For me beer isn’t just something to drink for its obvious intrinsic properties but also for the experience of tasting something crafted with the purest of abilities. Over the past 7 years of diving headfirst into the craft beer world there have been several beers attached to memories and moments special to me. I recently wrote a review of Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout Aged in Cognac Barrel that brought back so many crazy memories of experiencing Oslo and Bergen during the celebrations of Norwegian Constitution Day which is May 17. This review can be found here: https://albertabeersmith.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/nogne-o-imperial-stout-aged-in-cognac-barrel/ For me a simple beer can be related to an incredible experience or even a great night out with friends. Elysian Dragonstooth is a 7.5% ABV Imperial Oatmeal Stout from the chain of Brewpubs based in Seattle, WA that I had heard of for many years from friends in British Columbia. Last September I visited a friend of mine attending Graduate school at UBC when we decided to head out to the legendary Alibi Room for a few libations. To keep this story short I should mention that I was a mere 13 beers short of my thousandth so I had reason to over consume. To the chagrin of the bartender my thousandth beer was Dragonstooth on tap. For me Dragonstooth will remain connected to the experience of celebratory drunkenness and the following consequences of my over consumption. When I met Elysian Brewmaster Dick Cantwell in October this year and he mentioned that Dragonstooth would make its way onto Alberta shelves for the first time I was over the moon. Anyways, on to the beer.
Elysian Dragonstooth pours out an entirely black colour with a creamy oatmeal based head that froths against the glass heavily leaving a collection of sticky lacing blotches. At first look the aroma is heavily roasted with big notes of espresso, used coffee grounds, porridge with brown sugar, molasses and a hint of cocoa. The roasted malts are rather heavy on the nose and should lend a solid amount of bitterness to the flavour profile. A bit of an overly sweet mid palate with creamy oatmeal malt notes as well as hints of brown sugar, molasses, toffee and chocolate. A smooth finish with a creamy oatmeal palate and a full body that has quite a hit of roasted malt bitterness in the lingering aftertaste. Nice espresso and coffee notes blend well with the malt sugars giving a surprising balance overall. The nose falls a bit flat comparatively to the flavour profile as it lacks the complexity and solid overall balance.
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.
East Vancouver’s newest and best craft brewery has been releasing some of British Columbia’s most inventive craft beers. Last fall they released the spixed pumpkin ale Schadenfreude to many accolades. A stronger big bottle version which includes chocolate malt was made available in Alberta this paat week. Lost Souls is a 6.8% ABV stronger porter classified as a spice or vegetable ale.
Pouring out a nearly opaque black with a thin beige head that settles quickly to nothing. The body has a slick almost syrupy appearance in the glass. Leaning in for a first smell I notice a mild pumpkin and spice combo of ginger, cloves and cinnamon. Beautiful roasted malts, toasted nuts and toffee balance out the spice in the aroma. The mid palate is sweet and syrup-like with moderately bitter roasted malts and an overlying vegetable like flavor. The finish is mildly bitter with a heavy spice and pumpkin taste that fades with the bitter finish. Overall Lost Souls is a good brew that exhibits an interesting new side of pumpkin beers.
Oro de Calabaza is an oddity in the craft beer world to say the least. Brewed by Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter, Michigan, Oro de Calabaza is an 8% ABV golden ale aged in French oak brewed in a traditional Biere de Garde style. Translated from Spanish “oro” is for gold and “calabaza” is in reference to gourds including pumpkins.
Biere de Garde is a style of ale originating in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France. In many ways the style is similar to the Saison of Belgium in that they both use a Farmhouse style yeast and are brewed traditionally in the winter. Biere de Garde translates roughly in French to “beer for keeping” and is controlled by a appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) meaning that only beers produced in Nord-Pas-de-Calais region are allowed to use the Biere de Garde name. This is similar to Champagne is only produced in the Champagne region and others are just sparkling white wines.
Oro de Calabaza pours out a marvelous out a bright and hazy golden yellow with a creamy fluffed up pure white head. A slow cascade of bubbles appear in the body as the head dissipates slowly into a thin cap. Taking the first sniff of the glass I immediately sense a mild funk and barnyard aroma. Woody, zesty with lemon and citrus esters, beautiful fruity notes and earthen funk notes with light toasted bread malts. Diving in further I sense a mild brettanomyces bouquet with a plethora of bursting fruits; lemon, white grapes, apples, pears and some black pepper. Oro has hands down one of the most unique and enticing aromas. Slowly taking the first sip, a sweet bready and light caramel malt forms in the middle with fruity notes. Apple and pears with a prominent white grape flavour come along with the funky brett and earthen barnyard flavours. Zesty lemon esters and mild hop bitterness on the finish with a bit of astringent dryness on the finish. Not even a single bit of evidence of this being an 8% brew on the finish as funk and fruity brettanomyces notes fill the aftertaste.
This is probably the most creative style of beer I’ve ever encountered and Jolly Pumpkin truly hit it out of the park with Oro de Calabaza. Complex, well balanced, tart and dry, fruity and funky….the list goes on and on. I could imagine this brew to be quite a handful for the more novice beer drinkers due to the high acidity. Overall, just an incredible beer.
Grade: 93/100 Price: $11.29