Hoyne 2016 Gratitude Winter Warmer

beer-gratitudeBrewer: Hoyne Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Winter Warmer Ale
ABV: 8%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: This is the fifth incarnation of Gratitude, which began as a seasonal release designed to thank Hoyne’s patrons for their support. And in the keeping with the tradition of Winter Warmers, this years offering is extra strong ale that is dark, malty, has a nice spicy flavor.

Tasting Notes: Well now, this is my fifth sampling of this beer over the years and I swear that it has been changing with time. Always, I have noted that the Gratitude Winter Warmer captures all the notes of a good winter ale without being overwhelming. But this year’s offering does seem more flavorful than previous ones. The hints of brown sugar and dark fruits are not just hints, and the notes of allspice are there in full. And all the while, the alcoholic strength manages to warm the insides without overwhelming the palate.

Appearance: Deep ruby/brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, brown sugar, raisins, figgy pudding, hint of allspice
Taste: Smooth malt, mineral tang, brown sugar, dark fruits, allspice
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, minerals and spice
Overall: 10/10

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Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller Barley Wine 2016

driftwood_ocd2016Brewer: Driftwood Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Barley Wine (apparently)
ABV: 11.2%
IBUs: Unlisted (but damn high!)

Description: This is the latest release of the Old Cellar Dweller, which is not quite seasonal, but intermittent throughout the year. The 2016 release coincides with the holiday season, and is brewed using a combination of Pale, Pilsner, Crystal malts, and then heavily bittered using Columbus and Cascade hops.

Tasting Notes: This year’s Old Cellar Dweller has been in keeping with what they’ve been doing in recent years, which is to produce an Imperial IPA and call it a barleywine. As is stated on their website –  “When young, it is a hoppy treat with plenty of citrus and pine; cellared for a few years and Cellar Dweller gracefully ages into a rich, round reward for patience, hinting at flavours of tawny port.” However, offering that were from 2012 and earlier were not required to undergo aging before they began to resemble actual barleywine. So… why do we wait for it to mature? And what’s with the mislabeling?

Appearance: Strong orange, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malts, strong notes of citrus, pine and tropical fruit
Taste: Sweet and coarse malt, tang, notes of pine, pineapple, passion fruit
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt, hop bitterness, alcoholic warmth
Overall: 8/10

4 Mile Bourbon Oak Aged English Strong Ale

4mile_bourbonstrongBrewer: 4 Mile Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: English Strong Ale
ABV: 8.2%
IBUs: 40

Description: This seasonal release (which became available as of Dec.1st) is a slight twist on the brewery’s English Strong, which is aged in bourbon barrels to achieve a stronger, bourbon flavor-infused beer.

Tasting Notes: I was surprised by this entry. Ordinarily, you’d expect a dark, strong ale that’s been aged in bourbon barrels to combine some serious sugary maltiness with a strong whiskey bite. You know, a winter warmer meets a haymaker punch! However, the malt flavor was actually quite smooth and subdued while the whiskey flavor comes on mild, only to finish quite bitter. Not what I was expecting.

Appearance: Deep ruby/brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malts, tinge of alcohol, hints of whiskey and oak
Taste: Smooth, rich malt base, mild whiskey bite, hint of brown sugar and dark fruit
Aftertaste: Lingering whiskey bite, alcohol and coarse malt bitterness
Overall: 7.5/10

Phillips Anxiety Ale Belgian Quad

phillips_anxiety-bottle-shot-300x400Brewer: Phillips Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Belgian Quadruple Ale
ABV: 8.0%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: This seasonal release honors the holiday season, specifically the stress that is too commonly involved! Brewed in the traditional style of Belgian Quadruple Ale (with a twist) it employs barley and wheat malts that are then fortified with Candi sugar.

Tasting Notes: I was a bit perplexed by this ale. Sure, the bottle says Quadruple, but between the alcohol strength (Belgian-style Quadruples are usually in the 10-13% range), and its taste, it seemed far more akin to a strong Marzen, or possible a Dubbel. A nice and highly drinkable beer, but one which feels mislabeled.

Appearance: Deep amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich, toasty malts, mild sugars, hint of minerals,  
Taste: Rich malt, chewy mouthfeel, minerals and mild caramelized sugars
Aftertaste: Lingering caramelized malt, minerals, mild alcohol bite
Overall: 7.8/10

Category 12 Anomaly Bourbon Barrel Aged Belgian Ale

c12-anomaly-bottle-aBrewer: Category 12 Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
ABV: 8.7%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: This is the latest installment in Category 12’s Barrelholder Series, which specializes in barrel-aged beers. This time around, they have taken a Belgian-style ale that is reminiscent of a Quadruple, fortified it with Candi sugar they made in house (much as they did with their Transmutation Ale), and aged it in bourbon barrels.

Tasting Notes: This beer is one I found myself comparing to Russel’s Nectar of the Gods, one of my favorite beers in recent years. And I can honestly say that it manages to capture the strength of that brew, while also boasting some independent strengths of it own. The bourbon flavor plays very well with the strong malts and Candi sugar, not to mention the alcoholic warmth. The flavors of raisins, dates and other dark fruits also come through with some general spiciness, creating a medley of flavors that are very appropriate for the holiday season.

Appearance: Deep brown/ruby, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich dark malt, fruity esters, dark fruit, brown sugar, bourbon
Taste: Rich coarse malt, espresso, vanilla, cloves, sugar, dates, raisins, bourbon
Aftertaste: Lingering alcoholic bite and warmth, bourbon, sugar, spice and fruit
Overall: 10/10

Twin Sails Roggenweizen

twinsails_roggenBrewer: Twin Sails Brewing, Port Moody, BC
Style: Rye-wheat ale
ABV: 6.7%
IBUs: 12

Description: This limited release by Twin Sails is a German-style hefeweizen brewed with a combination of wheat, rye and caramel malts. This results in slightly sweeter and maltier take on your conventional hefeweizen, which is then mildly hopped and served unfiltered.

Tasting Notes: This beer has all the benefits of a hefeweizen, which include a smooth wheat malt base, yeastiness and a refreshing aftertaste. The addition of caramel and rye malts also add some depth of flavor and color, giving it some added some sweetness to go with the banana and natural spice flavor.

Appearance: Red, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Gentle wheat malt, hefeweizen yeast, banana, hint of clove spice
Taste: Smooth wheat malt, hint of sweetness, yeasty effervescent, banana, hint of spice
Aftertaste: Lingering maltiness, cloves, banana, yeasts
Overall: 8.5/10