Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sabotage - Vancouver Island Brewery

Can there be trends in beer? There most certainly are. Brewers can use the hippest new hops (Citra, Amarillo, southern hemisphere), brewpubs can host tap takeovers or they can brew an India session ale. Other trendy things to do include putting your beers in tall boy cans or brewing a black anything (black IPA, black saison, black lager). Regardless, I digress. Even though I forgot to mention the act of filling multiple sizes of growlers. Back to the India session ale. Certainly this beer style was born from the desire to have a hoppy beer but still be able to function and operate heavy machinery. A session ale does not have a defined ABV strength or even a style. Let's call it the opposite of imperial. So a session IPA will be the flip side mirror image of an imperial IPA. My definition of a session beer has an ABV that hovers near the 4% mark. My hero Stephen Beaumont has similar views. This means Spinnakers Swiftsure almost qualifies (4.5%), Phillips Bottle Rocket ISA certainly does not (5%), but the Central City ISA certain does (4% ABV). The Sabotage does not come close at 4.8% ABV. Another complaint of people who drink ISA is that they taste weak or thin. This -made up-  style of beer has a low ABV and an attenuated malt profile. Perhaps this weakness perception is due to preconceived thoughts of all beers that contain the word "India". We see the word India, then smell the big hop nose and expect a malt and alcohol slap to the forehead. Our expectations are unfulfilled and we blog that this beer tastes weak. Well too bad. Some of us want to drink a few hoppy pints and still be able to operate heavy machinery. DISCLAIMER, the only heavy machine I operate after a few pints is my PC. Sometimes that is not such a good idea. Ok, so what does this beer prick think about the Sabotage ISA?

Sabotage = 7/10


The nose contains that composite of PNW C hops that we have been conditioned to seek out. There is a slight grassiness as the beer warms up; Kendrew is this beer dry hopped? There are equal parts sweet pine, vague citrus and slight floral spiciness. A meager graham cracker graininess is also present in the aroma. Mouthfeel for a session ale is often disappointing, but this is not a session ale so the mouthfeel is pleasantly thin to full. Each sip is fairly linear and parallels the nose. Some have mentioned a slight sulfur aroma, but it's not an issue. The linger is slightly slick but carries the citrus hop bite nicely. Nicely done, even thought it is not really a session ale.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 4.8% (If you call it a session ale make it low ABV)
Value +1 it's nice.
Appearance +1 nice label art and reasonable description of flavour. Yes, I know it is a growler, but I stared at the art while it was being filled.

Glassware: You can be a DB like me and buy a IPA specific glass (in photo). This is not necessary, grab a tulip or flared pokal. Nevermind the knowledge of what a flared pokal indicates DB tendencies.

Food Pairings: This would pair with almost anything. It would go well with spicy Szechuan, the hops would make the spiciness even hotter. Remember there is little malt backbone to calm the spices. Maybe an aged cheddar and pasta would be nice. How about a cedar planed salmon with calamansi reduction glaze?

Cellar:NOPE

This author discloses that he received a complimentary growler fill. Thanks Kendrew and Rob. If this beer was not up to standards I would still report as such. But it is dang tasty, even though it is not sessional. VOTE WEST COAST COMMON.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Dragonfly Rye Saison by Spinnakers

I have been a little lazy with beer reviews. Luckily there have not been too many. Other good beers this week include the Lighthouse Strath 100 and Phillips Barrel Aged Rauch.
This is the latest beer release by Spinnakers. Did have one little peeve with my experience at Spinnakers. I brought my growler in for a fill of the Irish Stout. It was on the draft list, but not on the growler fill list so the nice lady behind the counter said I couldn't get any. If only she mentioned that I had to walk upstairs to get my fill of Irish Stout, I would have been a happy blogger. This was partially my fault, because it is mentioned in the email newsletter Spinnakers sends out. I always forget to read the fine print. Anyways back to the beer.
We need more rye in beer.  It adds a great dry, grainy and spicy character. This ingredient is also helpful in head formation. Rye is unfairly considered an adjunct in brewing, just like corn, sugar, caramel, potatoes and spices. Basically if it is not malted barley, it is considered an adjunct. Which I think is unfair. Imagine lumping rye and oats together with corn syrup? Let's instead call it a superawesome unappreciated brewing grain, or SUBG for brevity. Enough ranting, how was the beer?

Dragonfly Rye Saison =7/10

The initial aroma announces rye with its characteristic grainy and spicy scent. This blended nicely with the spices from the saison yeast. Each sip is creamy with that rye spice, slightly juicy with minor earthy hops. The rye does dominate the flavour but doesn't overpower. It brings out the flight fruitiness and lingers just longer enough. Very nice. 

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

Glassware: Tulip or my favourite slightly bowled pokal

Food Pairings: This would be nice with Thai food. The spicy characters would blend nicely. A nice Welsh rarebit with rye bread and sharp cheddar would resonate with saison's flavours.

Cellar: Nope, drink it fresh

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rock Bay Mash Up - Driftwood/Hoyne

I have predicted a local Victoria brewery collaboration for years. If you keep making the same prediction year, after year eventually it will happen. This collaboration was no surprise as Driftwood and Hoyne share the same parking lot. Wonder why it took almost two years for this to happen? Hopefully this will become a regular event. Local brewers must realize, that while they are friendly competitors, the bigger prize they all chase is the massive 80%+ market share owned the the big breweries. Working together will reduce this domination quicker.
Everyone knows that I am dedicated follower of classic beer styles. The Baltic porter is a style influenced by the imperial stouts on route to Russia. Much of this thick English brew passed through the sea ports of Estonia and Latvia. Naturally, local brewers prepared recipes to hopefully gain favour of the Russian imperial court. The lagered Baltic porter was born. I love a good Baltic porter. There are two that stick out in my mind: Black Boss and Baltika 6. Both of these beverages are to be purchased on sight. Maybe I should trademark that phrase, "Purchase on sight", POS for short. Nah.. might get confused with Point of Sale or Piece of ... something.
Anyways, the style should be thick like oatmeal, clean like a sanitized toilet yet fruity as an episode of "Will and Grace". What did the Cicerone Certified (R), BJCP Judge think of this mash up? By the way, I don't think the 8% ABV listing is accurate.

Rock Bay Mash Up = 6/10

The nose is unassuming with only mild hints of roast. I hoped to enjoy some thick lager characters and milk chocolate. A dark brown wash hits the tongue with an initial alcohol burn mixed with toast and Nutella. Anticipated dark berries were replaced by twinges of green apple. The mouthfeel was almost there but the thinness made things end too quickly.
Looking back, this review sounds terrible. It is rather unfair. Label this beer an extra robust porter or a foreign stout and call it even. Memories of the past flavours taint the present. I was hoping to sit down with a ridiculously underpriced bottle of Baltika 6 to relive a glorious past. Instead I got an almost $10 bottle of beer that didn't live up to expectations. The bar was set pretty high. Get out there, buy this beer. It is tasty. Just don't compare it to Black Boss, Baltika 6 or that stellar Les Trois Mousquetaires version.

Taste +3
Aftertaste 0 (it just ended)
Alcohol Content +1 8% (Does anyone have a refractometer I can borrow?)
Value +1 (only for the mash up part)
Appearance +1 Awesome label Julie

Glassware: No real traditional style here. Use a tulip or snifter. For goodness sakes don't serve me a Baltic porter, or any strong beer, in a pint glass.

Food Pairings: Grab a thick tofu steak and go at it.

Cellar: If there was yeast on board, I'd say let it age to eat up that green apple. Otherwise nope.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sauerteig Farmhouse Ale by Lighthouse

I love stealth marketing. This beer just appeared before my eyes in some backwater CBAW. It wasn't really backwater, just Maude Hunters.This bottle was wedged next to all the releases you thought were sold out like Bird of Prey, Road Trip and Old Cellar Dweller. They even had a cask of Russell brewing on the bar. There was only a minor mention of this on the specials chalk board. My server never even mentioned it. Too bad, I would have liked to try it.
Anyways back to the beer. The farmhouse/saison style beer is a style where almost anything is appropriate. As long as you use some wheat and an appropriate yeast, things are good. Between fits of coughing, Dean elaborated on this beer, "[it was] brewered as a saison with as many bakery ingredients as we could through at it, including huge tubs of of rye sourdough starter made for us by Byron Fry. Sweet and a touch sour with a little rye spiciness, this one's for more general audience than a truly sour or bretty beer would be." Collaberations are great, especially with other craft food vendors like Fry's Red Wheat Bread. A beer with a sourdough starter and rye? What did this beer prick think?

Sauerteig = 8/10

You could tell there was some funky yeast action with the barnyard smell and the multitude of little bubbles that comprised the head. The nose also presented hints of athletes foot, wheat, peppery rye and lemons. My first impression of the sip was that this tastes rather like a Berliner Weisse. I tried to homebrew a Berliner Weisse once. The sauerteig tastes way better than my homebrew. Each sip is juicy and sweet with lemons, sourdough bread and Seville oranges. The ending gives a dry finish that speaks of rye. Did I mention the tart barnyard sourness that carries all the way through? It was not a mouth puckering sour; Mrs. Left4beer called it a beginner sour. Not an overly complex beer, but interesting enough to keep you coming back.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 7%ABV
Value +1
Appearance +1 (Boring label but good description of beer. Would have been nice if QR code linked to more information about beer)

Glassware: Tulip.

Food Pairings: I really wish there was some wash rind cheese in the fridge. A pasta with tonnes of pecorino cheese would be great.

Cellar: nope. Sour character might develop more.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

What I will be doing the Victoria Beer Week

Depending what rock you reside under, you might have missed the announcements for Victoria Beer Week. Naturally all the big ticket events are cherry picked and full. If you want to go the the cask festival Saturday night, check usedvictoria.com for tickets. However, there are some events that are overlooked. Ken Beattie from Eureka Beer Guide with be doing a few beer schools on Sunday at Vancouver Island Brewery. He gives a great talk and there are still tickets for cheap. He might be serving beer during his lecture. Something I am looking forward to is the Michael Jackson documentary. Not the king of pop, the other MJ aka. The Beer Hunter. They will be serving beers from two new breweries (Bomber and Barkerville). There is also a shuttle from downtown to the Oak Bay Beach Hotel.  On Wednesday, there is a cask from Lighthouse (Dean's casks are the best) and a new release from Canoe Club. You can also drink beer in the Vic Theatre and watch Strange Brew on Sunday night. Despite a website that is riddled with typos, there is still lots to see at Victoria Beer Week. Even the Gorge Point Pub will be doing craft beer flights? For those who are Untappd freaks, there are many sampling events are CBAW stores.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Helios by Hoyne Brewing

Excitement often fills my boots when there is a new beer release in town. Will it be a sour? barrel aged? imperial something-or-other? perhaps exotic hops? The excitement faded quickly when I read the description on the Hoyne release; Dortmunder style. Perhaps I should explain. The Dortmunder style originates for the industrial city of Dortmund, Westphalia. It is your standard German light lager. Slightly tasty, mildly sweet, yet very clean. The classic example is that DAB can that is found everywhere. The most exciting thing about DAB is the can. You could fit the full description of DAB in a twitter post. The only other Dortmund style is the Howe Sound Lager. This beer doesn't garnish that much enthusiasm either. I was not very excited about opening this bomber.

Helios = 7/10


This beer is rather tasty. It pours a shimmering light gold colour that is capped by a long lasting white head. The initial aroma is a little offsetting. There is quite a sulfur presence, but that fades quickly to reveal bread and caramel notes. Perhaps you can pick up a little spicy or herbal hops if you try. It drinks a little on the sweet side but the cooling carbonation and slight mineral taste keeps it in balance. The ending is clean with only the slightest of sweet herbal linger. A nice, easy drinking beer.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 6%abv
Value +1 A decent beer
Appearance +1 (nice artwork and a reasonable description of beer taste)

Glassware: Standard lager or pint glass

Food Pairings: The flavours are fairly calm, so it will go with anything. It is sweet enough to calm spicy Thai and Mexican food. This would go well with mushroom Stroganoff.

Cellar: nope

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Spinnakers Three Way Review

I never like giving bad reviews. This review almost never left my desk, but then I thought of what  my beer friends would say. It was some kitten poster saying like "tell it like it is", "believe in your palate" and "you have a duty".  So, here it goes.

Not every beer is perfect. Sometimes brewers must take a chance and brew up something new. This is where the Hopscotch Scottich IPA steps in. It is touted as a Scottish IPA: a malty, caramelized brew with super galena hops. The super galena is a very high alpha/beta acid hop variety. This sounded really good in theory, but somewhere, things went wrong. What do I know, people on Untappd gave it 3.5 stars. However the word "interesting" shows up a lot with the experienced reviewers.

Hopscotch IPA = -2/10


The nose presented benign enough, only the faintest whiff of earthiness and caramel. Things started
off great, the earthy sweetness mixed with bready malts and a vague hop bitterness. Caramel was oddly absent, which is usual for a Scottish ale, but acceptable. Then came the wicked aftertaste: massive, tongue scraping slickness. Could this be a diacetyl bomb? Scottish strong ale do have some diacetyl, but not this much. Perhaps it was overenthusiastic use of a very bitter hop? Hard to tell. Mrs Left4beer made me dump it out because I just kept tasting it; trying to figure out what the off flavour was. Perhaps I got a bad bottle, if so, I wasn't the only one.

Taste +1
Aftertaste -2
Alcohol Content 0 6.4%
Value -1
Appearance 0

Glassware: Traditionally the difficult to find Scottish thistle glass. A pint glass or tulip would do in a pinch.


There must always be balance. Which is why the next beer has a good review. The strong Scottish Ale or "Wee Heavy" can be a thing of beauty. Rich and malty, with ample peat and dark fruit flavours. The Keg Tosser did not disappoint.

Keg Tosser = 8/10

Read the BJCP guidelines for 9E, Strong Scottish Ale, and it is all there. Deep malty nose with caramel, peat and mild fruit esters. Tick. A full and chewy sip delivers new tastes each time. with the first gulp, flavours of caramel, vanilla and peat rise up. Next time, you could be graced with dark fruits, plums or even pecans. Throughout it all there is a firm boozy sweetness to keep you focused. Excellent.


Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 8%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (I like the new label graphics)

Glassware: Traditionally the difficult to find Scottish thistle glass. A pint glass or tulip would do in a pinch.

Food Pairings: Contrast with beers sweetness with something sour. Perhaps a lemon/lime fish fillet or a grilled cheese and sauerkraut sandwich. Or use its sweet characteristic to calm spicy Thai food

Cellar: Generally not. But it would be a fun experiment. The malt flavours are complex and enough ABV to keep things safe.

I alluded to there being a third. If you are still reading, the Ogden Porter is an old recipe but still a good beer.

Ogden Porter = 6/10

Brown porters tend to be one of the calmer beers. The Ogden nose was a mild, but prepared you for the roasted and fruity flavours to come. Each sip was a simple and linear presentation of mild coffee, chocolate, blackberries and roasted whole wheat bread. Nothing overly harsh or outstanding anywhere. Some might overlook this beer with all the uber IPAs and imperial what-nots on the menu. This is sad, because the world needs serene, simple beverages.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5.5%ABV
Value +1
Appearance +1 (always better at the source)

Glassware: Straight up pint glass.

Food Pairings: Nothing overly flavourful. I'm thinking of a grilled cheese sandwich. Actually, this might work with a peanut butter and nutella sandwich. Focus on mild roasted and slightly sweet flavours. A mild cheddar and hazelnut soup just popped into my mind.

Cellar: Nope.