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 the hot craft beer styles this summer that has been making many appearances as seasonal releases is the Saison IPA. An evolution on a white IPA, this style involves making an IPA that is fermented with a strain of yeast normally used in Saisons. Phillip’s brewing in Victoria, BC is one of Canada’s most prolific craft breweries an specializes in Cascade heavy IPA styles. For a long time I found Phillips beers to be the same but recently rekindled my interest in them. Barnstormer Saison IPA clocks in at 7.2% and is has a small limited run in BC and Alberta craft beer stores.
Pouring out a bright, hazy coppery straw colour with a thick, puffy pure white head that sustains and leaves a bunch of sticky lacing blotches on the glass. The aroma is a nice hybrid of citrus heavy hops and floral, spice forward ester notes. Light lemon rind, grapefruit, wet grass and a light floral note from the saison yeast up front. A pinch of coriander and black pepper cracked on top are less apparent and subtle. The aroma is a nice middle of the road balance between the IPA and saison counterparts. A light toasted bread malt, a bit of honey sweetness and light grassy notes up front. Too much of a malt base would counteract the saison ester notes that soon become bigger in the profile. Black pepper, coriander, and lemon rind esters with light grapefruit juice notes, zesty citrus hops and typical Cascadian notes. Barnstormer is really well balanced with enough hops to satiate the hop heads but to still be in good balance with the esters.
Russell Brewing out of Surrey, BC has rapidly become one of Western Canada’s best and most reputable craft breweries. As someone who works in the craft beer industry I have seen a great improvement in the past few seasonal releases from Russell Brewing. Punch Bowl IPA is billed as a tropical and fruity IPA made with Citra, Mosaic and Amarillo hops that has 65 IBU’s and a very appropriate 6.5% ABV.
Pouring out a dark orange and amber in the body with a thick off white head that coats the glass in lacing blotches. There is a light stream of carbonation that simmers the head down to a thin layer after a few minutes. The aroma is certainly emphasised by tropical fruit notes of pineapple, mango, papaya and grapefruit. Citrus fruit notes although exceedingly common in IPA’s are somewhat more subtle beneath the juicy tropical notes. Light biscuity malts with a touch of caramel sweetness adds a balance to the flavour profile. After a few sips the lingering bitterness is noted although rather subdued. Simply sublime pineapple and mango notes become even more appetizing with a pinch of pine resin and citrus bitterness. Overall a great IPA with succulent, juicy tropical fruit notes that give a bit of character to the already great IPA. Punch Bowl IPA is another fantastic specialty brew from Russell Brewing.
Back in the year of 2007 I was a young university student drinking junky adjunct lagers and European beers like Pilsner Urquell. I happened upon Bottlescrew Bills a beer bar in my home town that was one of the only Canadian bars to gain the praise of Beer Hunter Michael Jackson. I ordered a Westmalle Dubbel not knowing how much one beer would change my entire life and take beer from a way to hang out to a passion and eventual career. Westmalle Dubbel is brewed by one of six Trappist breweries in Belgium where monks of the Strictest Cistercian Observance brew beers for charitable proceeds and consumption within the monastery. The brewing of beers by monks originally began to give monks sustenance during the fasting month of lent. This beer consumed by the monks is termed paterbier or monks beer. In 1856 the Westmalle monastery brewed a strong, dark ale that they termed double or dubbel. Today the dubbel is one of the Belgian Abbey styles and is generally characterised by a dark, fruity body and alcohol content up to 8%. I like to re assess this beer every year or two to see how my perception of beer has changed since going head first into the craft beer culture.
Less talk and more about the beer. Westmalle Dubbel pours a dark, murky burgundian brown with a massive beige head that fills the chalice. The aroma is rich and laced with dark fruity esters. Notes of prunes, raisins, cherries and light spice notes waft off the glass. The malt profile is composed mostly of rich toffee, light cocoa notes and a bit of a nutty flavour. Rich and smooth with a silky mouthfeel and strong carbonation that dances on the palate. Rich and well rounded profile adds a sense of class to the proceedings and allows the beer to make a lasting impression. Every time I have this beer I am taken back to that dimly lit bar taking my first sip of this rich malty treasure and thinking damn is this a great beer.
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.
Alberta’s newest craft brewery is Two Sergeants Brewing Inc. located in Fort Saskatchewan 20km north east of Edmonton. Bangalore Torpedo IPA is their first beer to hit off license shelves in Alberta and is billed as a 5.7% IPA with an explosive 100 IBU’s. Bangalore Torpedo gets its namesake from the incendiary device used to destroy mines and munitions left over after the Boer War. During WW2 the Bangalore Torpedo was used to weaken German defenses during the beach assaults on D-Day.
Bangalore Torpedo pours a rather dark amber tinted orange with a modest off white head with tons of sticky lacing that coats the glass. The aroma is rather moderate and reserved for a 100 IBU IPA touted as being “hopsplosive”. Light caramel and grassy notes with accents of citrus fruit and pine needle. After my first sip it is evident quickly that during the brewing process the majority of hops were added to the boil early. This left the brew with a more moderate aroma and heavy, lingering bitterness. Light sweet caramel malts up front with citrus fruits, floral and grassy notes. Heavy, pungent grapefruit notes blend with poignant pine resin notes. Dry and astringent finish with heavy bitterness and a sticky, full body mouthfeel. The bitterness lingers on infinitely and doesn’t seem to subside. Overall a very strong first beer with a hell of a punch.
Big Sky Brewing Co. of Missoula, Montana has been at the forefront of Montana’s craft brewing industry since its inception in 1995. Best known for their Moose Drool Brown Ale, Big Sky is the largest craft beer producer in Montana and also has the largest distribution area out of state. Olde Bluehair is a 10.2% ABV Barleywine by style that has been aged for 3 months of Kentucky Bourbon barrels. Olde Bluehair is a relative rarity with only 3750 bottles produced annually of which this one is marked 1663/3750.
Bottled in a 750ml with a cork and cage, a huge explosion with a slight pull on the placed cork. Pours with a heavy carbonation, almost effervescence that builds a huge foaming, overflowing head. A bright golden hued amber with light orange and ruby red accents in the body capped with a densely bubbled off white. Tons of lacing foam coats the glass and despite the initial outburst the carbonation settles down to nothing. The aroma is at first glance filled with overtly sweet toffee and caramel malts, candied and dried fruits and with a drizzle of fruity hops. Light apricot and candied apple aromas with a candy like aroma blend with toffee and caramel malts and the poignant hop flavours. The barrel has imparted a rich earthen aroma with a light vanilla and bourbon notes that extrudes itself through the candied malt aromas. The first sip is just as sweet as the aroma indicated with maple syrup like malt flavours combining with toffee and bready caramel. Sweet dried fruits of apricot and apple add to the character as the barrel becomes involved. Light vanilla and maple notes, earthen notes and a slight smoke come through towards the finish. The hop profile is notable and present throughout but is a bit lacking in character imparting only light spice and citrus notes. The finish is warm with alcohol and lingers through to the aftertaste with light hop bitterness and astringency. Olde Bluehair is a great beer to share on a cold or wet winter night. A beautifully complex and well rounded barleywine with nice barrel accents and sweet candied fruits.
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.
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.
Baltimore, Maryland’s Stillwater Artisinal Ales is one of America’s most well known brewers of farmhouse styles beers. I recently uploaded a video review of Stillwater’s As Follows a Belgian Strong Ale and was very surprised by Stillwaters flavorful yeast strain. Debutante is a Farmhouse Ale brewed to 6.4% ABV and crafted in the style of Biere de Garde. Debutante is brewed with spelt and rye along with heather, honeysuckle, and hyssop. Biere de Garde is a style traditionally brewed in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.
Stillwater Debutante pours out a bright and sparkling golden orange with a fizzy densely bubbled head. A few lacing rings stick easily to the glass as I swirl a few times. A first small sniff and I note a pleasant estery spritz of citrus fruit, floral hops, musty barnyard notes as well as mild herbal aroma. Debutante has a generally pleasant and bright aroma that reminds me of the best saison beers and a blend of grassy herbs. A bit of a toasted bready malt that blends well with a refreshing bouquet of herbs, citrus, mild hops and a musty ester essence. The finish is refreshing and crisp with a relatively mild bitterness. The spices and herbs that Debutante is brewed with aren’t individually notes in the flavour but come through as a mild floral spiced note. Overall Debutante is certainly unique and tends to remind me of a cross between a spiced wit beer and a saison.