Wouldn’t you know it? Months back, I did a review of the Howe Sound lineup, promised that I would cover their seasonal beers next, and then never got around to it! I’m not sure if this was the result of negligence, the fact that I needed more time to try more of them, or my literary ADHD. But in the end, I thought it was about time I got around to rectifying this error. And wouldn’t you know it, just the other night I finally finished off the last of their seasonal beers, so I’m ready to proceed. Here goes!
As I might have mentioned in my last post about Howe Sound, this brewery is located in the heart of the interior, in beautiful Squamish, BC. However, I have since learned that the operation was originally started by John Mitchell and Mr. Frank Appleton himself. This would be the same man that started the Swann brewery and apprenticed Hr. Hoyne himself, the man who started Hoyne’s Brewing and the Canoe Club. Quite the credentials, and it comes through in the product! Just about every beer they’ve ever made has received top marks from me, your humble snob, and a host of awards as well. But when it comes to the seasonals, I noted some serious risk-taking and experimentation, particularly when it came to the gravity, malts, and hop content of the beers.
So here is what I thought of their seasonal beers which, for the sake of convenience, are divided by the season. First up, Fall!
Pumpkineater: Pumpkin ales have become all the rage with the growth of craft brewing, especially when it comes to fall seasonals. There’s just something about pumpkins that screams autumn, isn’t there? In any case, this particular brew is of a higher gravity than most (meaning more dense). This comes through in the taste, which is heavier and maltier than your average pumpkin beer and contains a rich, spicey finish that is loaded with cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s like pumpkin pie in a glass. A very fitting addition to any Thanksgiving meal! 4/5
Father John’s Winter Ale: A rich, dark and malty brew that is fashioned from many different types of malts and hops. The result is a heavier-tasting ale that comes on smooth and rich, but finishes with malts that are coarser, and toasty. Like a good winter ale, it also has a sweet, spicey finish that is made possible by longer fermentation and the addition of what I believe is allspice. If the Pumpkin Ale can be likened to Thanksgiving, this one would definitely be Christmas! 4/5
Pothole Filler Imperial Stout: At 9% alc/vol, this is a powerful stout that packs quite the wallop! Made from barley that is roasted extra dark and molasses, this beer comes on heavy with the flavor of toasted malts and finishes bitter with a slight touch of licorice. The combined alcohol content and dark malty profile can make it somewhat overpowering, but that’s part of its appeal. Some people just like a challenge! 3.75/5
Mettleman Copper Ale: One of the smoothest and most refreshing ales I’ve ever tasted, and definitely a fitting addition to the coming of spring. Named in honor of Squamish BC’s “Test of Metal Mountain Bike Race”, this beer is a combination of smooth, cooper malts, dry, crisp hops, and a nice balanced finish. Especially good when drunk on a warm, sunny day, the time when the patio is finally cleared for lounging! 5/5
Three Beavers Imperial Red Ale: A strong, maltier take on the traditional red ale, this beer combines a smooth, creamy malt flavor with a coarser, heavier finish. And at 7.5% alc/vol, it’s kind of like a solid punch delivered in a velvet glove. What also comes through are the addition of Cascade hops with provide a slight bitter tang to the finish as well. Overall, In terms of pairing, this beer is well-paired with red meats, stews, and Cornish pastries. 3.75/5
Total Eclipse of the Hop: The most recent of my samplings, this Imperial IPA is possibly the maltiest, hoppiest thing I’ve had in recent memory! But then again, that’s the point. As the latest addition to the John Mitchell series (named in honor of the venerated brewmaster), this beer comes on heavy and coarse, but then balances out with a big, citrusy hop finish that lingers long after its gulped down. Definitely not for the faint of heart, but the name is certainly indicative of that! 3.75/5
King Heffy Imperial Hefeweizen: Another strong take on the traditional hefeweizen. In addition to the usual wheat profile, which contains a distinct flavor of cloves and notes of banana, this beer boasts some powerful malts that come on coarse and (once again) pack a serious punch (7.7% alc/vol). Named in honor of the many climbers who dare to scale Squamish’s many walls and peaks, this beer is consistently malty and strong, like the rest of the series. 3.75/5
As you may have noticed, there are a lot of 3.75/5‘s here. That works out to roughly 75/100… aka. good, but not the greatest. That was my general impression when it came to this series. Compared to their regular lineup, these beers were a little too harsh and heavy for me. This was educational, making me realize that while I approve of heavier hops, I’m not that big a fan of heavier malts. This is not to say the seasonal lineup isn’t good, far from it! In fact, I highly recommend trying them all in addition to their year-round beers. They are a relatively unique experience, and very much in keeping with the tradition of “Imperial” beer! Consult your local beer store for more details