Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Sky High Grand Fir by Phillips

Is this the first release of the year? I think so, which is often the way with Phillips. Always with the fast and furious releases. Again with the firsts, this might be the first fir tree beer in Victoria. We have had several spruce tip releases, most notably from Tofino and Axe and Barrel.
Sky High Grand Fir = 5/10


The nose is as you would expect, forest. What was unexpected was the prominent orange crush aroma. It reminded me of a trip to Silk Road Tea House to randomly sniff the essential oil selection. Although, I sometimes feel that most evergreen trees have a slight orange smell.  The aromatic fir oil added an extra spiciness to the medium-light mouthfeel. It tastes just like it smells with an added straw, white bread malt background. Tasty enough, but I don't think I will have another.
Taste +2
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value +1 Tasty enough for one
Appearance +1 Excellent description of beer flavour considering uniqueness of taste
Food Pairing: I wouldn't try to pair this beer with anything specific, too many odd, prominent flavours. If pressed, perhaps a cedar plank salmon with an orange or lemon glaze. Get your full forest on.
Glassware: Whatever is clean
Cellar: Nope.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Will judging homebew lagers will give me throat cancer?

I admit that title was a tad shocking but I need to attract readership. It works for the newspapers, so I figured it would work for me. This title seems scary at first, "Short-term salivary acetaldehyde increase due to direct exposure to alcoholic beverages as an additional cancer risk factor beyond ethanol metabolism." One of the major off favours in beer is acetaldehyde, so we know it is present in some of the beers we drink. We also know that there tends to be more acetaldehyde present in lagers. Anyone who has judged a lager category has gotten a mouthful of green apple. Acetaldehyde is a known risk factor for cancer. This compound in beer as associated with DNA damage and impaired DNA repair. So will drinking beer put you at risk of cancer? The answer is yes, but it is not as bad as you think.

In this study, students were given various alcoholic beverages to sample. These were sampled via the wine tasting method, swish, hold and spit. The beverages ranged from beer, vodka, wine to grape marc spirit. Oddly beer contained the lowest amount of acetaldehyde of all beverages except for vodka. I'm not sure what grape marc spirit is but I plan to avoid that crap, it contained the most acetaldehyde by far.

Acetaldehyde is formed in the body by liver metabolism and mouth or colonic bacteria. This was news to me. It also explains why poor dental hygiene is associated with higher risks of certain forms of stomach cancer. Back to our beverage spitting, cancer developing subjects. After the swish and spit, levels of acetaldehyde were measured in the saliva over the next 10 minutes. This method would allow bacteria present in the mouth produce acetaldehyde.

Acetaldehyde levels rose and faded over 10 minutes of saliva sampling. As predicted, initial acetaldehyde levels in beverages we responsible for the first 30 seconds of exposure. After that, it was due to the bacterial modification of alcohol content. This was evident when comparing grape marc spirit and vodka. Levels of acetaldehyde of vodka are unmeasureable where as levels in grape marc were 15851 uM. For comparison beer only contained 210 uM. The makes sense, in beer acetaldehyde is considered to be a flaw and avoided. After ten minutes acetaldehyde saliva levels of those who sampled beer were undetectable while vodka and grape merc levels of acetaldehyde were similar. So what does this mean for beer drinkers? Beer drinking is a risk factor for cancer, but not as much as spirits due to beer's lower alcohol content.  Even in bad lagers where green apple is noticeable, their acetaldehyde levels would be lower than grape merc spirit or cider. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Top Victoria Beers of 2015 according to ME

A large thank you to all my readers this year. Especially those pointing out dirty glassware and spellling errors. 
Another great year for beer drinkers in Victoria. There were almost monthly new releases, or almost new, from Phillips. Category 12 seemed to put out a new beer quarterly, all of them good. Again this year I was not able to review all the new releases from Victoria brewers. There were a couple of reasons for this. The first is that Spinnakers didn't always publish when they had new beers. Also some were draught only; I'm not going to take detailed notes over dinner. Secondly, some of Moon Under Water's sours I did not drink, but put directly in the cellar. And lastly I sampled very few from the Four Mile; this was on purpose. Now on the the list.

1. Raised by Wolves from Driftwood. This was no surprise to most people. I wish I had purchased more bottles to see how it evolved. Hopefully we will see this one again.

2. Induction by Category 12. This was a solid Belgian-style dubble made properly. I think this one is going to be released again very soon

3. Obscuritas by Driftwood. A great beer in a great bottle. 

4. Barque by Lighthouse. I love me a good Belgian strong

5.  Insubordinate Session IPA by Category 12. A sessionable IPA and didn't taste sessional.

6. Jackline Rhubarb Grisette by Lighthouse. This was the only beer in 2015 to score a 5 in taste, and well deserved.

7. Master Blaster by Swan's. This first brett beer from Swan's was a tropical fruit funky delight.

8. De Auras Wheat Sour by Driftwood. Need I say more?

9. Waveform Wit by Category 12. It hit all the wit flavour check boxes with a new twist.

10. Legacy Ale by Swan's. It is nice to have a barley wine that is a pleasure to drink upon release. Sadly this leads to not great aging.



Honourable mentions in no particular order.

Discover Coffee Lager by Lighthouse. This did not get a formal review due to it's keg only release. The coffee flavour was subtle and had no harshness.

The sour line up at Spinnakers. Individually they would not hit the top ten list. But as a group, it was an impressive lineup for the small brew pub.

The sours at Moon Under Water. These were included because they are in the cellar, but the one's I sampled at bottle shares were stellar. I also felt bad that Moon wasn't mentioned despite all their great beers this year.

Thorn Horn from Phillips.

Black Sam Licorice from Lighthouse. 

Simplicity Ale from Category 12

Pacific Sunset from Lighthouse

Accelerated Transmission by Category 12

The best packaging of the year goes to Obscuritas by Hired Guns. With the runner up Scarfface by Phillips.

Any predictions or resolutions?

I resolve to visit the Four Mile this year. Never went last year. Still never went on that brewery tour. This year will be even harder to try every new release, as a brewery, or two, is opening in Sooke in 2016. And there might be two more production breweries in Victoria this year.

Other top 10 beer lists
Brewed Awakenings
Beer Me BC










Friday, January 1, 2016

Phillips Thorny Horn Sour Raspberry Brown

This is what I call a pseudo-sour. When I hear the word sour, I imagine tartness from Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus or Pediococcus . The sourness and tartness from this beer is fruit derived, which is just fine.


Thorny Horn = 7/10


The nose has a bit of funk to it, but all I got was raspberry jam and bike tire air. It is all about the jammy fruit tartness on par with cranberry cocktail juice. You do get a bit of chocolate and acidity enhancements. The sourness is fruit derived only.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 6.8%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (label gives reasonable description of flavour)

Glassware: Tulip

Food Pairings: I'm thinking dessert. The fruit sourness would balance a sweet cheese cake. I raspberry or other berry topping would bridge the two nicely.

Cellar: This one might develop more sourness as time passes. If you can still find one, it would be a reasonable addition.

Driftwood De Auras Wheat Sour

It is nice to see a trend towards regular sour releases by local breweries. Driftwood seems to always have one on the shelves and Spinnakers has a regular line up. At least at this moment there were five sours on tap at the Spinnakers brewpub. I will keep this short; it's a sour, it's Driftwood, you can probably figure out the rest or have already drank a few bottles

De Auras =  8/10 


The nose is oddly sweet of oak barrel, horse blanket and Gew├╝rztraminer. As expected it is tart, medium acidic with a hint of dry tannins. Each sip reminds me of a white wine. Except this wine has been steeped in horseblankets, light pit fruits, oak and a sweet acidity. Yum. Think of this as an imperial Berliner Weisse.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 6.5%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (great label art)

Glassware: Something tulip in shape. 

Food Pairings: Pair with sours is hard but not impossible. I'm thinking of an arugula salad with young goat cheese and a tart vinaigrette. This could also blend in nicely with a sweet and sour Chinese dish.

Cellar: Aging this one is a crap shoot. The malt base is not very complex, but could be fun to see what the yeast does over time.

Phillips Scarfface Cranberry Orange Wit


This beer is certainly a front runner for best label and wittiest name of the year. Although it might not be the most original; anyone remember the blood orange wit? Still, it's a tasty little glassful.
Scarfface = 6/10

Orange is the most vaporous aroma, perhaps Orange Crush or Orangina.  Naturally there is a wheat creaminess too. The taste is pretty straight forward; creamy wheat, sweet oranges and a light lingering of tart oranges.  Not sure where the cranberries went?

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value +1
Appearance +1

Glassware: Put it in a clean pint glass to keep Chapman happy. If you have an octagon wit glass you could use that, but that is a bit obsessive.

Food Pairings: Peking Duck or duck à l'orange. The tart orange flavours would bridge nicely with the duck and the effervescence would help lift the fat from the palate. Bird lovers can substitute braised bean curd.

Cellar: Nope

Lighthouse Black Sam Licorice Stout


Must fire off these last few reviews before the year in review article. Again, no preamble and please forgive any spelting mistakes. I got a new bluetooth keyboard for Christmas and am dyeing to try it out. Works grate!!
I think this is the first bomber release since the departure of head brewer Dean. Might be the second beer because there is the Discovery coffee lager; which is very tasty. Despite the limited release of the coffee lager, kegs still keep showing up. I digress.

Black Sam = 7/10


Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 7.2%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (reasonable description of flavour)

The initial aroma of Black Sam is oddly calm with icy chocolate, slight cocoa and woody. Creamy and not too astringent, this beer delivers the goods. It starts with a licorice sweetness and ends with a roasted dryness. In between is creamy dark chocolate, slight bit of earth with a little woodiness added in. The linger is just the same. Very tasty.

Glassware: A snifter would be optional, but a common pint would be fine too.

Food Pairings: The sweetness would contrast nicely with something roasted, perhaps a BBQ steak. A salted salmon would enhance the licorice flavours with the creamy and fatty textures meshing nicely. For the veggies out there ponder the flavour mix with a portabello mushroom topped with lentils, couscous and rock salt

Cellar: Maybe but not likely.