Phillips Pandamonium 11th Hour IPA

I believe I’ve gone on record as saying that Phillips has a penchant for making very strange limited releases. Beers that have interesting names, concepts and inspiration behind them, yes? Yes I think I say that just about every time they make a new release.

And their special 11th anniversary release was no exception. For their 10th anniversary, Phillips chose to release a 10% Double IPA to mark the occasion. And in keeping with that tradition, an their 11th is being marked by an 11% extra strong India Pale Ale. And it would be no exaggeration to say that it is a rather interesting signature creation!

What sets this ale apart, aside from the sheer strength of its malts, is the amount and variety of hops they added. This began with hops being added pre-boil, and then added  every 11 minutes over a 111 minute boil period for a grand total of 11 hop additions, plus a dry hop when it was all over. That’s twelve different infusions of hops, and this certainly comes through in the taste!

Appearance: Clear, golden amber, slightly cloudy
Nose: A layered assortment of hop aromas, at once bitter, floral, herbal, citrusy and dry
Taste: Strong sweat malts, giving way to burst of pineapple, citrus fruit and dry hops
Aftertaste: Coarse malt finish combined with lingering bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

As far as experimenting goes, this beer was definitely one of the most adventurous I’ve ever had. On the one hand, it is characteristic of am IPA, with strong malts and a hefty dose of bitter, citrus hops. But it goes a few steps beyond this with its extra strength, delivering rich and coarse malts, and a staggering variety of hop flavors and scents. I’m curious to see what they might try for their 12th, not to mention ever year thereafter. They can’t keep upping the strength forever, right? Sure, we’ve all heard of barley wine, but eventually, all you’ve got is whiskey 😉

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Wolf Vine Pale Ale

Its finally here! After months of teasers, guessing, and even an online poll (conducted by yours truly!), Hoyne’s Fall surprise is finally here. And wouldn’t you know it, they’ve chosen to go with a pale ale. And not just any pale ale, mind you. Apparently, this ale is of the  “wet-hopped” variety, a process whereby the hops used are not dried beforehand.

What’s more, the varieties used are locally sourced from Sartori farms BC in fact, and include the ever popular Cascade and Centennial varieties. The result is a floral and herbal pale ale with a mild citrus kick and a very smooth flavor. And above all, it’s very drinkable, goes down easy, but still delivers a very appetizing, well-rounded flavor.

Appearance: Ruby amber hue, clear and good amount of foam
Nose: Subtle hop scent, notes of citrus and floral traces
Taste: Very smooth malts giving way to slightly bitter, mild citrus and herbal bite
Aftertaste: Dry bitterness slowly giving way to clean finish
Overall: 9.5/10

Overall, the wife and I were very impressed. Which is good, considered we waited some uncomfortable months for it’s release! Once again, Hoyne, you’ve hit it out of the park. You better have this one in growlers soon because I want to secure as much as I can before you cease production on this one!

Of the Rise in Craft Brewing

A long time ago, I did an article for this site addressing what I saw as a criminal trend in the brewing industry. Not just any crime mind you, but a crime against nature itself, as far as I was concerned! I was referring to the expansion of major brand names and how it seemed to be leading to an overall dip in quality.

To illustrate, I referred to how some of my favorite craft brewers from over the years had been altering their recipes, mainly so they could achieve mass appeal and expand their sales. Others, also personal favorites of mine, had closed down instead, unable to compete in a mass market dominated by major names and low standards. Not a happy article. But if I’ve realized anything in the past two years, it is that this trend has swung sharply in the other direction.

Yes, craft brewing is becoming more and more popular, and may I say that it’s about bloody time! Whether its an upsurge in the number of micro-breweries or the adoption of a craft beer line by major breweries, the trend seems consistent. Granted this is all based on my own anecdotal experience, but when you notice it happening everywhere, you have to assume you’re onto something!

First, as I said, is the expansion in craft brewing. Of all the micro breweries that I’ve discovered since moving to BC, few seem to have opened their doors before the year 2000. For those that did, you’d be hard pressed to find one that’s been in operation since before the late 90’s. This is true of the Driftwood Brewery, the Cannery Brewery, Moon Under Water, Phillips, Old Yale, Hoyne, Dead Frog, Surgenor, Longwood, Swan’s, Spinnakers, and a host of others that I’ve sampled over the years. Back in Ontario, this is similarly true. It was only in the late 90’s and early millennium that the spectacular operations of McAuslan’s, Creemore, Scotch-Irish, Mill St., Heritage, Cameron’s, Muskoka, and a slew of others were established. And their ongoing success is a testament to fact that the popularity of craft brewing is on the rise.

As for the adoption of special, small-batch product lines adopted by larger operations, I am satisfied to say that this trend seems to be catching on, particularly with breweries that I noticed were watering down the wares. In recent years, the Vancouver Island Brewery, Granville Island Brewery, the Lighthouse Brewery have all began releasing signature or limited release beers that are not part of their regular lineups, and take advantage of the small batch production methods that ensure better quality.

This is also true of such giants as Keith’s, which has expanded its lineup by incorporating a white, an amber and a dark ale. This began in recent years, and represents a complete 180 from what they’ve been doing for the generations now – producing a single, watery ale that bears no resemblance to a real IPA. And Sleeman’s, a major operation in its own right, has even expanded its repertoire by introducing an IPA and a Porter to their lineup.

Granted, brewery ownership is still concentrated in the hands of a few major multinationals, and the vast majority of beer consumed today consists of mass produced, flat and flavorless numbers. Still, the trend towards authenticity and flavor seems to be clear. Consumers are demanding beer that is made locally, in small batches, and in accordance with traditional standards. And for beer snobs, who insist on authenticity over accessibility, this can only be seen as great news. Great news indeed!

So when you’re out next weekend, find yourself a local microbrew, a brewpub, and drink up! And be sure to tip your barmaid. Cheers!

St. Ambroise Citrouille

Fall’s here, and you know what that means… Pumpkin Ale! And much to my delight, St. Ambroise has once again released its seasonal, otherwise known as St. Ambroise Citrouille. For some time, I’ve been looking to get my hands on this one again so I could give it a more thorough review. And when it comes to pumpkin ales, there are few as deserving as this one!

As I’ve said before, pumpkin ales are becoming all the rage when it comes to craft brewing. Every year, more and more microbreweries seem to be producing their own variant of the pumpkin, and I was quite thrilled when St. Ambroise produced their own. More than most, they have captured the essence and appeal of this seasonal ale, which is basically pumpkin pie in a glass!

Appearance: Dark orange and transparent
Nose: Strong hints of clove and pumpkin
Taste: An immediate burst of sweet pumpkin, giving way to cloves and cinnamon spice
Aftertaste: Slight bitterness and lingering notes of cinnamon
Overall: 9/10

Phillips Dr. Funk Dunkel

As promised, a review of yet another Phillips limited release. Today, it’s Dr. Funk Dunkel, the funky dark Bavarian-style lager that is a testament to both Phillips long standing reputation for good beer and odd names!

According to Phillips website, this beer is being released yet again, so my (un)timely review hardly seems so important anymore! But then again, who wants to read about a beer that is no longer even available?  So naturally, I’ll be looking for it again, and I recommend others do the same. Recurring or not, it’s not a permanent part of Phillips lineup… yet.

Appearance: Quite dark, relatively transparent, slightly cloudy
Nose: Smokey and salty, reminiscent of soy sauce
Taste: Clean start, giving way to a hint of smoke and mild coffee
Aftertaste: Relatively clean finish, lingering touch of smoke
Overall: 8.5/10

Dunkel is fast becoming one of my favorite styles of beer. Something about a dark lager just pleases me, possibly because it reminds me of the tall mugs of beer the wife and I tilted while we were in Germany. Little wonder then why I enjoy pouring several cold bottles of this beer into my stein and saying Prost! Welcome back, Funk!

Steamworks Signature Pale Ale

Welcome back! Tonight, while I’m on the subject, I’d like to review my second purchase from the Spinnakers Liquor store! Seeing as how I don’t do much liquor shopping down at the waterfront, I was sure to pick up the things that I wasn’t like to find locally. With that in mind, my second selection was a six pack of Steamworks Pale Ale.

Having been to the base of operations many times, I can attest to the quality of their product. Located in Gastown, in the heart of Vancouver overlooking Coal Harbor, this brewpub has been in operation since 1995. However, my own experience with it goes back to 2006, when I first moved to the West Coast and began looking for a watering hole when visiting the mainland. One visit coincided with the 2010 Winter Olympics. Man, was it packed! In any case, here’s what I had to say about their “Signature” product.

Appearance: Pale orange/light golden amber
Nose: Very mild floral aroma
Taste: Coarse malts giving way to a bitter, citrusy hop kick
Aftertaste: Citrus rind, lingering bitterness
Overall: 7.5/10

Overall, I was somewhat surprised by this product. On the one hand, it had a malt characteristic that was consistent with a Northwest Pale Ale and a hop bite that is in tune with Cascade and Zythos (a special IPA variety) hops. However, I was surprised to note how mild the hop aroma is. With a nose like that,coupled with it’s mild color, one would expect it to not have much flavor. And yet, flavor is where it delivers the most. Interesting combo, worthy ale, worth trying!

St. Ambroise Framboise

Don’t you just love beers that have a rhyme in their name? Venturing a little farther to pick tonight’s sampling, I went to the waterfront, where Spinnaker’s own liquor store is located. Always well stocked with a diverse array of beer, wine and liquor, I found a few favorites and some oft-unavailable items. This beer was the first to be added to my haul!

Yes, I reviewed this beer awhile back as part of my appraisal of St. Ambroise seasonals. However, that was before I adopted my current style of evaluation, one which calls for a four-point review. It seems only fair, now that this beer is available and where I can get at it, and once again give it the ol’ college try!

Appearance: Deep red and cloudy
Nose: Strong raspberry nose
Taste: Starts with a supple fruit and slight tartness, mingling with mild hop bitterness
Aftertaste: Clean finish with some lingering tartness
Overall: 9/10
Another winner, McAuslan! When I think of potential reasons for moving to Montreal, being closer to the brewery is definitely at the top of the list! A close second is the ready supply of fresh Montreal smoked meat, bagels and lox spread, which I believe would be well paired with some of your beers.