One of the hot craft beer styles this summer that has been making many appearances as seasonal releases is the Saison IPA. An evolution on a white IPA, this style involves making an IPA that is fermented with a strain of yeast normally used in Saisons. Phillip’s brewing in Victoria, BC is one of Canada’s most prolific craft breweries an specializes in Cascade heavy IPA styles. For a long time I found Phillips beers to be the same but recently rekindled my interest in them. Barnstormer Saison IPA clocks in at 7.2% and is has a small limited run in BC and Alberta craft beer stores.
Pouring out a bright, hazy coppery straw colour with a thick, puffy pure white head that sustains and leaves a bunch of sticky lacing blotches on the glass. The aroma is a nice hybrid of citrus heavy hops and floral, spice forward ester notes. Light lemon rind, grapefruit, wet grass and a light floral note from the saison yeast up front. A pinch of coriander and black pepper cracked on top are less apparent and subtle. The aroma is a nice middle of the road balance between the IPA and saison counterparts. A light toasted bread malt, a bit of honey sweetness and light grassy notes up front. Too much of a malt base would counteract the saison ester notes that soon become bigger in the profile. Black pepper, coriander, and lemon rind esters with light grapefruit juice notes, zesty citrus hops and typical Cascadian notes. Barnstormer is really well balanced with enough hops to satiate the hop heads but to still be in good balance with the esters.
Amidst the deluge of new craft beers from across the globe making their way onto Alberta shelves are brews from Stockholm’s gypsy brewer Omnipollo. Omnipollo is one of Sweden’s newest breweries to brew unique and artisinal brews in a wild variety of styles. Nathalius is an 8% ABV Imperial IPA by style but with a major twist. Nathalius is brewed with rice and corn; ingredients usually considered to be adjuncts in beer. Nathalius was first brewed as a collaboration project with Baltimore, MD brewery Stillwater.
Pouring a bright yellowish orange Nathalius is well topped with a heady serving of dense white foam. A nice stream of bubbles stream upwards glistening in the body. The nose has a certain graininess that is slightly off putting. Aromas of rice, slight skunk, firmly resinous hop notes and lemon zest are duly noted. A mild honeyed sweetness in the mid palate with an adjoining maltiness of cereals and grains. Light grassy and citrus hop notes become prevalent towards the finish with moderate bitterness. A rather acidic finish with a lingering resinous bitterness. Overall Nathalius is a bit of a mess stylistically despite the firm hoppy characteristics.
Baltimore, Maryland’s Stillwater Artisinal Ales is one of America’s most well known brewers of farmhouse styles beers. I recently uploaded a video review of Stillwater’s As Follows a Belgian Strong Ale and was very surprised by Stillwaters flavorful yeast strain. Debutante is a Farmhouse Ale brewed to 6.4% ABV and crafted in the style of Biere de Garde. Debutante is brewed with spelt and rye along with heather, honeysuckle, and hyssop. Biere de Garde is a style traditionally brewed in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.
Stillwater Debutante pours out a bright and sparkling golden orange with a fizzy densely bubbled head. A few lacing rings stick easily to the glass as I swirl a few times. A first small sniff and I note a pleasant estery spritz of citrus fruit, floral hops, musty barnyard notes as well as mild herbal aroma. Debutante has a generally pleasant and bright aroma that reminds me of the best saison beers and a blend of grassy herbs. A bit of a toasted bready malt that blends well with a refreshing bouquet of herbs, citrus, mild hops and a musty ester essence. The finish is refreshing and crisp with a relatively mild bitterness. The spices and herbs that Debutante is brewed with aren’t individually notes in the flavour but come through as a mild floral spiced note. Overall Debutante is certainly unique and tends to remind me of a cross between a spiced wit beer and a saison.
East Vancouver’s newest and best craft brewery has been releasing some of British Columbia’s most inventive craft beers. Last fall they released the spixed pumpkin ale Schadenfreude to many accolades. A stronger big bottle version which includes chocolate malt was made available in Alberta this paat week. Lost Souls is a 6.8% ABV stronger porter classified as a spice or vegetable ale.
Pouring out a nearly opaque black with a thin beige head that settles quickly to nothing. The body has a slick almost syrupy appearance in the glass. Leaning in for a first smell I notice a mild pumpkin and spice combo of ginger, cloves and cinnamon. Beautiful roasted malts, toasted nuts and toffee balance out the spice in the aroma. The mid palate is sweet and syrup-like with moderately bitter roasted malts and an overlying vegetable like flavor. The finish is mildly bitter with a heavy spice and pumpkin taste that fades with the bitter finish. Overall Lost Souls is a good brew that exhibits an interesting new side of pumpkin beers.
Newport, Oregon’s Rogue Ales has been one of the big boys of West Coast craft beer for the past 25 years. Since 1989 John Maier has been the brewmaster and has implemented the brewing of non-pasteurized, all natural beers mostly made with the proprietary yeast strain known as Pacman. As an interesting and unique twist John decided to cultivate a yeast strain from his beard which he has had for the last 30 years. To a beer geek this is intriguing and also a bit offputting but as all beer geeks know, we are also up to try something new. I’ve drank beer with civetcat coffee, chipotle peppers, mint, rosemary, oysters, coconut, bacon, maple syrup and the list goes on. Using John’s beard yeast, Rogue decided to brew a 5.6% ABV Belgian ale.
Beard Beer pours out a bright hazy golden colour in the body with a thick heady off white foam atop. There is a nice small stream of bubbles cascading up in the middle of the glass. The nose is rather nice with a subtle estery yeast aroma as well as milder grassy and floral hop accent. Mild spiced aromas of coriander and a nice beautiful floral aroma blend well with a bready and crisp wheat malt. My first sip is crisp and estery with a mild mustiness and floral notes. A bit of caramel and honey with crisp clean wheat malt blends rather well with the mild floral hops. A nice balance and a exquisite drinkability for a rather sessionable Belgian style ale. Although this seems like a rather standard Belgian style ale the use of the beard use is an interesting and intriguing idea. And it is a rather beardy ale!
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