Beachcomber Summer Ale

In honor of the fast-approaching summer season, I decided to pick up a case of Vancouver Island’s Beachcomber! This, as it turns out, is the breweries latest release and a seasonal summer ale. In addition, it seems to be part of growing lineup of traditional craft beers produced by the good folks at VIB.

Yes, much like many their competitors over at Lighthouse, and Granville Island Brewery (both of which are major BC breweries) VIB seems to be getting back into the craft brewing groove after years in the wilderness! And, as with these other breweries, it seems that seasonal and specialty beers are the means through which they intend to express this creative impulse. Smart, considering that occasional beers can and must be made in smaller quantities, affording attention to detail and more exacting standards. But I digress. Onto the beer!

Appearance: Golden orange and opaque, unfiltered
Nose: strong wheat malts, citrus notes, pineapple and/or passion fruit
Taste: slightly coarse, touch of orange peel, cloves and slightly bitter hop bite
relatively clean finish, lingering taste of foamy malts and hop bitterness
Total: 8/10

Overall, I found myself being reminded of Blanche de Chambly, another winner when it comes to the heffeweizen circuit! Much like its predecessor, it is a fitting summer ale that is well paired with bbq, corn on the cob and just about any other summery food, or enjoyed on its own while sitting on a shady patio! Put away your rain coats and snow suits, people! Summer’s here!

Driftwood Singularity Stout

Finally, I got around to picking up this Driftwood seasonal. These days, I’m not that big a fan of stouts, but that’s mainly because of the proliferation of them, most of which tend towards the higher gravity and bitter tasting. But alas, if I’m going to be picky (as opposed to snobby) I’m going to miss out on things!

What’s more, I realized after doing a review of the Driftwood Brewery that there an exorbitant amount of seasonals and special releases which I have yet to review. This seemed like the perfect place to start.

For starters, this beer is “Imperial”, which in the case of stout implies that it is a variety of strong stout that was made especially for export from London to the Russian royal court during the 18th century. At 11.8% alc/vol, this beer certainly fits into the strong category! Add to that the fact that they aged it in Bourbon barrels and you’ve got yourself a pretty interesting combination.

As for the rest, well, I’ve broken that down into the usual tasting format:

Appearance: Blacker than the inside of a cow, as advertised!
Nose: Toasty malts, oats, molasses and a distinctive touch of whiskey sourness
Taste: Slight sweetness, quite smokey, tangy bite of whiskey malts
Aftertaste: Quite bitter and lingers for a long, long time
Overall: 7.5/10

Hop Head Double IPA

I’ve found myself avoiding this beer in recent years. At least that’s the only rationale I could come up with for not having tried it. Maybe its because I’m a bit fan of IPA’s and this one’s a double. Too obvious! But as a fan of Tree brewing, particularly their Hop Head IPA, I knew that sooner or later I’d succumb. And as it turns out, that time was last night.

Hop Head Double IPA is a double-fermented IPA, combining five hop varieties with stronger alcohol content (8.4% alc/vol). In short, this beer is no slouch, and definitely not for those uninitiated with stronger, hoppy ales. The taste is definitely both strong and an acquired one, so make sure your taste buds have been primed with plenty of IPA’s in advance!

Appearance: Deep amber-orange, slightly cloudy
Strong floral aroma, sweet and malty
Taste: Heavy, coarse malts, strong hop bite characterized by floral notes, giving way to serious bitterness
Strong, heavy malts and intensely bitter hops linger long after
Overall: 7.5/10

Well, with the Captivator Doppelbock and now this, I am now half-way through Tree’s “Occasional Rarities” lineup and pretty pleased with what I’ve found. Next up, their Black IPA and Serendipity Ale. Wish me luck because these beers aren’t exactly light or forgiving!

Moon Under Water IRA

Last evening, I picked up Moon Under Water’s first specialty brew. The attendant in the store even congratulated for my good taste when he saw that it was part of my latest haul. Named IRA (not to be confused with the radical separatist movement of Northern Ireland), it’s an India Red Ale, a dark, tasty, and multilayered number that combines the traditions of red ales and IPA’s.

In addition to being their first seasonal, this beer is Moon Under Water’s strongest and hoppiest beer to date, and probably their most complex. And since I’m reviewing this beer on it’s own, I think I’ll do the four point breakdown yet again. And I’m sure it deserves the attention. Here goes:

Appearance: Deep reddish-brown, clear and transparent
Rich floral aroma, roasted malts
Deep, toasty malts, bitter hops, touches of citrus
Slightly coarse malt finish, bitter lingering hop kick, notes of grapefruit
Overall: 9/10

Yes, the good folk at my favorite liquor store picked a winner once again. Well, I picked it, but they told me it was good, and they were right. Seems the good folk at Moon Under Water have hit their first seasonal out of the park. Keep up the good work, and looking forward to seeing what you come up with for the Fall (hint: Pumpkin Ales are always a good choice!)

Captivator Doppelbock

Someday soon, I must do a full and complete review of the Tree Brewing Company. When I first moved here, and was looking for a good BC microbrew, it was one of their beers that first greeted my pallet. Specifically, it was the Hop Head IPA, but I’ll cover that one later. Right now, I want to talk about their latest limited release:

Captivator Doppelbock:
It’s no secret that Doppelbocks are amongst my favorites, and for obvious reasons. For one, they belong to the category of bock, which is renowned for being the best. Second, they are double-fermented, which means they’re sure to possess strength and substance! Since I’m covering just the one beer today, I thought I’d do something different and give this beer a four-point review:

Appearance: deep reddish-brown, transparent with light foam
slight smell of caramelized sugar
toffee, raisins, smooth and tawny, strong touch of sweetness
dark and slightly smokey, lingering malts, dry hops

Basically, this beer possesses the rich, malty taste doppelbocks are known for, and combines it with a smooth profile, dry hop bite and a sweet, smokey finish. And of course, the strength (8% alc/vol) is nothing if not respectable. A very pleasant addition to their lineup, and a repeat experience for sure! 9/10

Moon Under Water

Once again, I am back with another review of a fine Victoria-based brewer. And much like Canoe Club, Swann’s and Spinnakers, this craft-brewer is located in a waterside pub that boasts a full line of beers, pub grub, and upscale entrees. In terms of their beer, they specialize in “session ales” – beer that falls into the category of Bitters. Typically, these are beers that have lower gravity, alcohol and hop content, and are characteristically smooth and balanced.

Upon my first tasting, I noticed that each beer in their regular lineup was possessed of the same smooth, clean taste and light finish. In addition, the alcohol content was consistently lower than what one would expect: ranging from 3.8 to 5.2% alc/vol. I was curious as to why this was, until I read up on their brewery’s mission statement and realized that this was in keeping with their commitment to sessions. Outside of the UK, sessions are somewhat rare, so it is certainly interesting to see this kind of experimentation going on right here in my own backyard.

And now, let’s get to their regular lineup:

Blonde Ale: The lightest tasting beer in to come out of the Moon Under Water brewery, this beer is a combination of barley and wheat malts (90/10)  that is fermented using traditional Saaz pilsner hops. The result is a clean, refreshing tasting beer with a light crisp hop bite and a highly clean finish. Ordinarily, I like my beers to have a bitter ending, something that will play out on the tongue for awhile. However, this beer is a great companion to rich and/or spicey foods and is perfect with warm weather drinking. 7.5/10

Lunar Pale Ale: A hoppier beer, though still quite light with a very clean finish. Relying on a combination of barley and rye malts (again a 90/10 split) and English hops, this beer has an aroma and taste that is smooth and gentle, yet ever so slightly reminiscent of rye bread. The hops are dry, calling to mind an ESB, but also boasting a touch of bitterness that is more consistent with West Coast Pales. Again, the finish is very clean, with subtle rye and hop notes that linger on the tongue. 8/10

Moon Bitter: The truest production to come from this brewery, a bitter which is most consistent with the tradition of sessions. It is also the lightest, being 3.8% alc/vol, and combining a fine balance of barley malts and West Coast dry hops. The result is a smooth, tawny, light-tasting beer that boasts a dry bite and a clean finish. During the 2011 CAMRA Vancouver Session Beer Cask Festival, this beer placed 1st out of 17 other contenders. 8.5/10

India Pale Ale: And now we get to the strongest, hoppiest product in the brewery’s lineup. Much like their Pale and Bitter, it uses multiple malts and dry hops that are quite balanced. The taste begins with a smooth malt flavor, a respectable bitter bite, and a subtle dry-hop finish. At 5.2% alc/vol, it is their most alcoholic beer, but still manages to come across as quite light compared to most West Coast IPA’s and is a good accompaniment to most pub and bistro dishes. 8.5/10

Located on Bay Street in the Gorge/Rock Bay area, Moon Under Water is a traditional English-style pub and brewery that boasts live music every Saturday night and where beer service happens at the bar! I for one want to check it out! It would be good to see how well their beer pairs with their food.

Driftwood Brewery

Recently, I came to the realization that I had tried just about everything a local brewery had to offer, and yet I’d never given them a complete review! This seems to be a pattern with me, but rarely does it happen with a brewery in my own backyard. I am of course referring to the Driftwood Brewery, located right here in beautiful Victoria BC! Oft times I have praised an individual beer of theirs, and even used them as the meter stick when I needed to compare another beer to something. And after a recent visit to one of my favorite dispensaries, I realized that I tried their entire regular lineup. Not quite all their specialty, but dammit, they just make so many! Still, it’s high time I put all my thoughts on this establishment into one place. So here goes…

First off, a note on the brewery itself. Established back in 2008 by Jason Meyer and Kevin Hearsum, this brewery is a recent addition to craft brewing here on the island. However, in just four short years, these guys turned a start-up with a simple but popular selection into a powerhouse of microbrewing with a six beer lineup and a growing line of specialty beers. And they’ve got a memorable and geographically appropriate name to boot, so its easy to see why they’ve done well. Operating out of a former warehouse in Victoria’s Gorge area, they are joined by breweries like Hoyne, Spinnakers, Swans, and Moon Under Water.

Yeah, I’m thinking these guys aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. As for the beer, well…

Regular Lineup:
Driftwood Ale: A balanced and drinkable beer and a fitting example of a West Coast Pale Ale. Rich malt flavors are complimented by a good bite that has notes of grapefruit. This is due to the addition of (what I assume are) Cascade hops, which comes through in the finish. Good on its own, but also well paired with just about anything spicy, meaty, or saucy. 4/5

Farmhand Ale: A Belgian style farmhouse ale, which refers to the tradition of farm-based cottage breweries common to the Wallonia province in Belgium. Also known as “saison” beers, these are typically summer ales that are noted for being light, refreshing, and best when enjoyed in warm weather. Driftwood’s own is a faithful adaptation, relying on sour mash and pepper to accomplish a beer that is distinctly Belgian in flavor, has a light sour malt taste, and a mild hop finish that contains notes of pepper. 4/5 

White Bark Ale: A traditional wheat, as the name implies, which has the expected notes of citrus and coriander. However, this beer was remarkably light, even for a wheat beer, which was kind of disappointing. In many ways, I was reminded of Hoegaarden, another light take on the Belgian wheat. However, this isn’t to say that this beer isn’t both enjoyable and summery, like a good wheat should be! Best enjoyed with heavier fare like game, rich or spicy cuisine, its light taste not taking away from the complexity of its flavors. 3.5/5

Crooked Coast Amber Ale: An Altbier, or “old beer” – which refers to the Rhineland tradition of using top-fermenting yeast – this style predates lagers, but has evolved to include warm-temperature fermentation and cold temperature “lagering”. In keeping with traditional recipes, this beer also combines German noble hops and Munich malts. The end result is a beer that combines aspects of both pale ales and lagers, boasting complex flavors with a crisp, clean finish. Tawny, smooth notes gives way to a dry hop finish and refreshing clean aftertaste. A good candidate for my “go-to” list! 4/5

Fat Tug IPA: You ever wonder if a beer was made just for you? Well, I kind of wondered if someone over at the Driftwood Brewery had a direct line to my hop tooth the moment I tasted this beer! One of the best IPA’s I’ve had in recent years, and a proud entry to my “Best IPA’s” of all time list. Much like the Driftwood Ale, this beer boasts a dose of Cascadia and other varieties of hops, but in doses that make the notes of grapefruit especially fragrant and powerful! The malts are lighter, allowing the hops to really come through and linger long after the last sip. At 7% alc/vol and 80 IBU (international bitterness units) this beer is also a true example of a Northwestern IPA. 5/5

Bird of Prey Flanders Red: Ordinarily, I’m not a huge fan of sour ales. In fact, I’ve had a few at this point and found them generally disappointing. However, that changed BIG TIME when I sampled this beer for the first time last November. As a historian and lover of all things pertaining to Canada’s involvement in WWI and II, I could not turn down a beer that boasted the name Flanders! I assumed (and still do) that it was a seasonal ale brewed in honor of Flanders Fields. But as if that wasn’t enough, the taste brought me back to it several times over! Brewed in the traditional Flanders style, this beer is a Belgian red that is made using special strands of yeast and then aged in oak barrels for up to a year. Ultimately, what comes out of this is a beer that is reddish in hue and has a complex, sour flavor and rich aroma that is reminiscent of sour cherries, plums and apricots – a true delight for the senses. Oh, how I lamented its disappearance when fall gave way to winter! 5/5!

Old Cellar Dweller: I recall reviewing this one back in December of 2010, during my “Month of Doppelbock” series. And I can recall with some fondness when I first found this beer on the shelf and learned that it was a Driftwood product. Faithful to the tradition of Barley Wine, this beer is dark, sugary, and very powerful – at 12% alc/vol, it isn’t pulling any punches! However, its intense strength and sweetness can be a little overwhelming at times, which is why I highly recommend that this beer be served in a snifter and enjoyed sparingly. Under those conditions, its tawny finish and strong notes of molasses, brown sugar and light hop bite can be appreciated fully. 4/5

Son of the Morning: The most recent Driftwood beer to grace my table. When I first set my eyes on it, I knew instantly that it and I would get along just fine! The label said strong golden ale, and the details emphasized that it was a Belgian-style ale. Man, these guys love their Belgians; but then again, so do I! We get along fine. And, much like their Belgian predecessors, this strong ale is made using coriander and sugar to intensify the flavor and alcohol content. The end is result is what I would describe as a cross between La Fin Du Monde and Duvel, two shining examples of Belgian-style beer-making. In addition to its obvious strength (10% alc/vol) the beer is also distinctly Belgian, spicey, viscous, and finishes with a coarse bite. Not for anyone who’s into light beer, but definitely for fans of true Belgian brewing! 4/5

And like I said before, these guys put out a lot of special beers! In fact, I do believe their signature creations outnumber their regular lineup by a wide margin. As it turns out, I have tried some of the ones which are below, but at the moment they are unavailable to me and I can’t for the life of me remember what they were like. Not enough to give them a full and just review. So let me list them off as those I have yet to try and will get to later:

Blackstone Porter

Cuvee D’Hiver
Naughty Hildegard ESB
Singularity Stout
Spring Rite
Twenty Pounder Double IPA

Quite the list, but then again, these guys have been busy! Kudos Driftwood. You keep making em, I’ll keep drinking em!