Aventinus, Found At Last!

Rejoice, beer snobs, for this is great new indeed! After years of fruitless searching, trying in vain to find a supplier of beer that carried the venerated Schneider und Sohn Aventinus Heffeweizen Doppelbock, I was about ready to give up. Be it a private liquor store or the province-run BCL, again and again I was told that they either did not carry this product, that it was not something I was likely to find in BC, or they just looked at me blankly like they didn’t have the slightest idea what I was talking about.

But after six years of searching and waiting, I finally found someone who came through! And would you believe it, it was a restaurant of all places! Yes, the good folks at The Rathskeller Schnitzel House here in beautiful Victoria BC that were able to procure a shipment of this premium Bavarian beer. And good on them, since this is something that beer drinkers all across the province should be getting their hands on. A dark, double-fermented, bock-style wheat beer that boasts smooth, rich malts and a fruity, spicy palate with hints of chocolate and bananas, this beer remains one of the best I have ever had! The only one to do better no longer exists, so I guess that makes this beer my number one favorite 😉

I can remember fondly being introduced to this beer roughly a decade ago. It was my first time walking into Vineyard Bistro, located in the heart of the Bytown Market in Ottawa. Unfamiliar to the territory and still only a beer snobblet, I asked the barkeep for something tall, dark, German and strong, emphasizing that I was talking about beer. He immediately handed me a bottle of this and a tall, fluted glass. It took me a few samplings to appreciate the taste of the bock-style wheat, but once I acquired it, I was hooked!

Since that time, I never miss an opportunity to pick up an Aventinus whenever I find myself in Ottawa or anywhere in Ontario. You can’t imagine how crestfallen I was when I first moved to BC and found that it simply didn’t exist here, a fact which still makes no sense to me. Schneider-Weisse, the more well-known wheat beer that is brewed by the same brewery, is readily available in BCL liquor stores. So is their Eisbock for that matter. That seem right to you?

So… expect a full and complete review to be coming just as soon as I can get out to the Haus and pick me up a case! Though I have raved long about the virtues of Aventinus, I don’t think I’ve ever described it any real detail (not the four point breakdown at any rate). And if you get a chance, get out to Rathskeller and ask them for a bottle. You won’t be sorry 🙂

Old Yale Sergeant’s IPA

Hello all, and welcome to another review, brought to you by the North Island! Ever since my wife and I returned to civilization from the Sunshine Coast Trail, I’ve been taking the time to sample some new beers. This began with the Townsite Brewery’s lineup, and has since gone on to include some previously unsampled beers from the interior.

Today, I was sure to pick up a bottle of Old Yale’s IPA, which I’ve been meaning to try for some time. Based in Chiliwack BC, the Old Yale brewery has been on my radar ever since some fellow BC cervisiophiles* raved about its lineup. Located in Chiliwack BC, this brewery is relatively new, as breweries go, having opened its operations in 2000. Of their beers, the IPA is the most renowned, having won gold three years running (2004-6) in the Canadian Brewing Awards.

As a sessional ale, the Sergeant’s is naturally lighter tasting than your standard, stronger IPA’s, which weigh in at about 6 or 7 % alcohol per volume. At 5.5.%, it is not unlike Townsite’s own IPA, combining a lighter, cleaner malt taste with a heavy dose of hops. In the end, this makes for a flavor that is well balanced, pleasant to behold and to the nose, and both piney and citrusy in profile. This is due, no doubt, to the combination of Crystal Malts, Golding (UK) hops, and Chiliwack’s own pure spring waters. Combined, they make for a pretty clean and refreshing beer.

Appearance: Lovely dark orange-amber, slightly cloudy
Nose: Subtle burst of hops, dry with a touch of caramel
Taste: Clean malt taste and dry hops, slight notes of pine
Aftertaste: Dryness giving way to bitter taste, touch of citrus rind
Overall: 8/10

Not a bad intro! And according to their website, only three more beers to go before I’ve sampled their full regular lineup. I do hope my regular beer suppliers will be forthcoming when I return to Victoria!

Townsite Brewing

Hello all, and let me start by saying that it’s good to be back from the brink! After a week of romping around in the bush (aka. The Sunshine Coast Trail), my wife and I had the privilege of retiring to the lovely town of Powell River for a brief stopover before coming back to the Island. While there, we got to sample from a new brewery, one which is (sadly) still unavailable in Victoria or anywhere outside the mainland.

It is known as The Townsite Brewery, an operation which took over the Townsite building of Powell River in recent years and began producing beer by and for the Sunshine Coast. And I can tell you from having kicked around their for the last week or so that the locals are pretty proud of this home-town operation! Just about everywhere we went – pubs, bistros and liquor stores – we saw signs, taps and heard plenty of verbal endorsements in favor of this new beer.

And while in Lund, Powell River, and anywhere in between, my wife and I managed to sample the better part of their lineup and were pretty pleased. We were even fortunate enough to get a hold of a bottle of their first seasonal beer, a blackberry-wheat which is brewed in honor of the Annual Blackberry Festival. And here they are, in the order in which they were sampled, with my humble thoughts…

Tin Hat IPA:
Named in honor of Tin Hat Mountain on the Sunshine Coast, which in turn is a reference to the town’s own mining heritage, this IPA is aptly named. A sessional IPA (meaning, lower in alcohol content and gravity) this beer is light, dry, and packs a piney hop bite. And like all IPAs, I found it particularly refreshing when sitting in Lund harbor, dealing with the inexorable heat!

Initially bitter, it grew on me as I continued to sip throughout the hot afternoon. As a sessional IPA, one can expect that the malt character will be subdued, bringing out more hop characteristic. In time, I began to enjoy the strong hops combined with the light, drinkable quality, and we began to bond. By the end, we had become friends and I promised to visit again real soon! 8/10

Suncoast Pale Ale:
A true session beer that is has nice amber hue and a smooth, tawny character to match. This beer was introduced to me and my wife while dining at the Boardwalk Restaurant while digging into some burger platters. Nothing like burgers and beer to beef up for a big hike!

Like all good sessions, this beer had a light, semi-sweet malt characteristic that was balanced out by a light dose of hops. The result is a beer that is infinitely drinkable and has a a good, clean finish. Also great for beating the heat and well paired with both seafood and meat dishes, as we learned that night on the boardwalk. 8.5/10

Zunga Blonde Ale:
Coming in next, I believe during our last night before setting out for the Sunshine Coast Trail, was the Zunga Blonde Ale. Again, I felt the brewery hit this one right on the head, creating a beer that was both faithful to the best in brewing traditions while still both being drinkable and accessible.

Like your typical Blondes, this beer is light in color, has a slight cloudiness, and comes on with slightly coarse, syrupy malts and a mildly bitter finish. The name is also a reference to the peculiar word for a rope swing which is indigenous to Powell River. 8/10

Pow Town Porter:
Speaking of words indigenous to Powell River, the name of this Porter is the very name of Powell River itself, as it is known to the locals. It may just be the esoteric appeal that makes this beer a porter, or it may be a historic reference of sorts, not sure…

All I know is, the beer itself was mighty pleasant and delivered in the flavor department. Smelling of rich coffee notes, the taste is somewhere between cocoa and espresso, finishing slightly bitter but still possessing of a smooth, clean quality. In terms of appearance, she is also quite dark, but still manages to be relatively clear. 8.5/10

Blackberry Festivale:
And here we have the brewery’s first seasonal beer, brewed in honor of Powell River’s annual Blackberry Festival. For my money, there are few beers more appropriate than ones which are brewed in honor of local seasonal festivals. And in that respect, the Townsite folks really came through here. We’re talking nailed it in one!

A blackberry-wheat beer (natch) which calls to mind the long and venerated Belgian tradition of brewing witbiers infused with fruit, this beer contains no artificial flavors or colors, just blackberries. In terms of appearance, it is slightly cloudy with a nice dark amber hue and the slightest hints of ruby, indicating the presence of real blackberry fruit.

The taste comes on with a tart kick, reminiscent of genuine fruit beer, but finishes clean and smooth. All of this adds up to a beer which is mighty refreshing on a hot August afternoon, especially when its one of the hottest on record. A supremely appropriate summer ale and a fine addition to any BC beer fridge during this sweltering month! 8/10

Well, that’s all that I managed to get from Townsite this trip. I have yet to sample their Westview Wheat, which is named in honor of the Westview burb of the city. All points in Powell River look west, you see, and look to the Comox Glacier on the Island. And from the descriptions of this beer, I think it might just be my favorite of the lot. Only time will tell…

In the meantime, might I implore the good folks at the brewery, or whatever BC provincial authorities, to see to it to make sure that this beer can be made available it to the Island? You won’t be sorry, I know I won’t 😉

Lighthouse Tasman Ale

As I might have said before, Lighthouse has really been knocking it out of the park lately. Their Big Flavor series was a celebration of craft brewing that included several crossover beers that combined high alcohol content and a hefty dose of hops. And it was followed shortly thereafter by the release of Switchback, a true IPA, but which was part of their regular lineup.

And now, they’ve gone a step further with the introduction of the Tasman Ale, an amber ale that is made with local malts and hops imported directly from Tasmania (indicated by the Tasmanian devil on the label). Like the Switchback, this beer is available as part of their regular lineup, in spite of the fact that it’s much more curious than anything else they’ve created thus far. And whereas the IPA is a robust, citrusy ale with strong, rich malts, this beer is more on the dry side of things, combining a sweat and refreshing malt flavor with dry hops and a slight citrus kick.

Appearance: Deep amber, clear and light head
Nose: Mix of dry hops and cascade hop citrus, slight notes of caramel malts
Taste: Slightly sweet malts and mild tang, giving way to a mix of dry and bitter hop bites
Aftertaste: Mild tang and lingering bitterness, finished quite clean
Overall: 9/10

Like many recent releases, this beer is just in time for the hot weather fronts we’ve been having! Like a good amber, it is mild and refreshing, but the unique hop combination lends it a taste of an ESB combined with an pale ale. All of this leads to a well-rounded drinking experience which helps subdue the heat!

Hoyne’s Fall Releases

Earlier today, I stopped in at Hoyne Brewing to get my growlers filled. For my wife and I, this has become a bit of a ritual, as getting two growlers directly from the brewer has proven cheaper and less clunky than buying bottles. It’s also more convenient for us to do this as we only need to go in once a week, rather than having to drive to the liquor store every few days.

And this time around, I finally got to meet the man himself, Mr. Sean Hoyne. And what would you know, he remembered me! After asking where his beer could be found on tap in the downtown region, I brought up the conversation I had with Mrs. Hoyne the last time I was in. She said that they were discontinuing the Big Bock for summer, and that for the fall, they’d be releasing a stout. As the brewmaster, I asked him for confirmation.

“We will have two new beers for the Fall,” he said, much to my delight. “One will be an espresso stout. The other one we’re keeping a surprise.”

Damn, I thought, both intrigued and exasperated. Another big release I have to wait until Fall to experience! Luckily, that gives me and other fans of the Hoyne brewery plenty of time to contemplate what the other Fall release could be. And my wife, always the purveyor of good ideas, suggested I take this opportunity to conduct a poll on what beer drinkers think Mr. Hoyne might have in mind. Here are some possibilities that I myself have been contemplating…

A Pumpkin Ale: Always an appropriate release for the Fall, coinciding with the pumpkin harvests, the arrival of Thanksgiving, and plenty of pumpkin pie! A nice light beer, combining rich malts, a mild hop bite, and the unmistakable notes of pumpkin and nutmeg, this beer is well paired with cold weather and all kinds of fresh and rich Fall foods.

A Maple Ale: Another seasonal feature specific to Fall is the arrival of fresh maple syrup. And here in Canada, where the maple leaf is our national symbol, we do maple syrup right! So it’s natural that craft brewers all over the country and parts of the US choose to inaugurate the season with a beer that combines smooth malts and a slight sweet hint of maple syrup.

An Oktoberfest Lager: Germany is renowned for producing fine beer, especially the historic province of Bavaria, birthplace of Oktoberfest. And in honor of this celebration that marks the Fall harvest, brewers turn out mass quantities of Marzen, Dunkel, and other lagers that are darker in color and sweeter on the palate. What do you think, Hoyne Oktoberfest Marzbier? Has a nice ring to it!

A Brown Ale: Fall is typically the season for making beers that are heavier, darker, and more flavorful than their summer counterparts. When the weather is hot, people prefer a their beer lighter, crisper and more refreshing, and best served cold. But when the weather starts to dip, people like something that will warm their innards and stick to their ribs a little. A malty, rich, dark ale is just the thing to pull this off, something with a roasted malt flavor  that reminds people of fresh roasted chestnuts.

A Fall Porter: And speaking of beers that stick to your ribs, the last entry is the venerable Porter. This style of beer is renowned for its rich flavor, dark toasted malts, and complex taste, which are sure to get your motor running when the weather’s cold. In fact, the beer was made with London “porters” in mind, young men who were on their feet all day and needed a drink to keep them fortified and on the go. Though from the same family as the stout, it is typically lighter and boasting a different palate, containing flavors of licorice and molasses rather than coffee and chocolate.

And that’s all the possibilities that I can think of. Granted, there are many more varieties and variations that Mr. Sean Hoyne could choose to go with, but I do hope this list makes its way to him just in case he’s still pondering what the other Fall release will be! And now it’s time to vote, beer fans. Which beer do you think will be accompanying the Espresso Stout this fall?