Dandy Bright Young Things English Summer Ale

Calgary’s newest edition on the brewing scene is the nano startup of Dandy Brewing who have been releasing no holds barred bomber bottles for the last 10 months. Through a series of experimental and one off releases Dandy has released 7 unique and authentic beers. Bright Young Things is their first seasonal style and it is fashioned as a hoppy English Summer Ale that boasts a 5% ABV. Despite starting off with classic English styles such as an Oyster Stout and a Golden Brown Ale, Dandy has recently changed directions. By releasing a rauchbier, a sour and an upcoming Berliner Weisse the future of Dandy Brewing has an interesting and exciting road ahead as they continue filling a void in Alberta’s beer market. Personally I find the beers released to be very good both because of their flavour but also because of the originality of the styles themselves. 

Bright Young Things pours a bright orange with hues of copper and straw in the glass. A light burst of carbonation towards the finger of frothy off white head. Aromatics cascade off the glass with notes of toasted bready malts, light citrus and grassy hops and a light floral note. Sweet up front with toasted caramel and biscuity malts; a very English style malt base. Notes of pear and apricot are subtle but present. Crisp and ultra refreshing style of beer that boasts the name of English Summer Ale very well. A fresh floral and grassy hop blend with a light estery note towards the finish. The finish itself isn’t overly bitter but has enough to showcase the profile. As I sip more the hops show off more spice notes than I ever saw in the aroma and first few sips. Initially this beer was a bit cut and dry but as it warms up and I enjoy more of it the complexity reveals itself. The mild bitterness builds up over time and lingers well into the aftertaste. Fruits are more present and sweeter in the middle of the profile. Very refreshing and crisp with a nice touch of bitterness to create a fantastic balance.

Grade: 84/100

Boulevard Smokestack Series Tank 7

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Alberta has finally received Kansas City, Missouri’s Boulevard Brewing. Known to many as being one of the dustbowl’s best maker of fine ales Boulevard hit shelves this past week. I had personally never tried anything from Boulevard’s vast catalog so what better place to start than with a saison. Tank 7 is a Belgian saison style brew with a heavy 8.5% ABV and is brewed with Magnum, Bravo and Amarillo hops. Unlike the traditional saison beers of Belgium which are brewed with home grown Saaz, Goldings and often Challenger hops Tank 7 should have a more American hop presence. 

Tank 7 pours an effervescent golden straw colour with a thick puffed up white head. The head subsides slowly leaving tons of lacing blotches on the glass. The body appears to be extremely carbonated with a steady stream of bubbles cascading towards the surface. At first glance the nose is subtle but complex with layers of spicy hop and ester notes, citrus fruits, musty barnyard notes and light toasted wheat malts. Crisp and clean first sip with a nice effective coriander and spice blend on the finish. The mid palate is refined and fruity with notes of pear, lemon rind and grapefruit. Crisp toasted wheat and bready malts make up a malty backbone. The esters are really the star of the show with tons of fruity and spiced notes working well with the citrus hops. On the finish a moderate bitterness helps keep it true to style with a lingering spice and saison yeast aftertaste. A truly exquisite saison!

Grade: 93/100

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp 2015 Hoppy Lager

Every year the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co of Chico, California collaborates with 12 breweries and their fans for a mixture of brews collectively known as Beer Camp. In 2014 the stand out was a brew made with San Diego’s Ballast Point and so has been resurrected as a spring seasonal in 2015. The Hoppy Lager is a strong Blonde lager with a heavy hop twist. Brewed to a heavy 7.0% ABV and an agreeable 55 IBU’s the Hoppy Lager is the perfect early spring brew. In addition to a lager yeast the hop manifest includes Palisade and El Dorado as bittering hops and Citra and Equinox as finishing hops. 

Pouring out a bright, clear golden hay colour the body has a solid stream of carbonation and is capped by a dense cap of pure white head. The aroma is fresh and heavily accented with citrus hop notes. Light floral and spicy hops add a nice dimension to the hop profile. Impossibly light caramel and crisp bread malts have a touch of honey sweetness akin to the blonde style. Crisp lemon and grapefruit notes and a mild acidic crunch towards the finish. Overall the bitterness is moderate and mostly negated by the cascade of finishing hop flavours. Light floral and perfumey notes blend with zesty lemon and grapefruit notes. A pinch of pine resin on the aftertaste with moderate astringency and a heavy lager esque mouthfeel. A nice brew overall with a bit of a unique take on the style. My only wish is that we Albertans could get our hands on Sierra Nevada’s products. 

Grade: 89/100

Big Rock Birch Bark Canadian Imperial Stout

Calgary’s biggest brewery Big Rock has been attempting to reclaim its roots as the vanguard of Alberta craft beer over the past few years. For a long time Big Rock has settled into a position of making the same 6 or 7 beers and never breaking stride. Then this movement of craft beer hit Calgary about 4 years ago and Big Rock started to take the time and energy to create more unique and craft centric brews. As someone who has been a craft beer nerd in Calgary since turning 18 in 2006 when the choice of good beers were slim pickings Big Rock was many of my first beers as non-minor. Birch Bark is a part of Big Rock’s Alchemist Series of beers that have been crafted with the intention of trying to regain former glory. Birch Bark is a Russian Imperial Stout brewed with Birch syrup, Fuggles and Challenger hops to a weighty 8.5% ABV.

Birch Bark pours out a thick syrupy sludge of purely opaque black with a nice fizzy body that settles into a dense tan head perched atop creamy with a marshmallow esque top. The aroma is quite impressive and has a nice rich and robust malt with heavy roasted notes and notes of light vanilla and earth. A thick body on the first sip with noted sweetness akin to syrup with a slick full bodied mouthfeel. The roasted malts are heavy and present with nice woody and roasted notes. Overly sweet in the middle with a light roasted bitterness on the finish. Lighter notes of coffee, dark chocolate and a pinch of spice also present themselves. The finish although firmly rooted in roasty bitterness has a light fruity component that accompanys a balancing floral and citrus hop. This is hands down the best beer Big Rock has ever made despite being oriented for the most discerning of palates. I appreciated the attempt of an Imperial Stout which is bold in its own right but to use Birch syrup to enhance the flavour with a woody flavour was impressive. The only downfall being the overly intense sweetness throughout the profile. 

Grade: 85/100

© Laurie P Smith

Half Pints HoppenHeimer

Half Pints is Manitoba’s best and single true craft brewery known for their incredible seasonal and special releases. One of the rare seasonal beers to make it from the Winnipeg brewery to Alberta beer shelves is the summer brew Hoppen Heimer. Hoppen Heimer is stylistically defined as a wheat ale but I think it may be best described as a wheat IPA. Single hopped with Topaz to 73 IBU’s and brewed to a very sessionable 4.8% ABV Hoppen Heimer is guaranteed to be a unique beer.

Hoppen Heimer pours a bright clear gold with a thick soapy off white head atop. A small spritzy stream of bubbles as well as tons of soapy lacing rings coat the glass evident of the fresh hops. The first sniff out of the tall weizen glass has a bursting citrus and resinous aroma as well as a milder but present hefe style yeast. Notes of banana, orange rind and a pinch of coriander are all noted in the nose. A great big bursting hop flavour in the mid palate with orange and lemon zest flavours as well as crisp wheat and estery notes. A bit of banana and bubblegum blend well with the big hops. The finish is bitter and lingers on a bit relentlessly with an astringent dryness. The balance is a bit out of whack but the flavour profile is exciting and heaped full of hops and full bitterness.

Price: $6.79/bomber

Grade: 85/100

Wild Rose Gose Rider

My local craft brewery Wild Rose is celebrating summer with a slightly sour salted beer infrequently seen anywhere on the planet. Of all the traditionally sour styles only Berliner Weisse and Lambic’s haved survived. One to go the way of the buffalo is Gose a salted sour wheat beer once brewed in areas of Northern Germany. Grodziskie and Lichtenhainer are similar but smoked styles even less frequently seen. With the recent craft beer rennaisance in North America, Gose is a style that has started to crop up from time to time as seasonal beers. To me Wild Rose is a brewery who generally doesn’t try anything to crazy despite recently creating a Belgian IPA, Rye Saison and Kellerbier (unfilitered pilsner) so attempting a Gose is courageous and intimidating at the same time. Gose Rider is brewed to 4% ABV with wheat, barley, Saaz hops, coriander and salt.

Gose Rider pours a murky golden yellow with a hazy body and a beautiful finger of bright white head and a ton of tin bubbles ascending towards the head to start. The nose is incredibly unique and unlike anything I can recall with definite funky sourness albeit light and subtle. Coriander and crisp wheat aromas accompany a light toasted bread malt. The flaovur lacks sourness on the first sip until swallowing where a moderate and monotone sourness hits the palate. Sweet toasted wheat malts and a light honey or caramel sweetness pervades the sourness and salty flavour. After I had about half the bottle I noticed a tart lemony zest on the finish with lingering coriander. Gose Rider is like an incredibly easy to drink and sessionable wit with less wheat and a salty flavour. This is an incredibly refreshing and crisp brew which is perfect on a hot summer day (or really any day).

Grade: 90/100

Price: $6.39

Flying Monkeys 8th Anniversary Ale – The Matador Imperial IPA aged on Spanish Cedar

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.”

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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.

Price: $12.99

Grade: 89/100

Left Coast Hop Session – Hop Juice DIPA and Trestles IPA

Over the past weekend I along with several friends went on a celebratory trip to Las Vegas, Nevada the so-called Sin City. After my friends missing their flights and myself arriving 7 hours earlier than their deferred flights I found myself wandering into a Pub in Monte Carlo. This aptly named “Pub” happened to have a hell of a tap list and had six Left Coast beers on $5 pint specials for the afternoon. I surely couldn’t miss that offer. After a quick google I learnt that Left Coast Brewing Co. is a chain of Brewpubs and pizza restuarants with four locations in California. The first beer I decided to try was the Hop Juice Double IPA which was chosen for obvious reasons. The Hop Juice is a hop heavy San Diego style Double IPA brewed to a whopping 9.7% ABV with 82 IBU’s through the addition of Cascade, Mt Hood, Centennial, CTZ and Simcoe hops.   Hop Juice is also dry hopped for two weeks with Centennial for extra hop power. The pour is a glorious bright orange in the body and has a thick and sticky frothy head that coats the entire glass after a few sips. The aroma is pronouncedly resinous including noted herbal and pine scents and fresh grapefruit zest notes. A rather full and floral nose with heavy tropical fruits and mild toasted caramalized malts atop the heaps of hop aromas. My first few sips were quite sweet and resin forward with enhanced bitterness and dry astringency after a few more sips. The bitterness and resinous smack is long lasting and adds a few tropical pineapple and grapefruity citrus flavours into the mix. The boozyness goes unnoticed with a prolonged bitterness stealing the show.Light floral notes and subtle toasted malts are subtley shoved aside in the heavy hop centric flavour profile. Overall, a nice Double IPA overall with a heavy staying power and big bold hops throughout.

Grade: 92/100

 

The smaller and equally powerful cousin of the Hop Juice is the Trestles. Trestles is  single IPA brewed with CTZ, Chinook and Simcoe hops as well as dry hopped with Simcoe and Centennial to 92 IBU’s and 6.8% ABV. Trestles pours a brilliant gold with a hue of light orange in the body and a thin creamy off white head that somehow looks out of place. The aroma much less brutal and intense with poignant pine resins but with mild citrus and light floral accented hops aromas. There are a few mild grainy malt and toasted malts notes in the aroma despite the rather golden appearance. Sweet citrusy hops in the first sips with more caramel malts than expecting adding sweetness and a good balance. Mild resinous and piney flavours add an interesting character to the mix with moderately heavy bitterness shortly following. The finish is overly astringent but a solid aftertaste of resinous hops is present. Not exactly tasting as much bitterness and drying hops as expected but a nice well balanced hop heavy brew none-the-less. Overall, a solid brew I am glad I tried. Unfortunately I wanted to try the Voodoo Stout after this but the keg ran dry.

Grade: 89/100

Brew Brother’s Amarillo IPA

I recently had a pint of Calgary based Brew Brothers’ Amarillo IPA a single hopped IPA brewed to 6% ABV. Brew Brothers has been a small almost hidden fixture on the Calgary craft beer scene for quite a few years. Until recently finding their beers on tap around town was very difficult but thanks to recent renovations, draft is more available as are fill and go growlers.

Amarillo IPA has a beautiful light glowing orange pour with a fluffy beige head. The nose has a beautiful forward Amarillo aroma with forward grapefruit and sticky resinous hop notes. Mild caramelized and toasted malts balance well with the rather intense hop character. The first small sip gives evidence to light toasted and sweet caramel malts along with hints of citrus fruits and light grassy hop flavours. The finish has a forward citrus splash with noted pine needle and resinous smack before quickly fading into the aftertaste. The finish although not as intensely bitter nor resinous as I like, a solid astringent finish with a mouth of piney grapefruit hops.

Grade: 84/100       Price: $6.50/20 oz Draft