Hoyne Wolf Vine Pale Ale 2014

hoyne_wolfvineBrewer: Hoyne Brewery, Victoria, BC
Style: Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 5.3%

Description: Hoyne’s fall seasonal release is back, employing fresh Centennial and Cascade hops from Sartori Farms to create a “wet-hopped” West Coast-style pale ale. Brewed in conjunction with the hop harvest, this beer is available for only a short time during the early Autumn.

Tasting Notes: This is my second sampling of the Wolf Vine, after it first premiered last year, and I was suitably impressed again. Much like its predecessor, this pale ale has achieves a nice balance between smooth pale malt and a lovely hop palette that is both varied and subtle. At once dry, citrusy, herbal and grassy, this brew is reminiscent of both a West Coast Pale and an ESB. Glad they chose to bring it back!

Appearance: Deep amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild pale malt, mild notes of dry citrus and herbal hops
Taste: Smooth malt, mild tang, dry, subtle notes of herbal, grassy, and citrus hops
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, and dry subtle hop flavor
Overall: 9/10

Longwood Winter’s Own Weizenbock

longwood_wintersownBrewer: Longwood Brewery, Nanaimo, BC
Style: Weizenbock
Alc/Vol: 6.5%

Description: Longwood’s winter seasonal beer, the Winter’s Own is a German-style hefeweizen that is fashioned from a combination of 50% wheat and barley malt and brewed bock-style to create a slightly darker, stronger wheat ale.

Tasting Notes: This is a beer that has been difficult for me to get my hands on, due in part to seasonal availability and distribution. Luckily, while having lunch at Longwood’s this weekend with my folks (happy birthday Pop!), I managed to snag one. And I was a bit surprised by what I found. Typically, a weizenbock is a smooth, malty, and rich beer, combining the best of a German wheat and bock. Such a beer would certainly be a good winter warmer. However, this beer is fermented using what I can only assume is brettanomyces yeasts, which give it a sour, oaky punch, which when combined with a rather light malt base, leads to an entirely different experience. Not bad at all, just not what I would have expected given the style and the fact that its a winter seasonal release. I think this brew would have been better targeted to summer drinking. Still, good marks for taste and authenticity, but some deductions for missing the mark.

Appearance: Amber-orange, cloudy with sediment, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Light wheat malt, yeasty, sour cherry, apple cider, oak
Taste: Mild wheat malt, tang, hint of sour cherry, tart apple, oak, dry finish
Aftertaste: Lingering yeast bitterness, tang, and sour fruit flavor
Overall: 7.5/10

Driftwood Sartori Harvest IPA 2014

Driftwood_Sartori2014Brewer: Driftwood Brewery, Victoria BC
Style: India Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 7%

Description: This limited release IPA from the Driftwood Brewery is crafted once a year, immediately following the Centennial hop harvest of Satori Cedar Ranch, located near Chilliwack BC. Combined with Canadian grown base malt, this fresh-hopped IPA is a celebration of locally-grown hops and craft brewing!

Tasting Notes: Back in 2013, I was introduced to wet-hopped Sartori brews, thanks to Hoyne’s Wolf Vine Pale Ale and Philips Green Reaper IPA. However, I somehow missed Driftwood’s Sartori Harvest IPA, a mistake I remedied this year. Compared to its compatriots, this brew is heavily infused with herbal, citrusy hops, and weighs in at a heftier 7% alcohol per volume. Still, it is comparable in that it is subtler and more layered than your typical IPA, but still appropriately hoppy, citrusy and bitter!

Appearance: Golden, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Good malt, strong floral, herbal hops, notes of citrus
Taste: Smooth malt, tang, strong notes of grapefruit, herbs, grassy hops
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, citrus rind
Overall: 8.5/10

Longwood Stoutnik Imperial Stout

Longwood_stoutnikBrewer: Longwood Brewery, Nanaimo BC
Style: Imperial Stout
Alc/Vol: 7.5%

Description: One of the Longwood brewery’s signature releases, this stout is brewed in the Russian Imperial fashion and fashioned using a combination of Black Barley malt, Chocolate malt, and Stout malt to create an extra strong, complex brew that is packed with coffee and licorice notes.

Tasting Notes: Of all of Longwoods brews, this is one that I’ve admittedly been resisting for quite some time. This may have something to do with the fact that stouts have been a little hit or miss for me (especially imperial stouts). Alas, I decided to finally remedy this and just dive in, and I was suitably impressed. The Stoutnik has all the things going for it that one would expect from an Imperial Stout, combining roasted malts with notes of espresso, licorice, and a nice bitter finish. Definitely wish I had tried it sooner.

Appearance: Black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malt, espresso, hint of licorice, mild hops
Taste: Dark malt flavor, good tang, notes of espresso, licorice, and grassy hops
Aftertaste: Lingering bitter malt and coffee flavor, licorice and mild malt sweetness
Overall: 8.25/10

Off To The Beer Seminar!

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Today is a great day for beer appreciation, because it is the day that I finally get to host my long-overdue beer-tasting and history of beer seminar. Ten participants have signed on, the space has been reserved, and in a few hours time, I will be giving the attendees a quick (well not too quick) run-down on the history of the brewing craft, coupled with some generous sampling.

I’ve prepared the following list based on what I could find and what seemed indispensable to me as far as representing the history and full range of brewing was concerned. All told, they are divided by style more than historical period, but I will be presenting them in this order since it gives a pretty good idea of how the art evolved over time.

Ancient Beers:
Heather: Salt Spring Island Heather Ale (5% / 650 ml)
(I desperately wanted to find a bomber of Gruit as well, but that variety of beer is both hard to find and hopelessly out of season right now)

Abbey Beers:
Blonde: Affligem Blonde (6.8% / 330ml)
Tripel: Townsite Charleston Tripel (9% / 650 ml)
Sour: Driftwood Belle Royale (8% / 650 ml)

Anglo-American Beer:
Pale Ale: Hoyne’s Down Easy (5.2% / 650ml)
India Pale Ale: Driftwood Fat Tug IPA (7% / 650 ml)
Stout: Hopworks 7-Grain Stout (5.3% / 650 ml)
Barley Wine: Howe Sound Wooly Bugger (10.5% / 375 ml)

German Beer:
Lager: Ayinger Dortmunder Lager (5.5% / 500 ml)
Oktoberfest: Russel Marzen (5.5% / 650ml)
Hefeweizen: Schneider Weisse (5.4% / 500 ml)
Bock: Schneider Weisse Aventinus (8% / 500ml)
Smokebeer: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier (6.6% / 500 ml)

The seminar will begin with where and how beer became a cornerstone of civilization – emerging alongside agriculture and sedentary communities some 8000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent. I will then go on to how the rise of wine making introduced a sense of cultural distinction during Classical Antiquity, and the influence was largely confined to the parts of Europe where the Roman Empire had influence (France, Spain, Italy, the Mediterranean, but not Germany, the Low Countries, Eastern Europe, or the British Isles).

Then comes the Middle Ages, the establishment of Abbey/Monastery Brewing, the rise of hop use, the advent of Lager and the growing professionalization of the industry. Which then gives way to the industrial revolution and the emergence of brewing as a big business, followed of course by the modern era and the resurgence in craft brewing. It promises to be interesting, I just hope I can keep it down to 20 minutes. Leaves more time from sampling!

I’ll be sure to let you all know how it goes and I hope to repeat it in the very near future with some other (and larger) groups of people.

4 Mile Summer Wheat Ale

4Mile_summerwheatBrewer: 4 Mile Brewing Company, Victoria, BC
Style: Wheat Ale
Alc/Vol: 4.5%
IBUs: 24

Description: A summer seasonal beer, and what I believe is the first limited release from the brewery, this wheat ale is a mild brew that is decidedly English in inspiration. This translates to a sessional-style wheat with mild malts, a lower alcohol content, and a mild hopping that results in a smooth, refreshing taste and little aftertaste.

Tasting Notes: When it comes to wheat ales, I tend to expect some banana flavor, some coriander spice, a little orange zest, some serious yeasts, or some tangy fruit flavor to offset a milder malt. However, this is due to my being accustomed to strong hefeweizens and Belgian wits, and that really didn’t diminish this beer’s refreshing nature and smooth character. Mild wheat malts, a subtle yeast backbone, and a clean finish with a Pilsner-like grainy and herbal flavor characterize this beer. Definitely a good summer thirst quencher.

Appearance: Golden, slightly cloudy, mild foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild wheat malt, yeast, Pilsner-like graininess, herbal hops
Taste: Smooth malt, milt tang, hint of yeast, herbal (Noble) hops finish
Aftertaste: Lingering malt bitterness, yeasts and Noble hop notes
Overall: 8.3/10

This completes my sampling from the 4 Mile Brewery, either through their bombers or from tastings at the brewpub itself. I can’t wait for a Fall Seasonal or some more limited releases!

Philips Octofox India Pale Ale

Philips_octofoxBrewer: Philips Brewery, Victoria, BC
Style: India Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 6.5%

Description: As part of their Area 52 series, the Octofox IPA comes straight from the Philips Brewery’s “hoptomology lab”, where the brewers combine different strains of hops to achieve unique IPA flavors. The Octofox was one of their earliest specimens, and for the first time is available in a bomber as a Fall limited release!

Tasting Notes: This is my first exposure to an Area 52 release, and hence the work of the Philips “hoptomologists”. The beer is what one could expect from a solid West Coast IPA, consisting of some good strong malt. And the hop profile is definitely varied and complex, consisting of citrus, tropical fruit and pine-resin flavors that come from what I can only assume is a blend that includes Zythos, Columbus, Centennial, Cascade and Amarillo hops.

Appearance: Light amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, bright bouquet of floral hops, citrus, pine, tropical fruit
Taste: Strong malt, milt coarseness, strong notes of grapefruit, pineapple, and pine
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, citrus rind and pine and tropical fruit
Overall: 8.5/10

La Trappe Quadrupel Trappist Ale

LaTrappe_quadrupleBrewer: La Trappe Brewery, Berkel-Enschot, NL
Style: Quadruple Trappist Ale
Alc/Vol: 10%

Description: The strongest and heaviest of La Trappe’s lineup, this unfiltered, bottle fermented ale is brewed in the age-old style crafted by Trappist monks to achieve a dark, malty profile that contains dark fruit and sugary notes that conceals a rather hefty alcoholic punch (10% alc/vol). Though brewed in The Netherlands, it is very much in keeping with the proud tradition of Belgian ales.

Tasting Notes: I’ve been looking to test out La Trappe’s Quadrupel for some time now, as I can recall sampling it back in my Ottawa days alongside their Tripel. And having reacquainted myself with said Tripel not long ago, I wanted to get my hands on a bottle of this so I could finally give it a proper review. Suffice it to say, it is very consistent with their other brews and with the style of ale itself. Like a good Trappist beer, it had the yeasty, effervescent quality that comes from bottle fermenting and conditioning. And true to a Quadrupel’s taste, it packed all the flavors of raisins and dates with brown sugar and molasses. And of course, a mild hopping and Belgian ale yeast provides a nice tang and bitterness to accompany it all, and finishes with a gentle nutty flavor to round it all out. Definitely well paired with sharp cheeses and red meat dishes!

Appearance: Amber/brown, cloudy, sediment, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, dark fruits, sugars, molasses, Belgian yeast
Taste: Smooth malt, mild tang, raisins, dates, yeast, brown sugar, mild herbal hops
Aftertaste: Lingering sugars, dark fruits and sugars, yeasts and nutty flavor
Overall: 9/10

Phillips 13 Knots in a Hangman’s Noose India Pale Ale

13-Knots-IPA-and-Hop-Drop-web-photo2Brewer: Philips Brewing, Victoria BC
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 11.9%/13%

Description: Brewed in honor of the brewery’s 13th anniversary, this Imperial IPA comes in two packages. The first is the beer itself, which weighs in at a hefty 11.9% ABV (the legal limit) and is heavily hopped. The second is the Hop Drop – an artisanal hop liqueur distilled from real hops (which they plan to keep making, apparently) – ranked at 25% ABV. When combined, they add up to a hefty 13% alc/vol and a massive dose of hops.

Tasting Notes: When it comes time for Philips to celebrate its anniversary, I’ve come to expect some very alcoholic, very hoppy brews from Philips. But this beer certainly sent things to a whole new level! And I have to say, it was a very clever way of circumventing that pesky law that says beers cannot be 12% ABV or higher. In any case, the brew is QUITE powerful in terms of malts and hops, but the balance is really quite impressive given its overall strength. When one sips this beer (because quaffing is likely to knock you flat), the sweet malt, piney and tropical fruit flavors are like a velvet glove that softens the delivery of the massive alcoholic punch. Definitely overpowering, but worth the experience.

Appearance: Golden, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, very hoppy nose, tropical fruits, pineapple, passion fruit
Taste: Sweet and coarse malt, notes of pine, passion fruit, burning alcoholic finish
Aftertaste:  Lingering alcoholic burn, fruity hop flavor, mild bitterness
Overall: 8/10

Note: If I can get myself a second bottle, I shall try to discern how it tastes both with and without the addition of the Hop Drop. Despite its consistently high alcohol and hop content, it can be hard to tell how much of which is which!

Muskoka Legendary Oddity

muskoka_oddityBrewer: Muskoka Brewery, Bracebridge ON
Style: Vintage Ale
Alc/Vol: 8%

Description: This limited release Spring-seasonal ale pays homage to the legends of the lumberjacks and furtraders who experienced the mysterious culture and wildlife of the North during the 1800’s. Brewed in the Belgian style, it brings together a combination of North American malts, Noble hops, heather tips, juniper berries and sweet orange peel shavings, before being fermented with Belgian yeast and fortified with Candi sugar. The end results is then bottled and cellar aged to bring the flavors together to maturity.

Tasting Notes: This beer brought to mind many drinking experiences, all of them pleasant. First, there are the distinctive Belgian-style elements, which are similar to a good Tripel; a barley-wine in terms of the sweet and sugary notes; and a juniper pale ale with the infusion of gin-like flavor and a crisp finish. I am always happy when I get to reconnect with breweries from back east that I don’t always have access to. And this beer was definitely a lovely and worthy addition to Muskoka’s lineup.

Appearance: Gold/orange, clear with sediment, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, sugary nose, barley wine-like, floral, citrus, Belgian yeasts
Taste: Strong malts, sugars, Belgian yeast, citrus rind, crisp finish, hint of juniper
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt and yeast bitterness, juniper berry, citrus rind
Overall: 9.5/10