Friday, December 27, 2013

Seven Swans a Swimming (Swans)

Last review of the year. Time to start on the top 10 beers of 2013 - according to me. The Seven Swans a Swimming is a raisin and spice version of their Centennial Saison. At least I think it is.

Seven Swans a Swimming (Swans) = 7/10

Nutmeg is strong in this one; along with aromatic friends Mr. Peach, Ms. Raisin and cousin spicy
yeast. The sip is as expected with dominant nutmeg, slightly tannic raisins and warming peach cordial. A medium linger of various mulling spices was not unexpected. I liked it.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 7%ABV
Value +1
Appearance +1 (Good indication of what beer will taste like)

Glassware: Tulips for sure

Food Pairings: Nothing too rich but fatty foods are ok. If there is a hint of spice, it will resonate with the beer well. For me this beer worked well with both Tofurkey and the spicy apple pie dessert.

Cellar: Nope

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Old Cellar Dwellar 2013 (Driftwood)


End of the year is coming up so I need to get these last reviews written before the top beer of 2013 posting. Everyone knows I rarely drink the same beer twice. I had actually planned to pick up a few Old Cellar Dwellers (OCD) to age - like I do every year. This year someone mentioned the recipe had changed. Normally the OCD's of the past have been almost undrinkable for at least 18 months or longer. This years version is enjoyably drinkable right away. In 2012/2013 the best barley wine was Swan's Legacy Ale; it was potent but yet drinkable. Phillips Drainwreck tasted like any other IPA and
the OCD was painfully hop-harsh. I could not find any Trainwreck this year, but there is still lots of OCD to be found. Perhaps this was caused by the price point: Trainwreck was $7 and OCD was $12.

Old Cellar Dwellar 2013 (Driftwood) = 8/10

The first difference was the faint nose of clean vodka with biscuits and citrus oils. Yes, the hop presence was tongue tingling but not painful. A resinous and citrus hop blast was not strong enough to hide the honey and luscious biscuit malt backbone. The hops left a medium linger of oranges, pine, spruce, spices and geraniums. All the flavours faded a little too quickly than expected. From the alcohol warmth, the ABV of 11.6% might be pretty close.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 11.6%ABV (snicker)
Value +1
Appearance +1 (Gotta love those wax dipped caps. I opened mine with sheet metal shears.)

Glassware: Tulip, snifter or chalice. Yes I know the photograph shows inappropriate glassware.

Food Pairings: Something strong tasting like grilled steak, salmon, mushrooms or Stroganoff. A nice aged, sharp cheddar would work well.

Cellar: I'm not going to make any friends here and say this beer is not cellarable. The malt base is not complex enough and the hops don't need to be calmed with age. Might buy only one extra.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Moon Under Water Wedding Tripel, Kvass and bad blogger


I have been a very bad blogger. Drinking and not documenting is unsatisfactory. So lets get to it.  There seems to be a trend to brew forgotten beer styles. Driftwood brewed a Gose, Parallel attempted to brew a sahti, Salt Spring has nailed the gruit, Phillips Robert Service ale was at one time a Steinbier and Parallel brews a braggot. Moon has produced two forgotten styles: Berliner weisse and the kvass. Even though the Berliner Heist wasn't a true sour, it was very tasty. The kvass was a brew worth getting excited about. Traditionally it is a low alcohol ale made from rye bread spiced with almost anything - in Moon's case raisins and cinnamon. If the brewing of obscure beer styles trend continues, someone will eventually brew a purl and a cock ale.

Kvass = 8/10

Sadly this was only available in cask twice. Clay mentioned there might be a bottled collaboration with Parallel 49 in the future. The nose on this brew was potent of spicy rye and cinnamon. Tasting oddly thin at 1.5%ABV, this brew had lots of other flavours. It was creamy, bready, lightly spicy with a slight tannic sensation from the raisins. All this faded behind a creamy bready curtain. I hope we see this beer again and a FULL ON SOUR BERLINER WEISSE.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 (Clay said was around 1.5% ABV)
Value +1
Appearance +1

A Belgian tripel is one beer that draws much attention for unidentified reasons. Before you post flaming comments; hear me out. If done correctly, the flavours are quite mild and subtle. It is not overly complex like an IPA or Imperial stout. Yet people love the tripel. Perhaps it is the beer equivalent of comfort food.

Wedding Tripel = 8/10

The nose is unassuming with faint grainy and light fruit aromas. Spicy yeasts and slight fusel alcohol aromas give hints of things to come. This is were the fondness for this beer style love comes from; a perfect balance of tart peach, apricots, sweet pit fruits with a dry and spicy ending. No alcohol warmth was detected. I could drink this all day; this is until I lost consciousnesses.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 9%ABV
Value +1 excellent
Appearance +1 (dipped bottles are very elegant)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Beer School Sunday December 15th -"Stuff Dave Likes"

I am starting to run out of names. This beer school is in honour of my buddy Dave Mitchell (eskimoDave). The left4beer team has assembled five of Mr. Mitchells favourite beer styles for us to sample. I'm not certain if these are really his favourite styles, but I couldn't call the school "Random Stuff" again.
Email in early to reserve your spot,Sunday, December 15th, 7:30ish at Clive's Classic Lounge in the Chateau Victoria. Jayce the new barkeep at Clive's is uping the quality of the cheese plates, so there is a slight increase in the cost of the school. The beers in no particular order:
1. Berliner Wiess by Full Sail (Hood River, OR) A low ABV sour
2. Utah Sage Saison by Epic (Salt Lake City, UT) Dave likes spicy Saisons
3. Golden Monkey Tripel by Victory Brewing (Downington, PA) Dave likes monkeys and Triples
4. 2XSteam by Southern Tier (Lakewood, NY) A double California Common. Dave has never tried it.
5. Portlandia Pils by Laurelwood (Portland, OR) Dave hates Pilsners but loves Portland

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 $25. Email me or leave a comment to reserve your spot. There will be only 20 spots for this event. Do not delay as these schools fill up quickly.
There will be only three more beer schools this season, and possibly forever. One will feature barley wines, dark stuff and a school five years in the making! All good things must come to an end.

Please forward this to any other craft beer loving friends who might like to attend. As always plan for a safe trip home.

Looking forward to seeing everyone again,
Ian
www.left4beer.com

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Centennial Saison by Swan's and no comment

I think things need to be spruced up around here. Readership is increasing, which is nice. Either that or more bots are subscribing to learn about beer. No one leaves any comments though. Barley Mowat gets lots of comments, especially when I post dumb stuff. Then again, his stuff is interesting and thought provoking. Here are the top five reasons why, I think, no one leaves comments on my blog. I also like making lists.

5. People just read the score I gave a beer and move on. Confirmation of one's palate is important.

4. No one actually reads my crappy blog. They just subscribed to be polite. I can't blame them. The layout is ugly, there are no pretty pictures and nothing else to click on.

3. My description of a beer is the definitive guide and should not be questioned. Highly unlikely.

2. Most - actually all - posts never leave room for debate or opinions. I drink, I comment, I provide food pairings. It is more of a lecture and not a forum for debate. There is no lingering question that needs to be answered. Which leads me to number 1.

1. ??? You fill in the number one reason below in the comment section below - yes there is one. Everyone hates an uncompleted list. True, this is a dirty trick but I'm OK with that.

Centennial Saison = 7/10

This is a very simple beer, but highly enjoyable. The saison part is bang on with dry citrus fruits, spicy yeast, slightly musty with a dry finish. Add to this the juicy tartness of apricots and we have a winner. It didn't linger very long, which only leaves you longing for more.

I can't find a photo of this beer, but VictoriaBeers.com has lots of pretty pictures.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 Didn't say, but it tastes around 6%
Value +1 its nice, very nice
Appearance +1 always tastes better in the brewpub

Glassware: Tulip.

Food Pairings: So this saison is sweet, fruity and slightly spicy. Indian dishes would be an ideal pairing. The fruity sweetness could act like chutney to help calm the spice, yet the spicy yeast would harmonize well. I bet you could use this beer in a reduction to glaze just about anything. Perhaps a spicy pound cake would be nice. It's effervescence could help lift the fat from any dish. Peking duck suits this option nicely.

Cellar: I don't think it was bottled, but if it was, it wouldn't cellar well anyways.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Driftwood Lustrum Sour Ale

My goodness time flies; Driftwood has been brewing for five years. Driftwood has been the first for many things on Vancouver Island, if not BC. The first wet hopped ale, the first sour and the first beer release achieving cult status. I'm not certain if they were the first to start a regular barrel aging program in BC. Regardless, this brewery has done much to open the palate range of BC beer drinkers. Fittingly, their fifth anniversary beer is a sour. It also happens to be the fifth sour to be released. The twist this time is aging in French oak and the addition of black currants. Most can guess what my review will be.

Driftwood Lustrum Sour Ale = 9/10

This juicy, red brew starts with a furious attack of tart currants, vinegar and tannic astringency. An acetous aroma instantly starts the Pavlovian response with its dark berry sourness. It has this odd flavour of young, but not green, wine. Perhaps due to the heavy presence of tannic and juicy black currants. An equal mix of lactic and vineous sourness fades linearly to a finish that appears to be dry and gritty. Very peculiar, as this is a very juicy, thick feeling brew.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 9.4% (I'm not so sure about this number)
Value +1
Appearance +1 (Nice label art with good description of beer flavour)

Glassware: Something bowl shaped is required to trap the sour and fruity aroma. A tulip or red wine glass would work well.

Food Pairings: Pairing with unique ales is challenging. Contrast this sour ale with something sweet and berry-like. I'm thinking cheesecake or fruit sorbet. Perhaps a duck breast with a wine and berry sauce would be in order. For those pesky Vegans/Vegetarians avoid the carnage and try a berry risotto or roasted squash with cranberry sauce.

Cellar: I am going to take a left turn here and say this beer will not cellar well. This beer will certainly not spoil, but I don't feel the flavour will change much. This is based on the fact that there is little residual sweetness for the yeasts to work on. The currant derived tannic character might not fade. Regardless, I plan to buy a couple more to try and prove myself wrong.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Arsenic and Old Ale

The beer you are currently drinking might contain arsenic. Try not to worry about it, as your tap water probably does also. Arsenic is a naturally occurring mineral found in the soil. In many cases, it is in such low concentrations that it will not cause any health concerns. Even the Victoria Water Department tested for arsenic but didn't find any in our water supply. But some researchers were curious as to why some German beers contained higher amounts of arsenic than commonly found in water. In some beers, the amount of arsenic was higher than the 10 micrograms per litre limit set by the World Health Organization. It was determined that the arsenic was introduced during the filtering of beer. Many German breweries use a product called kieselguhr, or diatomaceous earth. This product was found to be a significant source of arsenic.
So what does this mean to craft beer lovers? Did mostly local, unfiltered beer. A simple and tasty solution. In an unrelated story, some people have mentioned that I look remarkably similar to Cary Grant.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Road Trip (Lighthouse)

In a previous life, I attended a few business seminars. One piece of advice that stuck with me was about entrepreneurial success. The speaker said, "When everyone is going right, go left for success." Luckily this was a free seminar, because the rest of the talk was rubbish. This beer mirrors that MBA level wisdom. When everyone is making palate burning IPA bombs, try something different. Adding fresh hops to an unchallenging beer style, such as the American brown ale, seems like a good idea. Note that I did not say boring; the Brooklyn Brown Ale is anything but boring. A fairly restrained malt profile would let the hop flavours shine.
This is Lighthouse's first attempt at a fresh hopped ale; I could be wrong about this. Rumour has it that Zeus was used to brew this fresh hopped ale. So what happens when you go left? I review this beer with a bit of trepidation as I will be having dinner with the brewer on Friday.

Road Trip = 7/10

The aroma is uncharacteristically calm when compared to other fresh hopped beers. The aroma is quite restrained in revealing its earthy citrus vapours. This aromatic tranquility allows the toasted nut and chocolate malts to be a part of this flavour party. Each sip follows the nose with a juicy mouthfeel. If you are looking for the usual wet hopped profile powerhouse, this brew is not for you. I found this beer refreshingly balanced. I also take issue with the bottle format; it is too small. Perhaps this is my failure, two bottles should have been purchased.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 6.2%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (Fun label art, but I would like to have seen a better description of beer flavour)

Glassware: There is no suitable glassware style for the American brown ale. The nonic pint or elongated tulip work nicely.

Food Pairings: Rich and roasted foods are idea here. Usually this means BBQing any land based animal. A pulled pork sandwich or poutine would be ideal choices. Rich mushrooms would also compliment this beer nicely. The thought of HUB's tofu Po Boy is making my mouth water.

Cellar: Don't you dare!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How often you drink can make you fat

Obesity is an occupational hazard for beer geeks. Alcoholic beverages do add extra calories to one's diet, but studies concerning alcohol drinking and obesity have shown mixed results. In the January 2013, edition of Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism there is good news for beer drinkers. It appears that drinking frequency was inversely related to body mass index and waist circumference. In other words, if you drank daily you were less likely to be fat. Except if you were a heavy drinker, then you are still likely to pack on the pounds. This data was obtained from a dietary questionnaire of almost 8000 French men. Results were the same for both beer and wine drinkers. The researchers had a few ideas about their findings. Daily intake of alcohol might increase metabolism and reduce food absorption. Another idea was that binge drinking is linked with binge eating. Occasional drinking is associated with social events and we often eat too much at these events.

What does this mean for craft beer lovers? Don't binge drink at social events in France and you will stay skinny.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Does Beer Cause Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a group of health problems that raise your risk of developing all sorts of diseases, such as heart disease, stoke and diabetes. A few years ago metabolic syndrome (MS) was called syndrome X; I think the new name is much more inviting. If you box a trifecta in this horse race, things don't end well. For those who don't bet the ponies, this means if you have three of these risk factors your chances of developing health problems increases significantly.There are five metabolic risk factors associated with MS: abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, low HDL (good) cholesterol, high blood pressure and high fasting blood sugar.

So what does this have to do with beer? Researchers at the University of Navarra, Spain, looked into whether beer can increase your risk of developing MS. The researchers studied the diets of approximately 8000 graduates over 8 years. They were looking to see if beer, wine or spirits consumption contributed to the development of MS. What they found was that people who drank more than 7 drinks a week had a greater risk of developing MS than abstainers. A drink was considered to be 330ml of beer. Beer or spirit drinkers were at greater risk of developing MS than wine drinkers. Also, people who drank more on the weekends (a.k.a. binge drinkers) had a greater risk than those that drank less that 5 drinks on the weekend. If you drank more than 7 drinks a week, your chances of developing high blood pressure rose by 19%, high triglycerides by 107% and high fasting glucose by 54%. On the bright side, heavy beer consumption did raise your HDL (good) cholesterol. Abdominal obesity didn't really change for the 7 down club.

The researchers noticed a trend with beer and spirit drinkers. Beer and spirits were associated with after-hours binges. It was also noted that the highest alcohol drinkers were more likely to be men, older, more physically active, smoke more and drink more sugar-sweetened soft beverages. Dang! This sounds like me, except for the smoking part.

So what does this mean for craft beer drinkers? The first is don't drink beer in Spain. Next is to keep consumption in moderation and don't go crazy on the weekends. For that safety of everyone, please keep your shirt on.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Year One Red Wheat Wine and an apologetic rant

I feel that I have not given a local brewpub it's deserved share of attention. They have released, and collaborated on, a fair number of beers this year. Very few have been reviewed on this blog; time for some catch up.

Year One Red Wheat Wine = 9/10


As the name describes it, a wheat wine is a strong brew made with wheat malts. As a barley wine is a strong brew made with barley malts. Clay and crew went one step further and used three yeast strains to ferment on yellow birch. This brew is surprisingly drinkable for a double digit ABV fluid. The alcohol is warming but not hot. All over the mouth are tastes of dried fruit, pears, tannins, white grapes and pineapple. All this on a creamy blanket of wheat. My getting a growler fill of this beer was not one of my brightest accomplishments. Get a bottle or share the growler with friends. I have no friends, so the pleasure and privilege is mine.

Glassware: Choose a -small- tulip for this sample. I went for the stemmed tulip branded by Urthel. The only reason for this is that I really like this glass.

Food Pairings: Some sort of fatty white fish would be in order. Loads of alcohol to lift that fat right off the tongue. Perhaps poached red snapper with cranberry sauce would be in order. This beer could go nicely with Camembert.

Cellar: Nope. Lacks striking complexity for suitable maturation. Drink it fresh.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 Somewhere in the double digits
Value +1
Appearance +1 (Growlers of wheat wine are awesome - for only $16)

This was the first cask to be tapped at GCBF 2013 and was performed by none other than myself. Thank you Sara at the Parting Glass Blog for capturing this moment. I think Clay is whispering, "don't screw this up, everyone is watching." Luckily I did not; not bad for a first timer.


Berliner Heist =7/10

This is an arbitrary number based on a vague memory. I had mixed feelings about this beer. One side was impressed be the fresh tartness and surprising amount of flavour in a low ABV brew. The other felt cheated that we did not get a true all brett soured beer. The Heist was served correctly with a variety of sweetening syrups to counter the tart and sour flavours. But, dang it, the beer drinkers of Victoria were ready for a truly sessionable sour beer. Perhaps it was only this drinker that was ready. Regardless, I got a growler full and enjoyed every minute of it.
In the near future, Moon Under Water will be serving another obscure low ABV beer: the kvass. I was on hand to see lots of dark rye bread being tossed into the mash tun. The small batch sample was very tasty. Look for this one in the near future.







Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Black Betty Saison (VIB)

Without any fanfare, Vancouver Island Brewery released the Black Betty Saison. Normally, there is a media blitz with contests, brewery tastings and samples for local bloggers. The saison is normally a dry, lemony brew with a pronounced noble hop bitterness. Hops flavours are greater than expected due to restrained malt body. A high attenuation yeast will do that. This is also one of those beers that people like to flavour, along with stouts, lambics, wheat ales and porters. I have this disdain for flavoured porters, perhaps it is because I like porters and few local breweries make an unflavoured one. In this blogger's opinion, fruit flavoured beers are patio fare. But blackberries are a late harvest berry, fall has come early and this beer tastes great so its timing can be over looked. [VIB just announced an open house Sat. Oct 5th from 1-4pm with samples of Black Betty and the returning Storm Watcher Winter Lager]

Black Betty Saison = 6/10


There is reason to be cautious about smelling a berry flavoured beer. Often the nose is unbearably sweet. Luckily this is not the case with Black Betty. It is pleasantly blackberry with a hint of spice. This beer is not overly carbonated and the medium-light body ends with a slight sweet berry linger. Black Betty's flavour is as described, a nice balance of berry sweetness, cracker malts with a hint of spicy yeast character. This is not a flavour powerhouse but just a nice brew.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 6.3%
Value +1
Appearance +1


Glassware: Pick either a fluted Pilsener, elongated tulip or a white wine glass

Food Pairings: Restrained enough to go with any meal. Would go nicely with a fruit flan desert. The berry flavours will resonate and the carbonation and alcohol will lighten the heavy creaminess of the flan. A good cheese option would be a chevre mixed with berries. Even better, put that goat cheese on a mixed greens salad and toss with a berry vinaigrette.

Cellar: Nope, drink it fresh.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Upcoming Beer School - They will Dry Hop Anything

Fall has arrived, GCBF is a distant memory so our spirits need to be lifted. The best way I know how is to supply great craft beers. We are in for a treat this month; the name for this beer school is "They will dry hop anything!" All hoppy beverages this time; notice that I did not say beer. There will be almost 1000IBUs at our table.
Email in early to reserve your spot,Sunday, October 6th, 7:30ish at Clive's Classic Lounge in the Chateau Victoria. Here is the list of the beers to be sampled:

1. Honeymaker - Dry Hopped Mead. 12.5% ABV (Portland, Maine). No typo here

2. Spur and Vine - Hopped Apple Cider by Square Mile Cider. 6.7% ABV (Portland, OR)

3. 3-Way IPA - Fort George/Gigantic/Lompoc 6.69% ABV (Astoria, OR)

4. Nelson Imperial IPA - Widmer Brothers 8.6% ABV (Portland, OR)
5.  Hop Crisis Imperial IPA - 21st Amendment Brewing 9.7%ABV (San Francisco, CA)

6. If we sell out, I'll grab an extra hop bomb for fun. 

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. Email me or leave a comment to reserve your spot. There will be only 20 spots for this event. Do not delay as these schools fill up quickly.. 

Please forward this to any other craft beer loving friends who might like to attend. As always plan for a safe trip home.

Looking forward to seeing everyone again,
Ian

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Saturnalia Gruit by Salt Spring Island

The flavour profile of beer can be thought of the balance between sweetness and bitterness. Dopplebocks are closer to the sweet side, while IPAs drift toward the bitter side. Sweetness is provided by barley malts and bitterness is often provided by hops.This is not the case with the gruit style of beer. Before the regular use of hops, herbs and spices provided the countering bitterness and preservative properties need to enjoy a low alcohol, fermented beverage. We rarely get to sample beers where herbs and spices play a significant role in the flavour profile. This is why everyone should try the Saturalia Gruit.

Saturnalia Gruit =  8/10

From the start you know this brew is going to be different. Peculiar aromas of sweet herbals, burdock and licorice rise from this tar black beer. Things get off-setting at the first sip; this beer is assertively tart and sour. Not in a lambic way, more of a digestive bitter angle. Other odd flavours of burdock, licorice fern and cinnamon swirl around an indescribable herbal sweetness. The finish is sour, dry with a long linger. The gruit is not for everyone, but if you like sours you will like this one. It reminds me of those burdock and dandelion sodas you find in British sweets shops.


Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (nice labels with description of flavours you might expect)

Glassware: Whatever you have is fine. I would have used a stretched tulip.

Food Pairing: Good luck. Something quite sweet and spicy would resonate nicely. Perhaps toffee pudding with a hint of brandy.

Cellar: This might be a fun one to try, sort of a risk though. If those herbals flavours fade this will be one syrupy sweet beer.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Driftwood Gose-uh

Unless you have been camping, you will most likely have tried the new beer from Driftwood. The gose style originated in the city of Goslar, Northern Germany. This town also happens to be on the Gose river, hence the name. Like many beer styles, witbier is included in this list, it fell out of favour
after the Second World War and the sweeping popularity of the Pilsner. Lucky for us, brewers are looking for something new and are turning their gaze to the past. Salt Spring Island Gruit,which is also a great beer, is another example of old beers being newly brewed. Why would anyone want to add salt to beer? Sweet and salt are a classic contrasting food combination. Don't believe me? Try some salted caramel chocolates.

Gose-uh = 7/10 

This is not simply White Bark with added salt and lactobacillus. Although the nose is reminiscent of this combination: the sea air with coriander and a slight acidic tartness. Each sip is predictably dry and effervescent with a familiar spiciness. What's new is the salty residue on the lips; it is akin to swimming in the ocean. This only draws you back in for more straw malts with a refreshing lemon edge. Not a flavour powerhouse but very tasty.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5% ABV
Value +1
Appearance +1 (a reasonable description of expected flavour is provided)

Glassware: There is no traditional glassware choice, so I went with a witbier glass. This was mainly because I rarely use this glass.  Other options would be a weizen or a stange.

Food Pairing: Stick with light fare. Think goat cheese omellete, fish, lobster or a ham and cheese sandwich. Serving with a salad topped with boccaccini and capers would draw out the saltiness a bit more. Hard cheeses, like pecorino or parmigiano, would be a good pairing choice.

Cellar: I wouldn't, but then again the Lacto might increase the tartness over time.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Lighthouse 15th Anniversary Ale


15 years of brewing in Victoria, very impressive. With unexpected fanfare, Lighthouse brewing released their 15th Anniversary double red ale. There were newspaper articles, parties, and photos of this beer taken all over Victoria. This beer is essentially a double Race Rocks. Don't roll your beer geek eyes; often I abruptly end a bartenders tap list chant once the beer 'Race Rocks' is mentioned. It's a good beer, people in Victoria drink a lot of it. So what happens when you order a double Race Rocks?

Lighthouse 15th Anniversary Ale = 9/10


The nose doesn't really do much, it smells like Race Rocks. There is a small quantity of little grey cells whose only function is to recall this aroma. An abrupt sensory acceleration occurs when the unexpected full and chewy mouthfeel hits the tastebuds. This warm and creamy sheet delivers ample malt sweetness. Flavours of sweet vermouth, biscuits, raisins, cashews and toffee are everywhere. Once these flavours paint your mouth red, it is hard to remove the sweet linger. Very nice.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 8%ABV
Value +1
Appearance +1

Glassware: Pint glass or dimpled mug. Pictured above is a double sized stange. While the style of glass is normally reserved for Kolsch beers; I used it because it looked pretty. Sometimes I like to feel pretty.

Food Pairings: Cheese would be cheddar or Gouda. Both of these cheeses have a rich nutty flavour. Pair this with rich, wild game, sausage or a creamy pasta dish with nuts. I like the sound of a walnut ravioli with a little sage butter sauce.

Cellar: Perhaps. The alcohol warmth might fade to allow more malt richness.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Twisted Oak Rye Bock (Phillips)


Brevity shall be the order of writing today. Not due to lack of verbiage but lack of positive things to say. I think Mr. Beaumont mentioned a few months ago that not all things need to be barrel aged. Barrel aging will not make things inherently good.

Twisted Oak Rye Bock = 3/10


Perhaps this is a bit nit picky, but where to start - the aroma. It is very faint of cola, spicy rye and cardboard. Wood aging can round out a beer's flavour with complimentary oxidization; mild beers just smell like musty wood. The mouthfeel is right on at light to medium and lowish carbonation. Perhaps mild flavoured beers do not mesh well with barrel aging. I love that spicy, powdery rye flavour like a good Canadian. This beer just doesn't cut it. Each sip is lackluster with temperate tastes of cola, tannic oak, stale coffee and watered down Jack Daniels. The ending is a little boozy and metallic. Great pangs of guilt sting my fingers with each tap of the keyboard, but unbiased thoughts are paramount. To be fair the other two barrel aged beers by Phillips have been great: rum barrel red ale and Scotch ale.

Taste +1
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content +1 6.8% AB1
Value 0
Appearance +1 (Elegant label with good description of beer)

Glassware: Technically this is a lager, so elongated pint glasses or mugs are called for. Seeing this is a barrel aged version, perhaps something slightly rounded would be good. A red wine glass would do well.

Food Pairings: Normally bocks are rich and pair well with wild game or rich bread dishes. This one, with its rich tannic notes, might do well with cedar smoked salmon.

Cellar: Nope



Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Monkey Drummer 12th Anniversary (Phillips)

It never ceases to amaze me how certain brewers can produce a beer with such precision. 11.9% ABV on the dot is an impressive feat of brewing skill. Phillips is now 12 years old, well done. I also like the new bottles; they look a lot like the new bottles from Fuller's. Again, I shall be brief. As always my stock of witty comments and banter is limited.


Monkey Drummer 12th Anniversary (Phillips) = 6/10 


Don't get me wrong, it is a decent beer. It hits all the marks of an imperial IPA. Despite the nose that is a little faint with sweet floral, pine and a hint of earth. Chewy, sweet malts leave a lingering boozy and tingling sensation on the tongue. It is a big beer with big sweet malts that speak of cotton candy, pears and those cheap, plastic wrapped mints delivered with your restaurant bill that always remain uneaten. The hops are big, vague, yet cripplingly bitter. There is just no balance. It is as though the malts and hops are on other sides of the Grand Canyon. This is a bold beer but it just didn't WOW me. Another ponderous observation. A beer with this high an ABV must use a lot of malts and a lot of hops. These ingredients cost money. Oddly this bottle set me back around $6.50. It was one of the cheaper bottles on the shelf. Hopheads will like it, but they might not rave about it.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 11.9%ABV
Value + 0 
Appearance +1 always with the eye catching art

Glassware: A pint glass will do, but a tulip would be better.

Food Pairing: This beer is awfully sweet. Might need something salty to balance this out. Maybe something with smoked salmon or capers and tomatoes in a rich alfredo sauce.

Cellar: Nope. Get the hops while they are fresh.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kaleidoscope Mosiac IPA (Phillips)

Tonight will be a quick review as I am packing to head up island. This is essentially Hop Circle with the new and trendy Mosiac hop. The Mosiac hop is the daughter of Simcoe mommy and Nugget daddy as bred by the Hop Breeding Company (HBC) aka. Select Botanicals Group. It has been described as Citra (also a HBC variety) on steroids.

Kaleidoscope Mosiac IPA = 8/10


It is great to taste single hops variety IPAs. This way one can learn all the unique flavours in order to try and pick it out of other beers. Doesn't everyone do this? The nose is slightly grassy/earthy with hints of tropical fruit punch. Sweet tropical fruits slash across in every sip. Mosaic delivers guava, papaya and maybe pineapple in an oddly unbitter like fashion. I'm sure the IBUs are mountainous but the mouth puckering is just not there, which is nice. I would have liked to see a bit more malt depth, but you can't have it all. Why won't this sweet citrus tongue coating go away?

Taste +3
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 6.5%
Value +1
Appearance+1 (always great label art and reasonable description of beer)

Glassware: Shaker, pint or tulip

Food pairing: Aged cheddar or gouda. That stinky soft cheddar in the red plastic tub would work well. Think bold flavoured Indian food or Pho, even an arugula salad would be nice.

Cellar: Nope, drink fresh




Wednesday, July 10, 2013

La Trappe Quad

This is a treat for Victoria's beer geeks, La Trappe Quadrupel is coming to town. The Belgian Quad/Abt style ale is not actually a recognized style of beer. For those keeping track, the lighter quadrupels are lumped under Belgian Specialty Ale (16E) along with most of the Unibroue beers. While the darker Abt (Abbott) is placed in the Belgian Dark Strong Ale (18E) category. Other notable Abt styles include the Rochefort 10, Westy 12 and Chimay Blue. The name designation 'quad' refers to the fact that these beers are stronger than Belgian triples. As the nomenclature denotes, this a formidable beverage.

La Trappe is brewed by Dutch Trappist brewery Koningshoeven. The most popular bottles available  from this brewery are the Quad and the infamous tripel. It might surprise you that this is the most prolific Trappist brewery. They brew almost 10 different beers; my favourite was their bock.

La Trappe = 8/10



This beer pours with a daunting fluffy head and spicy alcohol nose. Further aroma complexities includes oranges, peaches and that chacteristic Belgian yeast. Each creamy, warming sip delivers a linear taste. It is all ripe pit fruits such as peaches, pears, pale prunes and almonds. There is a slight earthy and spicy hop ending tempered with orange syrup. 

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 10%
Value +1
Appearance +1

Glassware: It must be a chalice. All Trappist/Abbey ales need a wide brim to accommodate the massive fluffy head and mammoth aromatics.

Food pairings: Cheese: Blue cheese or anything wash rind. Pair with light, fattier meats such as wild birds, turkey and perhaps fatty fish with a light fruit sauce. Dessert options are almond tarts and marzipan. For the Vegan/Veggies out there, think white bean casserole with marjoram and easy on the sage. Personally, I would love to try this next to a Voodoo Doughnut Captain my Captain.

Cellar: Some of the booziness might fade to let the syrupy fruits come forward, but I wouldn't do it.

I got my bottle early. Liquor Plus will be getting a shipment of these in the near future. Thanks Rod for the advance bottle.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

NumbSkull Imperial IPA (Lighthouse)

Dean, the head brewer at Lighthouse, once told me he would never brew a barley wine. Why would he say such a thing? Perhaps historically, the barley wine was a special release reserved for only close friends of the brewery. It also was the demonstration of a brewer's skill; a testament to brewing ability. Call it a brewers signature. It is not that the Lighthouse team, doesn't possess mad brewing skills. Perhaps it is that Dean is a perfectionist. If you don't believe me: check out his carbon fiber, single gear, bike with the beer growler holder. Anyways I am getting off topic and indulgent. Perhaps this is due to my previous review of Joe's insider beer guide to BC beers. This writer also has insider stuff.. Actually, I don't. This is due mainly to my laziness and reclusive behaviour. Whatever, I have a bottle of southern hemisphere barley wine and 1/2 bottle of Chimay 2011 Grande Reserve in me. Let the opinions fly.

NumbSkull Imperial IPA (Lighthouse) = 9/10



Honestly I drank most of this beer while doing my previous post, so I have nothing left to draw from. So let's review this beer as the fictitious Australian barley wine style. The aroma was all south of the equator. Rakau and Galaxy hops are demonstrative of this style. Addition of citra hops blended in well. These gave a striking tropical fruit and citrus nose. Yes, there are malts. These are simple with syrupy, bready, sherry and Mackintosh Toffee hints. The linger was long with equal part hop/malt intermingle. This was a surprisingly easy to drink barley wine, despite the 9.1% ABV disclaimer. Does it hit barley wine status, yup it does according to BJCP.  Watch for official release later this week. I scored my pre-release bottle from Hillside Liquor store. Thanks again.

Oh crap the Cicerones will need their info too.

Food Pairings: Braised tofu with a caramelized onion and miso reduction. Cheese options are aged Gouda or old cheddar. Wild game or duck poutine are other options for Captain Poutine aka. Noah's Ark palate.  Other options would be dishes with spiciness or savory sweetness. Think Indian, Jamaican or Ethiopian cuisine. You could also end with a creme brulee or a fruit flan with signigiant spicy fruit toppings. 

Glassware options: Choose a wide brimmed glass like a tulip or chalice. A tulip would be a wise choice as the aromas are pronounced yet head retention in slight. If not available, look for a modified tulip. OMG that sounded beer geek pompous. Scratch that: craft beer appreciation is serious business.

Cellar Potential: Not really. There was no dominate flavours that needed to mellow. Enjoy promptly.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 9.1% ABV
Value +1 Buy it
Appearance +1 a reasonable description of beer flavour would be nice. But the local artwork is fun, despite the Comic Sans font on the label.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Craft Beer Revolution Book Reviewed

It is not often I review a book. In fact, the book review count is zero. But Joe signed my book,"Don't point all of my mistakes." I took this as a personal challenge, but first a little background. This is a
great overview of the craft beer scene in BC. There is a brief summary of - almost - every brewery/brewpub in BC. There are interviews with all the right people and nice profiles about each brewery. You can learn where these breweries are located, hours of operation and whether they fill growlers. It is not the most in-depth book on the history of brewing in BC. Watch for the upcoming three volume release from Greg Evans for this sort of coverage.
The big question is: "Should BC beer lovers buy this book?" I think they should. There is something to learn on almost every page. It is easy to read and very timely. Books of this sort are notorious for being out of date before they reach your hand. Joe asked all the right questions and got insider tips to extend this expiry date by at least one year.
Now for the criticisms. Luckily there are very few; well done Joe! The word "I" was used 865 times. If you don't believe me, count them yourself. Then again, it is mostly an account of Joe's beer odyssey across BC which adds a personal touch for the reader. Oddly there was not a write up about the brewpubs on Vancouver Island called Merecroft Village Pub and RimRock Brewpub. I have sampled the beers at Merecroft, or MVP as the locals call it. It is understandable why Joe would drive right past this place. Joe talks about great bottle shops in BC. Oddly, the 16th Street Liquor Store in North Van is not mentioned. It is a great place to get new releases. Often they still have stock after Brewery Creek and Firefly have sold out. Joe also offers some opinions about various breweries and beer release quality. I found them very true and quite tactful; I would have been more scathing.
There is a great section on cask beer in Vancouver. Spinnaker's weekday cask events only got a one sentence mention in the previous chapter. It would also have been nice to see an interview with Greg Evans (beer historian) or Gerry Hieter (Great Canadian Beer Fest Organizer). Perhaps these omissions can be added to the second edition. Also there are no pretty pictures. If you want pretty pictures, another Canadian beer author has a book full of them. Also Brendan hasn't blogged anything about beer in almost 1 year and he was never that funny.You also spelled my name wrong in the bloggers section.. Hah made you look.
But in all honestly, buy this book. It is reasonably priced and worth the read. You can find Joe, this Friday at the Beagle Pub in Victoria.

DISCLAIMER: I purchased my own copy of this book and no financial incentive was given for this review. I also consider Joe a friend based on the criteria that: he follows me on twiter and facebook, we have shared more than five beers on two separate occasions and he has shaken my hand.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Twisted Oak Scotch Ale (Phillips)

One of the best, and worst, parts about blogging is that there is no set schedule. The spring months are forgiving because brewing efforts are focused on lawnchair lagers and away from new seasonals. Thankfully hockey season is over so new bombers should be hitting shelves soon. I think Lighthouse has something coming out Thursday. Moon has the Berliner Heist and Phillips has something out called the Elsinore? Must be in the showcase pack.
 
Twisted Oak Scotch Ale (Phillips) = 7/10


Immediately one assumes this will taste like an Innis and Gunn bottle. Not true. While it does share the familiar vanilla, caramel and whiskey nose; the Phillips version is not as overly sweet. It is all there: the sweet toffee, burning whiskey, aromatic vanilla and tannic oak. Each mildly carbonated and warming sip fades to coat the tongue with slight vanilla and whiskey notes. This was pretty good, worth the price anyways. I'm remember seeing a few boxes left at Hillside liquor store.


Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 6.8% but not hot
Value +1 pretty decent
Appearance +1 great label art and reasonable description of beer flavour

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Upcoming Beer School, "Just Can it". June 9th


The next beer school is called: "Just Can It." This school will showcase the resurgence of the use for the humble aluminum can in craft brewing. There are many advantages to canning and many big names in craft brewing are canning their fluids. That didn't sound right.. 

Email in early to reserve your spot,Sunday, June 9th, 7:30ish at Clive's Classic Lounge in the Chateau Victoria. Here is a list of the beers to be sampled:

1. Hilliards Saison 6% ABV Seattle
2. Maui CoCoNut PorTeR 6% ABV Maui
3. Four in Hand IPA 6.3% ABV California
4. Maduro Brown Ale 5.5% ABV Cigar City, Florida 
5. Fort George Oatmeal PA 4.8%ABV Astoria, OR
6. Might do a local six if we get a full house
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. Email me or leave a comment to reserve your spot. There will be only 20 spots for this event. Do not delay as these schools fill up quickly..


Previous beer school about Cascadian Darks

Please forward this to any other craft beer loving friends who might like to attend. As always plan for a safe trip home.

Looking forward to seeing everyone again,
Ian

The Heretic (Driftwood)

I often wonder why I do these reviews. Perhaps these thoughts are validation for my slacking off. Any beer that is released in Victoria people will buy and it is not like there is a tonne of them. There are just enough to give us something new every weekend; which is perfect. If there are no local releases then there are scads of Vancouver beers and other imports. Yes I called Vancouver beers imports: we are on an island.  Your local CBAW is not like Everything Wine where the selection is mind numbingly vast. Bottleworks and Belmont Station are like that. You really don't need an insiders guide to sort through the vast selection of beers at your local. So why do you read my crappy-prick-like beer reviews? Perhaps you want to confirm that you think a beer is good? You don't need a beer reviewer to tell you that. A good beer is one that you like, simple! Whether a beer meets the flavour profile for a BJCP style without faults, that is another story. Perhaps you read beer reviews to see if the expert reviewer picked up the same flavours you did. I always skip to the tasting section of Taps, All About Beer, Beer Connoisseur and Beer West first for this reason. Yes, I do read all these magazines cover to cover. Often your flavour sensations will differ from an expert reviews. Perhaps you want to avoid a totally shitty beer release. This is a valid point. Luckily, it is rare that we get a truly crappy bomber release in this town. It might have a few issues, in my opinion, but it will rarely be undrinkable. We already know which breweries release bombers of inconsistent quality and tend to avoid all releases, unless it sounds really interesting. So why do we read beer reviews? I don't know. If you do, please leave your comments below.

I must act fast and review this beer. It is known that blogs cannot be too long or people loose interest.

The Heretic (Driftwood) = 8/10 


Ok, so we have a Belgian style triple in this bottle. We, or at least I, expect certain things from a triple. The nose should have a vague spicy smell (phenols) with pepper and a slight fruitiness. There should be no alcohol nor hops on the nose. Each sip should be low in alcohol perception and only medium in body with lots of carbonation. A difficult task considering the high alcohol content. The taste should be soft but deep with flavours of lemons, spicy yeast, crackers and pears. It should not linger but only provide a pleasing alcohol warmth and bitterness that could be either hops or peppery phenols. Yup, the Heretic delivers on all these points. I did notice a slight green apple taste, but it was minor. Bonus points for using local malts.

Glassware: A chalice is the perfect choice here. Some might use a snifter, but often this concentrates the already massive head.

Food pairings: All things wash rind cheese but not the blues nor Stiltons. Seafood would be a good choice, especially if there is a lemon sauce involved. Want it for dessert? Picture this with a lemon meringue pie.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 8%ABV
Value +1
Appearance +1 (always great art and reasonable good description of beer flavour)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Salty beer helps with post-exercise fluid loss

Science never ceases to amaze. Researchers at Griffith University, Queensland, Australia, tested the effects of beer as a post exercise fluid replacement drink. You might know another popular fluid them exercise until they lost about 2% of their body weight through sweat. On four separate occasions these students drank either low alcohol beer (2.3%ABV), regular beer (4.8%ABV) or these same beers with added salt. Each student drank about two liters of beer post exercise. The beers used were XXXX light (2.3%) and XXXX Bitter (4.8%); both beers have stellar reviews on ratebeer. What they found was that the light beer with salt was the best at helping to replace lost fluids. Conversely the regular, unsalted, beer lead to further fluid loss. But sadly, all beverages failed to adequately restore lost fluid after exercise.
replacement drink: Gatoraid. These university funded scientists found seven lucky students and made
The big question is why study this salty beer/exercise thing anyways? According to the researcher's introduction, "athletes have consumed beer as part of their post-match celebration or decades." Furthermore, "despite beer commonly being consumed in large volumes after exercise, there is little known of its capacity to replace fluid lost during exercise." So there you have it. After a long bike ride reach for a Gose and not a stout.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

3 Weeds (Lighthouse)


Summer is approaching so bring on the witbiers. Phillips was their usual trio around, Vancouver Island has a pair, hopefully Swan's Tessier's wit will be out soon and now one is available from Lighthouse. Honestly, how the hell can VIB Beachcomber not win a gold medal at the 2012 CBA is beyond my comprehension. Maybe for the same reason a hoppy pale ale won a medal in the amber lager category. My ranting will end now so we can begin our - brief - lesson.  Witbier means 'white beer'. The name is derived from its appearance. It usually looks white from the use of pale malts and wheat with suspended yeast. The addition of spices is also appropriate with this style. Expect to find tastes of coriander, orange peel, ginger and pepper in your glass.


3 Weeds (Lighthouse) = 8/10


Weedy aroma is equal parts yeasty spice, coriander and wheat. The creaminess hides the alcohol well until the warming end appears. The brew can be as simple or complex as you desire. Without too much thought the flavours of creamy of wheat, vague spices and ginger readily appear. If you wish to delve deeper, tastes of coriander, pepper, candied ginger, wheaties and bread can be noticed. A brew destined for patios everywhere.

Glassware: A tulip would work well. If you have a hexagonal Hoegaarden glass, use it now.

Food Pairings: Stick to the lighter but spiced stuff: chick pea curry, spiced tuna salad, poutine (yes Dave, poutine), arugula salads 

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 7.5%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (good description of beer flavour)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Off the Grid (Hoyne)

Whenever I open a beer of Hoyne I never expect extreme stuff. This is very comforting. Whatever pours from a Hoyne bottle will be solid, highly drinkable and above average in taste. Off the Grid is true to form. It was just - well - nice.


Off the Grid (Hoyne) =5/10


Faint pecans and toast aromas rose from the glass filled with Off the Grid. This followed into every sip with a medium mouthfeel that carried nutty, bready and toasted tastes to the end. The ending was clean with the faintest pecan loaf residue. Lots of people will sip this, stare into their glass, smile and carry on. Perhaps this is what makes a great session beer.

Glassware: Whatever you have will work

Food Pairing: Choose things with bready and nutty flavours. Salami sandwiches, nut burgers, pecan pie.  

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 5.3%
Value +1
Appearance 0  (label didn't really describe beer flavour well)

Shatterbier (Moon Under Water)

I feel like such a failure; there were no notes taken about this beer. Sometimes you must do these sorts of things. Not think too much about a beer. Sit back, crack it open and savour the flavours without trying to pick it apart. SNORT, that was funny. Beer pricks never do that. It is true that no notes were taken about this beer. Luckily the little grey cells are still working.

Shatterbier (Moon Under Water) =8/10


Normally when brewers try to blend beer with coffee, they go the easy route. Stick those beans in with a stout or porter and you can't do wrong. Blending that roasted or brunt flavour with a delicate golden ale had me a little leery. But we must not forget that coffee can be roasted and brewed to be light and fruity; a perfect match for the golden ale. The nose was light and fruity with calm, toasted aromas from the coffee meshing well. An expected heavy handed roasted espresso smack never arrived. Perhaps the flavour was similar to a light roasted pour-over. This combined with the mild peaches, floral and effervescence of the golden ale perfectly. I forget what I paid for this beer, but it was under priced. It does look intimidating and the side writing is hard to read, so it will probably linger in the shelves. This is good news for local beer geeks that appreciated an experiment gone well.

Glassware: Chalice. The massive aroma and carbonation needs somewhere to spread. Other options would be a tulip or snifter.

Food Pairings. This is a tough one. Perhaps something light and mildly roasted. Lightly grilled sea bass with a lemon sauce. Welsh rarebit would be nice.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 9%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (perhaps the second most elegantly packaged beer in Victoria to date. Hoynes Gratitude is still #1)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Alcohol consumption reduces risk Grave's disease

For some reasons this study caught my eye (pun intended) . Apparently regular and moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages reduces the risk of developing Grave's Disease. This is an autoimmune disorder that leads to an overactive thyroid. It is rarely life threatening but can cause symptoms of anxiety, irritability, sleeping problems and exophthalmos (bulging eyes). The type of beverage did not matter (beer vs. wine) nor was age or gender a factor. Maximum risk reduction was found in people who drank more that 3 units of alcohol per day. Depending upon who's math you use, that works out to drinking just over one 5%ABV pint a day. So Prost! For your health and make your thyroid happy.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Double Dragon Red Ale 2013 (Phillips)

This was one of the craft beers that really got me excited, but that was many years ago. Many people, including myself, have felt this beer has been lacking in recent years. Fortunately, this is a good year.

Double Dragon Red Ale 2013 (Phillips)  =7/10


The hop nose is very Phillips like, is that Centennial? This combines with a toasted bread and slight plum aroma. Malts follow close behind with a equal mix of plum, toasted bread and grape nuts. While this is quite a malty brew; the hop blast is not forgotten. It slowly builds with all its floral, citrus and herbal goodness. At the end, an alcohol warmth burn the esophagus but does not remove the hop linger. Finally the Double Dragon is almost as good as it used to be.

Glassware: Stemmed Pilsner. There is no really correct glassware for this. Other good options are the nonic or a snifter.

Food Pairings: Roasted and bitter items: grilled steak salad, BBQ pork, mushrooms or brussel  sprouts. 

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 8.2%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (Still one of the best labels in Victoria)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Festival Ale (Vancouver Island)


This beer was created for two up island music festivals: Vancouver Island Music Fest and VicFest. The different labels contain the same lightly dry hopped Pilsner-like beer with ale yeast. Before you all start rolling your eyes, just wait a minute. Not every beer needs to be a palate challenging, imperial, wood aged and exotic yeast gastronomic masterpiece. These beers have their place; like at a beer gathering where you debate whether you are tasting are Thompson, Flame or sultana raisins. Beers like the Festival ale are perfect for hot days listening to outdoor music. That being said, I enjoyed this beer. It was simple yet tasty. There was no flavour wheel thought involved.

Festival Ale (Vancouver Island) = 4/10

Straight off the nose draws you in with light citrus and floral aromas. The malts are clean with a little bit of honey and  vegetal chewiness. Lots of carbonation cleanses the tongue and leaves a barely discernible spicy and citrus hop snap. That is it, very Kolsch like. Lots of people will like this beer.

Glassware: Fluted Pilsner or stange. The pictured glass is the wrong choice for this and any other beer. I was too lazy to go downstairs and get the proper glass.

Food Pairings: early dinner course options like salad or cheese and crackers. Lobster, pasta and seafoods are other good options.

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

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Clodhopper Dubbel (Driftwood)

I have been away for two weeks and there are so many local releases to review. Yes, I know: first world problems. So enough of my whining. The latest release by Driftwood is a locally malted dubbel abbey style ale. Local malt was produced by everyone's favourite Island maltster: Mike Doehnel. Abbey style ales were originally brewed in monasteries. "Dubbel" does not refer to double the strength of the single. Before widespread literacy, batches of beers were labeled with one, two or three crosses denoting their relative strength. Today dubbels are the dark, fruity abbey ales that hit an ABV of around 7%. When you pick up this bottle at your local CBAW store, you will most likely notice the slight premium price for an usual bomber release. I like this idea of supporting truly local products for a nominal premium; keep it up! Enough rambling commentary, how does it taste:


Clodhopper Dubbel (Driftwood) = 8/10

The nose is spot on with dark sugar and toffee aromas with no hop presence. Each sip is thick and warming, but not too much. Hints of chocolate, raisins and toast are layered upon a sherry like backbone. It had a lingering taste of salt water taffy. Hard to tell if that tongue tingling was the alcohol or hops. Either way I liked it. This one might be worth cellaring; hopefully some of that warmth might mellow out. Well done.

Glassware: chalice or goblet. The wide top helps to dissipate aroma and allows space for large head common for this style. In this case I used the Leffe abbey glass.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 7% ABV
Value +1
Appearance +1 (nice art and reasonable description of flavour)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Does beer consumption lead to obesity

This is the eternal question, "Is the beer belly a myth?" The answer is not clear. Recently, researchers at the University of Copenhagen tried to answer this question. They conducted a review of all scientific literature concerning abdominal and general obesity and beer consumption. Their findings were mixed. French women who drank beer had a bigger waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), while this
occurred in German in Czech men only. Overall, there was no conclusive correlation between beer drinking and obesity. It appears that volume and frequency of beer consumption appear to play a role in weight gain. Men who drank more than 4 litres per week tended to have more abdominal obesity. Drinking frequency also played a role in obesity. They found that frequency of drinking was inversely related to weight gain. This means that binge drinkers were more likely to be overweight than those that consumed the same amount of alcohol daily. There was little evidence than moderate beer consumption, less than 500ml/day, caused beer bellies.
The researchers has a couple of thoughts about why beer drinking might be associated with weight gain. Firstly, in some populations beer drinkers have poorer diets than other beverage drinkers. In the US population, drinking beer was associated with higher energy intakes and reduced intake of fruits and veggies. This was in comparison to wine drinkers.
Secondly, beer drinking is associated with smoking. Something else that has been associated with weight gain. The association with exercise and beer drinkers was mixed. Beer intake was greater in college athletes than lazy students. 
So there you have it: science says you will not get fat by drinking a daily pint. Just don't smoke, stay away from the chicken wings and get some exercise.

Rum Barrel Aged Red Ale (Phillips)

You can try and knock the big guys, but they are giving beer geeks what they want: new releases. This month Phillips released two brews. The Double Dragon red ale and a similar rum barrel aged version. Previous years of DD have been great, but recent releases have been lackluster. Their last month oak aged scotch ale is still in the fridge. Extra time is needed to allow the oak tannins to mellow before sampling. This sounds better than I am lazy and plan to get around to it later. Barrel aging is a wonderful thing; the addition of spirit flavours and tannins can truly enhance a beer. Perhaps Phillips will barrel age tap water one day?

Rum Barrel Aged Red Ale = 8/10


The red ale nose is sweeter than expected; lots of black strap molasses, rum and dry toast around.  Also unexpected was the creamy, medium full mouthfeel enhanced by a slight tannic astringency. This beer on its own would be quite boring, but the wood aging added something special. Grape must, cherry cola, nuttiness and rum are a great addition to any malt forward beer. A predictable ending of creamy, barreled rum with treacle follows each sip. Food pairings should include earthy flavours. Perhaps cedar planked salmon or creamy mushroom risotto. Don't stick this one in your cellar; there are not any sharp flavours that need to be mellowed.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 (6.8%) I don't think this is right though
Value  +1 (I liked it)
Appearance +1 (As always great label art

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Barnacle IPA (Lighthouse)

The first time I tasted this beer, I was seated on the floor of Eskimodave's apartment. No this was not some sort of beer cult worshiping. Dave didn't have enough chairs and I don't have an aversion to sitting on the ground. Dean passed around this bottle for the beer geeks to try. We were all astounded. It was delicious, fresh and an emerging style of beer. A wheat IPA?! It tasted great, but it will never catch on.
Currently, two wheat IPA releases have come through Victoria. I believe VIB struck first with the Flying Tanker. This brew will be returning in summer, as it is a hybrid of the currently available  Beachcomber Ale. Phillips followed with the Electric Unicorn. Perhaps they were both following the Belgian White by Lighthouse. Regardless, I digress. What do you get when you cross a familiar hop profile with added wheat malts? Two words: awesome! Wait for it, the bomber release of the Barnacle IPA is very soon.

Barnacle IPA (Lighthouse) = 9/10

The nose is familiar to everyone who likes to switch up their favourite beer. There is something else: cream of wheat. Tropical fruit aroma is still a major player but it is tempered with the creaminess that only wheat can provide. Gone is the gripping hop IPA bite, replaced by the creamy smooth southern half hop linger. Is this a hop showcase powerhouse: no. But it is something that will draw you in sip after sip.

I was recently asked about appropriate glassware selection: fricken Cicerones. I chose the quarter or 1/8 yard beer glass. This is the signature glass by Kwak. This is not correct glassware selection, but I found two of these glasses at a thrift store for $4! I had to show them off. What about food pairings? Perhaps a breaded sea bass with a fresh lemon squeeze. For the vegans out there: try a quinoa salad with arugula, Mandarin oranges and pine nuts. To make my neighbour happy, try it with the pulled pork poutine and corn bread.

I am really, really trying hard to hold it together. Dean promised me a growler of their upcoming maibock release, so I am emptying my growler of Barnacle IPA. Despite what you all think, I don't really drink a lot of beer. When I drink; I drink well. So a maibock? I love bocks: strong lagers are where it's at. There are currently no bright, spring time patio bocks. Unless you wanna suck back a Holsten big boy can. I sense a lack of cohesion, so ..good night.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 8%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (mine is a growler, which is awesome)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Creme Brulee Vanilla Stout (Saltspring Island)

This, I believe, is a first for BC craft beer. Notice I said 'craft'. Liquor Plus worked in collaboration with Salt Spring Island Brewing to create one unique beer. Essentially Salt Spring Island brewed a one-off batch of beer and Liquor Plus bought it all. I can think of a few people who would shudder at this idea. But bravo to Rod Phillips of Liquor Plus, for taking a risk to further craft beer in BC. Collaborations like this are not new in Canada. The EPIC Sherbrooke Liquor store in Alberta has worked with a few breweries to create their own beers, the most noteworthy is Paddock Wood.

Creme Brulee Vanilla Stout = 8/10

An inky black pour with a tan head is a sign of a stout that means business. The first point of order is the real caramelized vanilla aroma. It reminds me of Madagascar vanilla in full fat ice cream. A lighter than expected body, for an 8%ABV brew, touches almost every stout flavour. There are berries, milk (lactose), caramel, faint coffee, vanilla creamsicles and cola. The slight tongue slickness is easily overlooked because the long finish is all sweet, milk chocolate and vanilla. It is a sweeter stout, but not excessively so. People will like this beer, especially fans of the Lighthouse and Phillips chocolate porters. The Creme Brulee flavours are not robust enough to warrant cellaring. This beer is only available at Liquor Plus starting this upcoming Monday, March 25th. How did I get my hands on a few bottles? I would like to think my l33t blogging status places me into the in crowd. Most likely, Rod let me buy a bottle early so I would not harass him all weekend.


Taste +3 (Bonus points for organic malts)
Aftertaste +2
Alcohol Content +1 8%ABV
Value +1
Appearance +1 (Good description of flavour and elegant label)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Belle Royal 2013 (Driftwood)

It is with great trepidation that I open this bottle of Belle Royal Sour Cherry Wild Ale. Opening a bottle of Driftwood used to be a feeling of great excitement; now that has been replaced by apprehension. You may have noticed that there was no review of the Singularity 2013 this year. Others couldn't care less what I think. This is the third sour by Driftwood. The Bird of Prey was a glorious thing. The Mad Bruin was also a solid performer but paled in comparison.

Belle Royal 2013 (Sour) = 7/10

Sitting in French and Appalachian oak does funny things to a beer. It gives the nose a funky, muddled cherry aroma. The sip is mild at first with the predictable tart cherries, wool blanket and oak tastes. What is lacking is the sweet vinaigrette. Perhaps all I want is for every sour beer to taste like Rodenbach or Monk's Cafe. Then the lemon and pineapple acidity wash over the tongue with a slight numbing sensation. It feels like my tongue is being digested by fresh pineapple enzymes. The ending is very dry, refreshingly tannic with a slight fruity rawness. If someone gave me this drink blindfolded I would have guessed it was a sangria with too much pineapple juice and oaked chardonnay.
Upon reading my above review, it sounds so horribly pompous and biased. Buy this beer, you will enjoy it. It is mildly sour, tart, fruity and very refreshing. I has hoping to relieve my first sour beer experience. Your first bottle of Rodenbach Grand Cru will forever be the unobtainable benchmark. Mestreechs Aajt is a second best.


Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 8%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (great art as always with good description of flavour)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Absolute Darkness (VIB)

This the forth bomber release by VIB. A unique India Dark Ale release is the flavour this quarter, even if the style name is unspeakable. Like always, VIB lets loose the marketing machine and highlights something local. In this case it is the Horne Lake caves and campground. The very busy release party had several people promoting this Island attraction. Well done for supporting Island events.


Absolute Darkness = 7/10

The first thing to hit you is the grassy and floral hop nose. It is quite pronounced, but I don't seem to mind. This grassiness takes a backseat to the sip of equal parts floral, lemongrass and slight spruce hop assertiveness. Then the dusty, milk chocolate and toast malts make an appearance. They are all in perfect balance, but the floral grasses never really go away. The aftertaste reminds me of lavender candies I got from Harrods.  It is a tasty beer and no doubt people will enjoy it, but something is out of sorts. Maybe the nose is a tad too grassy and the body a little thin, but these are my delusions of beer critic grandeur speaking.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 6.5%
Value +1
Appearance +1 (supercool glow in dark label)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Cabin Fever BIPA (Phillips)

What are these kids at Phillips doing? The new releases keep coming, or do they? Today it is a Black IPA. No one these days will dare use the 'C' word, but I won't go there. Next week Vancouver Island is releasing an India Dark Ale. Someone might steal the name, but no one can steal our lust for dark, hoppy beers. So is this beer actually new? Well.. check the ABV compared the Phillips Amnesiac: same. Smell compared to Amnesiac: same. The taste is well.. similar. Could this be the Amnesiac with dark malts added? Who knows? Irregardless, it is hoppy and fault free: hence, everyone will love it. I did, but is it actually new?


Cabin Fever BIPA = 6/10

This starts off with the classic, and glorious, Phillips hop nose. Once whiffed, a special set of brain cells is dedicated to its recall. You all know it: part sweet citrus, part floral pine with a hint of spun sugar. An oddly thin mouthfeel delivers the goods: a hop forward astringency with slightly chocolate and bready malts. The ending is smooth, sadly short lived with only an ounce of alcohol warmth. There is just enough grapefruit and pinesol to make the mouth happy. Is there anything wrong with being aggressively popular? Next year, perhaps more dark malts and a thicker mouthfeel please.

Taste +3
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 8.5%
Value 0 It is good but not really new
Appearance +1 always great art.