Vichtenaar Flemish Ale

vichtenaarBrewer: Brouwerij Verhaeghe, Vichte, Belgium
Style: Flemish Red-Brown Ale
ABV: 5.1%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: Named after the town in which it is brewed, this beer is brewed in the tradition of Flemish reds. This includes combining deeply burned malt, spicy and fruity hops, and soft water pumped from a local well. It then undergoes primary fermention using wild yeast strains, a second lagering, and then a third fermentation in oak casts, where it matures for several months.

Tasting Notes: This beer get solid marks for its commitment to tradition, but I deducted several because of the flavor, which was far too vinegary for my taste. When you initially smell it, you get strong traces of apple cider vinegar and sugar. When you taste it, you realize that’s pretty much all its got going on. In many ways, it reminded me of Krampus, another vinegar-heavy sour ale that really didn’t do much for me.

Appearance: Deep red-brown, clear (appears opaque at first), mild foam and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, yeast
Taste: Smooth start, sugars, vinegary bite, yeasty effervescence
Aftertaste: Lingering sweetness and vinegar flavor
Overall: 7/10

Swan’s Pumpkin Ale 2016

swans_pumpkinBrewer:Swan’s Brewpub, Victoria, BC
Pumpkin Ale
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: Swan’s seasonal ale is back, and this year’s Pumpkin ale is fashioned in the usual way. Pale malts are combined with a mild hopping, then spiced with nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cinnamon. And of course, there’s the fresh baked pumpkin to finish the mix.

Tasting Notes: A nice, balanced pumpkin ale that has a smooth start, some powerful (but not overpowering) spice notes, and a lingering, spicy finish. I remember this one from year’s back and it’s still a nice way to ring in the Fall season.

Appearance: Deep amber, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Smooth malt, rich notes of allspice, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie
Taste: Smooth, crisp malt, ginger zest, cinnamon snap, allspice, pumpkin flesh
Aftertaste: Lingering pumpkin and spice flavor, mild ginger bitterness
Overall: 8/10

Category 12 ZRA Zombie Repellent Ale

c12-zra-bottle-cBrewer: Category 12, Central Saanich,
Style: Dark Ale (hard to place, really)
ABV: 6.9%
IBUs: 49

Description: This latest seasonal release from C12  – which is located right in my backyard! – is what they describe as being an “anti-pumpkin ale”. This brew is named in honor of its combination of Zythos hops, CaraRed malt, and Azacca hops, which are augmented by the addition of Fennel and Sweet Orange and then fermented using their proprietary strain of Belgian yeast. The end result is a dark ale designed to “snap any mindless, pumpkin spice zombie out of their trance and back to reality”. Really not a fan of pumpkin ales, huh?

Tasting Notes: I for one do not support the political agenda inherent in this beer! Okay, mandatory disclaiming done, now let’s get to this beer! I found this brew to be brilliantly experimental and very tasty. The dark malt, Belgian yeast, and combination of hops provides a malty, spicy and crisp base. The addition of fennel and orange add to the pleasant spiciness and soften things a bit with some additional sweetness. A balanced, tasty, and very interesting brew!

Appearance: Deep brown/ruby, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich fennel spice, Belgian yeasts, pepper, hint of citrus, dry herbal hops
Taste: Crisp malt, malt sweetness, yeast bite, dry herbal hops, fennel spice, orange
Aftertaste: Lingering spice, dry herbs, yeasty bitterness
Overall: 9.5/10

P49 Flanders Red Sour Ale

p49_flandersredBrewer: Parallel 49 Brewing, Vancouver, BC
Style: Flanders Red
ABV: 6.7%
IBUs: 6

Description: This beer is P49’s latest installment in their barrel-aged series. Accordingly, it is brewed in the fashion of Flanders Red ales, which means it is fermented using wild strains of Brettanomyces and lactic yeast, and then aged in oak barrels (previously used to store Cabernet Sauvignon).

Tasting Notes: This beer may or may not be a response to Driftwood re-releasing their Flanders Red (renamed Latus), or it could just be the inevitable result of all the experiments they’ve been doing with sours and barrel-aged beers lately. Either way, I was less than happy with it. Whereas a good Flanders Red has a strong malts and some serious oaky notes to round out the sourness, this beer’s is quite overpowering in the sour department. It is at once too light and too sour, and the red wine notes add some serious tartness on the aftertaste.

Appearance: Dark ruby, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Powerful notes of sour fruit, yeast, lactic acid 
Taste: Mild malts, sour cherry, yeast, hint of oak, tart fruit and red wine tannin finish
Aftertaste: Lingering lactic acid, tart sour cherry and red wine flavor
Overall: 6/10

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Bornem Dubbel

bornem-dubbelBrewer: Brasserie Van Steerberge, Ertvelde, Belgium
Style: Dubbel
ABV: 7.2%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: This abbey ale is made in the traditional Belgian double-style, employing a rich, darkly roasted malt base that undergoes primary fermented in the barrel. It undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle (or the barrel) with active yeast culture.

Tasting Notes: This beer is rather mild and easy drinking as dubbels go. It has all the expected elements, like a rich, sweet malt base, notes of dark fruits, brown sugar, some minerals and and some yeastiness. But it finishes quite mild and does a pretty good job of concealing its alcohol. Glad I found it!

Appearance: Deep brown, translucent, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Smooth, rich malts, dark fruit, brown sugars, minerals
Taste: Smooth malt, mineral tang, mild brown sugar, raisins, dates, yeast, mild hops
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, fruit and sugars, minerals
Overall: 8/10

Stone Stochasticity Project “Your Father Smelt of Elderberries”

stone_elderberries_bottleBrewer: Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA
Style: Elderberry Ale
ABV: 10.3%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: This beer is part of Stone’s Stochasticity series, a limited-release series that celebrates “exotic notions, ingredients and ideas”. Named in honor of the classic line from Monty Python’s and the Holy Grail, this beer is brewed in the medieval English-style, using 2-Row Pale, Mild Ale, and Amber malts, as well as peated and flaked oats. It is then bittered using English, Golding and Target hops, and then fortified with elderberries.

Tasting Notes: This was definitely an interesting concept, and one which I fell for like a total sucker! And the experimentation was certainly there in spades! Basically, you have the elements of a barley wine, some whiskey-like flavor, and an ancient ale all mixed into one. While it’s not exactly for the faint of heart (some serious alcoholic punch here!) it does get top points for being interesting and inspired!

Appearance: Reddish/brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malt, cassis, blackberries, alcohol, peat, smoke
Taste: Coarse malt, alcohol, peat moss, notes of cassis and blackberries 
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt, alcoholic bite, peat and fruit flavor
Overall: 8.5/10

Dieu du Ciel Solstice d’hiver

Dieuduciel_solsticehiver_verreBrewer: Brasserie Dieu du Ciel, Montreal, QC
Style: Barley Wine
ABV: 10.2%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: This beer is part of the brewery’s Momentum Series, which is an annual cycle of twelve seasonal releases. As their winter release, this traditional English-style barley-wine style ale celebrates the winter solstice with a winter warmer.

Tasting Notes: I’m a fan of barley wine, and I considered trying the Solstice d’hiver necessary having sampled the Solstice d’ete not that long ago. But I have to say this particular barley wine was too on the coarse and strong side for me. It’s got the usual notes of dark fruit and sugars and is a shade of brown so deep and opaque that it could easily pass for a stout. But the alcohol in this beer is so potent that it overpowers just about everything else.

Appearance: Dark brown, translucent, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dark malt, raisins, dates, sugars, strong alcoholic bite
Taste: Strong, coarse malt, hints of dates and raisins, brown sugar, alcoholic bite
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt and alcoholic bite
Overall: 7.5/10