Dupont Saison Dupont

SaisonDupontBrewer: Dupont Brewery, Tourpes, Belgium
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: The Saison Dupont is a top fermentation beer with refermentation in the bottle. Since 1844, this beer has been brewed in our farm-brewery, during the winter time. Then this beer became a second refermentation in the barrel. During the next summer, this very thirst-quenching beer was served to the “saisoniers” which were working on the fields.

Tasting Notes: Saison Dupont is considered a classic when it comes to this style of beer. And it certainly hits all the right notes. Its has a golden-orange and cloudy hue and grows a thick head upon pouring. It has an effervescent, bubbly quality that is indicative of bottle fermentation, its strong yeasty backbone compliments with the taste with a hint of spice and bitterness, and its mellow malt base is highly drinkable and refreshing. Add to that a hint of lemon and coriander, and you have this brew.

Spinnakers Quince Sour Saison

Spinnakers_quincesourBrewer: Spinnakers Brewery
Style: Sour Saison Ale
ABV: 5.0%
IBUs: 5

Description: Brewed in honor of Spinnaker’s 32nd anniversary, this sour ale is made using backyard quince fruit, which is then fermented with wild yeast strains and aged in tequila barrels.

Tasting Notes: I say this all the time, but this beer is an interesting combination. At first, I was turned off by the label, being somewhat tired by all the sour offerings of late, and not  a huge fan of tequila. And the first sip was heavy on the sour side. However, this beer does grow on you with each successive drink. In the end, what you get is an ale with strong notes of sour lemon, a hint of saison spicy yeast, a hint of dry apple, and some smooth tequila backing. Definitely a gamble that paid off!

Appearance: Yellow-amber, very cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong notes of acid, lemon juice, yeast, spice
Taste: Mild malt, strong yeast tang, sour lemon, yeast, hint of tequila
Aftertaste: Lingering sour lemon flavor, yeasty bite
Overall: 8/10

Coal Harbour Blackwing Baltic Porter

CoalHarbor_blackwingBrewer: Coal Harbour Brewing, Vancouver, BC
Style: Baltic Porter
ABV: 7.5%
IBUs: 30

Description: Brewed in the style of an Easter European Porter, this beer was inspired by the thousands of Still Creek Crows that fly over the brewery to their nightly roost. True to its style, it is fashioned using a deeply roasted malt base that is fermented longer to give it greater potency and alcoholic strength.

Tasting Notes: I have a bit of a block when it comes to strong porters and stouts, mainly because I’ve had a few too many licorice-heavy ones (not my thing). However, this Porter was surprisingly smooth, and managed to have all the right notes, but in a slightly subdued form. As such, it was really quite drinkable.

Appearance: Black, translucent, mild foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Gentle malt base, hints of coffee beans, roasted nuts. mild herbs
Taste: Smooth roasted malt, notes of espresso, hint of licorice, mild hop bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering malt bitterness, roasted nuts and coffee
Overall: 8/10

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.

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

Central City Bolg Belgian Style Tripel

Central-City-Bolg-TripelBrewer: Central City Brewing, Vancouver, BC
Style: Belgian Tripel
ABV: 9.5%
IBU: 35

Description: The third installment in Central City’s The Hobbit series, this beer is appropriately made in the Belgian Tripel-style and is named in honor of the third film’s chief protagonist.

Tasting Notes: I was quite torn by this beer. On the one hand, like every beer in this series, it’s endorsing movies I don’t like, and it all seems a bit crass and consumerish. On the other, it’s nice to see a Canadian brewery snagging a lucrative cross-promotion like this. And above all, the beer itself is quite good! A strong malt base, some coarseness, the notes of candi sugar and Belgian yeast, and a good alcoholic punch. Definitely comparable to some of the better Tripels I’ve had in recent years.

Appearance: Deep golden, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, sugar, yeast, honey, floral bouquet
Taste: Strong malt, candi sugar, yeast, coarse finish, alcoholic bite
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt, alcohol and yeast flavor
Overall: 8.5/10

Nøgne Ø Tindved Sour Ale

nogneo_tindvedBrewer: Nøgne Ø Brewery, Grimstad, Norway
Style: Sour Ale
ABV: 7%
IBUs: 15

Description: Located in Norway, the Nøgne Ø brewery is renowned for its commitment to craft brewing in the tradition of ales and top fermentation. As one of their One-Off creations, the Tindved is an unfiltered, unpasteurized sour ale that is made from a combination of malted barley, wheat, and the fresh-pressed juice of sea buck-thorns fruit.

Tasting Notes: Again, this beer was the result of an advent beer calendar that didn’t make it out of the store. Good news for me, because this sour ale was as good as any I’ve enjoyed in the Pacific Northwest, and was crafted using tart fruit rather than brettanomyces yeast. Like a good sour, tart fruit and loads of sour cherry flavor mingle with a yeasty backbone and some oaky aftertaste to create an appetizing and pleasant drinking experience.

Appearance: Golden/amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Lighter malt, tart fruit, sour cherry, yeast cultures, oak
Taste: Light malt, sour cherries, yeasty kick, tartness, oaky finish
Aftertaste: Lingering sour cherry flavor, yeasts, and oak
Overall: 8.5/10

GIB Cocoa Loco Chocolate Imperial Stout

GIB_cocoa_locoBrewer: Granville Island Brewery, Vancouver BC
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 8.7%
IBUs: 45

Description: A seasonal released for the winter months of November and December, this imperial stout is brewed using a combination of four different types of malt and Sterling hops, then flavored with cocoa and cocoa nibs to create a strong, and intense “winter warmer”.

Tasting Notes: I am especially interested in what breweries like GIB produce as part of their limited runs these days – mainly because it’s a testament to how breweries that went big are getting back to their craft brewing roots. In any case, this was a good example of an imperial stout (which I’m not usually a fan of) that was nicely rounded out. The infusion of cocoa provides a nice balance to the intense stout flavor, which comes through in some seriously strong malt and licorice favors.

Appearance: Dark brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malt, strong notes of cocoa, espresso
Taste: Rich malt, notes of licorice, chocolate and roasted espresso
Aftertaste: Lingering malt, roasted coffee bitterness, and cocoa
Overall: 7.8/10

Fernie Black Mammoth Winter Ale

Fernie_blackBrewery: Fernie Brewing, Fernie, BC
Style: Winter Black Ale
ABV: 8%
IBU: 25

Description: This winter ale began production in winter of 2013 in honor of Fernie Brewing’s 10th anniversary. It is brewed with chocolate malt and spiced with an infusion of cocoa and curacao orange peel before being lightly hopped.

Tasting Notes: This beer put me in mind of other well-known black BC brews, not the least of which are VIB’s Hermann’s Dark Lager and Hoyne’s Dark Matter. The dark, roasted malt comes through with notes of chocolate and espresso, while the curacao peel lends it a mildly sweet, slightly citrus taste that compliments the roasted flavor quite well. Not a bad seasonal at all, and definitely a good winter warmer.

Appearance: Black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malt nose, notes of espresso and dark chocolate
Taste: Roasted malt, hint of sweetness, dark chocolate, espresso, mild citrus
Aftertaste: Lingering chocolate and espresso, roasted malt flavor
Overall: 8.5/10

Prohibition Lawless IPA

prohibition_ipaBrewer: Prohibition Brewing, Kelowna BC
Style: West Coast IPA
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: 60

Description: This is the breweries second regular release, and represents their take on a traditional IPA. The brew combines a pale malts base with a generous dose of Perle, Magnum, Cascade and Cluster hops.

Tasting Note: This IPA is a bit was a departure for me, and was my long-overdue introduction to this brewery and its wares. Whereas most West Coast IPAs seem to be hopped with the 3 Cs these days – Cascade, Centennial and Columbus, which culminate in a mix of citrus and tropical fruit flavors – this one has some decidedly dry bitterness that put me in mind of an Imperial Pilsner or an ESB. Altogether, it manages to do the job of a good IPA, balancing a strong malt backbone with some rich, hoppy bitterness!

Appearance: Light amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, strong hop nose with lots of grassy, citrus, and pine notes
Taste: Good malt base, hint of sweetness, tang, strong citrus, pine, and resin bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, citrus rind and dry hop finish
Overall: 7.8/10