Two Sergeants Passion d’Ale Wit

One of Alberta’s newest brewers is Fort Saskatchewan’s Two Sergeants Brewing who released their first beer in early 2015. I previously wrote a glowing review of the intensely bitter Bangalore Torpedo IPA and now upon the release of their second brew I hope to do the same for it. Passion d’Ale is a Belgian Wit named by pun after the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as Passchendaele. Passion d’Ale is brewed to 5.2% ABV with a splash of blood orange juice. In brewing this beer Two Sergeants worked in collaboration with Escarpment yeast to create a one of a kind wit.

Pours an insanely hazy, cloudy straw yellow in the body with a thick tower of puffy off white head. A light stream of carbonation in the body seems low for the cloudiness and the style. Some splotchy lacing marks are left on the glass as the head subsides slowly. The aroma is grainy, bready and floral with a heavy earthy and floral hop leaf aroma. A heavy coriander and black pepper spice coagulates with a wet cardboard and musty ester note. Overtly floral and earthy with a lingering cardboard malt note. Bitterness is moderate and comes mostly from the blood orange juice and citrus zest notes. The wheat malt falls a bit flat amidst the esters and wet cardboard note that pervades the flavour profile. This is a very unique and complex witbier that falls somewhat outside the confines of the style. Packed with spice, fruity esters and musty yeast notes that creates an interesting beer.

Grade: 86/100

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Ninkasi Dawn of the Red India Red Ale

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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. 

Grade: 88/100

Modern Times City of the Sun

Over the past year I’ve seen images and reviews of Modern Times beer more often than I’d like to considering it is not available in Canada. The San Diego, California brewer born in 2013 is named after a crazy utopian society founded in 1850. Modern Times was started by a former Stone Brewing Co. employee Jacob McKean after many years of homebrewing experience. City of the Sun is an India Pale Ale brewed with Mosaic, Simcoe and Moteuka hops to a heavy 85 IBU’s and 7.5% ABV. I was lucky enough to find this brew at Maui Brewing Company in Kihei, HI after a tap take over at the brewery. 

Pouring out a bright, glowing orange and gold in the body the head forms quickly as a stream of cascading carbonated bubbles light the body. The head is frothy and leaves many lacing splotches around the glass. The aroma is poignantly hopped with boisterous citrus and tropical accented notes. Lemon rind, grapefruit, papaya, pineapple and mango are bountiful with heavy pine resin notes. Light caramel and munich esque malts add a biscuity and bready malt character that acts as a good balance to the heavy hops. Bright and fruity with fresh citrus notes on the aroma and in the mid palate. The finish is bitter and astringent but also manages to be crisp and succinct. Nice smack of pine and hop resin with a sticky aftertaste and lingering citrus based bitterness. A truly unique and well crafted San Diego style IPA; hop heavy with floral and tropical accents to off set the overblown citrus and hop bitterness. 

Grade: 90/100

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

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

Parallel 49 Black Hops Cascadian Dark Lager

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