Spencer Trappist Ale

spencer_trappistBrewer: Spencer Trappist Ales/St. Joseph Abbey, Spencer, MA
Style: Trappist Ale
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: Unlisted (mild)

Description: This brew is the Abbey’s only brew, and is made in the Trappist fashion using a proprietary blend of 2 row and 6 row malted barley, and some caramel Munich specialty malt from Wisconsin for color. It is then bittered using a combination of Willamette, Nugget, and other hops from Washington state’s Yakima Valley. It is then unpasteurized and unfiltered with active yeast still in the bottle.

Tasting Notes: This brew was a fortunate find. It definitely has the character of a Trappist ale, possessing that same oaky, yeasty flavor that I have come to associate with beers like Orval and Chimay. But it is also delightfully subtle and lightly colored, and comes with notes of fruit – the foremost being cherry and apricot – that you don’t usually get from a Belgian Trappist. I will be definitely be seeking more in the future.

Appearance: Golden orange, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt base, floral hop bouquet, traces of citrus and orchard fruit
Taste: Smooth malt, hints of oak, mild traces of cherry, apricot, yeast
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, oak, yeasty aftertaste, quite clean
Overall: 9.5/10

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Canuck Empire Pumpkin Patch Ale

canuckempire_pumpkinBrewer: Canuck Empire, Aldergrove, BC
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 6%

Description: A seasonal Fall brew, this pumpkin ale is made using a combination of 2-Row, Munich, Aromatic, Caramel, & Wheat malts, then hopped with Magnum and Perle hops. The beer is then flavored with pumpkin and maple syrup, and spiced with a combination of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.

Tasting Notes: This is my first time sampling a beer from Canuck Empire, another brewery from the lower mainland that I’ve been noticing around these parts. And for the most part, this beer was exactly what I would expect from a good pumpkin ale. Smooth, pale malt interacts with pumpkin flesh and a pumpkin pie palette to deliver “Fall in a glass”. However, this one was a bit different in that it incorporated ginger, which I initially mistook for clove spice. This added a bit of a bite and a slight bitterness to the mix, which worked well in the end. Still a good brew and a good intro!

Appearance: Amber/orange, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Gentle malt, pumpkin pie, notes of allspice and cinnamon
Taste: Smooth malt, pumpkin, burst of ginger spice, allspice and cinnamon
Aftertaste: Lingering ginger and spice flavor, mild malt bitterness
Overall: 8/10

Goose Island Sofie Farmhouse Ale

GooseIsland_SofieBrewer: Goose Island Brewery, Chicago IL
Style: Farmhouse Ale
Alc/Vol: 6.5%
IBUs: 20

Description: Crafted in the Belgian/French Farmhouse fashion, this beer is fashioned using 2 Row, Pilsen, and Wheat malts and is then bittered and flavored with Amarillo hops and hand-zested orange peel. The brew is then bottle-conditioned for up to five years to create a well-balanced, yeast, effervescent ale.

Tasting Notes: This is my second installment in the Goose Island Brewery tour, and after the first, I was expecting something less impressive. Surprisingly, this beer was equally amazing. A champagne-like effervescence accompanies the farmhouse-style flavor of sharp malt and spicy yeast, and fruity esters mix with citrus to create an all-around complex and refreshing profile that is slightly sweet, tangy, bubbly and refreshing.

Appearance: Light golden, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malts, slightly sour, fruity esters, yeasty, hint of citrus and tropical fruit
Taste: Sharp malt, yeasty, good tang, fruity esters, pineapple, orange
Aftertaste: Lingering sourness, yeast, and tart fruity notes
Overall: 9.5/10

Goose Island Matilda Belgian Style Pale Ale

GooseIsland_MatildaBrewer: Goose Island Brewery, Chicago IL
Style: Belgian-style Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 7%
IBUs: 26

Description: Inspired by the legend of the grateful Countess Matilda who founded a monastery where, over centuries, monks have been brewing ale unique in character. In the character of a Trappist Ale, the Matilda is crafted using 2-Row and Caramel malts, bittered with Styrian, Pilgrim, Golding Celeia, and Saaz hops, and fortified with Candy Sugar. It is then fermented using the wild Brettanomyces yeast and bottle-conditioned for up to five years.

Tasting Notes: The inspirations were certainly clear in this bottle. Immediately, I got flavors that reminded me of a Flemish Red and a Trappist beer, combining the telltale sourness of the former with the solid malt and oaky undertones of the latter. I was not surprised at all to learn that this beer has brought home two silver medals and a gold from the World Beer Cup Awards.

Appearance: Amber, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Smooth malt, peach, yeasts, hint of sourness, oaky overtones
Taste: Strong malt, yeasty tang, burst of lactic acid, peach, sour cherries, oaky finish
Aftertaste: Lingering oak, fruity esters, yeast and bitterness
Overall: 10/10

Dead Frog Furious Friar Belgian IPA

Dead-Frog-furiousfriarBrewer: Dead Frog Brewery, Aldergrove BC
Style: Belgian Triple/India Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 9%
IBUs: 55

Description: A continuation and twist on their Valiant Belgian IPA, the Furious Friar is a hybrid ale that merges an IPA with Belgian influences to craft an extra strong, extra hoppy brew. It is fashioned using a combination of 2 Row, Cara 8, and White Wheat malts, bittered with a generous dose of Columbus and Centennial hops, and fortified with invest sugar before being fermented with Belgian yeast.

Tasting Notes: I can recall the Valiant IPA from last summer being a pretty big hit. The combination of an Belgian Abbey-style ale with a West Coast IPA is something that they’ve already been shown an aptitude for. But this year, I actually enjoyed it more. Not only is the strong malt and generous hopping reminiscent of an Imperial IPA, these same malts and Belgian yeasts also call to mind a good solid Triple or Blonde. In essence, two my absolute favorites in one glass!

Appearance: Orange/amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Belgian yeast, citrus, tropical fruit, cloves, coriander spice
Taste: Sharp, crisp malt, burst of citrus and passion fruit, Belgian yeast and spice
Aftertaste: Lingering yeast, coarse malt, clove and coriander, citrus rind
Overall: 9/10

Dead Frog Immaculate India Golden Ale

dead-frog-immaculateBrewer: Dead Frog Brewery, Aldergrove BC
Style: India Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 6.5%
IBUs: 50

Description: A seasonal release from Dead Frog’s expansive (and expanding) lineup, this IPA is brewed is light in color to pay homage to summer. It is fashioned using a combination of 2 Row, Belgian Aromatic, Cara 8, Pale, and White Wheat malts, and then bittered with Cascade, Centennial, and Zythos hops.

Tasting Notes: It’s been awhile since I tried a Dead Frog, and this beer was a good reintroduction. It’s complex malt profile was reminiscent of barley wine with its rich palette and sweetness, which is enhanced by the bitter, piney, citrusy and tropical fruit flavors offered by its varied hop content. It’s strength is well balanced and appetizing, which makes for a good summer IPA.

Appearance: Golden/amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malts, varied hop nose, grassy, citrus, pineapple, sugary
Taste: Rich malt, barley wine-like sugars, strong notes of pineapple, pine, citrus
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness, sugars, citrus rind and pine
Overall: 9/10

No-Li Spin Cycle Red Ale

no-li-brewhouse-logo-squareBrewer: No-Li Brewhouse, Spokane, Washington
Style: Extra-Special Bitter (ESB)
Alc/Vol: 5.75%
IBUs: 49

Description: A combination of English, German and American brewing techniques, this beer takes its name from the fact that it brings 2-Row, Crystal, Munich, and Chocolate malts together with Cluster, Liberty, and Cascade hops to achieve a balanced pale ale. Formerly known as Crystal Bitter ESB, this beer has the distinction of being the 2012 Gold Medal Winner of the Great American Beer Festival.

Tasting Notes: As ESB’s and Red Ales go, this beer is certainly consistent, combining that dry, subtle hop flavor with a malt profile that is nicely syrupy with just a hint of sweetness. The combination of malts is also discernible, with a sharp tang and a slight taste of cocoa that comes from the Munich and Chocolate malts. It also manages to finish clean, with a slight bitterness that lingers just long enough on the tongue. A refreshing and complex brew.

Appearance: Dark copper, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Subtle malt nose, mild syrups, light hint of dry hops
Taste: Sweetbread, honey, dry herbs and hop bitterness, mild cocoa
Aftertaste: Mild, lingering bitterness, quite clean finish
Overall: 9/10