Wooly Bugger Barley Wine

woolly-bugger-label_dec-2011Happy New Year all! Not sure how people are choosing to ring in the end of 2012, but for my money, a nice evening in with the wife, hot stew, some Halo co-op playing, and some barley wine are the perfect substitute for going out. And to fill the bill on that last item, I picked up a bottle of Howe Sound’s latest limited release for this winter: the 2012 edition of their Wooly Bugger Barley Wine!

And as far as first impressions go, I was mighty impressed with this beer. I have long been a fan of barely wine, ever since I tried St. Amboise’s Millennial Ale back in 2000 and few things have managed to rival it. But I tell ya, this beer came pretty close. Upon sampling it, I was immediately reminded of both it and Swan’s Legacy Ale, and trust me when I say that is a flattering comparison. Much like those predecessors, this beer struck a fine balance between sweet and coarse, combining sugary notes with strong malts and alcoholic content (11% alc/vol).

Appearance: Deep reddish brown, cloudy, average foam retention
Nose: Syrupy malt nose, sugars and floral hops
Taste: Strong, sweet start, hints of citrus hops, heavy notes of molasses and brown sugar, dates and prunes, giving way to slightly coarse malts and alcohol
Aftertaste: Slight bitterness and tang, coarse malts linger for some time
Overall: 10/10

All in all, the sweetness and strength of this beer, along with the notes of fruit and sugar, provide for a perfectly balanced, warming, and intoxicating drinking experience. And its profile makes it ideally paired with desserts or after dinner fare, especially when served in a snifter or Trappist beer glass, the way Brandy or other digestifs would be.

Personally, I’m very glad I happened upon at my old watering hole, because the picking for New Years were many and I really didn’t want to walk off with a huge haul. Wooly Bugger, ladies and gentlemen, one of my new favorites and a great investment for any New Years party or winter weather gathering!

Phillips Instigator Doppelbock

phillips_instigator_2012Winter beer is such a fun phenomena, mainly because it results in deep, rich ales that boast a lot of flavor but are still smooth and drinkable. And of course, they combine all this with a high alcohol content. Yes, winter beer reminds us of simpler times when the winter season was cold, windy, and people stayed warm by liquoring up with something which stuck to their ribs!

And in that respect, I have secured my latest winter seasonal, Phillips Instigator Doppelbock! In keeping with the Phillips tradition of limited releases and seasonal beers, Instigator is back for the winter of 2012. And much like its predecessors, it’s a dark, smooth, semi-sweet, and quite strong, everything one would expect from a Doppelbock!

Appearance: Dark brown/amber, transparent and mild foam retention
Nose: Rich malts, mild notes of caramel, brown sugar
Taste: Smooth malts, slight sweetness, hints of caramelized sugar
Aftertaste: Slight smokiness, tang, mild hop bite
Overall: 8.5/10

In many ways, I was reminded of Creemore Urbock and Hoyne’s Best Bock, and believe me, that’s a flattering comparison. Much like these other fine beer – both of which I look forward to drinking again very soon! – it boasted the right kind of smooth, semi-sweet flavor with a very clean, drinkable profile. Comparatively speaking, it was somewhat lighter, but still a winner in my book! Glad I picked it up at my local watering hole!

Trappistes Rochefort 10

https://i0.wp.com/www.theperfectlyhappyman.com/uploads/trappistes-rochefort-10.jpgHello again and welcome back to this celebration of Winter Beer and Trappist Ales! As we are coming up on the holidays, let me also wish everyone a very merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and any other holidays you choose to observe. May they be joyous, full of good food and drink, and may you be surrounded by loved ones for the duration!

Picking up where I left off the other day, I have yet another beer from the Trappistes Rochefort brewery. After sampling their 6 and more recently, their 8, I finally got a chance to resample their 10 and learn once again why I enjoy their lineup so much. Whereas the previous beers were a double and triple respectively, the lineup concludes with their “blue cap” quadruple ale; an extra-dark, extra strong (11.3% alc/vol), extra sugary beer with thick malts, a chewy mouth feel, and plenty of sugar, spice and fruit to go around.

Appearance: Dark brown, translucent, good foam retention
Nose: Rich malt nose, notes of dates, brown sugar and yeast
Taste: Sweet, heavy malts, viscous mouth feel, plums, raisins, dates
Aftertaste: Slight spice, sugars, slightly bitter finish
Overall: 9/10

Of the three, I have determined that the 8 is my favorite overall, mainly because it offers the best balance of fruit, spice and sugar. But that need not and will not apply to all people and palates. Sample the entire line and decide for yourself which possesses the most preferable characteristics. However, I must advise caution when drinking at this end of the Rochefort color spectrum. These beers are rich, sweet and very sugary, but that belies an intense strength which can knock you sideways. When compared to the red and green-colored caps, this last one can cause serious “Blue Shift”! Pour yourself one, preferably in a specialized Trappist glass, and savor. Savor!

Orval Trappist

https://i1.wp.com/www.orval.be/website/images/dbfiles/3662/large/0910088/Orval-Authentic--know-how.jpgContinuing in the great tradition of winter ales and Trappist beers, we now proceed to another great and venerable Belgian vintage. Much like its peers, this beer is a certified Trappist product, crafted by monks, that is in keeping with the centuries-long tradition of Monastery brewing!

Founded in 1931 as a way to finance the massive reconstruction project for the town of Orval. In keeping with monastic principles, all profits generated by the sale of the beer go to social welfare works and the maintenance of the monastic buildings. So when you drink this beer, your partaking in charitable works as well as enjoying an authentic beer!

But alas, the beer itself is the subject of my concern here. After learning of its existence over a decade ago in the fine cellars of Vineyards Bistro, Ottawa, it fast became one of my favorites. Originally, I enjoyed it as a dessert beer given its compatibility with sweet and fruity foods, but have since come to appreciate it for its food-pairing and all-around appeal.

Appearance: Orange, cloudy, good foam retention
Nose: Yeast, notes of sour cherry and oak
Taste: Light malt, giving way to robust oak and sour cherry
Aftertaste: Slight bitterness, tart fruit, red wine-like finish
Overall: 9/10

As I said, the hints of cherry and oak make it well suited to desert fare, much like a nice dry red wine. However, it is also well at home when it comes to pastas, pizzas, or mussels and frites, the good Belgian fare you can expect to find in a Euro-pub! And now that I have a line on where to get some (thank you again Cook St. Liquor), I plan to enjoy it often and test its versatility.

Trappistes Rochefort 8

Minolta DSCWinter season always seems like the perfect time for Trappist Ales! And thanks to my having discovered a place that is well stocked in my more obscure favorites (Cook Street Liquor Store), I was able to procure a few bottles in preparation for a little sample pack!

To start, I’ve decided to go back to some old favorites that I have not resampled in years. While I’ve found no shortage of Chimay labels and even the occasional Orval here in BC, I’ve been hard pressed to find any of their closely-related kin. Trappistes Rochefort is one such brewery, a renowned operation run by the Abbey St-Remy in Rochefort, Belgium. This Abbey and the brewery date back to the High Middle Ages and continues to produce true Trappist Ale to this very day.

Today, it’s the Trappist 8, the breweries triple-fermented ale and the second in their series of three ales. Colloquially, this one is known as the “green cap” because of the color of the bottle cap, is a brown ale, and weighs in at a hefty 9.2% alc/vol. Of the three beers produced by the brewery, this one is the most renowned and fits in the middle between sugary-sweet and spicier end of the spectrum.

Appearance: Cloudy, orange-brown, good foam retention
Nose: Mild fruit and yeast, notes of plum, cherry, and raisins
Taste: Strong malts, slightly sweet, caramel, raisins and plums
Aftertaste: Mild spicey finish, very nice and smooth
Overall: 9.5/10

Of the three, this one has been my favorite over the years. Whereas the Rochefort 6 is milder and smoother and the 10 is the most fruity and sugary, this one holds a place of honor in the middle. Balancing smooth malts, fruit, yeast and just the right amount of spice, its all around pleasure to drink and well paired with appetizer plates consisting of cheese, bread, fruit and pate, or with desserts featuring chocolate and fruit compote. If you can get your hands on some, do so!

Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager

rogue_dirtoirJust in time for the holidays, and my local beerstore managed to snag a few cases of one of the limited releases in Rogue’s GYO (Grow Your Own) series. Named Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager, this Schwartzbier-style lager was first introduced in 2010 and has the distinction of being one of the few beers in the Pacific Northwest that is fashioned partially with grains and hops that are grown by the brewery itself. These include the First Growth Risk Malts as well as the FG Independent and Revolution Hops. Taken the tradition of local brewing a step further, the GYO series is all about brewing beer with one’s own ingredients as well.

Being impenetrably dark and featuring a tan head, this beer is easily mistaken for a stout. It’s flavor is also quite similar, since it has some strong coffee notes that are rounded out by the toasted, smoothness of its malts. The addition of Oktoberfest yeast strains also lend it a certain Bavarian character. In fact, I was reminded of a strong Dunkel many times in the course of drinking it, though the flavors are stronger and more enhanced.

Appearance: Black as tar, opaque, dark foam with low retention
Nose: Stout-like aroma of roasted malts
Taste: Coffee-like bitterness, earthy, smooth toasted malty taste
Aftertaste: Mild hop bite and lingering bitter coffee notes
Overall: 9/10


An all around winner and a great intro for me to Rogue’s new GYO series, a lineup which includes a Pilsner, pale ale, pumpkin ale, Blonde, and a wet-hopped ale. And considering the accolades they have all received thus far, I imagine that’s going to be tasty drinking experience! To read more on the GYO series, follow the link below:




Hoyne’s Gratitude Winter Warmer

slider-gratitudeEarlier this evening, I made one of my regular trips to the Hoyne Brewery, but not just as part of one of my regular visits to refill my growlers. No, this time around, I also came heavily laden with bags full of clothes, since the brewery is taken donations of used clothing, canned goods and non-perishable items for the holiday season. So if you’re in the Rock Bay region and have some canned goods or clothes you don’t know what to do with, consider donating, because you know someone else could use more than yourself 😉

But of course, there was also a festive spirit in the air that had to do with something other than their generosity of spirit.There was also the availability of their special winter warmer, Gratitude, which has been making the rounds in the Victoria area of late. An extra-special limited release, this beer was not even available on tap, but only by the bottle – the paper-wrapped, specially labeled bottle that is. Yes, each bottle of this winter ale comes with a label that expresses the brewery’s thanks to all those who’ve supported them this past year and all the things that we all are thankful for during the holiday season.

And as winter warmers go, this beer is faithful to tradition and a pleasure to consume. Combining subtle spice notes with a strong, dark, malty base, the beer warms the gullet, ignites the palate, but is also smooth and appealing despite its strength (9% alc/vol). And surprisingly, the beer is quite clean despite its dark and rich character, something which is relatively rare in winter ales and barley wines.

Appearance: Dark amber/brown, transparent and good foam retention
Nose: Notes of clove, nutmeg, and figgy pudding
Taste: Opens with sweet malts and spices, cloves, all spice, plums and figs
Aftertaste: Slight tang, relatively clean finish, slight lingering notes of spice
Overall: 9/10

Congrats again Hoyne for creating something subtle, experimental, but altogether appealing and satisfying. Congrats also on your first great year, conveying quality craft beers to Victorians and people of the Pacific Northwest. Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t go changing to try and please people. I meant it, don’t change!