Big Sky Brewing Biere De Noel Holiday Extra Strong Ale

Bigsky_beiredenoelBrewer: Big Sky Brewing, Missoula, Montana
Style: Extra Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 10.1%
IBUs: 35

Description: This seasonal Belgian-style dark ale is part of the brewery’s Specialty Beer series, and as the name would suggest, is available during the winter season. Plenty of dark roasted malts, Belgian-yeast, and bottle-conditioning combine to an extra strong ale for the holidays.

Tasting Notes: Another great installment from the Advent Beer Calendar. This Christmas ale had all the right characteristics – the strong malt base and mineral tang of a good bock, the strong notes of sugar and dark fruits of a barleywine, and the alcoholic warmth of a good winter warmer.

Appearance: Deep ruby/amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, brown sugar, molasses, dark fruits, minerals
Taste: Strong malt, mineral tang, raisins, dates, brown sugar, mild Noble hops, alcohol
Aftertaste: Lingering malt sweetness, alcoholic warmth, mineral tang
Overall: 9.2/10

Loncium Imperial Schwarze Gams

Loncium_schwarzegamsBrewer: Loncium Brewery, Kötschach-Mauthen, Austria
Style: Dunkler Bock
ABV: 6.4%
IBUs: Unspecified (low)

Description: The Schwarze Gams is brewed in the Germanic tradition of Bock beer, employing dark, rich malts and a subtle dose of Noble hops to achieve a well-balanced, malty, and slightly sweet beer with intense mouth feel. It won the silver medal at the 2011 European Beer Star in the Dunkler Bock German Style category, the silver medal at the 2012 World Beer Challenge in the category of German Style Dark Bock, and the bronze at the 2012 Australian International Beer Awards.

Tasting Notes: This is yet another late sampling from the 2014 Advent Beer Calender, one which I tried already but didn’t get around to reviewing. As Bock’s go, this was definitely a very decent one. It was a tad subtle, compared to many others I’ve had. However, this is something that’s to be appreciated. Subtle, complex, smooth, malty, and slightly sweet.

Appearance: Dark brown, clear, medium foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dark malt, raisins, brown sugar, molasses, mild herbal hops
Taste: Rich, deep malt, mineral tang, dates, raisins and brown sugar, herbal hop finish
Aftertaste: Lingering dark malts, sugars, and minerality
Overall: 8.4/10

Mikkeler Dry Stout BA Sauternes Edition

mikkeler_drystoutBrewer: Mikkeler Brewery, Copenhagen, Denmark
Style: Stout/Sour
ABV: 4.1%
IBUs: Unspecified (low)

Description: As part of the breweries Sour/Wild lineup, this stout is brewed at their branch plant in D’Proef, Belgium. It is fashioned using dark-roasted malts that are then fermented with brettanomyces yeast before being aged in Sauterne (French sweet wine) barrels for a complex flavor.

Tasting Notes: This was an odd combination, and one which works on some levels, but not others. It combines a stout base, with all the bitter notes of coffee and dark malt, and the addition of brettanomyces yeast adds a dimension of sour cherry and lactic acid that gives it a certain bite. These seem a bit at odds, and very little of the Sauterne wine comes through, except at the tail end of things. Not the best combination beer, in my humble opinion, but certainly an interesting one.

Appearance: Black, virtually opaque, medium foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dark roasted malt, roasted espresso, brettanomyces
Taste: Rich malt, bitterness, notes of coffee, sour cherry, yeast, hint of sugars
Aftertaste: Lingering malt bitterness, sour yeast and coffee
Overall: 7.3/10

Mt. Begbie Nasty Habit IPA

mt.begbie_nastyhabitipaBrewer: Mt. Begbie Brewing, Revelstoke BC
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.0%
IBUs: Unspecified (I estimate in the 50-60 range)

Description: Another item in Mt. Begbie’s year-round lineup, this India Pale Ale is fashioned using rich speciality malts, a good dose of hops, and mountain water. In addition, it was a Gold Medal Winner at the 2010 Canadian Brewing Awards.

Tasting Notes: This is the third time I’ve had this IPA over the years, but the first time I gave it’s due with a review. And it’s quite lovely, with a rich but smooth malt base and just enough hops to provide a bitter backing without being overwhelming. And though the hops varieties are not listed, I do detect at least two of three C’s of the Pacific Northwest (Cascade, Centennial and Columbus).

Appearance: Deep amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malt, rich hop nose, citrus, grassy, piney, passion fruit
Taste: Strong malt, sweet breads, notes of citrus, grass, resin and pine
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, citrus and herbal notes, quite clean
Overall: 8.3/10

Mt. Begbie Powerhouse Pale Ale

mt.begbie_paleBrewer: Mt. Begbie Brewing, Revelstoke BC
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 4.7%
IBUs: Unspecified

Description: This is one of Mt. Begbie’s year-round offerings, and is fashioned using pale malt and mild hopping to achieve a smooth, sessional character. It also had the honor of being the Gold Medal Winner at the 2004 Canadian Brewing Awards.

Tasting Notes: This beer was definitely on the lighter side and a good example of sessional pale ale. The malt character is smooth, creamy, and slightly tangy, and the hop profile is understated, with notes of citrus and grass that linger through to the end.

Appearance: Medium amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose:  Rich malt, baked biscuits, mild floral and grassy hops
Taste: Smooth, creamy malt, mild tang and minerality, hint of citrus and grassy hops
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, tang and grassy hops
Overall: 7.8/10

Steamworks Imperial Red

steamworks_imperialredaleBrewer: Steamworks Brewery, Vancouver, BC
Style: Imperial Red Ale
ABV: 8.5%
IBUs: 80

Description: One of Steamworks seasonal releases – available only in Spring – this Imperial Red Ale combines Maris Otter, Munich, Caramalt. Crystal, and Simcoe malts in significant quantities to achieve a strong, malty base. It is then bittered using significant amounts of Cascade, Centennial & Simcoe hops, dry-hopped, and then bottled unfiltered.

Tasting Notes: This Imperial Red was a bit more subtle than I expected. Normally, one expects some sweet, coarse malts balanced out by strong hops. However, this time around, the strong malt base was balanced by a strong and varied hop mixture, plus some dry-hopping that made everything a bit more downplayed. Basically, despite its strength, this brew is both balanced and subtle.

Appearance: Dark copper, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, citrus, floral, grassy and piney hop notes
Taste: Strong, syrupy malt, citrus rind, fruity esters, dry herbs, alcoholic bite
Aftertaste: Lingering dry hop and citrus bitterness, dry hops, coarse malt
Overall: 8/10