Mikkeler It’s Alive!

mikkeler_itsaliveBrewer: Mikkeler Brewing, Copenhagen, Denmark
Style: Sour/Amber Ale
ABV: 8.0%

Description: This beer is part of Mikkeler’s Sour/Wild lineup, and a tribute to Orval and Trappist brewing. Employing an amber malt base, the beer is also heavily hopped and bottle-fermented using wild stbrettanomyces yeast.

Tasting Notes: While this is a fitting tribute to Orval (they managed to imitate the taste and appearance quite closely) this brew is a bit heavy on the bitterness. However, it manages to grow on you, it packs the usual punch of a sour ale with notes of sour cherry and oak, and has the strong malt base and effervescence of a Trappist-style ale.

Appearance: Dark amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Coarse malt, strong notes of oak and brettanomyces
Taste: Crisp malt, oak, sour cherry, yeasty effervescence, hop bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, bitter yeast, oak flavor
Overall: 7.8/10

Four Winds Saison

Fourwinds_saisonBrewer: Four Winds Brewing, Delta BC
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: 30

Description: As part of this mainland BC-based brewery’s Standard lineup, this beer is brewed with a combination of pale malt, then bittered with Noble and Pacific Northwest Cascade hops, then fermented using Belgian Saison yeasts.

Tasting Notes: This beer came highly reviewed from my local watering hole, and is perhaps one of the better Saisons I’ve had in recent years. A good, crisp malt base is augmented by a varied hop profile which gives it some citrusy, lemony notes. A strong yeast backbone lends it a degree of effervescence, strong carbonation, and finishes things off with a spicy, fruity finish. Definitely a great operation and one I need to learn more about!

Appearance: Golden, cloudy, very good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malt, floral hops, citrus, yeasty, spicy
Taste: Crisp malt, notes of lemon and honey, yeasty effervescence
Aftertaste: Lingering yeast and malt flavor
Overall: 9.5/10

Category 12 Insubordinate Session IPA

c12_insubordinateBrewer: Category 12 Brewing, Central Saanich, BC
Style: Session IPA
ABV: 4.5%
IBUs: 58

Description: In what is Category 12’s latest seasonal release, the Insubordinate is a sessional take on the Pacific Northwestern India Pale Ale. Crystal and Vienna malts provide the base, which is then bittered using Centennial and Columbus hops, along with an infusion of Zythos for some extra dry-hopping.

Tasting Notes: Given that this brewery is right here in my neighborhood, I was able to snag some bottles of this brew direct. And while sampling, I was even able to guess the hops used (well, it took a few guesses to get all three). In any case, this brew is a good addition after the powerhouse that was their Transmutation, employing a lighter malt base with a good hopping that employs both a bitter, citrus and tropical fruit start with a herbal, dry hop finish. An all around crisp and refreshing take on the Pacific Northwestern IPA.

Appearance: Amber/orange, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Gentle malt, tropical fruit nose, pineapple, passion fruit, herbal infusion
Taste: Crisp malt, citrus, pine, herbs, dry hop bitterness, mineral tang
Aftertaste: Lingering dry hop bitterness, herbs, citrus rind, quite refreshing
Overall: 8.5/10

Best Beers of 2014

craftbeer This is an overdue post, but one which I had to do if I am going to begin regularly acknowledging the best of the best. Every year, there are beers that I come across that manage to not only stand out, but stand above the rest And so, here is a rundown of all the beers that I sampled in 2014 that met those criteria.

To be clear, this list acknowledges the best beers that I sampled during the course of the year. It does not necessarily accord to when these beers were first released. Only those beers that ranked a 9.5 or higher were included, and only those that made a truly great impression.

So here goes…

1. Russell Nectar of the Gods Wheat Wine: Starting this list out right is one of the best beers I’ve had in recent memory. As I said in my review, the beer is wonderfully complex, delivers strong fruit esters and notes of vanilla, and has a smokey, whiskey finish. While I’m not always a fan of bourbon barrel aged beers, the sweet and smooth malts of this wheat wine were wonderfully complimented by the process. Best of 2014!

2. Affligem Blonde: 2014 was the year that I fell in love with Blondes, owing to the Battlefields tour the family and I took to Belgium and France. And Affligem was my favorite by far, and something that I have since convinced my local beer stores (Cascadia and Metro) to start carrying. Consistent with a Belgian pale, this beer employs crisp malts, a yeasty backbone, and a slightly sweet quality that is well balanced and very drinkable. Definitely a favorite of the year, as well as one of my all-time favorites!

3. Goose Island Matilda Belgian Style Pale Ale: Another great beer of 2014, one which combined several of my favorite styles and influences. These included elements of a Flemish Red and a Trappist ale – the sour and oaky notes of the former with the strong malt and yeasty effervescence of the latter. Having only learned of this brewery in 2014, I’ve come to understand that they do great work, and this is definitely their best so far!

4. Townsite Cardena Belgian Quad: Since I first gained access to their wares in 2012, I’ve been impressed by everything Townsite has produced. In particular, their Hulk Series has always be known to deliver the kind of stuff I like, and this one was no exception. In addition to being deliciously malty, dark, fruity and sugary, it’s got a well balanced flavor due to just enough citrus hop bitterness. It’s a lot like a barley wine, but except with the infusion of the telltale Belgian yeasts that give it an added distinctive flavor.

5. Le Terroir Wet Hopped Sour Ale: I’ve become a fan of sours in recent years, and this one was one of the better ones I’ve had. Consistent with this Wallonian style of beer, this brew has the deliciously tart, fruity and earthy qualities sours are known for. These are all balanced by just enough Amarillo and Citra hops, resulting in a nice herbal infusion on top.

6. Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic Bio: Cantillon is a family-run Belgian brewery famous for their commitment to Krieks, Lambics, Guezes, and other traditional Belgian styles. And this brew is one of the better ones I’ve had from them yet. The nose and flavor are packed with sour cherries, brettanomyces yeast, and some serious oaky flavor. All of this adds up to an intoxicating nose and flavor that is exciting and lingering.

7. Green Flash Palate Wrecker Hamilton’s Ale: Imperial IPAs are quite the hot ticket these days, and something which can easily be overdone. But Green Flash’s managed to be powerful without being overwhelming. Despite its alcohol and hop strength (9.5% and 100+ IBUs), it manages to be quite drinkable and refreshing. I’ve been back to this brew a few times and it always manages to deliver.

8. Dieu du Ciel Rosée d’hibiscus: This was my first sampling from the Dieu du Ciel brewery, and also one of the best brews I had during the course of the year. Combining a wit base with hibiscus was certainly an interesting combination, making for a smooth, yeasty base that is accented by a slightly acidic, fruity flavor that was reminiscent of Sorrel (one of Jamaica’s most famous beverages).

9. Page 24 Reserve Hildegarde Blonde: Yet another regional blonde ale that I enjoyed while in Paris, the esoteric appeal of the name alone was worth the price. But in addition, it was also a pleasingly tasty and refreshing ale, with a nicely balanced flavor that is gently malty, lightly hoppy, yeast, and with a hint of spice. And unlike most of the other blondes enjoyed on that trip, this ale was actually brewed in France (St. Germain Brewery, Nord-Pas-de-Calais region), rather than being a Belgian import.

10. Kwak: Yet another Paris sampling, Kwak is a regional favorite rom the Eastern Flemish town of Dendermondethat is famous in part for the glass it is served in (a shortened version of a yard glass). A lovely ruby-red in color, this beer has a nice malty and semi-sweet base, and some light fruit esters that call to mind apple, cherry, and plums. The pint of this that I enjoyed in Paris was the first time I ever tried (or even heard of) this beer, and now I am busily trying to get it here at home!

11. Dieu du Ciel Rigor Mortis ABT: This beer was my second sampling from Dieu du Ciel brewery, and immediately made the list! Overall, this beer combined the best of two worlds that are already great on their own: a barley wine and a quadrupel. This comes through with notes of figgy pudding, sugary malts, raisins, plums, a yeasty backbone, and a slightly spicy finish.

12. Muskoka Legendary Oddity: This sampling was a lovely drinking experience for two reasons. One, it was a lovely beer. And two, I genuinely miss the Muskoka brewery since moving to the west. It combines many distinctive Belgian-style elements, which include the sharp yeast and slightly sweet malt flavor of a Tripel, and the sweet and sugary notes of barley-wine. It tops this all off with an infusion of juniper that gives it a slight, gin-like essence.

Mosco Blond Ale

mosco_blondeBrewer: Mosco Brewing, Beit Shemesh, Israel
Style: Blonde Ale
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: Unspecified

Description:  Located on an agricultural cooperative called Moshav Zanoah in the town of Beit Shemesh, not far from Jerusalem, the Mosco brewery was started in 2012 by two Israeli citizens who named their enterprise after one of the co-founders (Yaron Moscovich) nicknames. The blonde ale is one of their signature products, using local ingredients and know-how to fashion this Belgian-style pale ale.

Tasting Notes: Here we have another late addition from the Advent Beer Calendar, and the first beer I’ve had from Israel. Overall, it was an interesting take on the traditional blonde ale. As expected, it had the good malt base, a hint of sweetness, and the yeasty backbone. What was unusual, at least to me, was the hint of blood orange flavor, the sort of oaky, lemony flavor that I’ve come to associate with Sorachi Ace hops, and the sour notes I’ve come to associate with brettanomyces. An interesting and ecclectic mix. And holy shit, the yeast is so prevalent, it came out in a few grey lumps! I wasn’t turned off by this, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it.

Appearance: Deep orange, cloudy, high sediment, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malt, sugars, yeasts, floral hops, slight pine and citrus
Taste: Smooth malt, blood orange, hint of yeasty sourness, mild oaky flavor, lemon zest
Aftertaste: Lingering malt and hop bitterness, heavy yeast
Overall: 8.2/10

Mikkeler Single Hop Summit IPA

mikkeler_summitipaBrewer: Mikkeler Brewing, Copenhagen, Denmark
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.9%
IBUs: Unspecified

Description: Like all the beers in this phantom brewery’s Single Hop series, this beer is brewed at D’Proef in Belgium, using only pale malt and a single strain of American hops. In this case, the hop variety is Summit, a common hop used in barleywines, IPAs and Stouts that imparts a deep, earthy quality.

Tasting Notes: This is my second sampling of MIkkeler’s wares, and the second in their Single Hop IPA lineup. Overall, I was impressed. The use of Summit hops imparted an interesting mix of citrus, grass and earthiness to the brew. And it was well balanced with a good malt base that was smooth and just the slightest bit sharp. You could say this beer is defined by a strong, subtle, and complex character – one that is understated but gets the job done.

Appearance: Solid amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Good malt, subtle hints of citrus, tropical fruit, grassy
Taste: Slightly sharp malt, mild tang, earthy hops, mild notes of citrus, grass
Aftertaste: Lingering earthy, citrus and hop bitterness
Overall:8.2 /10

Parallel 49 Rye The Long Face Imperial Rye IPA

p49_ryethelongfaceBrewer: Parallel 49 Brewing, Vancouver BC
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.5%
IBUs: 86

Description: Part of Parallel 49 Spring Seasonal lineup, this Imperial IPA combines a hefty combination of pale and rye malts, and is then bittered using a similarly robust amount of Chinook, Simcoe, Amarillo and Centennial hops.

Tasting Notes: As Imperial IPAs go, this beer was quite smooth and drinkable. Surprising considering its strength and the hefty dose of rye. And yet, the rye malts and heavy helping of Pacific Northwest hops balance out to create a pretty subtle but complex brew.

Appearance: Deep orange, mildly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: rich malt, rye notes, citrus, pineapple, and passion fruit hops
Taste: Smooth, slightly crisp malt, notes of herbs, citrus, peach, pineapple
Aftertaste: Lingering tang, citrus and tropical fruit and rye bitterness
Overall: 8.3/10

Peak Organic Hop Blanc

peak_hopblancBrewer: Peak Organic Brewing, Portland, ME
Style: White IPA
ABV: 6.4%
IBUs: Unspecified

Description:  Fresh from Portland Maine comes this White IPA, part of Peak Organic’s regular lineup. It is brewed using local wheat and Belgian yeast, and then bittered using a combination of West Coast Centennial, Simcoe and Citra hops.

Tasting Notes: Yet another sampling from the Advent Beer Calendar, this White IPA was a fitting example of this resurgent style of beer. Wheat malt and Belgian yeast provide a smooth, refreshing base, with is then accompanied by notes of citrus and tropical fruit that pair nicely with the yeast’s spicy finish.

Appearance: Deep gold, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Wheat malt, yeast, coriander, orange, spice
Taste: Smooth malt, mild tang, yeast, orange zest and fruit, spicy finish
Aftertaste: Lingering orange zest, yeast bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10


World Top Marmalade Porter

worldtop_porterBrewer: World Top Brewery, Yorkshire, UK
Style: Porter
ABV: 5%
IBU: Unspecified

Description: Part of World Top’s regular lineup, this beer is fashioned in the traditional 18th-century English porter style, marrying dark roasted malts and oats to a slightly sweet kick and bitter notes of orange and roasted coffee.

Tasting Notes: This is the second time I’ve had a World Top product, and it comes to me courtesy of the Advent Beer Calendar (yep, still sampling my way through it). In any case, I did enjoy this one better than their IPA. A slightly bitter, but rich and dark malt base are nicely accompanied by notes of coffee, orange peel, roasted nuts, and some sugary molasses that make this porter live up to its name!

Appearance: Deep brown/black, clear, low foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dark malt, orange zest, baked sweetbread, molasses
Taste: Bitter malt, tannin, bitter orange peel, notes of molasses, coffee, roasted oats
Aftertaste: Lingering dark malt flavor, coffee, orange rind
Overall: 8/10

Phillips 3rd Blind Mouse Triple IPA

Phillips-Third-Blind-MouseBrewer: Phillips Brewery, Victoria, BC
Style: Triple India Pale Ale
ABV: 10.2%
IBUs: Unspecified (high)

Description: The latest Spring Seasonal from Phillips, this Triple IPA is aptly named and pretty straightforward. A strong malt base, and a good dose of West Coast hops provide a very strong, but balanced flavor profile that will appeal to hop heads and fans of their Hop Drop liqueur (noted for its powerful hop flavor and alcoholic strength!)

Tasting Notes: Seriously, I have to wonder what inspires Phillips with its limited-release creations! These guys obviously love high alcohol content, IPAs, and IBUs, and this beer delivers all three in spades! I was honestly reminded of their Hop Drop when drinking this, mainly because the potent combination of hops and alcohol was just too reminiscent of that lovely liqueur. Still, the combination manages to balance out quite nicely, making for a powerful, but relatively easy-going drinking experience.

Appearance: Light amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, strong hop nose, floral, tropical, passion fruit and herbs
Taste: Strong malt, potent hops, citrus, tropical fruit and dry herbs, bitter, alcoholic finish
Aftertaste: Lingering herbal hops bitterness, alcoholic bite
Overall: 7.8/10