Townsite Brewing Has Arrived!

townsite-logo-Ever since my wife and I landed in Powell River as part of our summer trip last year, hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail, we were surprised and impressed to find a craft brewing operation in the heart of town that catered to the Sunshine Coast. Not only were they well-situated as an operation, they seemed to know what they were doing when it came to producing quality beers. I can still remember sampling their Pale Ale, Blonde Ale, Porter, and the summer seasonal, a Blackberry Wheat that honored the city’s annual Blackberry Festival.

Unfortunately, I lamented the fact that, at the time, their products were not available on Vancouver Island. With the exception of Comox, which is a short ferry ride away, not a single beer store on the island was known to carry their lineup. Sure, you could find it up and down the Sunshine Coast, in Vancouver, and even parts of Washington State. But not in Victoria or the Southern Island, no sir!

Well, as it turns out, that is no longer the case. A number of private stores (such as Metro and Cascadia Liquor) have begun stocking their full lineup. That includes their Tin Hat IPA, Zunga Blonde Ale, Suncoast Pale, Pow Town Porter, Westview Wheat, and the latest, the YOGN 82 Belgian Triple. And with the exception of a few labels, I can attest to the quality of these beers. I even had a chance to sample some of the latest now that they are available locally. Here’s what I had to try most recently:

Said the Ale Belgian Pale Ale:
townsite_said_the_aleA special release from the Townsite Brewery, this beer has a rather interesting origin story. Apparently, the beer is part of a commitment on behalf of BC brewers to produce beer in honor of various Canadian bands. In this case, the Townsite brewery made this beer in honor of Said The Whale, a Canadian indie rock group that has was recently featured on CBC radio.

Appearance: Deep red/amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Distinctive Belgian yeast, mild notes of bitter hops
Taste: Immediate burst of Belgian yeast, rich malts, snap of piney hops
Aftertaste: Quite clean, mild tang, lingering yeasts and mild citrus
Overall: 8.5/10

As a Belgian Pale Ale, this beer combines aspects of the most famous variety of beer to be brewed in the Pacific Northwest and is fermented using a specific strain of Belgian yeast. The result is an interesting brew that boasts a yeasty nose and flavor with the rich malts and sharp, hoppy taste of a pale ale. In keeping with the recent trend of Belgian IPAs, this Belgian Pale Ale is quite refreshing and balanced in terms of flavor and quite appealing to the palate.

YOGN 82 Belgian Triple:
townsite_yogn82Brewed in honor of Cedric, the Townsite Brewer Engineer who hails from Belgium, and “the Hulks” – the concrete ships that make up the town’s breakwater – the YOGN 82 is the brewery’s latest triple-fermented Belgian-style beer. The second in the series, after last year’s Charleston Triple, this beer weighs in at a hefty 9% alc/vol and has all the characteristics a Belgian Tripel is famous for.

This includes a golden blonde hue, a distinct yeasty nose, strong alcohol content, strong malts, and a distinct oaky flavor. And like each Hulk beer, it features a label created by a Powell River artist; this year’s featuring the art of Emma Bell.

Appearance: Dark golden, light cloudiness, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Distinctive Belgian yeast, strong notes of banana, sugars
Taste: Sweet malts and Belgian yeast, burst of banana and citrus fruit and oaky notes
Aftertaste: Sweetness giving way to coarse flavor, slight bitterness and alcohol
Overall: 9.5/10

Overall, I was strongly reminded of La Fin Du Monde, another famous Belgian-style Tripel which also possesses some serious Belgian-yeast flavor, strong malts and an oaky undertone. The difference here is in the level of fruit flavor and sweetness, in that this one possesses a good deal more of it. In addition to some serious sugars, there was also a strong hint of banana that played well with the strong alcohol content, oak and yeastiness of the beer. Might seem a little overpowering to some, but I enjoyed it very much. In fact, it might just be the best Belgian Tripel I have had in recent memory!

In short, not a bad set of additions to their overall lineup. I’m pretty pleased that the brewery is available here in my corner of the world, especially since I learned that they were turning out seasonal and special releases that I had no access to! It’s not like I can pop over to Vancouver every time they release a new beer, you know!

Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier

800px-Wening_weihenstephanNot that long ago, I discovered a that one of my local purveyors of beer just happened to stock a special German import. What made it special was the fact that this particular beer came from what is recognized as the oldest brewery in the world. For those who don’t know, that would be the Weihenstephan Abbey located in Freisberg, Germany. Established by Benedictine Monks in 768 and licensed to brew beer in 1040, it is officially recognized as the world’s longest continually-operating brewery.

weihenstephanerWell it just so happens that my local beer store, the same place that offered their dark wheat (hefeweisenbier dunkel) has since expanded their inventory and brought in another label from this venerable operation. This time around, it was their flagship wheat beer, the hefeweissbier (or regular wheat) that caught my eye.

Much like their dunkel, it is a refreshing wheat beer that is very yeasty in terms of taste and smell. But unlike the dunkel, it pours a golden straw hue, is light on the palate, possesses light notes of fruit and spice, and finishes very clean. This is to be expected from a standard hefeweizen, which do not boast highly roasted malts or particularly smoky flavors. And given the meal I paired it with, I’d say it’s a top contender for my “Beer That Tames The Fire” list – aka. beer that goes really good with spicy fare! And in addition to its appearance and flavor, it’s also comparatively light on alcohol, weighing in at an even and balanced 5.4% alc/vol.

Appearance: Deep straw gold, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Very yeasty, distinct nose of Bavarian-style wheat malts
Taste: Immediate burst of yeast, mild traces of banana and clove spice
Aftertaste: Clean finish, barely a trace of aftertaste
Overall: 8.5/10

Overall, this beer was a nice, light sampler that is very refreshing and perfect for easy drinking or as an accompaniment to spicy food and lighter fare. And I would say it measures up well to other personal favorites, such as Schneider Weisse and Erdinger – beers that are renowned for clean flavor and bubbly goodness! Now I just need to see if I can find some of their Festbier or Korbinian, their Oktoberfest and double-bock beer, respectively. I know someone’s got to have some somewhere in this town…

And be sure to check out the company website to learn more about this historic brewery: http://weihenstephaner.de/

Mc Chouffe Ardennes Brune

mcchouffeAs a self-professed beer snob, it’s always a pleasure when I’m able to find obscure and venerated brews at my local liquor store. It’s also a pleasure when said brews extend my overall repertoire of Belgian beers. As the country that boasts more breweries per square kilometer than any other in the world, and the home of Trappist and countless other brewing traditions, they seem to be able to do little wrong.

So it was with some anticipation that I managed to procure and tilt a bottle of Mc Chouffe’s Ardennes Brune. A relatively new operations by Belgian standards, the La Chouffe operation is nonetheless pretty renowned, producing a series of traditional, unfiltered ales that are refermented in the bottle. The Mc Chouffe is the dark ale of their lineup, boasting fruitier, more sugary malts, and weighing in at a respectable 8% alc/vol.

Appearance: Dark brown, opaque, mild foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Sugary malts, molasses, brown sugar, herbs
Taste: Immediate burst of sugars, giving way to mild tang and yeast, molasses, raisins
Aftertaste: Mild bitterness and lingering herbs
Overall: 8.5/10

All in all, the Mc Chouffe dark is comparable to most Belgian brown ales I’ve tried, combining a fruity profile that is typically characterized by raisins, plums and dates with notes of sugar, molasses and spices. And of course, it compliments all this with a telltale yeasty flavor and aroma, and of course a strong dose of alcohol. I hope to sample their flagship brew, La Chouffe Blonde, in the near future. As it happens, I know just where to find it!

Ninkasi Babylon Double IPA

ninkasi_babylonHello again and good day! It’s the weekend again and I am back with some more new and exciting examples of craft brewing from my local beer store. And today, it’s another visitor from south of the border, Eugene, Oregon to be specific. And I’m rather lucky in that my local store has chosen to stock tall boys of Ninkasi’s Babylon Double IPA, a special release beer which is typically available only in their mixer pack. Nothing wrong with those, but if I’m going to sample, I want to sample big!

And as the name would suggest, this double IPA is quite the heavy hitter. In addition to some high-gravity malts, it also weighs in at a hefty 9.1% alc/vol. And as could be expected, it also boasts a high concentration of hops, 100 IBUs worth to be exact. As a result, the alcohol, malts, and hops achieve a certain high-concentration balance. Rather than any one aspect of it being overpowering, it’s all overpowering at once!

Appearance: Deep orange, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich, sweet malt, hints of grassy and tropical hops
Taste: High-gravity malty sweetness, notes of passion fruit and grassy hops
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt flavor, hop bitterness
Overall: 8/10

Yes, this beer is not for the faint of heart, uninitiated, or weak of taste of buds! Like anything with the words double and IPA in it, it should only ever be enjoyed by those who have a deep and enduring passion for strong ale and a hefty dose of bitterness!

Hoyne’s Off The Grid Red Lager

hoyne_off_the_gridHoyne’s is back with another seasonal release! And as luck would have it, this one has arrived in time to meet the hot, inclement weather we have been enjoying here in Victoria. So how appropriate is it that the brewery has decided to produce a nice, refreshing lager? But in keeping with Hoyne’s style of brewing, this lager comes with a twist.

On the one hand, it has a clean, Munich-style crispness, courtesy of the addition of Noble German Tettnang hops and lagering process. On the other, it has a creamy, smooth profile, courtesy of the darker roasted red malt. And as usual, the style and nature of the beer leads to the double-entendre that is it’s name. “Off the Grid” not only refers to the summertime activity of getting out into nature and setting up camp off the beaten path, it also honors the decidedly unusual nature of this lager itself.

Appearance: Deep red amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Notes of Munich-style hops, slight sweetness, rich malts
Taste: Smooth, creamy malts, slightly syrupy, giving way dry, pilsner-like hop finish
Aftertaste: Slight tang, lingering creaminess and dry hops
Overall: 9/10

Having endured plenty of hot, sunny days and late evenings, and having now sampled this brew out of both a growler and a bottle, I can attest to this beers refreshing nature and its fine taste. I can also tell you it compliments the change of season quite well. Get yourself to the store, get some bottles, chill and enjoy! Preferably on the patio with some spicy barbeque. Congrats Hoyne, another winner. Hope everyone enjoys the heat!

Moon Under Water The Victorious Weizenbock

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logo_weizenbock2

Finally, at long last and after months of stalling, I have managed to procure the the fourth and final beer in the new Moon Under Water lineup. I can remember long ago, back when the brewery underwent a change and released its four newest brews, how I had managed to obtain a bottle of each. But for reasons I prefer to keep to myself, the Weizenbock was lost and did not get its due!

Luckily, I managed to get a fresh bottle during my latest visit to one of my favorite beer stores and have sat down to give it a comprehensive tasting and review. And let me tell you, this fourth and final installment in their new lineup may very well be the best of the lot! It’s up against some stiff competition, but after sampling this beer and assessing its characteristics, I have to give it top marks for ingenuity and taste.

Appearance: Amber-brown, very cloudy, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Gentle notes of wheat malt, toasted sugary malt, clove spice
Taste: Bursts of banana, chocolate, cloves, spice, wheat malts and yeast
Aftertaste: Lingering tang, dance of spice and fruit notes on the tongue
Overall: 9.5/10

In short, the label claims its a combination hefeweizen/bock, and when you taste it, that’s exactly what you experience. In addition to dark, rich malts that are smooth, tawny and delicious, you also get a heaping of banana, clove spice, and the yeasty effervescence that wheat beers are famous for. And at 8.2% alc/vol, its also packs a pretty good punch, but concealed within a velvety glove. And as this beer snob will tell you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of that!

Yes, I think I have a new favorite from this Victoria-based brewery, and possibly a contender for a best wheat as well. Only time will tell…

Longwood Steampunk Dunkelweizenbrau

longwoodBy now, news has reached the brewing and beer snob community that Longwood Brewery, the famous craft brewing operation in Nanaimo BC, has undergone a bit of a revamp. Basically, they are releasing beers that will be available in the retail market, and will be somewhat different than their regular lineup. Ah, which brings me to today’s review…

longwoodgrowlerKnown as the Steampunk Dunkelweizenbrau, this new dark wheat is a twist on one of Longwood’s most awesome beers. For years now, I have raved about their regular Dunkelweizen, so when a variation of it appeared at my local beer store sporting a name that is both a tribute to a famous science fiction genre and implying some degree of the steam brewing process, I had to act!

And what I found was both consistently awesome with their brewing process and with a nice little twist. Basically, it was much like their Dunkelweizenbrau of yore, being wheaty, yeasty, and boasting some nice roasted coffee malt. However, it also finishes very clean and is profoundly refreshing. Little wonder then why it is one of my favorite beers from this respective brewing operation, and on the island.

Appearance: Dark brown, translucent, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malt, hints of espresso coffee and yeast
Taste: Tawny flavor, slight smoke, wheat malt and and light yeasts
Aftertaste: Clean finish, mild coffee notes lingering on the tongue
Overall: 9/10

Onto new things with Longwood, who’s got several more new beers to sample. FYI, Longwood, still waiting on those samples. Getting thirsty over here 😉

Keith’s Cascade Hop Ale

hop-series-ales-expandAs a rule, I’m always encouraged when a major brewery decides to show a commitment to craft brewing. These days, most breweries seem to be doing this through the creation of small-batch limited releases. Not only do these show that quality is winning out over quantity, it demonstrates that people are once again looking for new and local beers that offer them an authentic drinking experience. And even the largest operations appear to be noticing the writing on the wall…

So I really wasn’t that surprised when I noticed that Alexander Keith’s was coming out with a new series known as the Hop Series Ales. And during one of our visits to the local pub, I saw the opportunity to try the first beer in the series – known as the Cascade Hop Ale. And considering that I have often used Keith’s as an example of everything that’s wrong in the world of brewing, my expectations were not very high, but were my hopes were. Here’s what I thought…

Appearance: Light amber, clear, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Slight notes of pine and citrus
Taste: Light malts, smooth, quick burst of citrus hops
Aftertaste: Relatively watery finish, mild malt and hop traces
Overall: 7/10

In short, this first item in their Hop Series was not bad. In fact, in the course of drinking it, I generally felt that it was a drinkable and somewhat pleasurable ale to have. However, these feeling were mitigated by my suspicion that what I was tasting was really just regular Keiths with some added hops thrown in. Hence my rating of a flat seven out of ten. Not bad, but not great either. Pretty much what I was expecting to find…

Delirium Tremens

delirium_tremensAh, its wonderful when old friends look you up and come by for a visit. Yes, that’s a bit of strange analogy for me finding this beer in my local store, but I think its apt. Brewed by the award-winning Huyghe Brewery in Melles, Belgium, Delirium is a world famous Golden Ale, and one of the many Belgian beers that I was treated to at Ottawa’s Vineyards Bistro as part of my early beer education.

As a result, it occupies a special place in my heart, and was one of the many beers that taught me about the wide, wide world of brewing and what it means exactly to be a Belgian ale. Basically, it involves some syrupy malts that range in color from blond to deep brown, yeasts that leave a distinctive taste and smell, and a flavor that is strong, a little coarse and tangy, and often effervescent and slightly sweet. And of course, it must be strong, generally in the 7% or higher range.

And Delirium is certainly no stranger to any of these qualities. It pours a light golden, has a great deal of yeasty effervescence, and packs a strong alcoholic punch (8.5% alc/vol). In short, between its golden hue, its bubbly characters, and strength, there’s a reason they call it Delirium! In addition to Westmalle, Aventinus, and McAuslan Vintage Ale, I can’t tell you how nice it to see my old favorites finding me where I live these days. Makes me miss my old home just a little less…

Appearance: Straw golden, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Belgian yeasts, rich malts, trace of sugars and honey
Taste: Effervescent yeasts, syrupy, semi-sweet malts, hint of citrus, honey, trace of oak
Aftertaste: Clean finish, lingering yeast, malt and mild oak flavor
Overall: 9.5/10

Full Nelson Organic Imperial IPA

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And I’m back from another trip to the beer store with some new items to sample! And interestingly enough, amongst my latest score was a few tallboys from a brewery I rarely hear from these days. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, the Nelson Brewery quickly became a local favorite for me shortly after I moved to BC. And between their Paddywhack IPA, After Dark Lager, and Black Heart Stout, I was quite impressed. But since that time, they have kind of fallen off the grid for me.

Part of this seems to be that they don’t appear to do the limited release thing, and little outside of their IPA, dark lager and stout ever gets into my area. So it was a pleasant surprise to find their Organic Imperial IPA sitting at the store, looking all new and interesting. And given that the season of IPA is still on, it seemed like absolutely appropriate selection for my next review.

Appearance: Deep amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Good dosage of floral, tropical hops
Taste: Immediate burst of passion fruit, rich malts, notes of citrus
Aftertaste: Sweetness giving way to coarse malt flavor, lingering bitterness
Overall: 9/10

In short, not bad at all! In keeping with the best traditions of an Imperial IPA, the Full Nelson boasts strong, rich malts and pairs them with a good, solid dose of hops. However, rather than being particularly overpowering, this hop profile is actually quite balanced. Rather than a big, citrusy bite, it is much more floral and fruity, which was both surprising and appealing. Good job Nelson! I really must find more of your products, and please feel free to do more in the way of limited releases!