Phillips Leviathan Milk Stout

leviathanIt’s not secret that the folks at Phillips like to experiment with their beer. And with the new year now upon us, this Victoria-based brewery has shown no signs of slowing down. In fact, three new limited release beers have made it out to the public since 2013 rolled around.

The first was their Bottle Rocket India Session Ale, which I have yet to try. Then came their Twisted Oak Scotch Ale, which I just finished sampling and reviewing the other night. Then came. And last, but certainly not least is their benefit brew, an annual beer that is made specifically for a local charity, where the brewery designs the label, the name, and the product in honor of the charity in question.

Leviathan-Milk-StoutThis year, they have partnered with the Cetus Conservation Society –  a Victoria-based charity dedicated to preserving marine habitats – to produce Leviathan Milk Stout. And, as I suspect, they were inspired by Parallel 49’s success with experimenting with lactic acid to produce what is known as Milk Stout, a variety of stout which is well rounded and creamy in addition to toasted and tawny. And, true to form, this experiment paid off.

Appearance: Black as tar, opaque and good foam retention
Nose: Rich, deep roasted malts
Taste: Immediate tang and roasted barley, slight smoke, cut by creamy mouthfeel
Aftertaste: Lingering smoke and toasted malts, slight creamy finish
Overall: 8.5/10

All in all, the beer possessed all that is good about a stout, but also managed to round out its roasted and smoky profile with a creamy, smooth texture. It’s quite enjoyable to drink, and offers beer drinkers a few things which they are likely to find appealing. For seasoned beer drinkers and fans of stout, it had the dark, tangy and roasted flavor of a real stout. And for people who like a refreshing brew, the beer is smooth, drinkable and has a good mouthfeel. I recommend getting some before it runs out of stock. And remember, all proceeds go towards preserving marine life!

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Happy Wassail 2013 Everybody!

Sea-Cider-In what is fast becoming an annual family tradition, my wife and I were sure to head over the Sea Cider Farm And Cider House this weekend for the Winter Wassail! For those who don’t know, this is the ancient English tradition of reigning in another year and another successful apple harvest with plenty of food, cider, and good cheer! And as a burgeoning purveyor of excellent apple cider, the Sea Cidery marks this festival by opening their doors to the public to learn about the tradition, and share in a few rounds!

This consists of warm, mulled, and spices cider, combined with finger foods that are provided by local catering companies. And of course, there are plenty of cider samples to be tried, which will include some of their more popular regular items, and an annual Wassail cider made with apples, star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, mint, and orange zest. Tours are also held so people can learn a bit about operations around the cidery, a Mummer’s Play is performed by members of the local English country dance troupe, and people are able to take part in the ancient festival of placing cider-infused bread on the apple trees to ensure an good harvest for next year.

1850 wassailThis was our third time there and I can tell you from personal experience, the occasion does not disappoint! In fact, it is the one time of year that I break from my usual trend of sampling beer and dedicate myself to exclusively to English and European style ciders, which like beer have a long and rich history. And this year, we treated ourselves to several samples of Pippin, Rumrunner, and I was sure to grab myself a bottle of the Pommeau Normandy style strong cider before we left.

As for food, we were delighted by one of the catering companies ample supply of miniature pies. For sup, they had a chicken, apple, bacon and thyme pie which was absolutely delicious! For those who are nutritionally minded and/or vegetarian/vegan, they had a vegetable curry pie which consisted of veggies, apple, yams, and curry sauce. And for desert, traditional apple pie, where the only thing missing was a dollop of vanilla ice cream!

At the other table, they were serving a lamb stew, which we refused to partake of since my wife spent much of her childhood raising sheepies. And I, well, just haven’t been able to eat lamb since I learned that they were in fact baby sheep and some of the cutest creatures on Earth! But they did have a lovely spread of bread pudding muffins with cream cheese ice cream that was scrum-diddly-umptious!

Looking forward to next year. Hopefully, we can actually ride our bikes there and not have to worry about “overdoing it”! Kudos to you Sea Cider, and keep doing what you do best!

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Phillips Twisted Oak Scotch Ale

whiskey_barellIt seems everybody is doing a barrel-aged winter ale these days! Everywhere I’ve looked in recent months, I’ve found barley wines, winter ales, or other varieties of seasonal dark ales that brewers thought could use an infusion of whiskey! Bottled, and then released for the 2012/13 season, these beers have pretty much set the trend this year in the South Island region.

Not sure why, just seems to be the thing. And for me, it began with Phillips Trainwreck Barley Wine, which differed from last years release of the beer of the same name in that this year, they had decided to age it in bourbon barrels and send it out. Shortly thereafter, I discovered Driftwood had done much the same, putting their Old Cellar Dweller barley wine in whiskey barrels and releasing it as Old Barrel Dweller. Then came Parallel 49’s Imperial Stout, a winter beer that was also aged in a bourbon barrel. Somehow, it seemed no one was immune!

In any case, I thought it was time I get back on the whiskey barrel-aged train and spotted this number: Phillips Twisted Oak Scotch Ale. According to the brewery, this beer is the “flagship” beer in their Twisted Oak Stillage series, meaning that the first in a lineup of beers which will be aged in Oak barrels once used for making whiskey. And as a Scotch Ale, it is both appropriately paired with a whiskey aging process, and experimental in that they used Bourbon instead of Scotch barrels.

And I was largely pleased, though I am still on the fence about the whole whiskey infusion process. While it was certainly a more appropriate pairing than their Trainwreck barley wine, it still smacked of the same dominating character, where the whiskey overpowers the beer in terms of taste and smell. In the description, oak and vanilla are mentioned as part of the palate, but I detected hints of neither. Whiskey is all that I could taste, aside from a noticeable cream ale base which comes through immediately in the taste. But that quickly gives way to bourbon which not only dominates the smell, but is all one can taste before long.

Appearance: Amber, clear, good foam retention
Nose: Predominant whiskey nose, peaty and strong
Taste: Mild malts, reminiscent of cream ale, big hit of bourbon whiskey, smoky and sharp
Aftertaste: Lingering bourbon and peat flavor
Overall: 7.75 /10

Twisted-Oak-Scotch-AleAlthough an appropriate and decent beer, it felt hard to appreciate it fully because its profile was so dominated by its strong bourbon character. It would be nice if that were offset or balanced more by the spices which are advertised, such as vanilla or possibly some anise. But this really doesn’t happen and one is left feeling as if they are sipping whiskey, though with a significantly better aftertaste!

And this is hardly the first time Phillips has gone down the barrel aging road. I can recall with some lack of mirth, their Double Barrel Scotch Ale from a few years back. That was also an experiment which I felt was ill-advised and won’t get into here (Wine and whiskey? What were they thinking?) So while this trend is certainly interesting and somewhat appealing, I do wonder what inspired it and when it will be making an exit from the BC beer scene. I also wonder if Phillips simply got a deal on bourbon barrels and that’s why they’re doing so much with it of late!

VIB Storm Watcher Winter Lager

Storm-WatcherTo be honest and fair with my followers, this beer is one I’ve really taken my time to sample. In fact, I can recall seeing it in arriving in the beer store well over a year ago, greeting the winter drinking season of 2011/2012 with promise. And I must admit, it caught my eye and I was eager to see how it stacked up to other winter beers, most notably Granville Island’s, Tree’s, and Dead Frog’s. And yet I did nothing…

Until now. And since it’s still winter and the seasonal beers keep coming, I thought it was high time to strike this one off my list. And, once again in the spirit of honesty and fairness, this beer did not stack up extremely well, at least when compared to its brethren. Much like the aforementioned winter seasonals, it boasted a dark character, sweet malts, and notes of vanilla. However, unlike the others, it was a rather light lager, which kind of detracted from the overall experience. Though still pleasant and drinkable, the famous winter flavor kind of falls flat amidst its crisp, clean-tasting body.

Appearance: Dark brown-amber, transparent and mild foam retention
Nose: Sweet malts, caramel, vanilla
Taste: Immediate hint of vanilla, mild caramel and honey malts
Aftertaste: Lingering vanilla taste, malts, very clean
Overall: 7.5/10

Yes, this beer was by no means a slouch, but it was a little light and clean for my taste. Personally, I do wonder why they went with a lager instead of ale for this installment in their lineup. But then again its entirely possible they were looking to build on the success of their Hermann’s Dark Lager. But in this case I’d say it was a marriage which, though done well, could have been done better.

Lost Coast Winterbraun

LostCoastBrew_Color_LogoIn the course of my beer sampling, I rarely get farther south than the great state of Oregon. However, once in awhile I am afforded the opportunity to sample from as far south as California, the Golden Coast and beyond. And I am rarely disappointed or left feeling less rich for the experience.

Tonight was one such time. In my neck of the woods, the Lost Coast lineup has been making the rounds and I find myself wanting to include them in my repertoire. And since I’ve been determined to sample as many winter beers, this one seemed perfectly appropriate. And it was certainly no slouch when it came to delivering in both the flavor or balance of flavors department. Combining a brown ale with the stronger character of a winter beer (8% alc/vol) and roast chocolate, Lost Coast created something that warmed my ribs and tickled my fancy!

Appearance: Deep brown amber, transparent and good foam retentionNose: Strong notes of sugary malts, molasses and brown sugar
Taste: Sweet malts, giving way to crisp dose of hops, roasted nuts and dark cocoa
Aftertaste: Slight coarseness and lingering bitter finish
Overall: 8.5/10

winterbraunOne of the nicest things about this winter beer was the fact that the chocolate comes through in a subtler tones, rather than being heavily overt. What’s more, the dark brown profile and rich, sugary flavor are very appealing and combine with with the beer’s decidedly strong alcohol content. I’ve already earmarked some of their regular fruit-infused beers for consumption, and will be back with some of those just as soon as the right kind of weather rolls around. Somehow, it’s just got to be warm and sunny in order for fruit beer to be appropriate… Wait for it!

Moon Under Water Potts Pils Ulfiltered

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Good evening to all beer snobs and those aspiring to be one! My apologies for a lengthy absence, but life and clean living have a way of interfering with a heavy sampling schedule. Luckily, I was able to run by my local beer store today, and came across some shiny new bottles that I noticed containing a familiar brand name.

potts_pilsYes, it seems that The Moon Under Water, the Victoria brewpub/microbrewery that takes its name from the famous Orwell essay (in which he describes his ideal pub) has undergone a recent change in direction and has hence produced an entirely new product line. It seems that the sessional beers it was once famous for are now out and the new product line is in. And according to their website, this includes a Dunkel, a Pilsner, an IPA and a particularly strong Weizenbock.

Interesting and alluring. Unfortunately for me, I was only able to procure samples of the first two, and shall be dedicating reviews to each. First up, their unfiltered Pilsner, known as the Potts Pils, in honor of their brewmaster, Clay Potter. Fashioned using Bavarian malt, Saaz and Cascade hops, this beer is a marriage between old and new, with a west-coast twist and an certain experimental edge. And the result was quite pleasing.

Appearance: Deep golden, slightly cloudy, mild foam retention
Nose: Distinct Bavarian-malt nose, slightly sweet, hint of skunk
Taste: Light malts and dry hops giving way to herbal notes, touch of citrus
Aftertaste: Slight tang and bitterness, lingering herbal touch
Overall: 8.5/10

Not a bad start to this new lineup, Moon. I look forward to your Dunkel, as well as the other products you now have on tap. From what I’ve seen thus far, it is clear the new Modus Operundi around them parts is to merge traditional British influences with the West Coast take on British brewing traditions. Let me just say, I couldn’t approve more! Stay tuned…

Mushroom Jerk Chicken and Mash

mushroomsI’ve been thinking, it’s been awhile since I did a post on the subject of comfort food. But with the winter beer season upon us, this was to be expected! Yes, I am just making excuses, so here is what I decided to come back with. My favorite Mushroom Jerk Chicken!

To be fair, this particular dish is not my own creation. It was inspired by Anita Zacker – hey Anita! – who floated me the recipe during a conversation about the merits of jerk chicken. It was she who just how awesome this dish could be when combined with mushroom gravy.

After attempting it for myself, I was blown away and immediately moved to put my own twist on it. Just the way I am, it seems, always trying to put my stamp on things! However, this came with the addition of my own garlic mash to the recipe, plus some spinach or mixed greens. And from this combination, a recurring favorite was born!

Zacker/Williams Mushroom Jerk Chicken and Mash:
jerk_seasoning_16x94 white mushrooms
2 boneless chicken breast
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 clove garlic
4 large red skinned potatoes
1 bunch spinach or mixed greensjerk seasoning or sauce
sour cream

Chop garlic and mushrooms, slice chicken, combine in a frying pan, cook until chicken begins to brown. Add jerk seasoning and mushroom soup, stir until soup is liquified, lower heat and simmer. In a separate pot, heat water to a boil, add chopped potatoes and boil until thoroughly cooked. Remove from heat, add sour cream and chopped garlic, mash thoroughly. Layer plate with spinach greens and scoops of mashed potatoes, add chicken with gravy on top and serve.

Beer Pairing:
parallel49_labelsGiven the nature of this food, combining spice, cream, and salty mushroom gravy together in one package, a beer that is relatively light and clean, but still packs a hoppy bite would seem well suited. As such, I would recommend a good pale ale to go with this food.

Given that I have sampled many good ones in my time, I am somewhat torn as to which I would favor for pairing with this food. However, I think that Parallel 49 Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale or Lighthouse Tasman Ale. Either are very enjoyable beers and would be well suited to tackling the various flavors of this food.