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.
Calgary’s newest edition on the brewing scene is the nano startup of Dandy Brewing who have been releasing no holds barred bomber bottles for the last 10 months. Through a series of experimental and one off releases Dandy has released 7 unique and authentic beers. Bright Young Things is their first seasonal style and it is fashioned as a hoppy English Summer Ale that boasts a 5% ABV. Despite starting off with classic English styles such as an Oyster Stout and a Golden Brown Ale, Dandy has recently changed directions. By releasing a rauchbier, a sour and an upcoming Berliner Weisse the future of Dandy Brewing has an interesting and exciting road ahead as they continue filling a void in Alberta’s beer market. Personally I find the beers released to be very good both because of their flavour but also because of the originality of the styles themselves.
Bright Young Things pours a bright orange with hues of copper and straw in the glass. A light burst of carbonation towards the finger of frothy off white head. Aromatics cascade off the glass with notes of toasted bready malts, light citrus and grassy hops and a light floral note. Sweet up front with toasted caramel and biscuity malts; a very English style malt base. Notes of pear and apricot are subtle but present. Crisp and ultra refreshing style of beer that boasts the name of English Summer Ale very well. A fresh floral and grassy hop blend with a light estery note towards the finish. The finish itself isn’t overly bitter but has enough to showcase the profile. As I sip more the hops show off more spice notes than I ever saw in the aroma and first few sips. Initially this beer was a bit cut and dry but as it warms up and I enjoy more of it the complexity reveals itself. The mild bitterness builds up over time and lingers well into the aftertaste. Fruits are more present and sweeter in the middle of the profile. Very refreshing and crisp with a nice touch of bitterness to create a fantastic balance.
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.
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.
The newest beer from Dieu du Ciel! to arrive in Alberta is Isseki Nicho an Imperial Dark Saison a style which has started to slowly develop in the craft beer community. Dark Saisons from breweries such as Stillwater, Widmer and Upright have all been recently released. Isseki Nicho is a collaboration project between Dieu du Ciel! and Shiga Kogen a Japanese sake producer. Isseki Nicho is described as having a grain bill of an Imperial Stout with a saison twist. At 9.5% ABV this brew is certainly a heavy hitter in the class on an Imperial Stout.
Twisting off the cap a slow hiss of vapor trails out of the bottle. A gloopy, pure black viscous body with a thick, bubbly, tan head forms in the glass. The head settles slowly with larger bubbles and small, dense bubbles forming well. The nose has a general rich malt aroma with a moderately heavy roasted note, hits of coffee and chocolate and a beautiful mild saison style yeast scent. Soft esters complement the light saison yeast well with light barnyard dust notes and mild citrus zest. The aroma is rather elogent and the heaviness is a refreshing change for the saison style. My first sip has a thoroughly roasted, heavy malt flavour with a note of espresso and vanilla. More subtle flavours of smoke, wood, bourbon, lemon zest and barnyard dust work their way through. The finish is heavy with a mild saison yeast and a roasted malt bitterness that lingers for a while. Well balanced, Isseki Nicho is a unique twist on the style of saison despite being alot like an Imperial Stout.
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!
Brewed in the Leaside Village area in Toronto, Ontario the Amsterdam Brewery has been redefining craft beer in Ontario since 1986. The first Amsterdam beer to leave the province and land in Alberta is the Boneshaker Unfiltered IPA. Brewed Amarillo hops with a 90 minute continuous hopping to 65 IBU’s and a heavy 7.1% ABV, Boneshaker is for hop fans only.
Pouring out a bright golden orange with a big bounty of white head Boneshaker has the generally IPA esque appearance despite a lack of haze or cloudiness. The nose has a big dose of pine and gooey resinous citrus aromas. A mild malty nose with hints of caramel and toasted breads the aroma is hop dominated. The first sip has full on resinous hop sweetness with grapefruit and zesty flavours. Toasted malts and bready notes blend well and help balance the flavour out but are lost quickly with big hops. The finish isn’t all that bitter for me but lingers quite well with a sharp and tangy grapefruit along with a moderate smack of resinous hops. A good beer overall if I can say so.
Price: $17/ 6 pack
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.
BooGoop a highly lauded collaboration between two of the worlds most prolific craft breweries is a barleywine brewed with Buckwheat malt. The two breweries involved in the creation of this beer are Copenhagen, Denmark’s Mikkeller and Three Floyds from Munster, Indiana. I recently wrote a post on this blog reviewing Three Floyds Dark Lord 2012 an Imperial Stout which I was privileged enough to taste on tap at Mikkellerbar Viktoriagade. Boogoop was brewed at De Prouf Brouwerij in Belgium to 10.4% ABV and 80 IBUs.
BooGoop pours a highly carbonated mixture of creamy pale yellow head and a burgeoning blend of murky brown and ruby red. The aroma has a sensational toasted graininess with the aroma of a barley field. Sweet brown sugar with an emphasis of resin and grapefruit hops in the nose blends well with the overblown malt backbone. This beer has the aroma of a truly beautiful barleywine. Taking a first small sip a mouthful of brown sugar and molasses lends a ton of sweetness to the flavour. MIld toasted grains with a noted buckwheat flavour and light toffee and caramel malts. The mid palate has a large grapefruit presence with a tangy pinch of lemon rind and citrus zest. After the citrus subsides a mild resinous finish has a nice solid hop bitterness that lingers into the aftertaste. Boogoop has one of the most outrageous and solid barleywine flavours thanks to the heaps of hops and buckwheat. Boogoop has an incredible balance with a warm, resinous and hoppy finish that makes me want more.
Price: $11.99/ 750mL
For many years Fort Garry was the big boy in the Manitoba Craft beer scene. Until Half Pints opened its doors they were the only one. Recently several big bottle seasonal brews from Fort Garry have been sent to Alberta. Several months ago I did a blog entrty on Portage & Main IPA from Fort Garry Brewery. Fort Garry was started in 1930 but was merged with Molson later on. It was not until the mid 1990s that a craft brewery of the same name was opened.
Kona Imperial Stout is a 6.5% abv stout brewed with coffee from the big island of Hawaii. At 6.5% I fear this may lack the buzzing warmth and thick richness of a true Russian Imperial stout. Most Imperial Stouts are upwards of 8% ABV with most falling around 9 or 10%. Kona coffee is arabica bean grown on the slopes of Hualalai or Mauna Koa and as such is rather expensive. Due to rarity and cost most coffee roasters or brewers whole sell Kona coffee often use a blend of Kona arabica and other coffees grown from elsewhere.
Pouring a dark as night black with a thick foamy beige mess on top this looks more like an Oatmeal stout to me The head srays rather bulging and thick for a while before settling down to a few small bubbles. The nose has a moderate roast with big coffee and espresso aromas floating peacfully together. Earthen and smoky notes although subtle are also duly noted. Mild sweet coffee and chocolate flsvours up front with mild roasted malts coming in soon. The finish is roasted and mildly bittered but lacks the big smack in the face of roasted malts I love. This is a solid brew but has neither the finishing warmth nor the full roasted malt I love. I think this could be a great Imperial Stout if brewed in the traditional Russian Imperial Stout style with more roasted malts and a higher alcohol content.