Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top 10 Beers for 2011

Another beer year is over for Victoria's craft beer lovers. I think there were more releases this year than any other. This year saw Lighthouse really get into the seasonal bomber release game. 2011 was the year Hoyne Brewing starting releasing some beers. It also signaled Vancouver Island Breweries intention to release more seasonal beers. What were the top 10 (new) beers for 2011 in the eyes of a beer snob? I only listed new releases.

1. Singularity 2010 by Driftwood. This massive stout monster overwhelmed many palates and I'm sure caused a few hangovers. Flavours were unfathomable and epic in nature. Umami, bourbon, vanilla, nail polish and dark chocolate all appeared together in the same bottle.

2. Uncharted Belgian IPA by Lighthouse. This was a blended beer of Belgian tripel ale and southern hemisphere IPA. The Uncharted came a close second because it was something completely different. It also produced a few cool casks.

3. Deckhand Saison By Lighthouse. Everything a good saison should be: spicy, with cloves, barnyard and Belgian yeasts. Luckily this one has been picked up by BCLS and is currently available almost everywhere.

4. Grow Hop Centennial by Phillips. Actually the whole HopBox idea from Phillips was brilliant. A PNW single hop variety favourite, Centennial, gives hopheads what they need.

5. Hoperation Tripel Cross by Phillips. This was a revamping of the uber-sweet Surly Blonde Ale. What do you get when you uber-hop a Surly? I still super sweet Belgian style IPA. It was spicy, fruity with tangerines and pepper. Despite its sweetness, I liked it.

6. Navigator Dopplebock. I reviewed this in contrast with the Phillips Instigator; there was no contest. The Navigator had it all: rich caramel and toffee malts, thick sherry tastes and a dark fruity nose.

7. Overboard Imperial Pilsner by Lighthouse. I am starting to sound like a broken record. But dang! Massive tastes of banana bread, spicy hops and faint florals made this brew a hit.

8. Bird of Prey by Driftwood. This one wins for pure ambition alone; releasing a sour ale into an emerging beer scene - crazy. But it got all the beer geeks excited. The tart cherry and raspberry vinaigrette flavours were very approachable.

9. Iceberg Strong Pale Ale by Spinnakers. Spinnaker beers often slip by unnoticed, but this gem caught my attention. Yes it had a bit too much vegetal and soapiness, but the hops were phenomenal. Massive amounts of floral, pine played off an unbalanced lineup of honey and grass malts.

10. Double Shot Porter by Swan's. Heavy with the dry coffee grounds and bittersweet chocolate, this brew kept you awake and longing for more.

I could only pick 10 beers for my list. Certainly some of you will disagree with me. Get your own blog and write it up or leave your comments below.

Other honourable mentions (in no particular order)

Spinnakers Low Gravity Ale. For a low ABV brew, it was nice. Cereal malts, thin whole wheat toast and a nice herbal/mineral hop slap at the end.

Moon Under Water Best Bitter. I love this truly session ale. Other than homebrew, I have drank this caramel and citrus hop beverage more often any other.

Double Barrel Scotch Ale by Phillips. The flavours of wood, vanilla, sherry and peat were very long lasting

Cuvee D'Hiver by Driftwood. Locally grown malts turned into a peppery, lemony brew with a mouthpuckeringly dry finish. Yum.

Kolsch Style by Spinnakers.This was added at the request of Mrs Left4beer. Another light sessionable ale.

Spring Rite by Driftwood. Local malts with tart and sour Brett goodness, who could ask for more?

Krypton Rye PA by Phillips. Another HopBox win. A good hoppy IPA with added dry rye graininess.

Double Decker IPA by Vancouver Island Brewery. While not the biggest hop menace; it is an English style. The brew was tasty and signaled an intention of VIB to release more seasonals. Ditto for their Dough Head Gingerbread Ale.

Old Sarsaparilla by Phillips. This was something different and refreshing. Lots of herbal, spices made this release an unique treat.

My apologies if I forgot anyone; I probably did. There were so many great new releases this year.






Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Beer and Liquor might have opposite effects on Parkinson's Disease

This little bit of good news came from the American Neurological Association 136th annual meeting. This large prospective, cohort study followed 1113 people with Parkinson's disease and 305,785 individuals without. What they found was that people who drank 1-2 beers a day had a reduced risk of developing Parkinson's disease, while any amount of hard alcohol increased your risk. Wine consumption had a similar risk reduction as beer. The reasons for this were not clear, but it appears to be independent of ethanol. Researchers noted that beer contains more purines than liquor and wine. These purines (proteins) may increase the amount of urate in the blood. Urate levels in the blood have been linked to gout, they also have been shown to lower the risk of developing Parkinson's disease.   While this is unpublished preliminary evidence, the findings are comforting as I order another round. Perhaps Michael Jackson should have drank more beer and less whiskey.

Dough Head Gingerbread Ale

Thanks to Jeff K for inviting me to the lovely (yet dated) Vancouver Island Brewery taproom. It is rare that I make a big deal about a beer; I have a reputation to maintain. I was not very excited about this beer, although it was very tasty. What did get me excited was rumours that there would be more seasonal releases by VIB. This is just what Victoria needs to grow its beer scene. With more options from the Island, people with have less desire to turn their palates elsewhere. Lighthouse is now doing special releases. Driftwood has been sending out advancing brews for a while. A locally malted sour beer, brilliant. Phillips just keeps cranking the releases out like Pez from a dispenser. I'm excited to see what Chris and the VIB boys release in the new year. There was even talk of a bomber bottling line. Here is a list of places where you can try this brew on tap.

Dough Head Gingerbread Ale = 6/10

This was a tasty little beer. The nose was just like you would expect after reading the description: cookie dough, cloves, slight nutmeg and cinnamon. The medium mouthfeel gave a slight chewy and tingling sensation from the spices. It actually tasted like gingerbread. A little dry and powdery with nutmeg, brown sugar, cinnamon and cloves. These flavours held on for just a little while.

Thanks to Jeff and Chris for doing some painful market research.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5.2%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (fun art)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Southern Hemisphere Harvest

Let's give a big round of applause to massive environmental footprinting.  Seriously, hops from New Zealand flown in to make a batch of beer. Who am I to talk; I've ordered beer bottles from Belgium.


Southern Hemisphere Harvest = 9/10

Ratebeer 3.75 98th  percentile
Beer Advocate A-

At least it tastes really good. The nose was uneventful with only the faintest mix of citrus, pine and floral spices. The very hop forward taste gives a lot to think about. I'm thinking..loads of pine, floral and orange citrus, but where is this slightly burnt flavour coming from? It's good. Maybe the bready and caramel malts are carrying this sensation? The pondering carries on as the burnt pine lingers for a long time. Could it be charred orange peel? Excellent beer!

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 6.7%
Value +1
Appearance +1

Other IPA reviews
Half Pints Humulus Ludicrous
Grow Hop Centennial (Phillips)
Uncharted IPA





Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Old Sarsaparilla (Phillips)

This is something fun, a traditional root beer recipe. Sarsaparilla (Smilax febrifuga) was a common ingredient in old root beer concoctions. Traditionally, the root was used and was thought to help treat rheumatism, leprosy and syphilis. The saponins of sarsaparilla root can act as laxatives, diuretics and expectorants. There are other traditional root beer ingredients in this brew, so how does it taste?

Old Sarsaparilla (Phillips) =7/10

Two words: delicious, delicious. Not your usual ale; this beer is something unique. The aromas are full, spicy with nutmeg and that real rootbeer smell. Not that A&W crap but the good Henry Weinhards stuff. This beer's tastes are all herbals and spices. The spice rack flavours include: cloves, nutmeg, dusty roots and cooling menthol. At the end, a dusty ginger and nutmeg taste is all that remains of this effervescent brew. I couldn't drink a lot of it, but I'm glad to have tried it. Well done!

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value +1
Appearance +1 Fun, retro old west style label

Other spiced beers
Saison Du Buff
Tree Spiced Reserve


Beer reduces risk of cardiovascular events

I have been telling you this all along, and now there is more proof. A recent meta-analysis in the European Journal of Epidemiology found, for the first time, that beer is just as effective as wine in reducing the risk of cardiovascular events.  This article summarized the findings from 13 studies and determined that the optimal 'dose' of beer was 43g/day of alcohol. This amount reduced your vascular risk by 42%. Vascular risk refers to all complications from your blood circulatory system: heart attacks, stroke, etc. 43grams of alcohol works out to around two (small) bottles of Chimay blue or 3 regular beers a day (5% ABV). What was significant about this study was that for the first time both beer and wine were shown to equally reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The data produced two similar J-shaped curves graphs. A J-shaped curve for health risk tells you two things. With a little drink, your risk drops. That's the bottom part of the 'J'. As you drink more, your risk factors actually increase. This is the upstroke of the 'J'. There is a great description of this at wineanorak.

The reasons for this protection can be partially attributed to the polyphenols in both wine and beer. These polyphenols are thought to acts as mild blood thinners and can make your blood vessels work better. Whereas ethanol itself can increase your good cholesterol, lower your bad cholesterol, thin your blood and reduce inflammation. I am actually feeling healthier whenever I lift this bottle of beer to my lips.

Swan's Double Shot Porter

This is great! Two of my favourite things together: coffee and beer. If there was only a donut beer I would be a very happy blogger.

Swan's Double Shot Porter = 7/10

From the nose you know this beer should not be consumed before bedtime. It is heavy with dry coffee grounds with a little chocolate to increase the xanthine aromas. A full mouthfeel of French press coffee emits enough vapours to actually raise your eylids. The lightly added bittersweet chocolate give a nice astringency. A dry and powdery linger of coffee and cocoa remind you that you want another sip.


Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5.5%
Value +1
Appearance +1

Monday, November 21, 2011

Phillips Ancient Brown Ale

All proceeds from the sale of this beer go to the Ancient Forest Alliance.I like that, but how does the beer taste?
Phillips Ancient Brown Ale = 5/10

I have not been enthused by the Phillips releases this year. This one I like. It has a simple nose: dry, ashy with burnt nut aromas. There is quite a bit of astringency from the roasted flavours. The taste is simple- yet complex. At first you get a dry and burnt/roasted sip of powdered cocoa and pecans. Then the slight fruitiness arrives followed by their friends toast and chocolate coated peanuts. Their impressions of powdery, burnt almonds don't intrude for long. The Ancient Brown Ale is not a powerhouse of flavours but I liked it.

Taste +2
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value +1
Appearance +1

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Harvest Moon ESB and Learning

I have learned a lot from my little girl. Rarely do my reviews start with fatherly wisdom crap, but I will have a point soon. One day, my little girl's classmates were sitting around their teacher talking about what they liked, and disliked, about school. The usual opinions came up: I like storytime, I hate math, I like recess and so on. All the little ones adamantly agreed that they liked recess and lunch break the best. That is until my girl raised her hand and said that she did not like recess.
The teacher was puzzled and asked why? It was hard to find my classmates on the busy playground, my little one mentioned. Slowly, other hands went up. Her fellow classmates had the same issue with this (supposed) unanimously fun event. The teacher was puzzled, but worked out a solution to help them find each other on the playground.
I am getting closer to my point - pinky-promise. At a CAMRA beer judging event, I was seated with two elder statesmen of the Victoria craft beer scene. After a respectful kowtow, I quietly sat down and awaited the first beer to judge.
It arrived and was sampled by all of us. They talked about the interesting flavours of the beer, it's richness, complexity and how it was a good example of the style. My sip gave me pause; this beer was clearly infected and tasted like crap. A moment of doubt was focused on my palate. Then I remembered my brave little daughter. Out of my mouth blurted the words,"Yuck! This beer is off. Can you not taste the vinegar?" The honourable others were perplexed, but took another sip. They too agreed with my opinions of this beer and proceeded to document their ill findings.

This brings me to the review of the new beer my Salt Spring Island Harvest Moon ESB.

Harvest Moon ESB = -2/10

Perhaps I got a bad bottle, but others have confirmed my thoughts from other bottles in different cities. This beer is bad. I hate to say anything bad about anybody, but I gotta tell it like it is. The aroma comes across with hints of vegetal (DMS) and caramel. It is actually boardering on butterscotch. A medium to full mouthfeel was oddly creamy and slick for an ESB. Perhaps I had not tasted an ESB in a while. Nope, I had sampled a Fuller's ESB at Clive's Lounge earlier that evening. BTW the Fuller's is absolutely delicious. Each sip was disappointing, this was not an ESB. There was no rich fruit/berry flavours. Nor was there any nuttiness nor caramel aromas. It actually tasted like a plain golden ale, except the vegetal and butterscotch ruined it. There was also no hop presence to speak of. Half the bottle was dumped down the drain. Perhaps the bottle should have been returned to the store; I'm not confrontational enough. It is not as though I have not tasted an ESB in my life. Boundary Bay ESB, Naughty Hildegard, and Anderson Valley ESB share no similarity to this beer. I`m sorry, but I didn`t like it.

Taste -2
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content 0 5.2%
Value -1
Appearance +1 (nice label with good description)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Midnight Session Lager



Midnight Session Lager = 6/10

Ratebeer 3.69 98th  percentile
Beer Advocate B+

This beer is as dark as my heart. You can probably guess what it smells like. You're right; roasted chocolate and pale grass. The sip has that roasted astringency up front with more alcohol warmth than you might expect. If you like it roasted, then this one will not disappoint. The top of the mouth tingles with wood, vanilla and over toasted whole wheat bread. It might have scored higher with less roast. Did I mention it was very roasty? At least it was better than the Pacific Western Schwarzbock. I'm still mad that they released that in cans after I bought the limited edition boxset!

Taste +3
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value 0
Appearance +1 (always great labels)

Sculler's IPA


Sculler's IPA = 9/10

Ratebeer 3.43 90th percentile
Beer Advocate B+

Just a quick review. The nose was oddly vacant with only a hint of sweet citrus. The taste makes it all worth while. Big flavours of bubblegum, cotton candy, herbal and grapefruit. Slick is the feeling as this brew blasts you upfront with all things PNW hoppy; then the warming caramel malts settles things down. An excellent IPA, get it if you see it.

Taste +5
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 6.8%
Value +1
Appearance 0 (boring label)

Citra IPA (Dead Frog)
Burton Empire Ale
Sink the Bismark

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Oktoberfest does not cause pancreatitis

Well this is a relief. An article in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology followed the occurrence of acute pancreatitis (AP) in Germany. AP is a sudden swelling of the pancreas and is often caused by alcoholism. I have seen a case of AP during my hospital internship; it looked like someone was about to give birth to a keg of beer. Researchers at the University of Munich followed hospital admissions with AP at various times during the year. They found that the incidence of AP did not increase during Oktoberfest. However, the incidence of AP was higher than previously described and there was an increase at another time of year. There was actually an increase in AP before Oktoberfest. This coincided with the last 18 days of the Bavarian summer holidays. This was consistent with another study that found holiday periods increased the incidence of AP in Finland.
There were several theories on these findings. AP is generally caused by chronic alcoholism and might not be increased by a 16 day event. Patients might develop AP after leaving Munich; this is unlikely because AP develops rapidly over 48 hours. High alcohol spirits tend to increase the risk of AP more than low alcohol beverages like beer.

Other interesting facts about acute pancreatitis:
85% of AP cases are mild and resolve on their own
3% of AP cases are fatal
Finland has the highest rates of alcoholic AP
Risk factors for developing AP are being male, younger, taller, chronic intake of alcohol and nicotine and have a lower body mass index.

Driftwoods Bird of Prey Flanders Red

When I heard about this beer two thoughts went through my head: are they nuts and yippie! I have had a few Flanders sours and these are not approachable beers. The flavours can be quite intence: mouthpuckering sour, tart with hints of vinegar and cherry syrup. Hence, I thought they were nuts to brew a beer that people might think is off flavoured. The YIPPIE reaction was from the happiness in learning that a local brewery was going to brew a beer to challenge the local palates. I had a little warmup at the Alibi Room with Storm's Imperial Sour Flanders Red last weekend. This beer was excellent and impressively sour, yet sweet.

Bird of Prey Flanders Red = 8/10

I had a preconceived notion of what this should taste like, luckily my biases were unfulfilled. Often Flanders reds can be intensely sweet, the Bird of Prey is not. The nose is spot on with various fruits like cherries and currants. Added aromas of tart fruit vinegar provide curiosity. This brew sparkles when it hits the tongue and provides a bit of alcohol warmth. Flavours are not as intense as I thought they would be. Pick up a Duchesse de Bourgogne or Vichtenaar for comparison. The Bird had more wood flavours than I expected. It was very dry, ample tannins, and notably astringent. Flavours of oak, tart cherries, sour currant and a good vinaigrette were unmistakable. This beer was great! I look forward to aging a few bottles in hopes that the wood flavours will fade and more sweetness appears. I am equally excited to try future yearly releases as the barrels should impart fewer woody flavours.


Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 7.5% (I don't think so)
Value +1
Appearance +1 always great art and proper description of flavour on the bottle

Previous Sour reviews
Rodenbach Grand Cru
Monk's Cafe

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What the Huck


Just do it. Just do the review - get one more ahead. No matter how crappy it is..tick tick tic. My readers are familiar with my crappy reviews.All 90+ of them, yes I keep track. I'm goal orientated remember?

What the Huck = 5/10
Ratebeer wanted password and I was not into that today
Beer Advocate B

Ok.focus. I'm a little bit blurry from the beer- or is it from playing Left4Dead2 for over an hour? Most likely the game, we tried a new map..SHUT UP and focus.

I never expect great things from Fernie brewing; this is a fault of mine. Maybe I am held up on the name. I've been to Fernie, BC. Honestly the best part about the town was the road sign that said "please visit us again". That again is not fair- it is near... Well, the sign was very nice.

The Huck is a huckleberry wheat ale. It did not give a good first impression with it's uneventful wheat and grass nose. There was a slight berry fruitness involved. Taste is very important. WOW, that last sentence makes me sound so stupid. It tastes like every other wheat beer you have sampled: cereal, grass, yeast and citrus. The Huck added a suitable tart huckleberry flavour. It was neither too tart, nor overly syrupy. Your linger was tart yeast with an off sweet berry tongue caress. This is the perfect summer beer. If you see their Sap Sucker Maple Porter: get it!

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value +1
Appearance 0 (Fernie has never made great labels)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Muskoka Dark Ale

No much really going on in Victoria for beer these days. There is the Hermannator. I am really looking forward to the Bird of Prey Flemish Sour by Driftwood. That should be out soon.

Muskoka Dark Ale = 5/10

Ratebeer 3/03 48th  percentile
Beer Advocate B-

What is it about Ontario beers in tall boy cans? Pretty standard stuff here. Nose is lightly chocolaty with grass. The slightly creamy mouthfeel delivers a malt chocolate, roasted sweetness that ends in a mineral hop bite. Very drinkable but not too exciting. The Wellington County was better, but the battle was not very fierce.


Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value +1
Appearance 0 it's a can

Jacobsen Dark Lager
Black Tree Dark Ale
Wellington County Dark Ale

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Noir De Dottignies (De Ranke)

Still committed to getting ahead on all my reviews. Only about 300 more to go.

Noir De Dottignies (De Ranke) = 7/10

Ratebeer 3.54 94th percentile
Beer Advocate B+

Everything about this brew is big. The nose is big, perhaps a bit heavy on the alcohol side but dark fruits, roast and citrus still peak through. Noir grabs your tongue early and hits with a one-two combination of alcohol slap and citrus hop bite. Once the burn vaporizes away, you get a complex mesh of plum, raisins, cocoa and dark sugar. You are visited once again in the aftertaste by an unrelenting spicy, citrus hop linger.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 9%
Value +1
Appearance 0 (boring label)

Wellington County Dark Ale
Petrus Special
Chambly Noir and Video Game Help





Epic Beer Dinner #4 Utopia Edition

These dinners get better (and easier) with each attempt. As always the event was held at the beautiful Liquor Plus on Douglas Street tasting room - Thanks Rod. The format always involves five volunteer chefs, four local brews and something special from my cellar.

Course one was prepared by Simon. Once again he tried to poison me; this time it was with pumpkin stew. Truly a seasonal dish with all the needful flavours: pumpkin, nutmeg, cloves and other warming spices. The pairing was another comfort food: Moon Under Water's Blonde Ale. The creamy texture and notable spicy hop snap was a perfect pair for the creamy stew with its spices. Thank you Bonnie from MUW.


The next item for enjoyment was a salad by Terry. Organic greens and arugula were adorned with a simple dressing of olive oil and red balsamic crema. Don't forget the strawberries, sliced almonds and cracked black pepper on top. Our pairing for this was Driftwood's Farmhand Ale. The slightly sour/tart farmhand was a nice mix with the vinegary sweet balsamic. Black pepper flavours came from both directions. Thank you Driftwood for the contribution. I had seconds of both.




Things were building to a crescendo with the next course prepared by Jen (Mrs. Left4Beer). Even the name sounded great: Two olive tapenade on brie crostini. The pairing for a salty/fatty olive dish was obviously a good saison. Thank you Lighthouse for offering some Deckhand Saison for this event. The warming, spicy and tart Deckhand did wonders to draw out the complex and rich flavours that only brie and multiple olives and offer.


For those who like the spice, Michael always delivers. This time it was either a vegetarian or meat chili. If the stock chili wasn't spicy enough, Michael brought additional hot peppers and chilies as toppings. For a spicy dish I go with my favourite double pairing, a malty beer and an India Pale Ale. Our friends at Vancouver Island Brewery provided options: Hermannator ice bock and Double Decker IPA. Malty beers are perfect for calming spices while IPAs tend to enhance the warmth. Many guests learned that blending the two beers made a pretty good Cascadian Dark Ale. Did I mention that Michael also made bread using spent grains from homebrewing?

Finally the moment everyone was waiting for: dessert. Chef John took a bold step and attempted his first plum cheesecake with a ginger/plum sauce; it was a success! This was a perfect pairing with the cognac, dark fruits and spicy alcohol vapours that defines the Utopia. I was lucky enough to win a bottle in the LCBO lottery a couple of years ago.

As always, we chatted until the staff kicked us out. A safe trip home was not a problem thanks to Dial a Driver Victoria. Let me tell you a little secret; there really is no wrong pairing when you have good beer, great food and close friends together in the same room. Whatever shall we do for next year?






Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lulu's Lager (Longwood)


Left4beer is sad. It seems horribly pompous to feel sad after a great beer party. Last weekend was EPIC beer dinner #4 and my 40th birthday. We had 20 guests, 4 great local beers, five excellent courses and a Samuel Adams Utopia for dessert. So why am I sad? Perhaps it is that I had hit a beer geek plateau. Utopia - done. Westverleten 8&12 - done. Every Trappist beer has passed my lips. Sampled some extreme Brewdog beers. Drank a few Pliny the Elders. I've sampled a Dark Lord at Dave's house. Are there anymore benchmarks for beer geekness? Did I mention that I'm tried the Beer Geek Weasel? Once I've attended Oktoberfest that seems like it. How every can I climb the next rung in the ladder? I so need to get a life- maybe Ebay has one?

Lulu's Lager (Longwood) = 5/10

Ratebeer  oddly not listed
Beer Advocate again oddly not listed

Seems rare that I would give a lager a 4 point rating; this one was nice. The nose is as you would expect with straw, honey, floral and a hint of citrus hops. Telegraphing the taste is expected but the spicy hop flavours were a welcome treat. Again on the plus side - clean with low vegetal. The bright effervescence left a pleasing herbal aftertaste.

Taste +4
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value +1
Appearance 0 (standard label)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Moderate Drinking Protects Against Dementia and Alzheimer's Dementia

I always knew that beer drinking was smart idea; now science backs it up. German researchers studied over 3,000 pensioners (greater than 75years of age) for three years. They were questioned about their alcohol consumption and their cognitive abilities were assessed. What the researchers found was that mild to moderate alcohol consumption significantly reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. A 29% decrease in overall dementia and a 42% decrease in Alzheimer's dementia was noted. The type of alcohol consumed (beer, wine or mixed) did not matter. The reason for these finding could be due to alcohol's favourable effects on the body: increased good cholesterol, slight thinning of the blood and improved insulin sensitivity. Mild to moderate alcohol consumption was defined as 20-29g of ethanol a day. That works out to be about 2 standard beers a day.
Cheers, may you never forget what you were toasting.

Houblon Chouffe


This one is new for me; a Belgian IPA. Houblon Chouffe comes from Brasserie d'Achouffe. They are a small, but well known, brewery in Belgium. Most beer geeks know La Chouffe well, but finding these beers on draught in Canada is difficult. This brew is essentially a heavily hopped Belgian Triple. Tomahawk is used for bittering  with the spicy Saaz hop for aroma. Top make things even better, Amarillo is used for dry-hopping. "Houblon" is the French word for hop. Clocking in at 45IBU, this in not your usual triple. So, how does it taste?

Houblon Chouffe = 8/10

Ratebeer 3.9 99th percentile
Beer Advocate A-

The aroma is oddly subtle but complex. There was a lot for the nostrils to sort through: citrus, floral, coriander, light fruits and various spices. At the start of the sip, an effervescence carries this creamy brew to a warming finish. While Pacific North West hopheads will not be impressed with the magnitude of the bitterness, they will appreciate the complexity. A never ending wash of citric acid, spices, floral and light medicinal hops is suitably balanced by apricot/peach and light bready malts. These tastes morph to leave a long, and very dry, spicy sweet finish.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 9% (you can't tell)
Value +1
Appearance +1

Monday, October 24, 2011

Point Reyes Porter

No preamble today. I am focused on getting through these notes. Only 350+ reviews to go.

Ratebeer 3.54 94th percentile
Beer Advocate B+

Point Reyes Porter = 7/10

Dry and roasted cocoa is the greeting from this pour. Things only get better with an upfront rich, yet tart, bittersweet chocolate taste. At mid-sip the roastiness calms to end in an effervescent bittersweet tingle. The ending is dry with pleasurable roasted astringency mixed with alcohol warmth. A good, dry and rich (but not robust) porter.
Wow, it actually sounds like I know what I'm talking about.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content 0 6%
Value +1
Appearance 0

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Amsterdam Nut Brown Ale


Why do I even bother? There is a Herculean task ahead of me here: document all the beers in my various notebooks, cellphone notes and scrap pieces of paper. What would this accomplish. Actually nothing. At the end there will be no Brownie badge, no power up, no medal and no parade. Such is the life of a beer ticker. However I have noticed one trend in the lifecycle of the beer geek. The rate of new beers sampled is decreasing. I used to fill up one 33beers book every two weeks; now, one will last be over a month. Does this mean there is some sort of metamorphosis coming?

Amsterdam Nut Brown Ale = 5/10

Ratebeer 3.04/5 49th percentile
Beer Advocate B-

Honestly I look forward to tasting a nut brown ale as I do to brushing my teeth. The whole point of a nut brown ale is that they are easy drinking and unobtrusive. The Amsterdam is no exception. Your aroma is pecans, with slight DMS - but OK. There is a mild creaminess in the sip with a tolerable astringency from roasted grains. The more I drank this beer, the more I liked it. Its cocoa, dry toast and pecan butter meshed well with the mineral hops. Overall an enjoyable, but not challenging, beer.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value +1
Appearance 0 (it's a can!)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fischer Tradition

Let it be known, my choice to buy this beer was so that I could use the bottle for homebrewing

Fischer Tradition = 0/10

Ratebeer 2.19/5 9th percentile
Beer Advocate C

The aroma from this lifeless beer reminded me of grass, vegetables, wet paper and urine. It's flavour was no better: lettuce, grass and metallic corn. Luckily the acidic/astringent metallic and herbal hop snap at the end was short lived. It wasn't so much a snap, but a tongue smack with a wet lasagna noodle. Sometimes I think beers are exported because no one will drink this crap back home.

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

Stanley Park Noble Pilsner

Stanley Park Nobel Pilsner = 0/10

Ratebeer 2.4/5 only 3 reviews percentile
Beer Advocate N/A

Nose is about as lively as Gaddafi; maybe a bit of apple juice. Mouthfeel is light to medium and fizzy. It tastes like a stale Stella. Apple juice, slight vegetal, straw, perhaps a bit of spicy and herbal hops. Maybe Canada's most advanced brewery can use this technology to make a tasty beer. Much better in cans than on draft, but far from an endorsement. It's a little too sweet for me.

Taste 0
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value 0
Appearance 0

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Beer goggles is true


Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker. Ogden Nash said it, but science proved it. An article in the Journal of Social Psychology, tells the story of researchers showing photographs of strangers to either drunk or sober college kids. No surprises here: intoxicated people thought the people in the photographs were more attractive compared to their sober counterparts.

More evidence beer can reduce your risk of heart disease


Ok, now this is a big one. The prestigious British Medical Journal validates our obsessions. Researchers from the University of Calgary sifted through dozens of articles about alcohol consumption and heart disease. They found that one drink a day for women, and two drinks a day for men significantly reduced biomarkers associated with heart disease. A biomarker of heart disease is something in the blood that is known to cause, or has been associated with, heart disease. In this case, regular consumption of alcohol raised HDL (good) cholesterol, adiponectin and reduced fibrinogen. There was no change for triglycerides nor C-reactive protein. Low levels of adiponectin have been associated with chronic inflammation, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Fibrinogen can make your blood thicker, more likely to clot and is generally bad for you.
The best part about this article was that all types of alcohol (wine, beer and spirits) were equally effective in reducing the risk of heart disease.
Truly the cheers today is "Prost!"

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mikkeller Stateside

So it is true, I am a beer consultant! While this sounds great, it's excitement is lacking. No - I am not being fair - it is awesome. Beer bloggers are despised and paid nothing. In fact, it sucks lots of my hard earned cash to maintain this beer blogging lifestyle. Contrary to popular belief, I don't drink a lot of beer. However, the limited beer I drink is very good. Some of my vacations are focused on beer. Whenever I ask,"Honey would you mind..." I get yelled at. They know the request will usually involve beer. I doubt I will ever be a Stephen Beaumont or Roger Protz, but there will be small victories.

Mikkeller Stateside = 9/10

Ratebeer 3.72 98th percentile
Beer Advocate B+

Pick every hop flavour you can dream of and stick it in a bottle; this is that bottle. The aromas are all things hoppy: floral, citrus, grapefruit and cotton candy. Just to be certain, add a little caramel malts for perfection. An acidic astringency smacks you up front, but in a nice hoppy way. This long, dry citrus, herbal mixture lasts until the end of time. It takes a Danish brewery to create a great PNW IPA.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 7%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (just to bump up number)

Sergeant's IPA

Ranger IPA
Burton Empire IPA

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mikkeller Black Hole

Ratebeer 3.94 100th percentile
Beer Advocate B

It's a stout and it's big. Please insert the word 'big' in front of every word used to describe this beer. Aromas of vanilla, sweet chocolate, alcohol and wood are everywhere. To taste this beer is similar to licking a spoonful of honey. It's thickness coated the mouth with roast, earthy hops and burnt coffee. None of these big flavours would go away. Truly excellent.

Taste +5
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 13.1%
Value +1
Appearance +1

Mikkeller Beer Geek Weasel
Ten Fidy
Russian Gun Imperial Stout

Friday, October 14, 2011

Beer School: Sh$t you have never tried before

Sometimes you don't need a theme for beer school. Just a room full of beer geeks, some good cheese and lots of unique beers. This was the order of the night at Clive's Classic Lounge.


You know it will be a challenging night when the first beer is an abbey style dubbel. This is how it started, with Sierra Nevada's Ovila Dubbel. I thought it was a tad thin for a 7.5%ABV dark abbey style ale. There was just enough plums, raisin and spiciness to make things interesting.




Next up was the Pepe Nero by Goose Island. A black saison is an under-explored beer style. Break the mold and bring it on. Both the nose and taste was elegant with old coffee, yeasty bread and roasted bananas. The Nero was an unexpected crowd favourite.




This is my favourite brewery from Portland. Not because of their beers, but the name is great. Captured by Porches does a great job of being an ecological brewery. They brew with organic ingredients, their bottles are reused and not shipped very far. Their offering was a dark rye beer called Roggenbier. The taste was very rye like; rye is hard to describe without making reference to itself. It's flavour was very dry, ashy with toasted rye bread.



Thanks to Michael Lewis for bringing two bottles of 2008 Abyss by Deschutes. Once you have tasted one wood aged Imperial stout, you have tasted them all. They are all good, the Abyss is no exception. Massive are the favours of licorice, molasses, treacle and bitter sweet chocolate. A glycerin/thick mouthfeel made they brew almost chewy.


HUB Galactic imperial red ale boasted an IBU count of over 100. Oddly the hop profile was not overpowering. Don't get me wrong, the hop flavours of sweet tangerine, cotton candy, pine and flowers were very apparent. There was enough malt to counter this hop assault - barely.


The Rodenbach Grand Cru is the benchmark for all Flanders sour ales. You might think sour beer, yuck! Once you try a sour, you are forever hooked. Everyone loves sweet and sour sauces at Chinese restaurants, there is a good reason for that. The Grand Cru smells of sweet sherry, toast and good balsamic vinegar. Each sip is astringently tart with sour cherries which yields a balsamic sweetness. Every mouthpuckering drink was a delight. Truly a great end to a challenging beer night.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Folly of Optimism

Today I had a choice. We always have a choice, that is if you believe in free will. I do not. A random series of events placed me in front of a row of beer coolers after work. The illusion of choice was the 2011 Driftwood Satori or the Phillips Eternal Optimist. If my choice was truly free, I would have asked the guy behind the desk to grab me a bottle of Grand River Russian Gun Imperial Stout! Sadly this did not happen, so I set the thinking cogs in motion.
My palate was in an abused frame of mind. So it chose the Phillips. Odd, I have never been to Stockholm. The next question you might ask is why not purchase both? I only had room on my bicycle for one bottle; again lack of free choice.

Phillips Eternal Optimist = 1/10

There was great optimism as I viewed this beer in the glass. The colour was clear, golden and the aroma was very inviting. It was a mixture of pine, floral and faint cotton candy sweetness. The first sip revealed a medium body beer, ample carbonation and a slight astringency. Shit, I chose wrong. Yes, I know DMS is permissible in lagers. Not this much. The cabbage and lettuce coated the tongue with a mild thickness. Next the pine astringency took hold with no malt backbone to restrain it. Just when things couldn't get better, soapiness. A lingering of astringent pine, soap and would not go away. This was not really a bad beer, like say Fischer, but it wasn't great either.

Taste 0
Aftertaste -1
Alcohol Content +1 6%
Value 0
Appearance +1 Cool label and fun name.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ski to Sea ESB (Boundary Bay)

Boundary Bay is located in Bellingham, Washington. I always grab something by this brewery when traveling to Seattle. It is nice to see these beers available in Victoria; Rain City Brands brings these guys in.

Ski to Sea ESB (Boundary Bay) = 7/10

Ratebeer 3.55/5 no percentile
Beer Advocate B+

An unexpectedly strong aroma rises from the glass of this extra special bitter. It is floral, citrus and quite bready. At the start of the sip, a prominent hop tingle meshes well with the ample carbonation. This could be called a mellow IPA. The hop tingle never leaves; floral, citrus and pine are the flavours of the day. In the background, toasted caramel malts are begging to be loved. Love them I do. Sadly the toasted pine tingle fades too quickly leaving a slight astringency. A great ESB.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5.5%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (nice and descriptive label)

Driftwood Naughty Hildegard and beer snobbery at its best
Belk's ESB Anderson Valley

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Koningshoeven (La Trappe) Bock

It's a Trappist and a bock; I can think of nothing better.

Koningshoeven (La Trappe) Bock = 8/10

Ratebeer 3.5/5 93rd percentile
Beer Advocate A-

"Hello" my name is nose, and I mean business! It's all vinous, alcohol and cherries aromas. Just as expected, the sip is straight off warming. Next comes the sweet, candy sugar, black pepper, chocolate, figs and caramel. Hops, what hops, this is all about the sweetness.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 7%
Value +1
Appearance +1

Other Bock tastings
Boss Kozlak Bock
Doppel-Hirsch
Paulaner Salvator

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sink the Bismark

Another beer from the EPIC Beer dinner #2. Actually it was the main attraction. Thanks to Dave for picking this up; I don't want to know how much he paid for it.

Sink the Bismark = 10/10

Ratebeer 3.38 87th percentile
Beer Advocate B

This thing smells corrosive, yet inviting. To say massive is an understatement; so much pine/pitch, alcohol, fruits and corn syrup. Even before the liquid touches your lips, the alcohol vapours burn your mouth. The flavours of licorice, roasted hops, caramel wrap your tongue in a warm blanket. It reminds me of a good Scotch. More like a mix of Scotch, IPA and Drambuie. It is quite sweet and surprisingly drinkable. My glass still smelled of pine-sol two weeks later.

Taste +5
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 41% not a typo
Value +1
Appearance +1 (brown bag FTW)

Monday, September 26, 2011

La Trappe Isid'or

This limited release was sampled at the EPIC beer dinner #2. Yes it was a long time ago, but I'm catching up on my reviews. It is almost time to have another EPIC beer dinner.

La Trappe Isid'or = 8/10


Ratebeer 3.54/5 94th percentile
Beer Advocate B+

The nose is all big trippel: all-spice, other spices, caramel and tart yeast. A malt forward taste unleashed all things fruity and spicy. Pick your fruit and its in there. The caramel mixed nicely with the plums, raisins, apricots, yeast and spices. Dry and spicy ending is the name of the game today. Alcohol warmth rounds out the entire experience

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 7.5%
Value +1
Appearance +1

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My take on Great Canadian Beer Festival

So the Great Canadian Beer Festival happened over two weeks ago and no Victoria beer blogger has written it up. Why? Dan did acknowledge the event with three lines. There was a preview article in Monday Magazine, which Dan and myself wrote. There was a nice write-up in the Seattlest blog; naturally Eat magazine mentioned it. But no Victorian beer geeks. The question is why?
Perhaps the reason why nobody bothered to blog it was that it would take too long to write. An event this big was so daunting to document that I just thought @#$# it. I lost track of all the new beers sampled; certainly my Untappd account kept tract. Usually I shared my 4oz samples with my wife or buddy John. Sometimes it is nice to put the pen away and just enjoy. No documentation, no ticking, just enjoy!

OK maybe just a few brief thoughts.

LIKED
- Lots of new breweries we there. Tofino brewing had great beers! Ditto for the Noble Pig in Kamloops. Biggest let-down Coal Harbour. Sorry Daniel, the breakfast stout tasted like coffee grounds and ash trays.
- Ample big name American breweries attended. It was great! Everyone stood in line to sample Arrogant Bastard while those in the know drank Crannog dry.
- Enjoyed the wandering entertainers. Ray Parker does great card tricks and has lots of witty one-liners.
- Lots of friends and fellow beer lovers turned out for a great event.
- Ample tents for shade and plenty of water coolers.
- Many one off cask ales. I liked Chris's CDA.
- Vegetarian food selection was pretty good.

DISLIKES
- Many of the new brews you could not get in Victoria. Big Time in Seattle made a mean rye ale.
Monk's Indiscretion by Sound Brewery was a beer to sample again and again and again.
- The beer program was incorrect for many breweries
- The beer line ups were stupidly long. I almost lost it after hearing "what do you have?" 85 times. Listen people: read the program (never mind), look at the selection of beers while you are in line. Stop starring at your @#$# phone and decide! Seriously, I was recently at the Oregon Brewers Festival with more people and fewer beers. There were rarely line ups for any beer.
- Any group of young men making noise with drinking games should be thrown over the fence.

Enough ranting. It was a good time, always has been and always will be.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Whipass Ale (Terry's Brewing)


Here at left4beer.com, our favour cannot be purchased nor influenced by the promise of free beer. It is a great motto. However, as I look around me, I see no one else. Which means there is no 'we' and I can totally be bought for free beer!
Terry, my cascade hop dealer, gave me a bottle of home brew for review. My first thought was to be kind, then I remembered - no double standards. Here you go Terry..

Terry's WhIPAss Ale =7/10

Ratebeer does not yet rank homebrews
Beer Advocate Ditto!

Reviewing homebrew is so hard. There is a slight chance your friend messed up and you will have to tell him his beer tastes like ass. Not so for Terry! Once the bottle opens, a glorious fog and PNW hop aromas floods the room. I know Terry adds hops by the fist full. These big hands packed a whallup of citrus, pine and herbal hop goodness into the beer. Caramel and bready malts made a brief appearance at the end, almost as a cameo. The aftertaste was a tad thin and astringent. Perhaps more late edition hops are required. Terry can drop off homebrew any day.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 tasted +6% ABV range
Value +1 homebrew is awesome
Appearance +1 thanks for the stubby Terry...wait...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pacific Schwarzbock and a double standard


As you all know, I'm a sucker for packaging. This one is the king; pine beetle denim wood box, 500ml swing-top bottle and elegant artwork. How could I say no? It would be easy, "Why the @$#@ is the beer prick buying something from Pacific Western?" I got suckered in by the packaging.

So anyways, I drank this beer and thought it was pretty good - for a Pacific. Many a Pacific product have passed by my lips; none have made me smile. A few have even made me grimace. This brew is by far their best tasting release. Then I was forced to rethink my opinion. If this was released by Driftwood, Lighthouse or Moon Under Water the words of disdain would be voluminous. No double standards, so lets get started..

The first thing I noticed was the Pacific Western website mentioned that, "No sooner did our new limited edition Schwarzbock hit the shelves than it’s receiving accolades from respected beer blogs." Their link to beergeeks.ca shows a copy of their press release. No accolades nor review. Non surprising considering beergeeks is in Ontario and Pacific Western is not carried by the LCBO. Lucky for them. Not to put down the 'respected beer blog' title but they have less than 100 beer reviews on their site. They also gave favourable reviews for two Okanagan Spring beers.

If you go by the styles, as I love to do, this beer would fall in the 'bock' BJCP category. This thing is not a bock, there is no malt depth. I'm no expert, but it tastes like a 8% TNT with some added chocolate malts. The nose is absent with barely a whiff of molasses, roasted peanuts and vegetal. Each sip is flat and slick with roast, molasses, cherries (juice), chocolate and a slight herbal and spicy hop snap. Luckily the aftertaste is short lived. Granted it is an easy drinking beer for 8% ABV, but it just seems a little lifeless. The best part about this beer was the wood box and the swing-top bottle for homebrewing.

Taste +1
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 8%
Value 0
Appearance +1

Monday, September 12, 2011

Paulaner Oktoberfest Bier


Most of my readers know I'm a sucker for packaging. They also know I have a fetish for beer glassware. This gift pack from Paulaner is a double WIN! That's right, for $12 you get a mas and a litre of beer. I picked this up at the BCLS at Fort and Foul.

Paulaner Oktoberfest 7/10

Ratebeer 3.18 69th percentile
Beer Advocate B+

The hardest thing about the Oktoberfest/Marzens style is that aroma. I'm sure some connoisseur will state that it's the effects of lagering rich German malts. I still think it smells like lettuce and vomit. Luckily, Paulaner is light in the aroma department; just the standard lettuce and toast. This brew is very drinkable. Every gulp is medium and creamy with a smooth finish. As the style dictates it is very malt forward with only a hint of spicy and herbal hops to back it up. The malts are light and reminds one of honey, heavily chewed bread and straw. I liked it; sadly there were no pretzels around my house.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 6.0%
Value +1
Appearance +1 WITH A 1 LITRE MUG WOOT

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Getting high for science


Science can be awesome and envious. I now refer you to the November 2010 edition of Accident Analysis and Prevention. Researchers in Israel gave a dozen 24-29 years olds booze and drugs, then tested their performance on driving and non-driving tests. These lucky kids either received a combination of alcohol (or not) and/or 13mg of THC (or not). THC, a.k.a. tetrahydrocannabinol, is the one of the psychoactive substances in cannabis. After ingestion of wonderful botanicals, the results were not surprising. The combination of alcohol and THC had a tremendous negative impact on driving skills. Fortunately these driving tests were only in simulators. Oddly enough these subjects also sucked at other non-driving tasks that assigned to them. The researchers noted no conflicts of interest; other than the fact that the study was sponsored by Doritos.

Kolsch Style (Hales Ales)

I have come to the realization that I am a failure. Last years resolution was to get caught up documenting all my 33beer journals. The current journal is numbered 14; journal #2 has not been finished. Sighhh. such is the life of a beer ticker.

Kolsch Style (Hale's Ales) = 3/10

Ratebeer 2.97 44th percentile
Beer Advocate B+

I like a good Kolsch style but so many are done poorly; have people never tried a true Kolsch before. This one is pretty good; very light nose with straw, honey and spicy hops. The nose is also very lager-like despite being an ale. A very clean sip produces dancing flavours of apricot, honey, straw/grass with a lightly spicy hop snap at the end. There is a bit of light fruits and apricots in there also. This is not a flavour powerhouse, but something calm and refreshing. Very much suited for a hot patio.

Taste +3
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content -1 4.5%
Value +1
Appearance 0

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Uncharted Belgian IPA (Lighthouse)

So what gives a beer blogger the right to fire off his opinions about other peoples' creations? Beer bloggers are either fanboys who will say anything to hopefully become part of the 'in' crowd, or opinionated pricks who shoot their mouths off because they feel like it. Sadly I will never be part of the 'in' crowd and people have already designated me as the beer prick.
So here we go. It is always awkward to review beers that Dean has made. I say this because one day I might have to look my friend in the eye and say, "Buddy this beer tastes like ass, but the artwork is very nice." Today will not be one of those days. Despite the fact the Belgian IPA is not actually a real beer style, I still like it - no love it. Even Stephen Beaumont says that it is not a real beer style. Categorizations aside, it does adequately describe the beer. This is an unique IPA sensation because it uses hop varieties that are from the southern hemisphere. If you want to read more about this blended beer, check out beerontherock.


The nose is massive and hard to pin down because the aromas are so foreign. There is a solventy and earthy mixture of obscure tropic fruits. Guavas and passion fruits come to mind. At the start of the sip, the fruity/estery vapours mix with the alcohol to burn everything away. Once the tingling fades, there is a spicy wash of lightly astringent tropical fruits. Try to imagine a mix of guavas, cardamon, and unripe apricots. The bitterness is hoppy but not in a manner PNW hop addicts are used to. Malts? I'm sure they are there somewhere. Does it linger? It leaves a puzzling aftertaste that makes you head for the spice cabinet to try and determine what you are tasting. Well done! This beer was similar to Sierra Nevada's Southern Hemisphere Harvest.

Taste+5
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 7.5%
Value +1
Appearance +1 great art by Michelle Landry