Category 12 Unsanctioned Saison

C12_unsanctionedBrewer: Category 12 Brewing, Central Saanich, BC
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.9%
IBUs: Unspecified

Description: Another Belgian-inspired creation by Category 12, the Unsanctioned Saison is part of their regular lineup. Superior Pilsner, Belgian Caravienne malts are combined with a hint of rye, bittered with Zythos hops, and then fermented using their household Belgian yeast strains.

Tasting Notes: Once again, I’ve reserved reviewing this beer until I had it in a bomber. This is the problem with living close to a brewery – it is exceedingly easy to get beer in growlers! Anyway, this brew was an exercise in balanced flavor. Crisp malts are accented by Saison yeast, which provides a nice, spicy bite. The Zythos hops and a touch rye provide some lovely balance by adding notes of pineapple and body to the mix.

Appearance: Golden/amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Crisp malt, floral, spicy yeast, mild hops, faint trace of rye and pineapple
Taste: Smooth, semi-sweet malt, yeasty tang, pineapple and rye bread, spicy yeast finish
Aftertaste: Lingering yeast, rye, and malt sweetness
Overall: 9/10

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Driftwood Blackstone Porter

Driftwood_porterBrewer: Driftwood Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Porter
ABV: 5%
IBUs: Unspecified

Description: As one of the breweries regular-lineup creations, this London-style Porter is brewed with a combination of caramel, black and chocolate malts. As was relatively common with pre-Industrial Porters, the brewers also added partial sour mash to the mix, creating a beer that combines a slight tartness with chocolaty malts.

Tasting Notes: This Driftwood brew has been a standout for me, at least as far as reviews go. It is a weakness of mine, I tend to avoid porters and stouts because they are not my favorites. And yet, I can always find things to rave about when one is done right; and this would be one such case. The Blackstone came highly reviewed by peers of mine so I decided it was high time to sample it again. The subtle nature of the sour mash, combined with rich dark malts that elicit flavors of roast espresso and bitter chocolate are quite lovely.

Appearance: Tar black, opaque, thick foam retention and good carbonation
Nose: Rich, dark malt, sour notes, notes of coffee and chocolate
Taste: Rich, roasted malt, mild tartness, notes of espresso and bitter chocolate
Aftertaste: Lingering malt bitterness, coffee and hint of licorice
Overall: 8.25/10

Moon Under Water Hip As Funk Farmhouse IPA

moonunderwater_hipasfunkBrewer: Moon Under Water Brewpub, Victoria, BC
Style: Farmhouse/India Pale Ale
ABV: 7%
IBUs: Unspecified

Description: Released in honor of International Women’s Day, this brew is part of a recent effort on behalf of Victoria breweries – which have women brewmaster’s – to push back against sexist attitudes and advertising in the brewing industry. Combining Belgian-style saison yeast, brettanomyces, and an IPA-level of hops, the beer is an homage to both Beglian and Northwestern-styles.

*The label art is the work of Vancouver based graphic-designer Bjauna Sorensen, and features an image of an attractive but strong-looking, non-sexualized woman.

Tasting Notes: It seems that Belgian IPAs are the trend these days. Just about every brewery I’ve sampled from in the past few months has had their own variation on this. But that’s hardly a bad thing. And this is my second sampling of this particular beer, the last time being after getting a growler of it from the brewery itself. As a rule, I prefer to review a beer after drinking it from a bomber since it means less chance of the flavor being bruised from being poured out twice. In any case, the beer boasts a very mixed palate, with saison yeast providing a sharp and spicy backbone, which is well complimented by citrus and tropical fruit flavors that come with a good dose of West Coast hops. There is also some lingering sour flavor that comes from the addition of brettanomyces. Kudos to the women of Victoria taking back brewing!

Appearance: Gold/orange, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose:  Crisp malt, saison yeast, citrus, orange, floral hops
Taste: Smooth malt, sharp, spicy yeast, notes of citrus and passion fruit, hint of sourness
Aftertaste: Lingering sharp and sour yeasts and hop bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

sierranevada_ipaBrewer: Sierra Nevada Brewing, Mills River, NC
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 7.2%
IBUs: 65

Description: This classic American-style IPA is part of the brewery’s year-round lineup, and was the first of their beers to feature the “Hop Torpedo” – a special dry-hopping device that controls how the level of hops infused into the brew. It is fashioned using Two-row Pale and Caramel malts, bittered with Magnum, Crystal and Citra hops.

Tasting Notes: Oftentimes, I get comments about my Best Of lists, usually by someone who is surprised their favorite beer didn’t make the cut. Alas, one commenter did make me realize that this is one beer that, though I have tried, I have never reviewed. And while it won’t be making my Best Of list just yet, it is certainly a good and faithful example of a solid IPA. Rich and slightly sweet malts compliment a hop profile that is powerful and varied, combining both dry-hops and finishing hops to give it a grassy, citrusy, and mildly tropical flavors – in short, all that North American hops are known for. A noble creation and one that makes me want to explore Sierra Nevada’s wares again. Thanks for the recommendation Brandon Kump!

Appearance: Deep amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malt, big hop nose, grassy, citrusy, tropical fruit
Taste: Rich malt, syrupy sweetness, bitter and dry hop finish, grass, citrus rind, herbs
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, citrus rind and dry herbal hops
Overall: 8.5/10

Category 12 Transmutation Belgian Specialty Ale

C12_transmutationBrewer: Category 12 Brewing, Central Saanich, BC
Style: Belgian Tripel/IPA
ABV: 9.6%
IBUs: Unspecified (but high)

Description: This is the latest release of Category 12, which just premiered yesterday at the brewery, and amidst quite a bit of fanfare. Brewed in the Tripel fashion, but with a significant hopping consistent with a Northwestern IPA, this beer is brewed using Superior Pilsner and Belgian Caravienne malts, Hallertauer and Northern Brewer hops, and then fortified with Amber Candi sugar that was handcrafted in house.

Tasting Notes: Where to begin with this one? For starters, the term “Belgian specialty ale” is appropriate given that it has elements of both a tripel and a saison, but also some distinct West Coast flavor. This leads to an eclectic taste, where three times the malt, candi sugar and a high alcohol content lead to a powerful malt base. Add to that some strong yeast flavor and some powerful hops that compliment the yeasts, and you’ve got this baby in a nutshell. Between the fact that they handcrafted their own candi sugar to make this beer and it happened right in my backyard makes me especially proud!

Appearance: Dark ruby, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, sugars, notes of citrus and tropical fruit hops, strong yeasts
Taste: Rich and coarse malt, saison-like yeast, caramelized sugar, hop bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering malt coarseness, hop and yeast bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

Tree Rickshaw Raspberry IPA

tree_rickshawBrewer: Tree Brewing, Kelowna, BC
Style: Fruit-infused India Pale Ale
ABV: 5%
IBUs: 64

Description: A spring/summer seasonal beer, Tree’s Rickshaw combines traditional lager malt (Pilsner and Vienna) with a significant dose of Northwestern hops (Centennial, Cascade, Columbus, and Crystal) and an infusion of fresh raspberries.

Tasting Notes: As combinations go, this one seemed a bit odd and quite gutsy. For instance, I would have expected an IPA to employ a pale malt base rather than ones consistent with a lager. That, and the combination of raspberries with an IPA-size dollop of hops seemed especially gutsy. But guts aside, the end result seemed mainly skunky and bitter, with very little raspberry to speak of and not as much refreshment as say a raspberry wheat, pale or lager. Not a bad idea, but needs a reboot!

Appearance: Deep ruby/orange, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Crisp, skunky malt, notes of herbal hops, hint of raspberry
Taste: Smooth malt, strong hop bitterness, citrus rind, skunk, light raspberry finish
Aftertaste: Lingering skunky malt and citrus rind bitterness, hint of fruit
Overall: 7.2/10

Category 12 Critical Point Pale Ale

C12_criticalpointBrewer: Category 12 Brewing, Central Saanich, BC
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 5.6%
IBUs: 49

Description: The latest in Category 12’s lineup, this Northwestern-style Pale Ale is brewed with a combination of Superior Pale Ale and Crystal malts and fermented using American Ale yeast. It is also bittered with Cascade and Falconer’s Flight hops, some of which added late in the boil to boost its hoppy profile.

 

Tasting Notes: This beer was quite an enjoyable pale ale. When it was first released, I had a chance to sample it at the brewery (located right in my neighborhood). At the time, I was admittedly turned off a little by the sheer bitterness of it. However, after rebooting the recipe a bit, this brew and its brewmaster have struck a pretty good balance. The late-boil addition of hops does make things a bit heavy on the bitter citrus side, but it is still wonderfully hoppy overall with a good, crisp malt base.

Appearance: Deep amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Crisp malt nose, grassy, piney and resiny hops
Taste: Crisp malt, immediate dose of bitter citrus, grass and pine hops
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness and citrus rind
Overall: 7.8/10