Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spring Fever Gruit (Salt Spring)

Huh, so a gruit eh? This one is hard, how does one evaluate a beer style you rarely get to taste? Perhaps we should discuss what a gruit is. That is simple: "gruit" refers to a mixture of herbs that is used to help bitter the sweet wort in beer making. This was how beer was made prior to 1000CE. It terms of world history, hops are a relative new comer.
I had to chance to sample this beer twice tonight. The variety in cask at Clive's Classic Lounge had a tad more cinnamon flavours. Then I had a bottle at home to sample. We stared at this glass a long time, all hesitant to talk about it. It was different. In some cases, different is good.

Spring Fever Gruit = 6/10

The gruit nose is very herbal, duh. There is a lot to take in: fireweed honey, buckwheat, tobacco, heather, lobelia and lavender. A light-medium body gave the palate a lot to thing about. It is very floral sweet, but yet not cloying. What is in the herbal mix? Marshmallow, yarrow, buckwheat, honey, heather? Sadly the flavours ended clean at the end of the sip. You wanted to go back, again and again to discover more earthy flavours. I liked it, but not everyone will.

Now a bit of contention about the labeling. Brewed on a full moon to bring out the potency of the botanicals. I had little difficulty with this claim. I would like to think that if the herbs were harvested on a lunar significant night, there would be more influence on potency. There is a wealth of information about circadian and seasonal variations on plant constituents. For a great summary read the Spring 2010 issue of the American Botanical Council's journal HerbalGram. Did I mention that I am an Herbalist also?

Taste +4
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content 0 5.2%
Value +1
Appearance +1 great new labels and reasonable description of beer.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Green Reaper (Phillips)

This is going to be a rough week. Four beer reviews this week. I forgot to try Moon Under Water's fresh hopped IPA. The Phillips fresh hopped IPA release is peculiar. I wonder if the timing for picking of the hops had anything to do with it? Driftwood picked hops September 5 and Satori hit shelves and it hit shelves September 26th (21 days). This is consistent with Oregon Hop Commission recommendations to pick hops mid August to mid September. Phillips' hops arrived past mid month on September 20th and brews hit the shelf October 22nd (32 days). All photos and release dates came from brewer's facebook pages. Makes you wonder is this made any difference; this is no Sartori.

Green Reaper = 3/10

The nose starts off well with muted floral hints and mild fruits. Once the fluid hits the tongue, things go wrong. There is just not much there. The hop residue is a tad flat, maybe a hint of mint, citrus, cotton candy and photocopy paper. The malts are almost non-existant, no chewiness, no breadiness, no nothing. Luckily the ending is nice, only a mild tongue coating of tired citrus hops remain. Maybe it was the picking time, who knows. I have had wonderful IPAs from Phillips. Usually the single hop IPAs in the Hop Box are golden. If you release a fresh hopped, or any IPA, in this town you will meet some fierce scrutiny. It's OK, but I was expecting more.

Taste +1
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 6.5%
Value -1 was not impressed
Appearance +1 Always great label art and good description of beer

Beer and Wine Can Help Heart Disease and Cancer

Well, this is a great news. Beer can help fight heart disease and cancer. According to an article in the online journal Nutrients, beer can do just that. Wine has better evidence for disease prevention when compared to beer. Most likely due to its higher concentration of antioxidants (polyphenols). About 30% of the antioxidants in beer come from hops while the other 70-80% come from the malts. This is another good reason to drink darker beer: more antioxidants.

There are multiple ways that moderate alcohol consumption can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Moderate imbibing can act as a mild anti-coagulant (blood thinner), increase good cholesterol (HDL), and increase your body's sensitivity to insulin (reduce risk of diabetes). This blood thinning effect of alcohol is interesting. In one study, moderate alcohol intake with dinner was able to thin the blood throughout the night. This is thought to be responsible for reducing the risk of early morning cardiovascular events (heart attacks and strokes).

The evidence associated with alcohol consumption and cancer is complicated. The World Health Organization considers ethanol to be carcinogenic (cancer causing). However there is evidence to suggest that beer (and wine) can help to prevent certain types of cancer. Xanthohumol is the most studied compound in hops that can help prevent cancer. It acts as an antioxidant, promotes formation of enzymes responsible for detoxifying carcinogens and can prevent the early growth of cancerous tumors. So far, this cancer fighting evidence has only happened in a laboratory petri dish. Melanoids in beer, amino acid and sugar combinations formed during the Maillard reaction, are thought to be anticancer, antibacterial and can help promote growth of healthy intestinal bacteria. The authors mention one Canadian study that demonstrated moderate protection from prostate cancer in men who drank beer.

There is much more research to be done. Beer and wine are rich with various antioxidants and cancer fighting compounds. However, which one of these compounds is responsible? Do they work synergistically (better together)? This is complicated by the fact that many of these compounds are not well absorbed by the stomach. I personally vow to dedicated by body to (non-invasive) science and drink a lot of craft beer. This is purely for the benefit of future generations.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Puzzler Belgian Black IPA (Phillips)

This is like Deja Vu. At the end of last year, there were tonnes of new releases. It was hard to keep up. Luckily there are many options for Victoria beer drinkers to enjoy. I only had space in my backpack for one beer tonight: Puzzler by Phillips and Great Lakes Brewery. Not to be confused with Great Lakes Brewing in Cleveland, OH, of the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter fame. The Toronto based Great Lakes makes the Devil's Pale Ale. The last year GCBF mashup was with Garrison's; they attempted a Baltic porter. This year it's the Puzzler Belgian Black IPA.So what does it taste like?

Puzzler = 6/10

This is a typical Phillips hop bomb; so it will be well liked. There is a little voice in my left ear saying, "Remove your bias, ignore the label. What would you say about it now?" Before you attempt to medicate me, the voices were from my spouse at the other end of the couch. This is a hop bomb from the moment you crack the seal; floral and citrus ooze everywhere. Massive aromas of floral and miscellaneous citrus cloud all other nasal intrusions. Maybe a bit of chocolate.. perhaps roasted coffee..maybe some spices.. Each sip reveals little else; tonnes of hops with enveloping astringency. Don't get me wrong,  being from the PNW, I love a good hop bomb. The label eludes to flavours of Belgian yeasts, I'm not getting it. Aging might lesson the hops, but that space should be saved for something else. Perhaps a slightly more spicy Skookum? I'm going to have to use steel wool to remove the hop resins from this glass.

Taste +2
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1  9.1%
Value 0
Appearance +1 great art and description of beer taste

Monday, October 22, 2012

Voltage Espresso Stout (Hoyne Brewing)

I love going into BCAW stores. Not just to buy beer - which is nice - but to observe people. My regular haunt is the Hillside liquor store, it is the closest to my house. Most people walk through the front door, open their favourite beer cooler, grab whatever and leave. They never browse. I'm sure you could paint the walls pink and most people wouldn't notice. There are a few things I notice: people drink a lot of FAXE, high alcohol beers sell well on Fridays and people drink a lot of Hoyner Pilsner. Your arm has to be pretty long to grab that last bottle deep in the fridge. The staff also seems to know a lot about beer, or local beer releases are posted in the staff washroom.
Nice clerk, "I see you got the newest one by Hoyne."
Me, "Yup"
Nice, observant clerk. "It's a stout made with local coffee."
Me, "Yup"
Good memory clerk, "It's like the beer he used to make at the other place."
Me, "Yup"
Fictional clerk,"You don't say much, you pompous twerp. I'm trying to be sociable."

Voltage Espresso Stout = 5/10

The nose is fairly straight forward: powdery espresso, slight chocolate and mild earthy herbals. Nothing new in the sip, just a dry stout ending. In the middle is a slight cooling wateriness, but it's nice. Not the most exciting beer of the year, but it is solid and I am sad that my bottle is empty. Well done.

Taste +3
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content 0 5.6%

Value +1
Appearance +1 (great art, but should have a description of the beer. I like the random story on the side)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mad Bruin by Driftwood

Have you ever opened something that was not what you were expecting. Imagine a present wrapped up under the Christmas tree; it looks like a hockey stick. Sweet! A new hockey stick for Christmas day road hockey. Your excitement grows the more you look at this stick. Christmas morning arrives and your rush downstairs to check the flex on your new Easton. Shredded wrapping paper flies to reveal ... a golf club?
I think people were expecting another Flanders red Bird of Prey; a brew that could suck your eyeballs in. I honestly thought Driftwood has nuts to release a Flanders red. This is not an approachable beer. Oud bruins are generally less sour than the Flanders red. This lack of overt sourness and more malty makes them a little easier on the palate.
That year I cried when sampling the Bird of Prey: it was gloriously sour and it aged well. Beer geeks were pleased to have another cellarable beer. The Misses didn't like it - too sour. This year the Misses loved the Mad Bruin. It was fruitier, complex and not too sour. Again I cried. I wanted something with more face twisting sourness. After finishing off a box of tissues, I reflected:

Mad Bruin = 8/10

The slight addition of tears to the glass released the nose. It was tart- yet sweet - with predictions of sourness, root beer and wood vanilla. This was not a face puller. I did long for another sip. It was tart and dry, almost cider like. Except this cider carried wood hints, vanilla, plums and miscellaneous sour fruits. The ending was dry, short and left an impression of fruity balsamic vinegar. Delicious and sessionable sour. Cellaring a few might be in order.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 7%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (great label and perfect description of the beer's flavour)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Season for Saisons Beer School

Every so often I do these 'Beer Schools'. A group of local beer geeks gather in the back room of Clive's Classic Lounge to sample and discuss a particular beer style. Here is a posting of the previous Cascadian Dark Beer School. The upcoming school has a few spots left.  If anyone wants to attend, leave a comment below with your email and I will get back to you. You do not have to be a beer expert, have an uber palate or recite obscure facts about a particular brewery. Sounding pompous is my role. However, you must have a desire to enjoy new beers and meet other beer geeks.

Summer is over, so it is time to restart the beer schools. The next one will be Sunday, October 21th, 7:30ish at Clive's Classic Lounge in the Chateau Victoria. This school will be "A Season for Saisons". I have not even chosen the beers yet; there are a lot to choose from. But it will involve the following:

1. Saison Dupont (the gold standard)

2. Ommegang Hennepin (the American Contender)

3. Le Merle - (The American interpretation)

4. 8 Wired - Saison Sauvin (A New Zealand version)

5. Another surprise

As always you are there to learn. There will be history, glassware lessons, food pairing suggestions, a cheese plate to nibble on and prizes. The same format as always: bring a pen, your palate and $20. First come first serve. This will be around 18-20 spots for this event.

Please forward this to any other craft beer loving friends who might like to attend.