Many of these principles apply to learning beer styles. Much of this information was taken from learning about wine experts. Generally when we learn about something sensory we try to place it into a category (categorization). We can do this in several methods, all with their pluses and faults. In this perceptual learning model, you learn to extract repeated stimulus and detect regularities. Sounds good right? Not so much, it expects you to pull  sensory information from many different encounters. What if you only drink Fat Tug? Is so, then you think every single IPA should taste like Fat Tug. This is also why people only drink one kind of beer and nothing else. Your experience has told you that beer should taste this way, any deviation from this norm is rejected as incorrect.

So your drink a beer, learn those flavours and place these memories into categories. This is how you can pick out Pacific Northwest hops from European hops or Southern Hemisphere hops. With repeated training, many beer geeks can pick out specific hop varieties, malts used and yeast strains. This is done in several ways. The first is to use these sensory memories to create mental prototypes. In this method you create an ideal taste representation from presented examples in each category. This is what is done with BJCP beer training. Your learn about how an IPA, English mild or Saison by drinking the best known examples. You know what a Saison tastes like by drinking Dupont, Ommegang Hennepin and New Belgium Saison. Again this presents problems as mentioned above. If you can't find these beers, you have no idea what a proper Saison should taste like. I find this to be an issue with the Kolsch. Very few people, including brewers, may have never tasted a true Kolsch. This is a problem when you are presented with a can of local kolsch-like ale and assume this is what a true Kolsch tastes like. I refer to this as the Analogue Phenomenon.

You also learn about beers from the feature-frequency theory. This is as it sounds, you build your models based on frequently occurring features of a recurring taste. IPAs frequently taste bitter, bocks are frequently sweet. This is quite handy for judging beer contests, but not much else. If a bock is excessively bitter, this is wrong. This again assumes you have lots of examples to draw from.

Another method is exemplar memorization. This again is just like it sounds, you memorized what a classic example tastes like. Possible issues in this method are that memories are fading and over time you might have forgotten what Saison Dupont tasted like. Perhaps your feature frequency from local saisons has caused the exemplar model to drift. To remedy this one should regularly sample the reference beer. Big breweries do this all the time, you regularly sample to same beer over and over for changes in flavour. I like the idea of drinking Saison Dupont every six months for research purposes. However, the typical beer geek, like me, rarely drinks the same beer twice so this form of learning is challenging. 

So back to our beer students. What did thus study teach us about learning about beer. After questioning the students, the researchers found that there was no specific form of learning that was favoured. The results did seem to slightly favour the exemplar theory of learning as students to easily identify beers that they were repeatedly exposed to. However, the information from memorizing these flavours could not be extrapolated to new identifying new beer flavours. Researchers also felt that perhaps the sample size of beers was too small; this is perfect validation for my Untappd score. So to learn more about beer, sample lots of different beers while looking for trends and analyze great beer style examples. Oh and drink Saison Dupont often.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Great Canadian Beer Fest 2015 Rant

This post is not really a rant, but it makes a nice catchy title. Most of you know the story. The Great Canadian Beer Festival is one of the largest and longest running festivals in North America. Lots and lots of breweries, food trucks and entertainment. It is to no ones surprise that this is a big day for me. I pour over the beer list to plot my token allotment. I look forward to the release of the GCBF beer list almost as much as I did for the Sears Christmas catalog decades ago. So after much analysis here are my thoughts.

1. This is going to be an awesome beer fest

2. It should be renamed the Great British Columbia and UnTapped Beer Fest. True, it would be very hard to change the name at this point, but an overwhelming percentage of breweries are from BC. If you ignore the UnTapped portfolio, Unibroue, Mill Street, Muskoka, Big Rock and Steam Whistle the rest are BC breweries. I think this is great for BC Breweries to gain exposure. It does also highlight a few points. First, there are enough quality BC Breweries to fill a stadium. Second, the craft brew scene in Canada has grown so big that there are many other beer festivals across Canada. Breweries east of the rockies might not feel the need to market their beers in BC as demand in their own provinces is growing. Selling beer in BC is a very competitive market. The downside of this is that we don't get to taste Paddock Wood beers this year. I have found their beers to the some of the best at GCBF.

3. Local Victoria breweries didn't bring a lot of variety this year. Many of the local offerings are recent beers and an unmodified cask of a notable seasonal. There are some exceptions to this. Lighthouse has one new brew and two casks (if they work out). Moon has a new collaboration. Spinnakers has two wacky new brews. Category 12 does have a core brand with a new yeast added, which should be interesting.

4. Where is Crannog? Enough said!

5. Where are Three Ranges? Nelson Brewing? Brassneck? Red Collar? Noble Pig?

6. No American Breweries. See rather obvious but worth noting.

Now for my suggestions for something new to drink.

1. Loghouse Brewery. I plan to stand in line for all of those.

2. Ditto for Bad Tattoo.

3. All of Cumberland and Gladstone

4. Coal Harbour Baltic Porter. I love a good Baltic porter.

5. Dageraad De Witte Sour. mmmmm sours mmmmm

6. Doans American Rye Stout. Sounds unique.

7. Fuggles and Warlock have a multi hop West Coast Common.

8. Granville Island brewed a gose? Sounds good to me.

9. Longwood. A cask of a spontaneously fermented and 18 month cellared sour? This I gotta try.

10. Lighthouse used Discovery coffee to brew a lager; this should be tasty. Plus a few possible casks

11. Four Mile. Mainly because I don't want to buy a bottle so see if their beers have improved.

12. Spinnakers will have the first fresh hopped beer of the year. And a sour cask.

There are a few more I plan to try, but I'm not letting you know. Just in case there is not enough to go around