A few years back Calgary’s own Wild Rose brewery took a huge step in our little microcosm of beer and made a gose. Gose is a top fermenting German style of beer that is typically moderately sour and salty either from the water sources or by the addition of salt. The style has recently undergone a Renaissance in North American with many craft brewers rebooting the unique style. When Wild Rose made Gose Rider, I honestly had only heard bits and pieces about the style and was eager to research, drink and learn more. In addition to salt, coriander is often added for flavour to this beer style that averages between 4 and 5 percent alcohol. As such, most Gose do not comply with the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 or the Reinheitsgebot. Wild Rose decided to take the Gose Rider (which I found delicious in its first iteration) and age it for 18 months in barrels having previously contained red wine. I should mention that I previously reviewed the un-aged Wild Rose Gose Rider here and gave it a resounding 90/100 rating (https://albertabeersmith.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/wild-rose-gose-rider/) This Barrel Aged Gose Rider was limited to only 99 cases (1188 bottles) and clocks in at an uber-sessionable 4.5% ABV. Enough of the technical, let the adjectives fly and lets get down to the business at hand.
The beer pours a surprisingly dark coppery straw colour with a largely evident effect of the barrel in the body colour alone. The head is a thick but porous off white with little carbonation evident by appearance. The nose is rich and complex at first look with a tons of woody oak notes and tart lemon aromatics. A delightful aroma on its own with the heavy, rich and earthy wood notes vying for attentions from the fresh, fruity citrus notes. The first sip is zingy with a lemon tartness at first. As the beer warms a mild dark fruit note replaces the tartness that I had become accustomed to. The oak is extremely complex and almost takes over the entire flavour profile. The underlying gose base regains some form by adding a tart sourness throughout the profile. The sourness is reserved but quietly present enough to give balance. This is a difficult beer to put into words as I’ve never had anything quite like it. Wooden, mild earthy and dark fruit notes are sweeter and obviously accentuate the barrels impact. This is one of those beers that I could smell and taste for hours and still have words to describe it so lets end it short. This is one of the most intriguing and convoluted brews made in Alberta and I hope to see more like it. For Wild Rose to take on a Gose in the first place was mighty ambitious but this is another level entirely. I have a lot of respect for them to create this beer and I think this rivals as one of the best craft brews in Alberta.
One of British Columbia’s newest and most exciting craft breweries has hit Alberta shelves this week. Burnaby’s Dageraad Brewing is influenced by Belgian’s great beers and takes its name from Antwerp’s Dageraadplaats which translates to Sunrise Square from Flemish. Brewer and founder Ben Coli has tried to take the experience of drinking Belgium’s great beers is Dageraadplaats and transporting it to Canada. As with great Belgian beers Dageraad’s beer are bottle conditioned and unfiltered with traditional Belgian yeasts. Dageraad Blonde is the brewery’s flagship beer and boasts a very Belgian 7.5% ABV.
At first glance the bottle and label are exquisite and fine with an appearance usually reserved for fine wines. The pour is a light golden amber colour with steady, almost effervescent carbonation and a puffy off white head that clings all over the glass. The aroma is accented with yeasts and ester notes including straw, lemon rind, orange peel, light coriander spice and a bit of a nutty malt. Light toasted wheat and caramel malts in the mid palate act as a balance to the heady yeast profile. Fruity, spicy and floral hop notes blend with esters and light spice. Lemon rind is tart and pairs well with the spicy notes. The finish is moderately dry and astringent with a bit of lingering bitterness. Full body, heavy carbonation and a smooth, crisp finish add to the flavour profile well. Overall Dageraad Blonde is a good example of an approachable and easy drinking Belgian Blonde. The depth of character is evident but not as unique as most great Belgian beers. Often that character is cultivated over time. Regardless Dageraad has certainly taken the Belgian beer culture and transplanted it to their Burnaby operation.
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
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.
During a visit to Palm Springs in January of 2013 I was able to experience my first brew from San Diego’s Mission Brewery. The Shipwrecked Double IPA is a colassal blend of hops with big booze brewed in the traditional San Diego style. My blog article on Shipwrecked can be found here. The Dark Seas from Mission Brewery is a 9.8% stout brewed in the Russian Imperial Stout style.
Pouring out a completely dark, opaque black thick as motor oil with a thin tightly held tan head Dark Seas looks like it sounds. The nose has a sweet blend of freshly ground French roast, dark, bitter chocolate with a hint of licorice and vanilla. Big boisterous roasted malts fall evenly with the subtle notes to give a rich and robust aroma complete with a warm whiff of alcohol. Big roasted malt flavour profile with much more subtle chocolate but nice espresso and licorice flavours. Sweet and syrupy mouthfeel lends an almost dessert like appeal. The finish has a satisfying roasted bitterness with a subtle oak or bourbon barrel flavour as well as a alcohol warmth. Dark Seas is a complex and well brewed Imperial Stout with all the best parts working together. Although I which this had a bit more oomph, Dark Seas is a great example of a Californian Imperial Stout.
Hog’s Head Brewing Company is Alberta’s newest brewery; located in St Albert near Edmonton, Hog’s Head currently brews only a few beers but have a heavy handed hop style. The Hop Slayer is a 7.5% ABV “pseudo Imperial IPA” with above 100 IBU’s.
Hop Slayer pours a rather dark burgundian amber with a thick frothed up creamy yellowish beige head. Tons of massive lacing splotches and rings form along the glass as the massive head calms down. Overall, this looks like a rather malty IPA. The aroma has a caramelized and toasted malt aroma with light roasted notes and a moderate grapefruit and lemony citric hop nose. A rather smooth sip up front with a rather heavy roast for and IPA with noted toasty and toffee malts. Light grapefruit hop flavours with mild resinous and pine needle notes. Not exactly my type of an IPA and more so an Imperial Brown Ale via the heavy toasted (roasted) malts and toffee notes. Overall, a nice addition to Alberta’s beer market. I genuinely hope Hog’s Head continues to create unique and tasty craft brews.
Grade: 86/100 Price: $15/ 6 pack