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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Dandy Bright Young Things English Summer Ale

Calgary’s newest edition on the brewing scene is the nano startup of Dandy Brewing who have been releasing no holds barred bomber bottles for the last 10 months. Through a series of experimental and one off releases Dandy has released 7 unique and authentic beers. Bright Young Things is their first seasonal style and it is fashioned as a hoppy English Summer Ale that boasts a 5% ABV. Despite starting off with classic English styles such as an Oyster Stout and a Golden Brown Ale, Dandy has recently changed directions. By releasing a rauchbier, a sour and an upcoming Berliner Weisse the future of Dandy Brewing has an interesting and exciting road ahead as they continue filling a void in Alberta’s beer market. Personally I find the beers released to be very good both because of their flavour but also because of the originality of the styles themselves. 

Bright Young Things pours a bright orange with hues of copper and straw in the glass. A light burst of carbonation towards the finger of frothy off white head. Aromatics cascade off the glass with notes of toasted bready malts, light citrus and grassy hops and a light floral note. Sweet up front with toasted caramel and biscuity malts; a very English style malt base. Notes of pear and apricot are subtle but present. Crisp and ultra refreshing style of beer that boasts the name of English Summer Ale very well. A fresh floral and grassy hop blend with a light estery note towards the finish. The finish itself isn’t overly bitter but has enough to showcase the profile. As I sip more the hops show off more spice notes than I ever saw in the aroma and first few sips. Initially this beer was a bit cut and dry but as it warms up and I enjoy more of it the complexity reveals itself. The mild bitterness builds up over time and lingers well into the aftertaste. Fruits are more present and sweeter in the middle of the profile. Very refreshing and crisp with a nice touch of bitterness to create a fantastic balance.

Grade: 84/100

Russell Brewing Punch Bowl IPA

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.

Grade: 88/100

Two Sergeants Bangalore Torpedo IPA

two sergeantsAlberta’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.

Grade: 85/100

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

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp 2015 Hoppy Lager

Every year the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co of Chico, California collaborates with 12 breweries and their fans for a mixture of brews collectively known as Beer Camp. In 2014 the stand out was a brew made with San Diego’s Ballast Point and so has been resurrected as a spring seasonal in 2015. The Hoppy Lager is a strong Blonde lager with a heavy hop twist. Brewed to a heavy 7.0% ABV and an agreeable 55 IBU’s the Hoppy Lager is the perfect early spring brew. In addition to a lager yeast the hop manifest includes Palisade and El Dorado as bittering hops and Citra and Equinox as finishing hops. 

Pouring out a bright, clear golden hay colour the body has a solid stream of carbonation and is capped by a dense cap of pure white head. The aroma is fresh and heavily accented with citrus hop notes. Light floral and spicy hops add a nice dimension to the hop profile. Impossibly light caramel and crisp bread malts have a touch of honey sweetness akin to the blonde style. Crisp lemon and grapefruit notes and a mild acidic crunch towards the finish. Overall the bitterness is moderate and mostly negated by the cascade of finishing hop flavours. Light floral and perfumey notes blend with zesty lemon and grapefruit notes. A pinch of pine resin on the aftertaste with moderate astringency and a heavy lager esque mouthfeel. A nice brew overall with a bit of a unique take on the style. My only wish is that we Albertans could get our hands on Sierra Nevada’s products. 

Grade: 89/100

Stone Delicious IPA

Stone Brewing Co.’s newest IPA varietal is the aptly named Delicious IPA an 80 IBU brew with 7.7% ABV that is brewed with Lemondrop and El Dorado Hops. Delicious IPA is crafter as an ode to the citrus based IPA with the bottle description as follows: “This one was all about packing as much unique and, you guessed it, delicious flavor into a glass as humanly possible, regardless of oomph or octane. This intensely citrusy, beautifully bitter beer is worthy of the simple-yet-lordly title of Stone Delicious IPA. Lemondrop and El Dorado hops combine to bring on a magnificent lemon candy-like flavor that’s balanced by hop spice. It’s unlike anything we’ve tasted in nearly two decades of IPA experimentation, and another lupulin-laced creation we’re excited to introduce to hopheads everywhere.”

Delicious IPA pours out a bright golden in the body with a huge head of off white. The aroma is heavily laden with zesty citrus aroma including tons of lemon rind and orange notes. Smells of bitter grapefruit aromatics with huge pine resin notes wafting through honey sweetness and and mild caramel malts. Resinous throughout with tons of citrus fruit hop notes that accompany lighter pine needles and sticky grapefruit notes. Mild pineapple and papaya fruit notes blend well with honey and caramel sweetness. Well balanced with light astringency and mild malts the hops enter the forefront. Punishing bitterness with tangy citrus zest notes that build up towards the finish with heavy acidity and hop bitterness. Overall, Delicious IPA is an ode to the citrus hop effect and is crafted perfectly.

Grade: 91/100

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA

One of the most respected and revered American style IPA’s is Sculpin a 7% brew from San Diego, California’s Ballast Point Brewery. Ballast Point originally started as San Diego’s Home Brew Mart and grew to become one of the United State’s craft brewing vanguards. More recently Ballast Point has brewed special editions of Sculpin with Grapefruit and Habanero pepper additions. 

Pouring out a bright cascade of golden orange with a creamy froth of yellow tinged head Sculpin looks like an IPA from the get go with tons of sticky resin lacing. The aroma is distinctly emphasised with citrus fruits including lemon, orange, grapefruit etc. Lighter floral and spicy hop aromas are noticeable but dulled by the citrus heavy notes. Light caramel malts with honey sweetness and a plethora of fruity hop notes. Citrus notes and lighter tropical fruits fill the mid palate with notes of pineapple, mango and papaya. The finish is characteristic of the San Diego style with a resin predominance that leaves a sticky, astringent aftertaste of pine needles and bitter grapefruit. A bitter finish overall but mostly a fruity beer with glorious citrus and tropical notes. Sculpin is a great example of the San Diego IPA style and is a classic beer in general. 

Grade: 94/100

Ninkasi/Devils Backbone The Devil Went Down to Oregon

The first time I tried a Ninkasi beer I was on holiday in Palm Springs, California and found a bottle of Oatis at the local grocery store. Ninkasi is a larger craft brewery located in Eugene, Oregon and is named after the Sumerian goddess of brewing and fermentation, Ninkasi. Unfortunately I would have to wait 4 years for Ninkasi to finally import into Alberta. Oatis was stuck in my head as the epitome of a creamy oatmeal stout with a moderate bitterness and full body flavour. Since Ninkasi started hitting the shelves in Alberta I’ve been lucky enough to try nearly a dozen of their brews and even attend a sensory class with Ninkasi founder Jamie Floyd. The Devil Went Down to Oregon is a collaboration brewed with Roseland, Virginia’s Devils Backbone Brewing Company. Stylistically, “The Devil” is a Imperial Dark Rye or Roggenbier brewed to 72 IBU’s and 7.2% ABV with Northwest hops and an Alt style yeast strain. 

Pouring out a dark, opaque blackish brown with a thick, puffy head of off white that does not subside but rather coats the entire glass in lacing. The aroma is heavily malted with spicy, bready notes of rye and biscuity crystal malts that give in to solid caramel and toffee malt sweetness. A bit of a nutty aroma with a hint of vanilla blends with the notable hop aromas. Light citrus fruit and a pinch of pine resin adds a Northwest twist to the staunchly German style malt profile. The first sip comes across rather sweet and a bit fruity with caramel and biscuity malts with a spicy twist of rye malt. Citrus zest and tart hop flavours build towards the finish with a light pine resin and lingering astringency. The malts and the hops are both blown out of proportion but also balance out well in the middle. An interesting mash-up of styles with the hop content expected from Oregon with the malts of a traditional German alt or roggenbier. A very peculiar brew overall.

Grade: 86/100