One of Bodegraven, Netherlands most inventive craft beers is Angst & Beven aka Fear & Trembling. Before fully introducing the beer itself I should mention that lambic and Berliner weisse are not the only sour beers brewed in history. One of the styles to survive through beer folklore is the Gose a slightly sour and salty wheat beer. Angst & Beven is described as being a Gose-ish ale barrel aged with a whopping 12.2% ABV. My only previous experience with the gose beer style is a seasonal brew produced by Calgary’s Wild Rose craft brewery.
Pouring out a dark amberish gold with a steadily growing plume of off white head Angst & Beven looks like an amber ale by all appearances. The head settles slowly to a thin cap of a few bubbles showing both the high alcohol content and the barrel aging. The nose is crisp with toasted wheat malt as well as fruity with a light acetic fruity note and mild citrus punches. A mild mannered, malty mid section with a slight salty sourness approaching near the finish. A rich, earthy barrel presence overcomes the mild sour note and lingers into the aftertaste with a bit of boozy warmth. At no point does this seem like a 12.2% beer showing off more barrel and gose flavours.
Over the past 7 years I have delved into the world of craft beer; every so often I encounter a brew I place aside to enjoy down the road. A good amount of these brews are of high alcohol content that were either too intimidating at the time or needed some rest to become properly enjoyable. Once in a blue moon I drink one of these such brews….today I open a brew from Microbrasseurs Les Trois Mousquetaires out of Brossard, Quebec. This bottle is the Porter Baltique a 9.2% strong porter from the Autumn of 2010. Three years of maturation inside of a bottle does wonders for such a beer allowing the in bottle yeast sediment to continue the carbonation process while allowing the flavour profile to mature.
I have previously drank this beer on several occasions so subtle details may become evident.Sometimes an aged beer has such pent up carbonation the cork will have a violent and rapid expulsion from the bottle…so be careful. Porter Baltique’s cork is a bit stuck at first but let go with a modest pop. Pouring out a slick, purely opaque black with a huge foamy tan head which settles to a thin layer a few mere bubbles thick at parts; this is true evidence of aging. A few quick swirls of the glass shows some minor alcohol legs on the glass that disappear quickly. The nose has a heavy roasted aroma with accents of vanilla bean, hazelnut coffee, used espresso beans, bourbon casks and a hint of sultry smoke. I have always said that the best beers are ones you just want to keep smelling and that Porter Baltique is one of those beers. The aroma has such a grabbing quality that in intoxicating. Taking the first sip Porter Baltique is smooth almost silken with a casked style flavour from the smoky notes as well notes of dark chocolate, espresso, toffee and a hint of dried fruits. A truly complex flavour profile with a palate as smooth as can be. A full bodied and heavy beer with an smooth mouthfeel and a heavy roasted malt isn’t rare but the execution of this beer is exceptional. The aging process has taken away some sweetness and changed the mouthfeel from syrupy to silky. Overall Porter Baltique is an exceptional brew that can and has stood the test of time. I look forward to trying my remaining bottle in a few more years.
When Anderson Valley was first imported into the bustling craft beer scene in Alberta sometime last year I never had any idea that a WIld Turkey barrel aged beer would be later making its way up north. One of the first Anderson Valley brews to hit Albertan shelves was the Barney Flats Oatmeal stout which is a very solid sessionable stout that could be perceived as the base for this barrel aged version. The 6.9% ABV barrel aged version was aged for 3 months in Wild Turkey casks to lend rich and woody flavours to the aroma and flavour.
The bomber of barrel aged stout a syrupy and velvety ebony black into a tulip glass with a thick foamy beige head expanding quickly on top. This head slowly dies to a thin cap which is evident of the barrel aging process. The appearance overall has a gorgeous mahogany and ebony glow throughout. Taking the first sniff of the glass I note an outstanding emphasis of bourbon and wooden barrel aromas as well as pinches of less than subtle vanilla. A minor more subtle aroma of licorice root and coffee blend well with the robust and intense roasted malt aroma. Overall the Wild Turkey has had a major and emphatic effect of the nose of this beer lending rich woody and earthy notes of vanilla and bourbon. Incredibly stoked for the first taste of this beer I dig in with a major rich yet robust flavour profile of wooden and earthen malts. Bursting roasted malts and notes of espresso and chocolate lend an intense and rich profile. The vanilla becomes more present and lingers on as I sip more of this silky, syrupy beer. Although the flavour alternates between a boisterous and robust malt and a smooth earthen vanilla essence the balance is awesome. Overall this beer is a sipper that doesnt last quite long enough.
Grimstad, Norway’s Nøgne Ø is Norway’s golden child in their growing craft brewery scene. Luckily Albertan’s have been privy to many imported bottles of Nøgne Ø beers over the last year. In May of this year I made an adventuresome trip to Scandinavia to climb mountains and see the fjords. Starting in the beautiful harbour city of Bergen I found myself to arrive on May 17th or Norwegian Constitution Day. Little did I know at the time that this would be the most eyeopening and interesting day of my entire European vacation. After watching the parade along Bryggen the strip of old Hanseatic buildings along the harbourfront I made my way to Hakon’s Hall and Rosenkrantz tower atop a hill overlooking the entire harbourfront. From there I could see the true amount of Norwegians who were out to party the town in traditional dress. I made my way up towards the hills and mountains surrounding Bergen to take the Mt. Fløyen funicular up to see the best view of the city. Due to an overflow of locals trying to take the funicular I thought maybe I would go back later close to sunset. So I made my way back to my hotel to meet my hiking group for the next week and passed by a bar called the Garage a block from my hotel. I noticed the Garage had a few signs up for Nøgne Ø and Haandbryggeriet so I thould I should probably take a look.
Bergen Fish Market on May 17th
View of Bergen from Mt. Fløyen at night
Before I continue I should note that Norway is the most expensive country on earth where a Big Mac costs 95 NOK or $19 CAD. Walking up to the bar a very friendly bartender asked me where I was from and why I was in Bergen. I told him I was going hiking on the fjords and glaciers for 10 days and this was the starting place and that I was from Calgary, Alberta. He asked me if Calgary was like Stavanger in Norway which are both oil cities. After questioning him about the Norwegian craft beers he had he offered me a pint of Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout on cask for 110 NOK ($22 CAD) which was truly delicious despite its price tag (but a pint of crappy lager was around 80 NOK). I sat down in the corner and used the wifi to check some news back home until a young Norwegian guy named Jos approached me and asked why I was in the corner and not celebrating with the rest of the locals. Jos was in Bergen to celebrate with his friends who were late to the party after travelling all the way from somewhere near Trondheim. The next few hours were an interesting insight into Norwegian solcialist life and the high cost of living. Jos was a factory working who welding compression parts for off shore oil rigs. After several more expensive beers Jos and I were discussing the differences between Norwegian and Canadian life. We finally talked about the etreme right wing people in Norway like Varg Vikernes and Anders Behring Breivik discussing the church burnings and murders in Bergen in the 1990’s. Later that night after thinking of all we had talked about I could not of asked for a more interesting experience than meeting Jos in Bergen and seeing Constitution Day celebrations. But now maybe I should talk about the beer…
Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout aged in cognac barrels is a 9% ABV beer laid down in previously used cognac barrels for an entire year. Pouring out of the 8oz bottle a gloopy viscous entirely opaque black with a thin light tan head. The glass has a few noted alcohol leggings with sizable lacing splotches. The appearance is definately that of an aged Imperial Stout. The aroma is outrageous with huge roasted and slightly smoky malts leading to earthen barrel notes and vanilla bean shavings. After a few more whiffs of the aroma an overall sublime aroma of vanilla and woody booze is left. Sweet, syrupy mid palate with vanilla nuances and a light cocoa dusting are well combined. Sweet finish with roasted robustness and a rather mild bitterness caps off the aged flavour. Earthy and woody barrel flavours persist into the finish with a noted barrel emphasis throughout. This beer is incredibly complex and well rounded for a barrel aged Imperial Stout. Although I am a bit biased because Imperial Stout and in particular barrel aged Imperial Stout are my favorite, this is one hell of brew. Expertly and exquistely crafted and aged I think I would like to try more of Nøgne Ø Imperial Stouts.
Price: $7.99/8 oz
Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery located in Barrie, Ontario has slowly started to release a few of the specialty releases into Alberta and Western Canada. The most recent of these is the Matador a 10% ABV Imperial IPA aged on Spanish Cedar brewed specially for Flying Monkeys’ 8th Anniversary. The bottle this beer and the brewing of it as follows:
“Aged on a bed of Spanish Cedar, a hardwood most commonly used in sweet-smelling cigar boxes, The Matador’s faboulous aroma cradles a spicy, peppery zing in the rich warm smells of leather and wood. Amarillo hops give this Imperial IPA astounding citrus flavours while pushing its bittering to a solid 88 IBUs. A beer made for sharing with true aficionados.”
Opening up the lovely presentation box and a beautiful bottle makes me realize just what bottle art and presentation can do for a beer. Pouring Matador into my Dieu du Ciel! tulip a massive foamy off white head forms although it dissapates rather quickly. The appearance is that of an IPA with a bright orange body and a golden ue throughout with a thin yellowish off white head and a few big sticky lacing splotches around the glass. I am surprised to see no carbonation after the intense head when I first poured it before I remembered it had by aged on wood which would soften the carbonation. The aroma has a unique pine filled substance with big earthen sweetness and sweet cedary scents. The hops are a little bit subtle on the aroma despite moderate grapefruit and resinous aromas. This is a very unique smelling beer and my first sip is very apprehensive. The mid-palate is full of glorious woody accents and slight fruity flavours including a ton of pine needles and just a general funky wood flavour. Although its not quite as abashing as sticking a piece of cedar in your mouth there is a definite cedar flavour throughout the taste profile. Moderate hop flavour leaves me in ponderance and wanting more of a sticky resinous finish and overall bitterness regardless of the flavourful zesty citrus and big pine flavour. I can’t say much of the drinkability nor the general balance of this beer due to the general quirkiness and unique taste. The finish has a big lingering pine needle and cedar woodiness unlike any other beer available. Despite all the pros and cons of this beer I can say with complete confidence that The Matador is one of the most experimental and unrelentingly different. And for these reasons this beer is a must try because no one else to my knowledge has tried something so outlandish.