Phillips Barnstormer IPA

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. 

Grade: 87/100

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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

Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale

With a bit of an impromptu return to the Alberta craft beer scene, Seattle’s Elysian Brewery has returned with a 650mL bomber of their pumpkin ale Night Owl hitting the shelves these past days. To be completely honest with the readers, I will not pretend to be a fan of pumpkin beers and the like. I find pumpkin beers to be a style lacking originality and creativity with moth beers tasting similar to others of the style. Night Owl is brewed with pumpkin, pumpkin seeds and is fermented with spices. Elysian Night Owl is brewed with over 7 lbs. of pumpkin per barrel and spiced in conditioning with nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, ginger and allspice. Despite the sessionable but higher 5.9% ABV Night Owl should be beer unlikely to impress me due to my skepticism.

Pouring out a dark amber with an orange glow in the body and a cap of thin off white head. So far Night Owl looks like most pumpkin ales I have experienced. The nose has a beautiful essence of pumpkin spice and a mild vegetable like pumpkin aroma. Notes of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg are duly noted on the aroma with a mild toffee and caramel malt. The flavour profile albiet mild and easy going had a solid spiced complex with notes of cloves, cinnamon and allspice blending with malt notes of nuts, toffee, caramel and rye bread. A good balance in the mid palate with almost no hop bitterness on the finish. The finish is replete with a pumpkin like flavour that lingers for about 10 seconds before dying down. Night Owl has an interesting profile and is honest to god one of the first pumpin ales I actually found enjoyable. Overall the balance of spices, pumpkin and malt is well done and gives a great profile of delectable flavours.

Grade: 87/100

Price: $8.49

Hog’s Head Hop Slayer IPA

Hog’s Head Brewing Company is Alberta’s newest brewery; located in St Albert near Edmonton, Hog’s Head currently brews only a few beers but have a heavy handed hop style. The Hop Slayer is a 7.5% ABV “pseudo Imperial IPA” with above 100 IBU’s.

Hop Slayer pours a rather dark burgundian amber with a thick frothed up creamy yellowish beige head. Tons of massive lacing splotches and rings form along the glass as the massive head calms down. Overall, this looks like a rather malty IPA. The aroma has a caramelized and toasted malt aroma with light roasted notes and a moderate grapefruit and lemony citric hop nose. A rather smooth sip up front with a rather heavy roast for and IPA with noted toasty and toffee malts. Light grapefruit hop flavours with mild resinous and pine needle notes. Not exactly my type of an IPA and more so an Imperial Brown Ale via the heavy toasted (roasted) malts and toffee notes. Overall, a nice addition to Alberta’s beer market. I genuinely hope Hog’s Head continues to create unique and tasty craft brews.

Grade:     86/100       Price: $15/ 6 pack