Alberta’s newest craft brewery is Two Sergeants Brewing Inc. located in Fort Saskatchewan 20km north east of Edmonton. Bangalore Torpedo IPA is their first beer to hit off license shelves in Alberta and is billed as a 5.7% IPA with an explosive 100 IBU’s. Bangalore Torpedo gets its namesake from the incendiary device used to destroy mines and munitions left over after the Boer War. During WW2 the Bangalore Torpedo was used to weaken German defenses during the beach assaults on D-Day.
Bangalore Torpedo pours a rather dark amber tinted orange with a modest off white head with tons of sticky lacing that coats the glass. The aroma is rather moderate and reserved for a 100 IBU IPA touted as being “hopsplosive”. Light caramel and grassy notes with accents of citrus fruit and pine needle. After my first sip it is evident quickly that during the brewing process the majority of hops were added to the boil early. This left the brew with a more moderate aroma and heavy, lingering bitterness. Light sweet caramel malts up front with citrus fruits, floral and grassy notes. Heavy, pungent grapefruit notes blend with poignant pine resin notes. Dry and astringent finish with heavy bitterness and a sticky, full body mouthfeel. The bitterness lingers on infinitely and doesn’t seem to subside. Overall a very strong first beer with a hell of a punch.
It’s no secret that Ninkasi Brewing Company of Bend, Oregon loves hops. Dawn of the Red India Red Ale is a spring seasonal created to blend the best of both worlds; tropical hops and sweet caramel malts. Often the hindrance of such a mixture the sweetness can overpower the glorious hop notes and conceal their flavours. With Dawn of the Red Ninkasi has attempted to create a rich red ale that isn’t overtly sweet so as to allow the hops and malts to live more harmoniously together. Dawn of the Red is a 7.0% brew that includes Galena, Millennium, Ahtanum, El Dorado and Mosaic hops.
Pouring a bright ruby amber in the body with a thick and puffy yellow head on top the glass is coated with tons of lacing rings. The nose is fruity and fresh with noted aromas of tropical fruits, citrus, light pine resin and sweet caramel malts. A malty backbone with toffee and caramel malts props up the sweetness a bit in the middle with a medium to full body. The hops are juicy and fresh with tons of papaya, mango and pineapple flavours seeping through. The typical citrus and grapefruit notes are present but seem less important in the profile. A nice malt to hop balance with the hops edging out the caramel and biscuity notes a bit. The finish is bitter and cloyingly astringent with a typical IPA esque aftertaste of grapefruit and pine resin. Overall a very good mash up style brew with a ton of beautiful tropical fruits.
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.
Big Sky Brewing Co. of Missoula, Montana has been at the forefront of Montana’s craft brewing industry since its inception in 1995. Best known for their Moose Drool Brown Ale, Big Sky is the largest craft beer producer in Montana and also has the largest distribution area out of state. Olde Bluehair is a 10.2% ABV Barleywine by style that has been aged for 3 months of Kentucky Bourbon barrels. Olde Bluehair is a relative rarity with only 3750 bottles produced annually of which this one is marked 1663/3750.
Bottled in a 750ml with a cork and cage, a huge explosion with a slight pull on the placed cork. Pours with a heavy carbonation, almost effervescence that builds a huge foaming, overflowing head. A bright golden hued amber with light orange and ruby red accents in the body capped with a densely bubbled off white. Tons of lacing foam coats the glass and despite the initial outburst the carbonation settles down to nothing. The aroma is at first glance filled with overtly sweet toffee and caramel malts, candied and dried fruits and with a drizzle of fruity hops. Light apricot and candied apple aromas with a candy like aroma blend with toffee and caramel malts and the poignant hop flavours. The barrel has imparted a rich earthen aroma with a light vanilla and bourbon notes that extrudes itself through the candied malt aromas. The first sip is just as sweet as the aroma indicated with maple syrup like malt flavours combining with toffee and bready caramel. Sweet dried fruits of apricot and apple add to the character as the barrel becomes involved. Light vanilla and maple notes, earthen notes and a slight smoke come through towards the finish. The hop profile is notable and present throughout but is a bit lacking in character imparting only light spice and citrus notes. The finish is warm with alcohol and lingers through to the aftertaste with light hop bitterness and astringency. Olde Bluehair is a great beer to share on a cold or wet winter night. A beautifully complex and well rounded barleywine with nice barrel accents and sweet candied fruits.
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.
© Laurie P Smith
East Vancouver’s Parallel 49 Brewing Company has quickly become one of my favourite Canadian breweries since forming in 2012. One of the predominant reasons for this assertion is Parallel 49’s fondness for brewing unique styles and taking risks with seasonal brews. For example, Parallel 49 has recently produced a Finnish farmhouse Sahti ale, a Jelly Doughnut Strong Ale and a Black Forest cake Imperial Porter to name a few. Jerkface 9000 despite the name is a more reserved and moderate style and is touted as a North West Wheat Ale brewed with Mosaic and Ahtanum hops to 37 IBU’s and a sessionable 5% ABV. The label art and name are a standout for me already as I’m sure I’ve called someone a Jerkface 9000 a quip to which there is no come back.
Jerkface 9000 pours a light orange hued straw yellow with a thin veil of off white head. The head subsists throughout drinking with a few remnant lacing rings left on the glass. The aroma is accented well with citrus based hops. Zesty grapefruit and citrus fruit aromas blend with earthy pine and a few tropical fruit notes typical of Mosaic hops. A bit of a stone fruit aroma after a while reminiscent of Marlborough, New Zealand area Sauvignon Blanc. Light crisp wheat malts add some balance to the fruity, hoppy core. Crisp and fresh finish with a heavy hop presence that leaves zesty citrus and sweet mango and pineapple notes. Moderately dry and astringent with a light lingering bitterness. Overall, Jerkface 9000 is a crisp and fresh wheat beer with pine and citrus hop notes in good balance with light bitterness and a refreshingly light mouthfeel.
This unique IPA is a creation from the hands of Stone Brewing in Escondido, California as well as Baird Brewing in Numazu, Japan and Ishii Brewing in Guam. Baird is a well known brewer and one of the main proponents of the current Japanese craft beer wave. Ishii is a brewing I have to admit to never hearing of. On the back label it explains that Toshi Ishii was a brewer at Stone before moving to Guam to start the islands first brewery. The Japanese Green Tea is brewed as a Imperial IPA with 9.2% ABV that is ‘dry-hopped’ with whole leaf tea. This beer was first made as a collaboration in 2011 and has been recreated with Helga hops from Australia.
Cracking the bottle and pouring out the body is a bright ambery orange with a solid stream of carbonation reaching to the thin cap of dense pure white head. The aroma is heavy with green tea notes as well as noted herbal and floral accents. A rather malty Imperial IPA both by appearance and by the presence of toasted caramel and toffee malts that contrast the tea leaves. A fresh and zesty hops with a beautiful citrus and grass flavour. Quite leafy and herbal tasting with a commanding flavour of green tea throughout the profile. You certainly must have to like green tea to find this beer agreeable. A good hop and malt balance with a fairly heavy body and a thick, slick mouthfeel. Overall a unique and expertly executed collaboration that I hope to try the next iteration of.
Based in Surrey, British Columbia Russell Brewing has been in operation since 1995. In addition to the Surrey operations, Russell also owns and operates Fort Garry Brewing in Manitoba. In recent years Russell have been developing more unique and complex brews. Peaks and Valleys is a 5.7% ABV Extra Pale Ale brewed with BC grown hops. Extra Pale Ale is a bit of a stylistic conundrum in that it lives somewhere between the hop content and alcohol of an American Pale Ale and an IPA.
Peaks and Valleys pours a bright orange and coppery hue in the body with a massive thick off white foam onto. The head dissipates slowly as it settles into a thin tight cap. The aroma is beautiful laden with fresh hop aromas. A nice blend of hop aromas including citrus, tropical fruits, floral and spicy notes. The first sip is a bit sweet with tons of fruity notes including grapefruit, pineapple and pear and tons of citrus zest. Light floral and green hop notes with a light peppery note. Caramel and a light toasted malt profile balances the hops well resulting in a very easy sipping brew. The finish has moderate hop presence with a solid but not out of place bitterness and lingering astringency. A smooth sipping brew with a ton of amazing hop flavour.
Alberta based importer A.Z. has been bringing exciting and new Californian beers into Alberta for the past 13 months or so. Moylans Brewing based in Novato, California is one of A.Z.’s newest arrivals with a good selection of typical Californian or West Coast style beers hitting the shelves in Alberta. With 6% ABV and a profile of spices that includes curacao, mace, white pepper, cinnamon and coriander White Christmas is technically classified as a spiced beer. Moylan’s is most well known for the hop bomb called Hopsickle that is an absolute bombastic 9.2% brew featuring upwards of 90 IBU’s. White Christmas is aimed towards being a winter warmer with the spice profile to prove it.
Pouring out a murky and muddled amber colour in the body the head is steadfast with an appearance of thick soapy yellow that leaves streaks of lacing around the glass. A first incidental sniff has a bit of a spice overabundance with notes of cinnamon, allspice, coriander and nutmeg filling the olfactory senses. Mild caramel and toasted bread malts blend moderately well despite the heavy spice blend. Notes of fake vanilla bean, toffee, caramel and brown sugar are all rather moderate. The body is full and a bit slick with a good malt to spice balance overall despite have a lingering spice profile overall. Not exactly my cup of tea in general but I can certainly see the appeal of this style to many amateur beer drinkers.
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.