During my weekly stop at one of my favorite craft beer stores in Calgary last week, the owner who knows my love of interesting brews offered up a sample of a Berliner Weisse. The Berliner Weisse brewed by Montreal’s Dieu du Ciel! With raspberries is my first chance to try tgis rare style. The Berliner Weisse is a style of beer originating from you guessed it Berlin where it is the local specialty. Brewed with wheat malt and often fruit Berliner weisse have a moderate sourness akin to lambic beers from Belgium.
Pouring out a beautiful glimmering pinkish colour evidence of raspberries. A nice tuft of pink foam on top with a solid bubble density caps off a glorious appearance. The aroma a beautiful sourness blended with fresh picked raspberries and a crisp clean wheat malt. The nose is rather sublime although the sourness is unlike most other sour/wild beers Ive encountered. Sweet raspberries and fruity flavors in the mid palate show like in the aroma with a mild crisp finish. Not until my second or third sip does the sourness creep up and linger into the finish and aftertaste. A beautiful balance and a crisp sourness blend well together in creating a refreshing sour brew.
The Dieu du Ciel has the ability to brew amazing beers in rare and uncommon styles which begs the question… can they brew a bad beer?
In early June as I travelled through Belgium I made a stop in Brussels the mostly French speaking city in Belgium. The second day I was there I made my way to the legendary Belgian lambic brewer Cantillon located only a few short blocks from Zuidstation. The self guided tour was an eye-opener into the traditional way of brewing gueuze and lambic style beers. After the tour a sample of unblended young gueuze as well as another beer were given. Arriving back home in Calgary I decided it might be ripe time to open some of the bottles of Cantillon aging in my cellar. Cuvée Saint-Gilloise is a Gueuze style created by using only a single vintage of two year old lambic that is dry hopped with aged hops for three weeks with Styrian Golding hops. Unlike most other gueuze available, Cuvée Saint-Gilloise is not a blend of two or more vintaged lambics. This bottle of Cuvée Saint-Gilloise was bottled in 2010 and personally aged for 2 years prior to today.
Cuvée Saint-Gilloise pours a bright glowing orange colour with a very short lived pure white head and a general haziness in the body. The appearance is beautiful overall with the orange colour coming fromthe significant dry hopping. The aroma has a mild peppery and spicy hop aroma with a bone dry almost Champagne like aroma with tons of hop nuances. A light barnyard funk pervades the aroma with noted tart lemon fruitiness and acetic sourness. Although I have had many different gueuze the aroma always surprises me with its acidic backbone and tart, dry notes. The first sip I take has an intense citrus fruit to the point of puckering tartness until a mild oaky creaminess settles the citric flavour down a bit. The finish is crackingly dry with a mild bitterness from aged Golding hops with nice solid sourness. Funky fruits and barnyard yeasty esters are rather subtle as the acetic acid, dry hops and citrus fruits are much more abashing on the palate. Overall a nicely soured, complex Gueuze with a creaminess that balances out the dry, acidic flavour profile.
Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery located in Barrie, Ontario has slowly started to release a few of the specialty releases into Alberta and Western Canada. The most recent of these is the Matador a 10% ABV Imperial IPA aged on Spanish Cedar brewed specially for Flying Monkeys’ 8th Anniversary. The bottle this beer and the brewing of it as follows:
“Aged on a bed of Spanish Cedar, a hardwood most commonly used in sweet-smelling cigar boxes, The Matador’s faboulous aroma cradles a spicy, peppery zing in the rich warm smells of leather and wood. Amarillo hops give this Imperial IPA astounding citrus flavours while pushing its bittering to a solid 88 IBUs. A beer made for sharing with true aficionados.”
Opening up the lovely presentation box and a beautiful bottle makes me realize just what bottle art and presentation can do for a beer. Pouring Matador into my Dieu du Ciel! tulip a massive foamy off white head forms although it dissapates rather quickly. The appearance is that of an IPA with a bright orange body and a golden ue throughout with a thin yellowish off white head and a few big sticky lacing splotches around the glass. I am surprised to see no carbonation after the intense head when I first poured it before I remembered it had by aged on wood which would soften the carbonation. The aroma has a unique pine filled substance with big earthen sweetness and sweet cedary scents. The hops are a little bit subtle on the aroma despite moderate grapefruit and resinous aromas. This is a very unique smelling beer and my first sip is very apprehensive. The mid-palate is full of glorious woody accents and slight fruity flavours including a ton of pine needles and just a general funky wood flavour. Although its not quite as abashing as sticking a piece of cedar in your mouth there is a definite cedar flavour throughout the taste profile. Moderate hop flavour leaves me in ponderance and wanting more of a sticky resinous finish and overall bitterness regardless of the flavourful zesty citrus and big pine flavour. I can’t say much of the drinkability nor the general balance of this beer due to the general quirkiness and unique taste. The finish has a big lingering pine needle and cedar woodiness unlike any other beer available. Despite all the pros and cons of this beer I can say with complete confidence that The Matador is one of the most experimental and unrelentingly different. And for these reasons this beer is a must try because no one else to my knowledge has tried something so outlandish.
Since their inception and arrival on the Alberta Craft Beer scene I have had nothing but accolades for the small East Vancouver brewer Parallel 49. Starting as St. Augustine’s one of Vancouver’s best craft beer bars with a bonkers rotating tap list, the brewery has quickly grown into one of BC’s best. The cavalcade of amazing beers from Parallel 49 keeps on coming and the newest arrival is Black Hops Cascadian Dark Lager a Schwarzbier type of Black IPA.
Black Hops pours a purely black body with a foamy bubbly beige head and a few sparse carbonation bubbles in the body. The nose is rather exceptional with big grapefruit and mild spiced hop resinous. A subtle note of smokey cocoa tantalizes me to take me first sip. The body is incredibly light and nearly watery with a mild roasted malt unlike the nose made me believe. A light sweetness with a hint of cocoa and a subtle earthen woody note. The finish is mild and a bit disappointing with a hint of light grapefruity hops. After finishing this brew I found it a bit disappointing especially after the last several seasonal brews form Parallel 49. I hope the next East Vancouver creation from this generally awesome brewery exceeds my expectations.
Price: $7.49 Grade: 78/100
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
Granville Island Brewery in Vancouver, British Columbia has been a cornerstone of the Canadian craft brewing industry since its founding in 1984. Despite its purchase by SABMiller via Creemore Springs in 2009, the Granville brewery has been pumping out solid craft brews for close to 3 decades. Thanks to the recent purchase by the large conglomerate, Alberta has recently been able to sample many of the lesser known Granville brews made at their Granville Island brewpub. The Imperial IPA is the most recent addition to this big bottle lineup of full flavoured brews.
This Imperal IPA is fashioned in the San Diego style at 8.6% ABV and 100 IBU’s with added citrus peel to the boil. As is typical, Granville’s Imperial IPA is brewed with toasted English malts and a full heap of Pacific Northwest hops. Pouring a bright, vivid orange-gold colour with a well carbonated body and a light beige head that fizzles instantly to nothing. A few white splotches of head coat the glass for a short while before fading away prematurely. The aroma has a mild Pacific NW feel with heavy resin and piney hop aromas full frontal with obvious citrus notes. The aroma lacks an overall malt character midst the heavy hop scents. The flavour is unbalanced and rather resinous upfront with heavy citric hop acids and a light toasted malt. A bit of an overall sweet flavour and notes of lemon peel and fresh grapefruit juice join the party. The finish has an abrupt and potent astringent bitterness although short lived as it fades quickly. Overall, not as memorable as many BC or Cascadian counterparts, this is a solid well hopped Imperial IPA.
Grade: 87/100 Price: $7.59
Wild Rose is a local Calgary brewery located in a now defunct Canadian Armed Forces barracks. Wild Rose makes a solid roster of session beers spanning most styles but they really hit their stride with their seasonal and special offerings. The most recent (literally released yesterday) in a line of awesome seasonal beers is the Hoptimal Imperial IPA. Hoptimal is brewed with a blend of four hops; Summit, Newport, Cascade & Columbus. These hop varietals are indigenous to the Pacific NW and Cascade and Columbus in particular are usual suspects in Imperial IPA’s. Hoptimal is brewed to 8% ABV and is available in Calgary in 650 mL bottles and draft (select locations) for a short time.
Hoptimal pours a bright golden copper with a sheen of hoppy orange. The head is a thick and foamy mess that dies slowly to a marshmallow like surface while leaving a huge band of sticky lacing on the glass. Nosing the glass, a huge puff of resinous and floral hops with intense grapefruit aromas and mild pine scents. Smelling further I notice a hint of lightly toasted caramel malts and more huge floral hop aromas. Mild honey sweetness and light toasty caramel malts are quickly overtaken by moderately heavy hop flavors and a light acidic backbone. Big grapefruit and citrus fruits accompany floral and pine resin notes in the middle with an awesome smack of bitterness. The hops are definitely potent and poignant in Hoptimal despite lacking an overall lengthy bitterness. Warming alcohol and hops on the finish round the beer off well. This isn’t exactly the pine and resin bombs of San Diego but this is a simple and straightforward Double IPA with a great execution. The full bodied resinous smack is there with gorgeous floral and citrus hops combining well. A moderate bitterness perhaps lacks the overall oomph of this style, but regardless this is a simple but well done Imperial IPA.
Price: $7.00 / 650 mL
To be honest I had never actually heard of Hook Norton Brewery, but after a quick google search it was something I definitely had to try. Hook Norton Brewery located in Hook Norton, Oxfordshire was founded in 1849 and still operates as a brewery from the era. In what is known as a Victorian tower brewery, a beer is brewed sequentially starting on the top floor and making its way down. Until 2006, the Hook Norton Brewery was powered by an on site steam engine making this a truly unique and real ale. The Haymaker itself is a 5% ABV Premium Bitter or ESB. The ESB style of beer is a term used to refer to Brtitish style bitter ales over 4.8% ABV.
The Haymaker has a gorgeous bright golden copper tinted body with a thick bright white head. There is a steady stream of of fine carbonation bubbles streaming upwards that help form a few lines of sticky lacing. The nose has a beautifully floral bouquet with a typical English accented biscuit malt and yeast. A fresh citrus fruit with grassy and floral hops accompany a mild caramel and toasted bread malt. The finish has a solid hop bitterness and a lingering grainy malt flavor. Beautiful light lemon and fresh floral notes make this a fantastic session ESB. The body is quite full and a bit of sparkly carbonation truly makes this a good example of the brush pub style strong bitter ale.
Grade: 78/100 Price: $4.99