Townsite Lil’ Red 3.0 Sour Red Ale

townsite_lil-red-3Brewer: Townsite Brewing, Powell River, BC
Style: Sour Red Ale
ABV: 6%
IBUs: 20

Description: “A Belgian ale made with candi sugar and bottle conditioned with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis.This year Cédric and team decided to bring this punchy red ale to the next level. Brettanomyces Bruxellensis was added to the bottles for natural carbonation. Which means there are 2 versions of this beer this year. The bottle and the keg will be different, one a sweet and tangy refresher and one with a layer of horse blanket funk.”

Tasting Notes: This year’s Lil’ Red is just as charming as last year’s. And it was once again a nice addition to a season of sours that have been too damn vinegary! The combination of red malts, candi sugar and brettanomyces creates a beer that has notes of tart fruit, a hint of sweetness, and some serious yeasty effervescence.

Beau’s The Tom Green Beer! Milk Stout

tom-green-beerBrewer: Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co., Vankleek Hill, ON
Style: Milk Stout
ABV: 5%
IBUs: 27

Description: Beau’s and Canadian actor and comedian Tom Green have collaborated to create The Tom Green Beer. A milk stout, The Tom Green Beer displays flavours of chocolate and coffee, while delivering a creamy, velvety texture, and finishing with a mild sweetness. Malts: 2 Row, Munich, Oats, Caramel 120, Roasted, Chocolate, Black; Hops: Perle, Hersbrucker.

Tasting Notes: This was a relatively light beer, as milk stouts go. It pours a black that is not opaque and smells of toasted malts, dark chocolate and espresso. And it has a taste that is both smooth, but possessed of the chocolate and espresso notes. Still, the end result is quite refreshing and nicely balanced.

Fuggles and Warlock & Moody Ales Bella Rossa

fugglesandwarlock_moodyales_bellarossaBrewer: Fuggles and Warlock, Richmond, BC; Moody Ales, Port Moody, BC
Style:
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: 39

Commercial Description: Red wheat ale with juniper berries. A blend of East Coast Ale yeast and Belgian Saison yeast makes for an elegant and unique finish. Dry-hopped with Mosaic, Simcoe, Citra and Galaxy.

Tasting Notes: This beer is an interesting mix of styles. Deep red in hue, cloudy, and very hoppy on the nose, it is reminiscent of a good IPA. However, the wheat malt make it a little lighter on the palate, while the juniper ale adds a crisp bitterness that goes well with the dry hops. The addition of Saison yeast adds some funk to the taste.

Unibroue Grande Reserve 17 2016

unibroue_17_2016Brewer: Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec
Style: Extra Strong Ale
ABV: 10%
IBUs: 35

Description: This Trappist-style ale is a limited release which is put out every year to mark the brewery’s anniversary. In 2014 (the last time I tried it), it garnered a number of accolades, which include two Gold medals from the 2014 World Beer Championship (for vintage 2013 and 2014), a Gold Medal from the World Beer Awards (2013).

Tasting Notes: The 2016 Reserve was an definite improvement over the last I tried, which was in 2014. Consistent with the previous vintages, it packed some strong malt, alcoholic warmth, notes of raisins, brown sugar, and some yeasty effervescence. But this time around, it was also less coarse tasting and has a subtler malt base. This made for an all-around more pleasant drinking experience.

Appearance: Dark brown, cloudy, thick lacy head and strong carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, brown sugar, dark fruits, strong yeasts
Taste: Smooth, sweet malts, brown sugar, raisins, dates, yeasty effervescence
Aftertaste: Lingering sweet malt flavor, alcohol, yeasts
Overall: 8.8/10

Hoyne 2016 Gratitude Winter Warmer

beer-gratitudeBrewer: Hoyne Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Winter Warmer Ale
ABV: 8%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: This is the fifth incarnation of Gratitude, which began as a seasonal release designed to thank Hoyne’s patrons for their support. And in the keeping with the tradition of Winter Warmers, this years offering is extra strong ale that is dark, malty, has a nice spicy flavor.

Tasting Notes: Well now, this is my fifth sampling of this beer over the years and I swear that it has been changing with time. Always, I have noted that the Gratitude Winter Warmer captures all the notes of a good winter ale without being overwhelming. But this year’s offering does seem more flavorful than previous ones. The hints of brown sugar and dark fruits are not just hints, and the notes of allspice are there in full. And all the while, the alcoholic strength manages to warm the insides without overwhelming the palate.

Appearance: Deep ruby/brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, brown sugar, raisins, figgy pudding, hint of allspice
Taste: Smooth malt, mineral tang, brown sugar, dark fruits, allspice
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, minerals and spice
Overall: 10/10

Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller Barley Wine 2016

driftwood_ocd2016Brewer: Driftwood Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Barley Wine (apparently)
ABV: 11.2%
IBUs: Unlisted (but damn high!)

Description: This is the latest release of the Old Cellar Dweller, which is not quite seasonal, but intermittent throughout the year. The 2016 release coincides with the holiday season, and is brewed using a combination of Pale, Pilsner, Crystal malts, and then heavily bittered using Columbus and Cascade hops.

Tasting Notes: This year’s Old Cellar Dweller has been in keeping with what they’ve been doing in recent years, which is to produce an Imperial IPA and call it a barleywine. As is stated on their website –  “When young, it is a hoppy treat with plenty of citrus and pine; cellared for a few years and Cellar Dweller gracefully ages into a rich, round reward for patience, hinting at flavours of tawny port.” However, offering that were from 2012 and earlier were not required to undergo aging before they began to resemble actual barleywine. So… why do we wait for it to mature? And what’s with the mislabeling?

Appearance: Strong orange, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malts, strong notes of citrus, pine and tropical fruit
Taste: Sweet and coarse malt, tang, notes of pine, pineapple, passion fruit
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt, hop bitterness, alcoholic warmth
Overall: 8/10

4 Mile Bourbon Oak Aged English Strong Ale

4mile_bourbonstrongBrewer: 4 Mile Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: English Strong Ale
ABV: 8.2%
IBUs: 40

Description: This seasonal release (which became available as of Dec.1st) is a slight twist on the brewery’s English Strong, which is aged in bourbon barrels to achieve a stronger, bourbon flavor-infused beer.

Tasting Notes: I was surprised by this entry. Ordinarily, you’d expect a dark, strong ale that’s been aged in bourbon barrels to combine some serious sugary maltiness with a strong whiskey bite. You know, a winter warmer meets a haymaker punch! However, the malt flavor was actually quite smooth and subdued while the whiskey flavor comes on mild, only to finish quite bitter. Not what I was expecting.

Appearance: Deep ruby/brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malts, tinge of alcohol, hints of whiskey and oak
Taste: Smooth, rich malt base, mild whiskey bite, hint of brown sugar and dark fruit
Aftertaste: Lingering whiskey bite, alcohol and coarse malt bitterness
Overall: 7.5/10