Townsite Lil’ Red 3.0 Sour Red Ale

townsite_lil-red-3Brewer: Townsite Brewing, Powell River, BC
Style: Sour Red Ale
ABV: 6%
IBUs: 20

Description: “A Belgian ale made with candi sugar and bottle conditioned with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis.This year Cédric and team decided to bring this punchy red ale to the next level. Brettanomyces Bruxellensis was added to the bottles for natural carbonation. Which means there are 2 versions of this beer this year. The bottle and the keg will be different, one a sweet and tangy refresher and one with a layer of horse blanket funk.”

Tasting Notes: This year’s Lil’ Red is just as charming as last year’s. And it was once again a nice addition to a season of sours that have been too damn vinegary! The combination of red malts, candi sugar and brettanomyces creates a beer that has notes of tart fruit, a hint of sweetness, and some serious yeasty effervescence.

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

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 Trainwreck Oak Aged Barley Wine 2016

phillips_trainwreckBrewer: Philips Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Barley Wine
ABV: 10%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: Phillips annual winter seasonal ale is back for another season! And this time around, they have chosen to age their barley wine in French and American oak. Basically, for 2016, they’ve brought back the barrels, but ditched the bourbon! However, this beer still packs a punch, and is recommended best served at cellar temperatures (8 °C).

Tasting Notes: This year’s Trainwreck was quite delightful! I have only ever had nice things to say about their barley wine on its own, and mixed things when it came to the bourbon-barrel aged variant. But an oak-aged Trainwreck certainly manages to get the job done and doesn’t offend along the way. In fact, its natural sugars and maltiness do well with some natural oak flavor, which restrains the sweetness but doesn’t overpower the flavor.

Appearance: Dark amber/brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, brown sugars, raisins, dates, minerals, oak
Taste: Strong malt, oakiness, brown sugar, raisins, dates, mineral tang, alcoholic bite
Aftertaste: Lingering mineral tang, alcohol and oak notes
Overall: 8/10

Steel and Oak Beechwood Smoked Honey Doppelbock

steelandoak_doppelbockBrewer: Steel and Oak Brewing, New Westminster, BC
Style: Smoked Doppelbock
ABV: 7.9%
IBUs: 20

Description: This seasonal release is lovely combination, where a venerable style of German lager meets a rauchbier (smoke beer). It is brewed using honey and beechwood-smoked malt, which is then double-fermented and mildly hopped. This creates a beer that is smooth, rich, smokey and tangy, and nicely refreshing!

Tasting Notes: Smoke beers are generally kind of hit and miss for me. But this one has a range of flavors that manage to complement each other quite nicely. The smoked malt go well with the doppelbock’s natural tang, which are cut nicely by the natural malty flavor and the addition of honey.

Appearance: Amber/orange, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, honey, smoke, mild hops
Taste: Smooth malt, hint of smoke, mineral tang, touch of honey sweetness
Aftertaste: Lingering smoke minerals and mild malt sweetness
Overall: 9/10

Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale

elysian_pumpkinBrewer: Elysian Brewing, Seattle, WA
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 6.7%
IBUs: 18

Description: Elysian’s Fall Seasonal Pumpkin Ale is brewed using Pale, Munich, Crystal malts, which are then lightly bittered with Magnum hops. Roasted and raw pumpkin seeds are then added to the mash, while pumpkin flesh is added in the mash, in the kettle, and during fermentation.

Tasting Notes: This is a good take on the Pumpkin Ale. The nose is indistinguishable from pumpkin pie, and the flavor is not far behind. There’s plenty of pumpkin flesh to complement the smooth malt and just sweet enough malt flavor, and the spice comes through nicely without being overpowering.

Appearance: Amber-orange, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Pumpkin pie nose! Allspice, smooth malts, cinnamon and nutmeg
Taste: Smooth malt, pumpkin pie, mineral tang, mild sweetness, ginger, allspice
Aftertaste: Lingering spice flavor, sweet and smooth malt, minerals
Overall: 8/10

Powell Street Fresh Hop IPA 2016

powellst_freshhopBrewer: Powell Street Craft Brewery, Vancouver, BC
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6%
IBUs: Unlisted (mild to moderate)

Description: This limited seasonal release is made with fresh hops sourced from the Fraser Valley. The pale malt base is bittered using a combination of Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops, making for a smooth and refreshing India Pale Ale.

Tasting Notes: I was actually surprised to learn this beer was an IPA. Between its light-color malt, mild bitterness and easy-drinking, it seemed so much more like a pale ale. However, being on the light side (at least in terms of bitterness) is to be expected where fresh hops are concerned. And its crisp, clean taste are where its strengths lie, since they are what make it a refreshing brew.

Appearance: Golden, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malt, hint of herbal hops, mild mineral nose
Taste: Smooth malt, mineral tang, gentle notes of grassy hops, mild citrus
Aftertaste: Lingering smooth malt flavor, tang, and mild hops
Overall: 8/10

Swan’s Pumpkin Ale 2016

swans_pumpkinBrewer:Swan’s Brewpub, Victoria, BC
Style:
Pumpkin Ale
ABV:
6%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: Swan’s seasonal ale is back, and this year’s Pumpkin ale is fashioned in the usual way. Pale malts are combined with a mild hopping, then spiced with nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cinnamon. And of course, there’s the fresh baked pumpkin to finish the mix.

Tasting Notes: A nice, balanced pumpkin ale that has a smooth start, some powerful (but not overpowering) spice notes, and a lingering, spicy finish. I remember this one from year’s back and it’s still a nice way to ring in the Fall season.

Appearance: Deep amber, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Smooth malt, rich notes of allspice, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie
Taste: Smooth, crisp malt, ginger zest, cinnamon snap, allspice, pumpkin flesh
Aftertaste: Lingering pumpkin and spice flavor, mild ginger bitterness
Overall: 8/10

Category 12 ZRA Zombie Repellent Ale

c12-zra-bottle-cBrewer: Category 12, Central Saanich,
Style: Dark Ale (hard to place, really)
ABV: 6.9%
IBUs: 49

Description: This latest seasonal release from C12  – which is located right in my backyard! – is what they describe as being an “anti-pumpkin ale”. This brew is named in honor of its combination of Zythos hops, CaraRed malt, and Azacca hops, which are augmented by the addition of Fennel and Sweet Orange and then fermented using their proprietary strain of Belgian yeast. The end result is a dark ale designed to “snap any mindless, pumpkin spice zombie out of their trance and back to reality”. Really not a fan of pumpkin ales, huh?

Tasting Notes: I for one do not support the political agenda inherent in this beer! Okay, mandatory disclaiming done, now let’s get to this beer! I found this brew to be brilliantly experimental and very tasty. The dark malt, Belgian yeast, and combination of hops provides a malty, spicy and crisp base. The addition of fennel and orange add to the pleasant spiciness and soften things a bit with some additional sweetness. A balanced, tasty, and very interesting brew!

Appearance: Deep brown/ruby, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich fennel spice, Belgian yeasts, pepper, hint of citrus, dry herbal hops
Taste: Crisp malt, malt sweetness, yeast bite, dry herbal hops, fennel spice, orange
Aftertaste: Lingering spice, dry herbs, yeasty bitterness
Overall: 9.5/10

Dieu du Ciel Solstice d’hiver

Dieuduciel_solsticehiver_verreBrewer: Brasserie Dieu du Ciel, Montreal, QC
Style: Barley Wine
ABV: 10.2%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: This beer is part of the brewery’s Momentum Series, which is an annual cycle of twelve seasonal releases. As their winter release, this traditional English-style barley-wine style ale celebrates the winter solstice with a winter warmer.

Tasting Notes: I’m a fan of barley wine, and I considered trying the Solstice d’hiver necessary having sampled the Solstice d’ete not that long ago. But I have to say this particular barley wine was too on the coarse and strong side for me. It’s got the usual notes of dark fruit and sugars and is a shade of brown so deep and opaque that it could easily pass for a stout. But the alcohol in this beer is so potent that it overpowers just about everything else.

Appearance: Dark brown, translucent, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dark malt, raisins, dates, sugars, strong alcoholic bite
Taste: Strong, coarse malt, hints of dates and raisins, brown sugar, alcoholic bite
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt and alcoholic bite
Overall: 7.5/10