On one of my recent trips up island, I had the chance to stop in at the town of Duncan, my wife’s old hometown, and do some shopping. As usual, the Blackberry Liquor Store was one of the stops on our tour, and I managed to find some new and interesting beers to bring home with me. This time around, all three happened to be new releases (new to me at least) from Howe Sound Brewery. These include their Bay Ale, Loose Cannon Dark Lager, and You’re My Boy Blue.
For awhile now, I feel like I’ve been neglecting this BC brewery, one which has been a favorite of mine for years. As I’m sure I’ve explained before, it was at Howe Sound that Frank Appleton, who went on to become brewmaster at Swan’s brewpub, got his start. And it was here that Sean Hoyne himself got his start, apprenticing under Appleton before going forth to establish the Canoe Club and Hoyne Brewing. So this brewery is not only a great purveyor of beer, its also part of proud genealogy that embraces some of my favorite breweries and brewpubs here on the island.
Loose Cannon Dark Lager:
The commercial description lists this beer as a “lightly-hopped, medium bodies lager”. But in many ways, this lager is akin to a stout, with a very dark profile and some serious traces of roasted malt, smoke and bitter chocolate. At the same time, it manages to finish quite clean and has a relatively mild, light flavor overall.
All of this comes down to the combination of dark crystal and chocolate malts with German and Polish hops. Clearly, the name was chosen with this interest mix of characters and profiles in mind! And in a market where dark lagers are pretty well represented, its not a bad contender. Hoping to see more like it from Howe Sound soon.
Appearance: Dark brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Deep toasted malts, mild hops, smoke
Taste: Dark roasted malt, notes of coffee, bitter chocolate
Aftertaste: Mild bitterness, relatively clean, mild hop finish
Troller Bay Ale:
Apparently, this beer harkens back to when John Mitchell first opened Howe Sound pub back in 82 and was looking to create a true English-style amber ale. And this beer certainly fits that profile, combining smooth, toffee-like malts, mild hops, and subtlety, but with undeniable BC character.
This is made possible thanks to the combination of Fuggles and Nugget hops and London ale yeast with Canadian barley malt and West Coast water. And according to legend, the brewery promptly sold out of the ale soon after it was released. But given its smooth, drinkable nature, that really shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Appearance: Dark amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Syrupy malts, toffee, crisp, mild hops
Taste: Mild tang, crisp, smooth, lightly toasted malts, dry hops
Aftertaste: Trace minerality, grassy hop finish and lingering tang
You’re My Boy Blue:
Now this was a surprising addition! Ordinarily, one tends to find raspberries, cherries, or even apricots wherever fruit is married to wheat ales. But blueberries? That’s a new one as far as I can tell! But in the end, the marriage worked quite well, with smooth, yeasty wheat malt flavors complimented by the slightly tart, slightly sweet character of fresh blueberries.
And much like most fruit-infused wheat ales, this beer is cloudy, unfiltered, and has a slightly pink tint to it. And given the unseasonably hot weather we’ve been enduring here this summer, its a welcome addition to any beer drinkers sampling lineup.
Appearance: Purple, translucent, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Subtle wheat malts, yeast, mild fruit tartness
Taste: Smooth, mild tartness and sweet traces of blueberry, discernible yeasts
Aftertaste: Very clean, lingering fruit flavor
Not a bad re-introduction to an old favorite. And I am glad they are moving away from the high gravity, very strong, very malty special releases that have dominated their lineup in recent years. While I respect the fact that they were honoring John Mitchell with many, if not most, of these specialty brews, I was getting a little overwhelmed by all the Imperial Ales and strong stouts that were coming out, one after the other. A man cannot live on heavy malts alone, you know! 😉