Saturday, October 25, 2014

Seaport Vanilla Stout and Beer Fairies

I love beer fairies. There are very few perks to being a beer blogger. Other than the fame and glory, there is not much else. There is no fortune, there is constant abuse and people loosely borrow your format. Perhaps I should be flattered. Every so often, free stuff comes my way. This was my lucky day, I came home to free beer on my doorstep! A wise and daring enigma left this bountiful box for me. I feel obligated to do a review as the accompanying press releases called me a 'champion of craft beer.' Actually it called everyone who got a box the same thing.
I do not have a degree in marketing, nor a degree in economics, nor a degree in behavioral psychology. These defects do not allow me to critique the new packaging. However, Mrs. Left4Beer very much liked the new packaging and found the iconic/naval signal flag theme appealing. Perhaps this is mission accomplished. With the trend in beer packaging to more elaborate and flashy packaging, the simplistic and iconic style of Lighthouse is refreshing. I really like the bottle caps. If there was a T-shirt available I would wear it proudly. hint..hint. This blog is more concerned about what is inside.

Seaport Vanilla Stout = 8/10


I liked this beer, and not because it was free. Perhaps I am wrong, but this tastes a lot like Keepers Stout with added vanilla. The nose started off with a hint of earthy vanilla, a dusting of chocolate and traces of well seasoned coffee. A friend of mine brought me a very elegantly worded tap list from the Mute Swan Pub. This list might have influenced that first sentence. Each full and creamy sip peels away layers of roasted astringency, cocoa nibs, dark chocolate and homemade vanilla ice cream. Yah, that tap list influenced me a lot. This beer is good. Tastes like Keepers with Madagascar vanilla. Which is great because every Victorian beer drinker secretly hopes they will get a case of Keepers for their birthday. I know I do, hint, hint. Even better an advent calendar that has a Keepers everyday, with a Shipwreck IPA on Friday. Shipwreck is the new name for SwitchBack IPA.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content 0 5.5%
Value +1
Appearance +1 I like the box! Ummm nice new packaging?

Glassware: A snifter if you are feeling fancy, or a nonic if you are in a hurry. Or a La Chouffe glass if you made a super-awesome thrift store find!

Food Pairings: Dessert all the way. A flour-less chocolate brownie with whipped cream would be delightful. Ribs with smoky vanilla BBQ sauce might overload the vanilla pleasure spot in your brain. If you want to try something messed up, may I suggest stew heavy on the chili powder.

Cellar: Yes, in mine. Trust me, I will keep it safe.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Drinking beer helps men at high risk of heart disease

I admit the title is a bit of a stretch, but I needed to hook you in somehow. The title should read, "Polyphenols in beer reduce atherosclerotic biomarkers in high cardiovascular risk men." The previous title is less likely to cause drowsiness. A study in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases gave 36 older men free beer, alcohol free beer or gin. It is known that polyphenols and alcohol in fermented
beverages reduce the risk of heart disease. This study intended to determine what parts helped what.
Atherosclerosis is a low grade, inflammatory disease that leads to plaque build up in arteries. These lucky guys were given a daily dose of either beer (660ml with 30gm ethanol and 1209mg polyphenols), alcohol free beer (similar polyphenol count) or gin (30gm ethanol and no polyphenols). After four weeks, these guys 'donated' a crap tonne of blood and all sorts of cardiovascular disease biomarkers were measured.
What the researchers found was that the polyphenols and alcohol affected their health in different ways. The
alcoholic beer and gin increased good HDL cholesterol and reduced fibrinogen (blood clotting factor), but the alcohol free beer did not. Yay booze. Only the alcohol free beer increased folic acid and lowered homocysteine (heart disease risk marker). Yay vitamins, boo booze. Systolic blood pressure also decreased with alcohol free beer. Yay polyphenols, boo alcohol. Both beer and alcohol free beer reduced leukocyte expression of adhesion molecules (trust me this stuff is bad news). Yay polyphenols.
So what does this mean for beer drinkers? Drink dark beer (rich in polyphenols) with ample hops (flavonoids) and low in alcohol. Can you say stouts or session strength Cascadian dark ale? Hope I don't get sued for that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Moon Under Water Maxminer's Altbier

Sticking with the Moon's signature brewing style we have another German influenced beer; the altbier. This is also another collaboration, which is something Clay and crew do a lot of.  Altbier means 'old beer', which could be applied to almost every German and European style of beer. When one mentions altbier, they are generally referring to a dark, lagered ale from Düsseldorf. Think of this as a dark Kolsch. Typically the alt style expresses some dark ale characteristics: caramel, dark fruits with a mild hop floral and spiciness. Extended cold conditioning (lagering) tends to smooth out the edges and cleans up the finish. How does the Maxminer stack up? Brilliantly.

Maxminer's Altbier =7/10


The nose is a tad restrained but enough clean, caramel maltiness floats up. There might be a little floral spiciness too. Alt beers are never flavour powerhouses. Each sip is clean with great balance between tame chocolate, caramel, bread, raisins and floral/spicy noble hops. True to form is hits all the marks and just tastes... well, good. The finish holds a slight tongue coating of sweet caramel. A very enjoyable beer, sadly it is only a seasonal.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5.3%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (always better from a growler in a proper glass)

Glassware: The altbier uses the stange style glass, but generally it is a bit larger (330ml). I picked this smaller size because it said 'Alt'. You could also pick a Willibecher.

Food Pairings: Anything caramelized and restrained in flavour will pair nicely. Would work well with grilled chicken, all things pork or a BBQ portabello mushroom burger. Mushroom caps with young Gouda sounds darn tasty.

Cellar: Nope

Monday, October 6, 2014

Playing catch up August and September

People think blogging is easy; it is not. It pains me to drink all these great local beers and fire off my opinions. The research involved can take hours: looking up facts, consult other tasting notes and determining impact upon local beer scene. Hah, who am I kidding - blogging is easy. I am just lazy. Plans are made, notes are taken but the world conspires against me. Sometimes it is a Herculean task to raise myself from the couch. Binge watching NCIS with Mrs. Left4Beer is quite enjoyable after a pint - or two. Agent Gibbs is the worlds most dangerous man.
Impressive procrastination require creative solutions. Maybe I should try a stream of consciousness approach to beer reviews. Let the stream begin. Sounds like I just faced off with the urinal.
Octofox from Phillips was a usual release from the boys and girls on Government street. It was a well done bomber of hoppy goodness. This one was more on the tropical side: mangoes, pineapple and caramel apples. When I think about, has any new Phillips release been anything but hoppy?  I'm not talking about the revisited favourites like the Rifflandia beer. The Kangarooster keg was another hoppy American IPA. I'm sure this scary clown beer will also be a hop bomb too. Let's give the Octofox a seven; it was darn tasty. The Kangarooster beer gets a four. There was a bit of funk in there that might not have been intentional. I might not drink the scary clown beer, I have this thing against buying six packs. Maybe it will be on tap at the Drake. On my shopping list there will most certainly be the Gerry Hieter Cherry Ale. Why are there all these Phillips releases all of a sudden? Oh right... The advent calendar. There was an article in the Boulevard magazine with Matt Phillips which stated that each beer would be different.
Who else released beer this week. Not sure about Spinnakers, there have been no emails from them lately. Either they have nothing to say or no one is handling the media emails. Could be both. In the past, I have visited the historic waterfront brewpub and found new beers on tap with no press release. The coffee and spoke beer comes to mind. Mind you, this was a few months ago.This might have been the first cold brewed coffee beer produced in Victoria. Cold brew coffee is proper; it showcases a good quality bean.
What else have I drank this week? Road Trip by Lighthouse was nice. A fresh hopped beer that is not an IPA/PA is refreshing. Sadly the American brown style Road Trip does not really display the fresh hop goodness well. It does makes for a tasty, juicy hop beer. This one gets an eight; pair it will roast (either vegan or flesh) and gravy. Glass? Anything pretty will do. I should insert a picture in here soon... There - perfect.
This photo brings me to my next beer: BenchWarmer by Moon Under Water. This beer is fricken great. Well done John Adair and Jeff! This blonde brew packs lots of cereal and oat malts with understated flowery and spicy hops. There is a bit of lemon citrus for good measure. This beer gets a nine! Definitely serve in a Star Wars glass. Pair with a lemon breaded trout or any creamy pasta. This might even go well with a Hollandaise sauce. I can't wait to try the Moon's other collaboration with Molsons. There is more to this story, but Altbier is a good ending.
I forgot to mention the fresh hopped beers. Satori was awesome, as usual.Was a little disappointment with the Wolf Vine this year. It smelled and tasted like wet dog. Looking forward to the Phillips fresh hop release in Mid October; doesn't seem very fresh thought. Didn't this same thing happen a few years ago?
There. I'm all caught up, you figure out your own pairing.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Phillips 13 Knot Anniversary


I have seen some great marketing ideas during my blogging days. There have beers in pine boxes. One litre sized cans in a German stein was nice. Glow in the dark labels are fun. Bottles hand wrapped in paper are very elegant. No one can deny the pull of an Advent Calendar full of beer. This marketing idea by Phillips almost tops them all. Who can pass up an drink combination that could be called the PNW boilermaker? An imperial IPA with a side of liqueur, this is great. Reminds me of something the legendary Bert Grant was rumoured to have done. He would place a few drops of hop oil extract into any beer he was drinking if it was deemed underhopped. There is a nice write up about the pricing and legality on Brian's Blog. So how does this marketing gimmick taste?

Phillips 13 Knot = 8/10

This review will be in three parts; IPA only, liqueur only and both together. Perhaps we should start with the best part, the Hop Drop liqueur. I am certainly not an expert on spirits, but this hop drop is darn tasty. The favour is similar to a dry hopped mezcal. Ample honey sweetness and smooth with a slight pine and citrus addition. Very nice. This the best part of the package. Drink the spirit, trade the beer.

The Impy IPA on its own tastes like any other Phillips hop bomb. It reminded me like last years anniversary IPA and the year before last years. A beverage sure to please the hop heads in BC. Massive hop bitterness that is a mix of key limes, grass, pine and tropical fruits. The acidic mouthfeel feels like you did a face plant into a pile of pine needles. Once the initial attack fades, there is a lot of flavours to work through. There is cotton candy, pine sol, geraniums, pie crusts (Thanks Brian), and bread dough.

The two parts together make it a quite syrupy sip with acetone vapours. It almost becomes hard to taste anything, but there are whole wheat croissants, pine resin and a citrus fruit basket.

Interesting fact: It is illegal in some states to display a noose. 

Taste +3
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 (11.8 or 13%)
Value +1 (the liqueur is worth the cost)
Appearance +1 Great packaging

Glassware: Definitely a tulip.

Food Pairings: I honestly can't think of any food that could stand up to this exorbitantly hopped beverage.

Cellar: Maybe, since I plan to have a few bottles left over.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Thoughts and rants on GCBF

Last year someone mentioned that there was no Beer Fest thoughts by a local blogger. There was a reason for this; it is our time to enjoy, be with friends and relax. No thinking, no analysis just enjoy some great local beer. Lucky for you I have no friends and can't learn to relax. Here are my thoughts about this years Great Canadian Beer Fest.

The food looks great this year. There are two regulars (Ali Baba Pizza and that delicious Caribbean place) and four food trucks. Thank you food trucks! Menus are posted on-line so you can plan ahead.

I'm assuming there will be lots of awesome volunteers, great musicians and entertainers. I wonder if that guy in the Mad Hatter outfit will be doing card tricks again. But enough of that; let's talk about the beer.

CASKS

In previous years the local brewers have delivered lackluster casks, with the exception of Lighthouse, Moon and Swan's. Many of the other casks in attendance were a dry-hopped regular beer. That is not a cask, it's an afterthought. This year, we cask people are in for a treat. Of the 40 casks that I noticed, there were only three that mentioned they were dry hopped regular beers. Twenty two casks did not mention anything unique about ingredients or yeasts. To me this says beer in steel barrel and put on counter to look good. While the remaining fifteen noted a unique brewing technique or ingredient addition. Top cask picks in no particular order
- Central City - Impy IPA collaboration with Ninkasi, P49, Gigantic aged in Cognac and Bourbon barrels
- Driftwood Singularity - Extra long boil them matured in Makers Mark bourbon barrels
- Lighthouse Currant Event - Soured with whacky yeast collection for nine months with additions of black currents, wheat, spelt, rye
- Moon x2 - Anniversary ale with grape juice on oak and Berliner with raspberry and Brett.
- P49 - Sour red ale in French oak for 18 months. Now that is planning
- Townsite - Kombuca wheat. This one sounds interesting.
These casks will be available on Friday. It should be sadly noted that Tofino will not have a cask at beer fest. Their spruce tip IPA last year was stellar.

New Breweries

I noticed 14 new BC breweries in attendance at this years beer fest. This is only 1/2 of the number of new breweries that opened in 2014, according to Jan Zeschky. I plan to check out the ones that are furtherest from: Three Ranges (Valemont) and Wheelhouse (Prince Rupert). True, Barkerville brewing is far away in Quesnel, but their beers are readily available in Victoria. The list of new beers to try is daunting, but here are my picks:
- Brassneck Magic Beans - Brown ale with cold brewed coffee
- Canoe Rye IPA - brewed in collaberation with Gerry Hieter.
- Cider Riot from Portland - everything
- Deep Cove - patersbier
- Fuggles and Warlock - Black Rye IPA (the name says it all)
- Green Leaf Acid Trip - Berliner weiss
- Three Ranges Red Ale
- 33 Acres Seasonal (unnamed at time of GCBF listings) perhaps Axel M or Schol.

US Pavilion
Most of the US breweries will be nestled within their own little enclave, with exception of Cider Riot from Portland. This area will be a mix of must and must not try beers. There are a large portion of these beers you can currently find on store shelves in Victoria. While the masses are lined up to try Stone's IPA, Fat Tire or 90 Minute IPA check out these hidden gems:
- Caldera Brewing IPA
- Kulshan Brewing IPA
- Saugatuck Milk Stout
- 90 Minute IPA - yah it's worth the wait.
- New Holland - Dragon's Milk Stout - Bourbon Barrel Aged HELLO!


Hopefully attendees will explore new beer options and not just drink stuff they can find on tap anywhere. Of the local stuff here are the items I am looking forward to trying:
- Big Rock Rhine Stone Cowboy Kolsch - Yes Big Rock. I had a sample of this Kolsch and found it very nice
- Lighthouse new Pilsner (Yes the Pilsner market it saturated but not many are any good)
- Longwood Ginseng - Just for an Untappd tick and giggles
- Old Yale Sasquatch Stout - this beer is great. 2014 BC beer of the year. Maybe Old Yale should mention this on their website
- Steel and Oak red pilsner - sounds like a nice twist
- Water from the cooler. Must stay hydrated

See you all there. I will be the one in my usual blue Hawaiian shirt.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

4 Mile Summer Wheat Ale

2014 will be known as the year of number breweries. The 4 Mile Brewpub bombers hit the shelves this week. Very soon we shall see things from Category 12 Brewing. The 4 Mile will be the first brewpub that is not within walking distance of downtown. It shall join the -hopefully- growing list of brewpubs in the Western Communities. The Loghouse Pub will be brewing in the near future, though not in time for a Great Canadian Beer Fest appearance.
Perhaps we should learn a little bit about beer on this post. Let's learn about diacetyl. The phenomenon of diacetyl in beer is a lengthy discussion. So I shall be brief; it is bad. The flavour of diacetyl is similar to butter and should only be noticeable in English style ales. Then it should only be slightly present. If you want to taste diacetyl, grab a bag of microwave popcorn or visit the 4 mile pub. If you wish to learn more about diacetyl as on off flavour in beer, check out this site.
During the brewing process, yeast does its thing and converts fermentable sugar into all sorts of stuff. This stuff is both good (alcohol, carbon dioxide, ester, phenols) and bad (diacetyl, fusel alcohols, etc). A good brewery will allow the yeast to continue working and naturally remove the diacetyl it has produced. If young beer is removed from the yeast too early, diacetyl can be left behind. This is generally considered a flaw in the brewing process. There are other causes of diacetyl such as unhealthy yeast or infection from other bacteria (pediococcus). But to again summarize: diacetyl is bad.

4 Mile Summer Wheat -2/10


Perhaps I am being a bit harsh. Maybe not, many reviews on Untappd reflect my feelings.
The nose of the Summer Wheat is heavy with butter. There is a little bit of wheat and cracker malts also. Each chewy sip leaves a long sticky smear of diacetyl than no amount of carbonation can remove. I failed to taste much else except the buttery diacetyl. If pressed for something else, I would guess about lemons and wheat. Most of this beer hit the drain. There will be no further beer money spent on 4 Mile beer. On the positive side, this is the best packaged beer in Victoria to date. The whimsical artwork was very eye catching. It also gave a good description of what beer should have tasted like with food pairing ideas.

Taste -1
Aftertaste -1 (long and sticky)
Alcohol Content 0 4.5% is a nice sessionable strength
Value -1 (not a good beer)
Appearance +1 These are the nicest labels in Victoria. Very eye catching with good description of theoretical flavours and food pairings.

Glassware: Pint glass will do. If you have a six sided jam jar, now is the time to fetch it.

Food Pairings: Usually you can pair this beer with anything. Would go well with pasta salad topped with pecorino cheese. Seafood would also be a good choice. For those into fish, this beer style goes great along side trout with lemons.

Cellar: more like drain