For me beer isn’t just something to drink for its obvious intrinsic properties but also for the experience of tasting something crafted with the purest of abilities. Over the past 7 years of diving headfirst into the craft beer world there have been several beers attached to memories and moments special to me. I recently wrote a review of Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout Aged in Cognac Barrel that brought back so many crazy memories of experiencing Oslo and Bergen during the celebrations of Norwegian Constitution Day which is May 17. This review can be found here: https://albertabeersmith.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/nogne-o-imperial-stout-aged-in-cognac-barrel/ For me a simple beer can be related to an incredible experience or even a great night out with friends. Elysian Dragonstooth is a 7.5% ABV Imperial Oatmeal Stout from the chain of Brewpubs based in Seattle, WA that I had heard of for many years from friends in British Columbia. Last September I visited a friend of mine attending Graduate school at UBC when we decided to head out to the legendary Alibi Room for a few libations. To keep this story short I should mention that I was a mere 13 beers short of my thousandth so I had reason to over consume. To the chagrin of the bartender my thousandth beer was Dragonstooth on tap. For me Dragonstooth will remain connected to the experience of celebratory drunkenness and the following consequences of my over consumption. When I met Elysian Brewmaster Dick Cantwell in October this year and he mentioned that Dragonstooth would make its way onto Alberta shelves for the first time I was over the moon. Anyways, on to the beer.
Elysian Dragonstooth pours out an entirely black colour with a creamy oatmeal based head that froths against the glass heavily leaving a collection of sticky lacing blotches. At first look the aroma is heavily roasted with big notes of espresso, used coffee grounds, porridge with brown sugar, molasses and a hint of cocoa. The roasted malts are rather heavy on the nose and should lend a solid amount of bitterness to the flavour profile. A bit of an overly sweet mid palate with creamy oatmeal malt notes as well as hints of brown sugar, molasses, toffee and chocolate. A smooth finish with a creamy oatmeal palate and a full body that has quite a hit of roasted malt bitterness in the lingering aftertaste. Nice espresso and coffee notes blend well with the malt sugars giving a surprising balance overall. The nose falls a bit flat comparatively to the flavour profile as it lacks the complexity and solid overall balance.
Situated in Las Vegas, Nevada the Tenaya Creek Brewing Company has slowly crept onto Alberta beer shelves over the past year with a selection of a few flagship beers to start. This past week we received a slew of seasonal brews from the Sin City brewer which included the Double IPA known as Monsoon. Monsoon is brewed with Cascade and whole flower Mt. Hood hops with a sturdy ABV of 8.5%. Despite having one of the worst labels I’ve personally seen I know not to judge a book by its cover. During my trip to Las Vegas to celebrate finishing University I remember sitting in the pub in the Monte Carlo enjoying a few of Tenaya Creek’s beers. For me Tenaya Creek beers are associated with the Vegas experience I had; one of fun and celebration.
Monsoon pours out a bright golden orange colour with a thick and sticky off white head that looks truly appetizing. Large blobs of lacing coat the entire glass showing evidence of a solid fresh hop content. Taking my first solid sniff of Monsoon I notice a very fruit forward, resin filled aroma of grapefruit, tropical fruits, pine and a light herbal hop note. The malts are mostly non-evident in the aroma with the hop presence being rather strong. The first sip has a mild malty sweetness with flavors of caramel and toasted bread coming through with a general fruit flavor. A bunch of grapefruit, pear and pineapple notes become apparent after a second before the hops force their way through. There is a solid bitterness at first with a moderate acidity and a resinous smack on the finish. A fairly heavy bitterness and pine resin flavor lingers for close to a 30 seconds before subsiding. Monsoon has quite a heavy hitting hop profile with a good balance of sweet malt and fruity notes to balance out well. Overall a solid Double IPA from Tenaya Creek despite the horrendous label.
Brouwerij De Ranke in Dottignies, Belgium is a bit of a fairy tale story for many beer enthusiasts…started in 1994 by two best friends as a home-brewing fascination it quickly turned into more than a hobby. After a few short years they acquired weekend brew space at the historic Deca Brewery in West Flanders. After 11 years of sharing space and capacity with Deca, De Ranke built their own brewery in Dottignies, a town only a few minutes from the French border. De Ranke beers have been scarce both out of and in Belgium until their import to Alberta last year. Pere Noel is a Belgium Strong Ale (a category lacking boundaries besides being of Belgian origin)> brewed with brewers gold, hallertau hops and licorice. Unlike most Belgian Christmas beers that are rich, dark and fruity Pere Noel is spicy, sweet and bitter. At 7% ABV Pere Noel is about normal for Belgian style beers but rather low for a Christmas beer with most others hitting upwards of 9% ABV.
Pouring out a bright golden amber Pere Noel lacks the heavy effervescent head of other De Ranke beers and settles rather quickly. A thin line of lacing foam sticks easily to the glass as the head subsides slowly to a thin layer of bright white bubbles. The nose seems a bit out of place with the style as it is predominant with citric and grassy hops, toasted caramel and bready malts, mild spiced notes and a bit of alcohol warmth. A subtle yet pervasive funky aroma sticks to the nose throughout the tasting lending a bit of intrigue to this beer. The mid palate of taste is smooth and somewhat fruity with mild citrus hop notes as well as hints of apple and pear combining well with notes of toasted wheat, caramel, cereal grains and light licorice/anise spice flavors. The finish has a moderate bitterness that lingers unexpectedly into the aftertaste leaving mild resinous notes and sweet fruity flavors. Pere Noel has a great balance overall with bitterness, spices and malts blending well and leaving a crisp, clean but bitter Belgian flavor profile. Overall, a interesting and unique twist on a Belgian Christmas beer.
Price: $12.99 Grade: 90/100
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.
With a bit of an impromptu return to the Alberta craft beer scene, Seattle’s Elysian Brewery has returned with a 650mL bomber of their pumpkin ale Night Owl hitting the shelves these past days. To be completely honest with the readers, I will not pretend to be a fan of pumpkin beers and the like. I find pumpkin beers to be a style lacking originality and creativity with moth beers tasting similar to others of the style. Night Owl is brewed with pumpkin, pumpkin seeds and is fermented with spices. Elysian Night Owl is brewed with over 7 lbs. of pumpkin per barrel and spiced in conditioning with nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, ginger and allspice. Despite the sessionable but higher 5.9% ABV Night Owl should be beer unlikely to impress me due to my skepticism.
Pouring out a dark amber with an orange glow in the body and a cap of thin off white head. So far Night Owl looks like most pumpkin ales I have experienced. The nose has a beautiful essence of pumpkin spice and a mild vegetable like pumpkin aroma. Notes of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg are duly noted on the aroma with a mild toffee and caramel malt. The flavour profile albiet mild and easy going had a solid spiced complex with notes of cloves, cinnamon and allspice blending with malt notes of nuts, toffee, caramel and rye bread. A good balance in the mid palate with almost no hop bitterness on the finish. The finish is replete with a pumpkin like flavour that lingers for about 10 seconds before dying down. Night Owl has an interesting profile and is honest to god one of the first pumpin ales I actually found enjoyable. Overall the balance of spices, pumpkin and malt is well done and gives a great profile of delectable flavours.
For those who have read this blog in the past year or so you may have noticed a plethura of beer reviews from East Vancouver’s Parallel 49. Since releasing beers into Alberta we have seen some of the most unique and inspired Canadian craft beer. Their latest unique creation is the Imperial IPA Snap, Crackle and Hop brewed with rice and Moteuka hops from New Zealand. Snap, Crackle, Hop is brewed to 9.3%ABV with a moderate 70 IBU’s. Before I even open up this bottle I must absolutely mention that Snap, Crackle, Hop must have the best bottle artwork I’ve seen.
Snap, Crackle, Hop pours a bright golden and amber hue with a sticky and thin bright white head. The nose is grainy and a tad toasted with a light cracked pepper and spice note. There is a beautiful floral and fruity aroma filled with notes of pineapple, guava, mango and kiwi. A great toasted and grainy malt mid palate with a smooth but mild creamy lactose like flavour. There is a musty dryness on the finish with a general resinous smack of hops with a lack of overall bitterness. A rather mild and subdued flavor profile despite the aroma and style.
In a century old warehouse a few blocks from the bustling Zuid Station (South Station) in Brussels, Belgium lives a true gem of lambic brewing. The small family owned and operated lambic brewery in the Anderlecht area has been in operation since 1900. At current date the Cantillon is in the capable hands of a fourth generation descendent of founder Paul Cantillon. Known best for its Champagne of Brussels – the Gueuze style lambic Cantillon also brews several other lambic styles including kriek or cherry lambic. During a recent visit to Belgium I was privileged enough to tour the brewery and try out 4 styles of lambic beer for a cost far, far cheaper than bottles cost at home. The brewery was incredibly unique and eyeopening with highlights being the walls upon walls stuffed with barrels and bottles of liquid gold. In addition since lambic involves wild yeast and open vats during fermentation, spiders are revered and protected in the brewing area as a defense against insects and other such things. Cantillon Kriek is a 5% beer produced by blending lambic beer with lambic beer brewed with cherries grown in Belgium.
Unlike many other Belgian beers that are corked, Cantillon beers use a bottle cap instead of a wire cage to hold the cork in place. Opening a bottle of Cantillon not only takes more time and patience but also more reverence for the liquid inside as you are opening a $25 bottle. Popping th ecork out and pouring Cantillon Kriek you notice the cherries instantly with a bright pinkish red body colour and a huge foamy pink head that fizzes itself out quickly. The head caps off at a thin tightly held layer of pink bubbles. The nose seems overbalanced by tart cherries and a big acetic sourness commonplace in Cantillon lambic beers. A bit of a sweetness comes through as I take a few more sniffs although the sourness complicates with a mild sour funkyness entering the mix. The first sip is sweet and tart with juicy cherry nectar bud subsides to a hairy funk and sourness. The balance is lacking despite the heavy cherry presence because of that traditional strong Cantillon sourness. The finish is sour and acidic with a puckering tartness. Overall the cherries are a bit lost in the mix but this is a great lambic with a ton of awesome funky sour flavours and aroma.
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.
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.
Evil Twin is a Danish/American gypsy brewery known for its extreme and obscure craft brews. Although brewed at several locations and distributed from Brooklyn Evil Twin is a Danish brewery at heart. I have previously written several blog articles and beer reviews on this blog on Evil Twin beers. Falco is a 7% ABV India Pale Ale brewed in the style of an American IPA.
Falco pours a bright gold with a subtle highlight of orange in the body. A gigantic white head with a ton of big soaplike bubbles clings to the glass leaving a ton of big lacing rings. A few slowly cascading bubbles stream towards the finger of head atop the glowing body. A first small whiff and I notice a mild grapefruit and freshly squeezed citrus fruit aroma. Mild toasted and grainy malts blend rather well with the citrus fruits and a hint of light pine needle. Mild and sweet flavour with a hint of honey, caramel malts, toasted cereals and a whole lot of citrus fruits. Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and lemon zest. The finish although moderately bittered is not as intense nor as lingering as I would have hoped. Mild astringent and puckering aftertaste subsides in a few seconds. Falco is a truly well brewed and complex IPA despite its bitterness shortcoming.