Stone Delicious IPA

Stone Brewing Co.’s newest IPA varietal is the aptly named Delicious IPA an 80 IBU brew with 7.7% ABV that is brewed with Lemondrop and El Dorado Hops. Delicious IPA is crafter as an ode to the citrus based IPA with the bottle description as follows: “This one was all about packing as much unique and, you guessed it, delicious flavor into a glass as humanly possible, regardless of oomph or octane. This intensely citrusy, beautifully bitter beer is worthy of the simple-yet-lordly title of Stone Delicious IPA. Lemondrop and El Dorado hops combine to bring on a magnificent lemon candy-like flavor that’s balanced by hop spice. It’s unlike anything we’ve tasted in nearly two decades of IPA experimentation, and another lupulin-laced creation we’re excited to introduce to hopheads everywhere.”

Delicious IPA pours out a bright golden in the body with a huge head of off white. The aroma is heavily laden with zesty citrus aroma including tons of lemon rind and orange notes. Smells of bitter grapefruit aromatics with huge pine resin notes wafting through honey sweetness and and mild caramel malts. Resinous throughout with tons of citrus fruit hop notes that accompany lighter pine needles and sticky grapefruit notes. Mild pineapple and papaya fruit notes blend well with honey and caramel sweetness. Well balanced with light astringency and mild malts the hops enter the forefront. Punishing bitterness with tangy citrus zest notes that build up towards the finish with heavy acidity and hop bitterness. Overall, Delicious IPA is an ode to the citrus hop effect and is crafted perfectly.

Grade: 91/100

The Bruery Saison Rue

One of California’s most esteemed brewers is the aptly named Bruery located in Orange County. The Bruery is a self described boutique brewery specializing in barrel aged and experimental ales. The brewery was started by Patrick Rue an avid homebrewer in 2008 and is named with his surname as the moniker. Saison Rue is a nod to the family saison brewers common in Belgium who often name their saison style beers after their surname. Saison Rue is one of The Bruery’s few year round offerings and is billed as a bottled condition saison brewed with rye malt and brettanomyces. 

Pouring out a rich, murky burgundian amber with a thick and lively yellowish head. There is a solid stream of bubbles reaching up to the soft pillowed head of foam. At first the aroma is of ripe fruit, old leather, earthen and woody notes and a bit of lemon pledge cleaner. Richly steeped with crisp and spicy rye malt that quickly contrasts the notable citrus and light pine hops. A bit of a musty, earthy aroma from the inclusion of brett presents itself in moderation. A nice crisp first sip with light caramel and toffee malts with hints of cracked pepper, floral and citrus hops and musty barnyard wood. A very complex yet approachable profile that is reserved where it should be and takes liberties elsewhere. Ripe fruit and rich leathery earth flavours combine with toffee and spicy rye towards the finish with a trademark saison finish. Dry and astringent with lingering yeast and ester flavours. Citrus hops linger on with a backbone of cracked pepper and floral notes. Saison Rue is a wonderfully exuberant and complex beer that shows a different story with every sip and for that reason it is consistently one of my favourite brews. 

Grade: 95/100

© Laurie P Smith

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

Ninkasi/Devils Backbone The Devil Went Down to Oregon

The first time I tried a Ninkasi beer I was on holiday in Palm Springs, California and found a bottle of Oatis at the local grocery store. Ninkasi is a larger craft brewery located in Eugene, Oregon and is named after the Sumerian goddess of brewing and fermentation, Ninkasi. Unfortunately I would have to wait 4 years for Ninkasi to finally import into Alberta. Oatis was stuck in my head as the epitome of a creamy oatmeal stout with a moderate bitterness and full body flavour. Since Ninkasi started hitting the shelves in Alberta I’ve been lucky enough to try nearly a dozen of their brews and even attend a sensory class with Ninkasi founder Jamie Floyd. The Devil Went Down to Oregon is a collaboration brewed with Roseland, Virginia’s Devils Backbone Brewing Company. Stylistically, “The Devil” is a Imperial Dark Rye or Roggenbier brewed to 72 IBU’s and 7.2% ABV with Northwest hops and an Alt style yeast strain. 

Pouring out a dark, opaque blackish brown with a thick, puffy head of off white that does not subside but rather coats the entire glass in lacing. The aroma is heavily malted with spicy, bready notes of rye and biscuity crystal malts that give in to solid caramel and toffee malt sweetness. A bit of a nutty aroma with a hint of vanilla blends with the notable hop aromas. Light citrus fruit and a pinch of pine resin adds a Northwest twist to the staunchly German style malt profile. The first sip comes across rather sweet and a bit fruity with caramel and biscuity malts with a spicy twist of rye malt. Citrus zest and tart hop flavours build towards the finish with a light pine resin and lingering astringency. The malts and the hops are both blown out of proportion but also balance out well in the middle. An interesting mash-up of styles with the hop content expected from Oregon with the malts of a traditional German alt or roggenbier. A very peculiar brew overall.

Grade: 86/100 

Clown Shoes Chocolate Sombrero

Clown Shoes Brewing has rapidly become one of my favourite American craft brewers to hit the shelves in Alberta stores. The beer is contract brewed out of Mercury Brewing Co. in Ipswich, Massachusetts and has recently been named one of the Top 100 Brewers in the World by RateBeer. Most of all Clown Shoes has taken risks in making unique and obsure styles steeped in humour. Chocolate Sombrero is a Mexican Style Chocolate Stout brewed with ancho chiles and cinnamon to an ABV of 9%. The concoction of spice and heat with roasted malts and robust espresso and chocolate notes is a pairing used often in beers nowadays to acclaim.

Cracking open the Chocolate Sombrero the pour is a deeply opaque brown nearing black with a thin layer of dark tan head tightly coiled on top. At first the aroma is heavily laden with smoky roasted malts, espresso and vanilla beans and dark chocolate. As the beer opens up a subtle spice aroma presents it self with the chiles and spices coming through the barrier of roasted malts. A bit sweet in the mid palate with a dessert like flavour of chocolate malts and frosting. The spice remains well hidden and reserved until the finish. Rich and smooth mouthfeel with a thick oily body the finish is heavy with roasted malt bitterness. In the aftertaste the chile makes another appearance adding heat to the bitterness akin to fighting fire with fire. Overall, a very smooth and rich stout with a robust profile and spice blend. I enjoy this beer alot as it adds another dimension to the sometimes overworked Imperial Stout. Clown Shoes seems to have a knack for taking styles popular in the US and tweaking them in their own unique way.

Grade: 90/100

Parallel 49 Jerkface 9000

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. 

Grade: 87/100

Stone/Baird/Ishii Japanese Green Tea IPA

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. 

stonegreentea

Grade: 89/100

Anchor Brewing Old Foghorn Barleywine

Anchor Brewing is seen as a the gtrandfather of American craft brewing. Founded in 1896 Anchor has a long and esteemed history that has seen many of America’s worst and best moments including being destroyed by the Great San Francisco earthquake. During prohibition Anchor survived despite having “nothing” in production. In 1965 Anchor Brewing was saved from bankruptcy by Fritz Maytag of Maytag washer/dryer fame. In 1971 Anchor expanded its lineup with four other brews; Anchor Porter, Liberty Ale, Old Foghorn Barleywine and the annual Christmas Ale. By 2015 Anchor has over a dozen flagship and seasonal releases but still get back to their roots with the original Steam beer. Old Foghorn is a Barleywine style ale with 8.8% ABV and is single hopped with Cascade. 

Pouring a bright ruby amber colour with a finger of dark beige head and tons of streaming sparkles of bubbles. The aroma is emphatically malty with tons of toffee and caramel malts that fill the palate entirely but for a subtle citrus hop and dark dried fruit aromas. Light flavours of prunes, raisins, tart cherry and woody malts in the front blend with heavy toasted bread, toffee, caramel, licorice and burnt brown sugar. A bit sweet throughout with a nice balanced profile. The finish has a moderate presence of alcohol that along with the full bodied mouthfeel make this the perfect winter warmer. 

Grade: 91/100

Russell Brewing Peaks and Valley Locally Hopped Extra Pale Ale

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.  

Grade: 88/100

Moylans White Christmas Spiced Lager

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.

Grade: 78/100

Price: $8.49