Half Pints HoppenHeimer

Half Pints is Manitoba’s best and single true craft brewery known for their incredible seasonal and special releases. One of the rare seasonal beers to make it from the Winnipeg brewery to Alberta beer shelves is the summer brew Hoppen Heimer. Hoppen Heimer is stylistically defined as a wheat ale but I think it may be best described as a wheat IPA. Single hopped with Topaz to 73 IBU’s and brewed to a very sessionable 4.8% ABV Hoppen Heimer is guaranteed to be a unique beer.

Hoppen Heimer pours a bright clear gold with a thick soapy off white head atop. A small spritzy stream of bubbles as well as tons of soapy lacing rings coat the glass evident of the fresh hops. The first sniff out of the tall weizen glass has a bursting citrus and resinous aroma as well as a milder but present hefe style yeast. Notes of banana, orange rind and a pinch of coriander are all noted in the nose. A great big bursting hop flavour in the mid palate with orange and lemon zest flavours as well as crisp wheat and estery notes. A bit of banana and bubblegum blend well with the big hops. The finish is bitter and lingers on a bit relentlessly with an astringent dryness. The balance is a bit out of whack but the flavour profile is exciting and heaped full of hops and full bitterness.

Price: $6.79/bomber

Grade: 85/100

Anderson Valley Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout

When Anderson Valley was first imported into the bustling craft beer scene in Alberta sometime last year I never had any idea that a WIld Turkey barrel aged beer would be later making its way up north. One of the first Anderson Valley brews to hit Albertan shelves was the Barney Flats Oatmeal stout which is a very solid sessionable stout that could be perceived as the base for this barrel aged version.  The 6.9% ABV barrel aged version was aged for 3 months in Wild Turkey casks to lend rich and woody flavours to the aroma and flavour.

The bomber of barrel aged stout a syrupy and velvety ebony black into a tulip glass with a thick foamy beige head expanding quickly on top. This head slowly dies to a thin cap which is evident of the barrel aging process. The appearance overall has a gorgeous mahogany and ebony glow throughout. Taking the first sniff of the glass I note an outstanding emphasis of bourbon and wooden barrel aromas as well as pinches of less than subtle vanilla. A minor more subtle aroma of licorice root and coffee blend well with the robust and intense roasted malt aroma. Overall the Wild Turkey has had a major and emphatic effect of the nose of this beer lending rich woody and earthy notes of vanilla and bourbon. Incredibly stoked for the first taste of this beer I dig in with a major rich yet robust flavour profile of wooden and earthen malts. Bursting roasted malts and notes of espresso and chocolate lend an intense and rich profile. The vanilla becomes more present and lingers on as I sip more of this silky, syrupy beer. Although the flavour alternates between a boisterous and robust malt and a smooth earthen vanilla essence the balance is awesome. Overall this beer is a sipper that doesnt last quite long enough.

Grade: 90/100

Price: $8.99

The Sound Brewery Ursus Spelaeus

Ursus Spelaeus from hence forth known as Ursus is one of three beers from Poulsbo, Washington’s Sound Brewery to recently arrive in Alberta. Ursus is an Imperial Stout brewed with a Belgian yeast strain at a modest 10% ABV with 68 IBUs. As Imperial Stouts are my favourite of all beers I find myself to rate them much differently than other styles with a probable bias. 

Pouring a bleak, opaque black with a finger of foamy beige head and a few splotches of short lived lacing Ursus looks like most Imperial Stouts from a distant. Taking a closer look with a quick sniff from the glass a prominent licorice as well as a robust roasted malt float off. As a person of Dutch heritage who grew up with licorice pastels as candy I love licorice especially in Imperial Stouts. I swoon with the thought of a licorice flavoured stout. The first sip has a noted roasty bitterness with sultry espresso and vanilla flavours as well as light fruity yeast notes albeit rather subtle. I am at first disappointed at the lack of licorice flavouring in the taste but after a while of sipping on Ursus a moderate lingering licorice takes form in the aftertaste. Ursus has a beautiful monstrous roast with espresso and vanilla notes but regardless of this, the licorice remains my centrepiece.

Grade: 92/100

Price: $10.49

Wild Rose Gose Rider

My local craft brewery Wild Rose is celebrating summer with a slightly sour salted beer infrequently seen anywhere on the planet. Of all the traditionally sour styles only Berliner Weisse and Lambic’s haved survived. One to go the way of the buffalo is Gose a salted sour wheat beer once brewed in areas of Northern Germany. Grodziskie and Lichtenhainer are similar but smoked styles even less frequently seen. With the recent craft beer rennaisance in North America, Gose is a style that has started to crop up from time to time as seasonal beers. To me Wild Rose is a brewery who generally doesn’t try anything to crazy despite recently creating a Belgian IPA, Rye Saison and Kellerbier (unfilitered pilsner) so attempting a Gose is courageous and intimidating at the same time. Gose Rider is brewed to 4% ABV with wheat, barley, Saaz hops, coriander and salt.

Gose Rider pours a murky golden yellow with a hazy body and a beautiful finger of bright white head and a ton of tin bubbles ascending towards the head to start. The nose is incredibly unique and unlike anything I can recall with definite funky sourness albeit light and subtle. Coriander and crisp wheat aromas accompany a light toasted bread malt. The flaovur lacks sourness on the first sip until swallowing where a moderate and monotone sourness hits the palate. Sweet toasted wheat malts and a light honey or caramel sweetness pervades the sourness and salty flavour. After I had about half the bottle I noticed a tart lemony zest on the finish with lingering coriander. Gose Rider is like an incredibly easy to drink and sessionable wit with less wheat and a salty flavour. This is an incredibly refreshing and crisp brew which is perfect on a hot summer day (or really any day).

Grade: 90/100

Price: $6.39

Flying Monkeys 8th Anniversary Ale – The Matador Imperial IPA aged on Spanish Cedar

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.”

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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.

Price: $12.99

Grade: 89/100

SKA Brewing Modus Hoperandi

I am finally getting around to posting reviews and blog articles on my May and June European Beer Vacation so this may be the first in a torrent of Belgian and Scandinavian beer articles. But during a 3 day stay in the Swedish capital of Stockholm and finally managing to find the government owned alcohol store known as Systembolaget I picked up a can of American IPA for Colorado. SKA Brewing Hoperandi is a beer I have seen many times on blogs, youtube reviews as well as on ratebeer and the like so choosing it instead of 100 SEK ($18 CAD) Swedish craft brews was an easy choice. For ony 29 SEK I purchased this little green can of hop elixir I had wanted to try for so long. SKA brewing is located in Durango, Colorado a distant town in SW Colorado closer to SantaFe and Albuquerque than Denver. At 6.8% ABV and 65 IBU’s this should be a hop rocket in a can. Later that evening after lettign Hoperandi cool a bit in my hostel fridge I set out to a bench overlooking the Baltic near my hostel on Skeppsholmen, Stockholm’s smallest island.

Unfortunately due to my rather bohemian style of travel I lacked a glass to pour this into and drank straight from the can. An aroma of solid citrus hop with a rather intense spicy hop note and resins. SKA Hoperandi smells like a freshly squeezed grapefruit mixed with sticky pine needles and resin with a bit of freshly cut grass atop. The first swill for the can has a mild sweet caramel malt with light toasted flavours and pervading citrus hop flavours in the mid-palate. A zingy tang of bitterness on the finish with definite grapefruit zest and a hot sticky resinous aftertaste. The hops linger well into the aftertaste with big floral grapefruit flavours. This although a surprisingly monotone beer has a rather nice drinkability and on a warm spring night in Stockholm it was most definitely a great beer experience.

Although this beer wasn’t Swedish I would soon visit a few of Stockholm’s legendary watering holes for some tasty treats.

Grade: 88/100

Price: 29 SEK ($5 CAD)

 

 

Deschutes Twilight Ale

The newest seasonal beer from Deschutes Brewery of Bend, Oregon to be released to Alberta beer shelves is Twilight Ale a refreshing Summer Pale Ale. Twilight is a 5% ABV American Pale Ale brewed with Amarillo hops from the Pacific NW. Deschutes is well known and well liked for not only their bold extreme specialty brews but their line up of sessionable flagship beers including Mirror Pon Pale Ale and Inversion IPA both of which are excellent summer brews.

Twilight pours with a golden and orange brilliance with steady carbonation and a thin finger of pure white head. A nice looking Pale Ale in general with a definite orange hoppy glow. The nose has a noted sweetness with mild caramalized notes as well as a hint of grapefruit and zesty citrus fruits. Overall a rather reserved and subtle aroma lacking the big hops I look for. Gorgeous caramel malt backbone in the mid palate with a juicy zest of grapefruit and citrus hitting soon afterwards. A rather sweet flavour profile with bitterness lingering a bit into the aftertaste. Nice balance with sweet caramel malts and a solid but not overbearing hop profile. A good sessionable pale ale from Deschutes but I think I’ll stick with Mirror Pond.

Price: $15/6 pack

Grade: 86/100

Brew Brother’s Amarillo IPA

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 Scottish Ale

I recently posted a blog review of Granville Island’s Imperial IPA one of several new beers in a limited release series of smaller batch brews from the Vancouver brewpub. Another big bottle in the “Limited Release” series is the Scottish Ale, a 6.5% ABV ale brewed in the fashion of a Wee Heavy. With the addition of peated malts, this Scottish Ale traditionally has a hint of smoke and dark earthen malts.

Pouring a dark burnished brown with burgundian highlights in the body and a light beige coloured head. The head albeit shortlived gives a few intriguing lacing rings to the glass. The initial aroma is a bit intense up front with noticeable roasted and peated malts and a slight smoky ash scent. An overall malty aroma lacks an overall balance with a big blend of robust dark malts. The flavour profile has mild sweetness with toffee malts and rich creamy pudding flavours. The peat and smoke is lacking in the flavour despite the mild presence in the aroma.  A bit of spritzy carbonation towards the finish with moderately hop bitterness rounds out the flavour rather well. A nice lightly smoked brew with rich malts throughout and a good balance. Overall, a nice solid brew.

Grade: 81/100       Price: $7.09