Anchor Brewing is seen as a the gtrandfather of American craft brewing. Founded in 1896 Anchor has a long and esteemed history that has seen many of America’s worst and best moments including being destroyed by the Great San Francisco earthquake. During prohibition Anchor survived despite having “nothing” in production. In 1965 Anchor Brewing was saved from bankruptcy by Fritz Maytag of Maytag washer/dryer fame. In 1971 Anchor expanded its lineup with four other brews; Anchor Porter, Liberty Ale, Old Foghorn Barleywine and the annual Christmas Ale. By 2015 Anchor has over a dozen flagship and seasonal releases but still get back to their roots with the original Steam beer. Old Foghorn is a Barleywine style ale with 8.8% ABV and is single hopped with Cascade.
Pouring a bright ruby amber colour with a finger of dark beige head and tons of streaming sparkles of bubbles. The aroma is emphatically malty with tons of toffee and caramel malts that fill the palate entirely but for a subtle citrus hop and dark dried fruit aromas. Light flavours of prunes, raisins, tart cherry and woody malts in the front blend with heavy toasted bread, toffee, caramel, licorice and burnt brown sugar. A bit sweet throughout with a nice balanced profile. The finish has a moderate presence of alcohol that along with the full bodied mouthfeel make this the perfect winter warmer.
One of Bend, Oregon’s Deschutes Brewing Company’s most well known seasonal varieties has finally made it into Alberta for the first time. Cinder Cone is a Northwest style Red Ale brewed with Amarillo and Tettnang hops to a pseudo sessionable 5.3% ABV.
Cinder Cone pours out a rich, deep mahaogany with a burgundy hue throughout the body and a thick mess of beige head. The aroma is distinctively rich with toffee and caramel malts atop a toasted bread note. A hint of vanilla extract blends with light floral and spicy hops and a pinch of citrus zest. Quite mellow in the middle with light toasted caramel malts and mild sweetness. Spicy hops with a light vanilla or herbal flavour towards the finish. The finish itself has moderate hop bitterness and lingering astringency with a prominent citrus hop and light pine resins (from the Amarillo). Cinder Cone has a medium to full body with a great hop to malt balance and light carbonation. Overall, not a earth shattering brew by any means but a fantastic example of an Amber ale with lots of flavour.
Over the past 7 years I have delved into the world of craft beer; every so often I encounter a brew I place aside to enjoy down the road. A good amount of these brews are of high alcohol content that were either too intimidating at the time or needed some rest to become properly enjoyable. Once in a blue moon I drink one of these such brews….today I open a brew from Microbrasseurs Les Trois Mousquetaires out of Brossard, Quebec. This bottle is the Porter Baltique a 9.2% strong porter from the Autumn of 2010. Three years of maturation inside of a bottle does wonders for such a beer allowing the in bottle yeast sediment to continue the carbonation process while allowing the flavour profile to mature.
I have previously drank this beer on several occasions so subtle details may become evident.Sometimes an aged beer has such pent up carbonation the cork will have a violent and rapid expulsion from the bottle…so be careful. Porter Baltique’s cork is a bit stuck at first but let go with a modest pop. Pouring out a slick, purely opaque black with a huge foamy tan head which settles to a thin layer a few mere bubbles thick at parts; this is true evidence of aging. A few quick swirls of the glass shows some minor alcohol legs on the glass that disappear quickly. The nose has a heavy roasted aroma with accents of vanilla bean, hazelnut coffee, used espresso beans, bourbon casks and a hint of sultry smoke. I have always said that the best beers are ones you just want to keep smelling and that Porter Baltique is one of those beers. The aroma has such a grabbing quality that in intoxicating. Taking the first sip Porter Baltique is smooth almost silken with a casked style flavour from the smoky notes as well notes of dark chocolate, espresso, toffee and a hint of dried fruits. A truly complex flavour profile with a palate as smooth as can be. A full bodied and heavy beer with an smooth mouthfeel and a heavy roasted malt isn’t rare but the execution of this beer is exceptional. The aging process has taken away some sweetness and changed the mouthfeel from syrupy to silky. Overall Porter Baltique is an exceptional brew that can and has stood the test of time. I look forward to trying my remaining bottle in a few more years.
For many years Fort Garry was the big boy in the Manitoba Craft beer scene. Until Half Pints opened its doors they were the only one. Recently several big bottle seasonal brews from Fort Garry have been sent to Alberta. Several months ago I did a blog entrty on Portage & Main IPA from Fort Garry Brewery. Fort Garry was started in 1930 but was merged with Molson later on. It was not until the mid 1990s that a craft brewery of the same name was opened.
Kona Imperial Stout is a 6.5% abv stout brewed with coffee from the big island of Hawaii. At 6.5% I fear this may lack the buzzing warmth and thick richness of a true Russian Imperial stout. Most Imperial Stouts are upwards of 8% ABV with most falling around 9 or 10%. Kona coffee is arabica bean grown on the slopes of Hualalai or Mauna Koa and as such is rather expensive. Due to rarity and cost most coffee roasters or brewers whole sell Kona coffee often use a blend of Kona arabica and other coffees grown from elsewhere.
Pouring a dark as night black with a thick foamy beige mess on top this looks more like an Oatmeal stout to me The head srays rather bulging and thick for a while before settling down to a few small bubbles. The nose has a moderate roast with big coffee and espresso aromas floating peacfully together. Earthen and smoky notes although subtle are also duly noted. Mild sweet coffee and chocolate flsvours up front with mild roasted malts coming in soon. The finish is roasted and mildly bittered but lacks the big smack in the face of roasted malts I love. This is a solid brew but has neither the finishing warmth nor the full roasted malt I love. I think this could be a great Imperial Stout if brewed in the traditional Russian Imperial Stout style with more roasted malts and a higher alcohol content.
If you are a true craft beer fan and have never heard of Danish gypsy brewer Mikkeller you must have been living under a rock for a few years. Mikkeller started in 2006 when homebrewers Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and Kristian Klarup Keller decided to join forces and challenge the boundaries of craft brewing. Mikkeller soon got the reputation as a “phantom” or “gypsy” because they brew at a several different breweries and don’t house a brewery of their own. Instead of a brewery, Mikkeller uses its world famous Mikkeller bar in Copenhagen as its base for wacky new experiments. Since 2006, Mikkeller has brewed more unique beers than any other brewery eclipsing the 400 mark. Mikkeller has made a name for itself for its use of unique barrel woods and the use of ingredients as odd as hot peppers and civetcat coffee (coffee harvested after ingestion and excretion from civetcats, a weasel like creature).
Fra Til Christmas Porter is an 8% ABV Imperial/Baltic Porter by style brewed at De Proefbrouwerij in Belgium. The name is actually means From, To and the label is fashioned as a label on a Christmas present. Fra Til is brewed with a blend of unique spices as well as cassonade sugar.
Gently pouring this into a glass I am met with some of the most absurdly foamy, whipped head making it quite difficult to salvage a decent pour. After settling down a bit, Fra Til coats the glass with a ton of outrageous mocha coloured lacing. The body is an entirely opaque ebony black with a dying head of dark tan. Giving the glass a swirl, a solid stream of bubbles poke their way through the now thin cap of appetizing tan head. The first scent off the nose I get is a seriously intense roasted malt with huge chocolate and espresso notes. A hint of woody smoke, with a light spice blend including subtle scent of anise and gingerbread. The aroma is so appetizing and enticing with the warmth of a true Christmas ale.
Like a Baltic Porter or Imperial Porter should have, Fra Til has alot of sweetness and a syrupy mouthfeel throughout. A strong roasted malt character with pronounced anise, vanilla and a solid amount of a smoked malt blends well with a brown sugar and its accompanying sweetness. The spice notes are somewhat lost in the mix with a rather fervent smoke and ash flavour that drys the palate out towards the finish. The finish is rather sweet at first but a slow astrigency drys the palate and leaves a robust roast and smoked malt in the back of my mouth. This is an absurdly well crafted Baltic Porter with a unique Mikkeller twist; the robust smoked malts as well as the anise and gingerbread spices. That being said the sweetness and syrupy dark malts are spot on stylistically. Fra Til warms my heart on yet another chilly December evening.
Grade: 92/100 Price: $10.99