Barkerville 18 Karat Ale

barkerville_18karatBrewer: Barkerville Brewing, Quesnel BC
Style: Amber Ale
Alc/Vol: 4.9%
IBUs: 33

Description: Named in honor of the Gold Rush, this amber ale is the flagship beer produced by the recently-opened Barkerville Brewing Company. Employing a pale malt base and a descent hopping, the beer aims for a balance in flavor and a consistently amber-gold color.

Tasting Notes: This beer was a good introduction to this brewery’s wares, though I neglected to give it a review at the time. This beer is quite balanced, combining a relatively crisp malt base with a varied hop palette that includes notes of grass, resiny pine, citrus, and some lingering bitterness. Quite pleasing. I look forward to seeing and sampling more from this interior-BC brewery!

Appearance: Golden amber, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Balanced malt, bread, good dose of grassy, resiny, piney hops
Taste: Crisp malt, slight tang, grassy hop flavor, citrus, bitter pine
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, smooth malt finish
Overall: 7.8/10

Dubussion Scaldis Ambrée

Scaldis-Ambree-bout-verre-270x400Brewer: Dubussion, Pipaix, Belgium
Style: Belgian Amber
Alc/Vol: 11.8%

Description: The Scaldis amber is an unfiltered, high fermentation beer fashioned exclusively made from caramel malt, hops, natural sugar, water drawn from the brewery’s basement and an exclusive yeast. The end result is then stored for a period of 4 to 6 weeks to achieve its characteristic combination of dense malt, smooth flavor and the highest alcohol content of any Belgian beer (11.8% ABV).

Tasting Notes: The Scaldis Ambrée is another first for this Beer Snob, and apparently a rather significant one as it is apparently Belgian’s strongest. It was also quite fitting as a extra strong amber, bringing that characteristic combination of maltiness, sugary sweetness and fruity esters one would expect. What was surprising for me was the level of smoothness. Given the alcohol content, I expected it to be far more coarse. Still, the alcohol does comes through with the rather delightful warming sensation it finishes with. This beer is recommended as an aperitif or digestif, and I can attest to it being well-suited to the latter.

Appearance: Amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich and coarse malt, sugars, notes of cherry, fruity esters, caramel
Taste: Smooth malt, slight tang and coarseness, syrupy sweetness, warm alcohol finish
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt flavor, sugars, cherry and fruit esters
Overall: 9/10

Dageraad Amber

https://i0.wp.com/dageraadbrewing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Dageraad-amber_tmp.jpgBrewer: Dageraad Brewing, Burnaby, BC
Style: Belgian-style Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 6%

Description: The second beer to be produced by this new BC brewery, this unfiltered Amber carries on in the tradition of Belgian-style pale ales, which were invented for the Liége exposition of 1905 to compete with British imports. Much like the name of the brewery itself, this beer was inspired by the experience of enjoying a fresh glass of beer in the Dageraadplatz.

Tasting Notes: A good introduction to this brewery, and a faithful example of a Belgian amber, this beer packs a solid, grainy malt base, a strong yeast backbone, and a nice, lingering spicey finish that is reminiscent of coriander.

Appearance: Orange/amber, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong yeasts, discernible grainy malt, coriander spice
Taste: Smooth malt, strong yeast flavor, notes of coriander and bitter hop finish
Aftertaste: Lingering malt and yeast bitterness, spices
Overall: 8.5/10

Grimbergen La Double Ambree

https://i1.wp.com/cervezainternacional.net/images/productos/80_5_1.jpgBrewer: Brouwerij Aiken-Maes, Aiken, Belgium
Style:
Amber Ale
Alc/Vol:
6.5%

Description: An Abbey-style Amber ale, this beer is made form a combination of malts (what I assume are Caramel, Pale and Amber) that lend it a sweet, syrupy and viscous flavor. It is then double fermented for added strength and bottle conditioned for a highly smooth flavor.

Tasting Notes: I first learned of Grimbergen when in Paris, and enjoyed their Blonde Ale quite a bit. So I pleasantly surprised to learn that not only did they stock this brewery’s products here in BC, but that they also had more of their regular lineup. The double ambree is a good example of an Abbey-style amber, boasted smooth, sweet caramel malts, a yeasty backbone and subtle hops flavor. It then rounds all this out with a chewy mouth feel.

Appearance: Dark red/brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malt, sugar, yeast, molasses
Taste: Smooth, syrupy malt, light tang, hint of caramel, yeast, mild hop bitterness
Aftertaste: lingering syrupy malt flavor, caramel, yeast
Overall: 8/10

Gahan Island Red Ale

gahan_redaleBrewer: Gahan Brewery, Charlottetown PEI
Style: Amber Ale
Alc/Vol: 5.3%

Description: Established in 1997 in Charlottetown, the Gahan Brewery and House Pub is the only brewery on Prince Edward Island that brews handcrafted, small batch beer. The Island Red is an English-style amber ale, and the flagship brew of their operation. It was the Gold Medal winner for the 2011 Canadian Brewing Awards.

Tasting Notes: This beer is entirely new to me, and was quite the lovely introduction to this Maritime brewery. The malt profile and hop profiles are quite subtle, calling to mind traditional English ambers, and is made using what I assume are pale malt, Golding and/or Fuggles hops. This results is an ale that is malt-forward, subtle and smooth, and has flavors of baked bread and dry herbs.

Appearance: Dark amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Syrupy, rich malts, mild, dry hops
Taste:
Rich pale malt, baked bread, hint of sweetness, subtle, herbal hops
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor and mild bitterness
Overall: 9/10

Dead Frog Winter Beeracle

deadfrog-winterbeeracleGuess what I just got in the mail? Yep, another sampler pack from the Dead Frog Brewery. And today, consistent with the Christmas season, is their latest version of Winter Beeracle. This year, they’ve altered the recipe somewhat, going from a spiced amber ale of last year to a dark ale with a different palate.

In this batch, the flavors of note are vanilla, which accent the chocolate malts quite well, and some orange peel that add actual citrus to the hop profile (Cascade and Perle). In the end, what comes of it is a gentle Winter Warmer with a flavor that compliments Christmas deserts quite well, is low in bitterness (25 IBUs), but still packs a respectable alcoholic punch (7.5% alc/vol).

WinterbeeracleAppearance: Very dark brown-red, transparent, light foam retention
Nose: Immediate notes of vanilla, slight zest
Taste: Strong vanilla accent, sweet malts, notes of chocolate
Aftertaste: Slightly bitter aftertaste, citrus hops and orange zest
Overall: 8/10

Not a bad winter warmer, Dead Frog. The flavor, strength and spices are all warm, inviting, tasty and sweet. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of mulled wine, hot spice cider, and other holiday beverages that combine fruit, spice and warm your ribs! I envision figgy pudding going very well with this, or chocolate chow mein cookies, or short breads dipped in chocolate. Damn, I need to start pressuring the family to start making Christmas cookies!

Lighthouse Tasman Ale

As I might have said before, Lighthouse has really been knocking it out of the park lately. Their Big Flavor series was a celebration of craft brewing that included several crossover beers that combined high alcohol content and a hefty dose of hops. And it was followed shortly thereafter by the release of Switchback, a true IPA, but which was part of their regular lineup.

And now, they’ve gone a step further with the introduction of the Tasman Ale, an amber ale that is made with local malts and hops imported directly from Tasmania (indicated by the Tasmanian devil on the label). Like the Switchback, this beer is available as part of their regular lineup, in spite of the fact that it’s much more curious than anything else they’ve created thus far. And whereas the IPA is a robust, citrusy ale with strong, rich malts, this beer is more on the dry side of things, combining a sweat and refreshing malt flavor with dry hops and a slight citrus kick.

Appearance: Deep amber, clear and light head
Nose: Mix of dry hops and cascade hop citrus, slight notes of caramel malts
Taste: Slightly sweet malts and mild tang, giving way to a mix of dry and bitter hop bites
Aftertaste: Mild tang and lingering bitterness, finished quite clean
Overall: 9/10

Like many recent releases, this beer is just in time for the hot weather fronts we’ve been having! Like a good amber, it is mild and refreshing, but the unique hop combination lends it a taste of an ESB combined with an pale ale. All of this leads to a well-rounded drinking experience which helps subdue the heat!

BrewDog 5 A.M. Saint

Not long ago, I was tasting this beer’s peer, known as the Dirty Blonde Pale Ale. I couldn’t help but mention this beer in that review, given its obvious quality. And so I went back to the beer store, picked up another 4 pack (which is their thing) and resampled it to make sure my impressions were fresh and informed!

According to the good people at BrewDog, the 5 a.m. Saint is “The Holy Grail of Ruby Ales”. Quite the bold statement, isn’t it? But it’s also in keeping with their commitment to quality in an industry that is still defined by quantity and big budget advertising. So it’s refreshing, no pun intended, to find people who’s commitment to craft brewing is almost… religious in nature. Okay, that pun was definitely intended! Onto the beer…

Appearance: Deep ruby, ever so slightly cloudy indicating high gravity
Nose: Deep tawny malt scent, notes of dry hops and caramel
Taste: Smooth malts with a gentle sweetness, giving way to dry hops
Aftertaste: Complex hop aftertaste, going from floral to dry and bitter
Overall: 10/10

A winner, big time! In fact, when I first tilted one back, I announced publicly that it was the best amber I’d ever had. Again, quite the statement, but it’s definitely a contender for a  spot on my list best pale ales! The only question is, which unlucky candidate will it knock out of the running…

Back from Ottawa!

Greeting all from the nation’s capital! Some interesting things have transpired since our arrival. Some friends came out, some pubs were visited, some pints were tilted. All good times! And as usual, I intend to write about it all, particularly all the beers we drank! Some old, some new, there were many brands that were drunk even thus far that have been worthy of a review. It will take me days to cover them all, so please, your indulgence as I try to do it all justice…

My first review is dedicated to the beers encountered at a timely and impressive event:The Winter Beers and Ice Wines event that took place during the weekend of the 17th/18th. Not only did it coincide with our visit nicely, my darling wife had the foresight to suggest we book some VIP tickets. As such, we got the deluxe experience! In addition to sampling many, many beers from the Quebec side of the border, we got a taste of some true culinary delights in an upscale atmosphere. It all went down at the Maison du Citoyen in Hull, Quebec, and here’s what I thought of what I tasted, by brand and name.

Brasseurs Du Temps:
Located in Gatineau, Quebec, this brewery was the only one at the tasting that had its own booth staffed by its own people. And given the fact that the sample glasses were also stamped with their company logo, I got the distinct impression they were hosting the thing. All of their brews were made in accordance with traditional European and (more specifically) Belgian brewing, at least the ones I tried. As such, they were strong, heavy, dark and deep! Not to mention flavorful.

Dumduminator: Named in honor of its creator, Dominique Gosselin (Dumdum to his friends), this dunkelweizenbock was a nice surprise, calling to mind one of my all time favorites: Aventinus! And like its predecessor, it was dark, strong, had a heady foam, and some rich wheat malts. However, the DD was different in that it had a distinct banana flavor in addition to its spicey notes. A nice opening to this tasting experience! 4/5

La Saison Basse: This seasonal beer, named in honor of the fall, is a blonde ale that boasts a variety of spices with an intense, distinctly Belgian taste. Overall, I was reminded of Duvel, another blonde done in the Belgian fashion that boasted some gruff malts. I should also note, in a move that is decidedly clever, this beer has an opposite known as La Saison Haute, a seasonal spring beer. Unfortunately, this one was not available at the tasting. Guess I’ll have to wait til next year! 3.75/5

Messe de Minuit, 2010: A holiday beer which, quite frankly, is like Christmas in a glass! The color is black, the smell is fruity and spicey, and the nose and taste are similar to a stout. Add to that a rich flavor that is reminiscent of figgy pudding, cloves and spices, and you get a pretty good picture of what this beer is all about. A great finish to this breweries lineup. 4.5/5

I just wish I could have sampled more. A quick perusal of their website would seem to indicate that there’s certainly no shortage! I wonder if they deliver…
http://www.brasseursdutemps.com/beers/our-full-range

IGA Famille Charles:
Said family is a major compact in Quebec which owns the Independent Grocers Association, a number of craft breweries, and the relative giants of Molson, Coors, and Rickards Brewing. Overall, I’d say I spent the majority of my time at this booth, trying their beer, talking to their patrons, and bugging their representatives for info! Here’s what I sampled and where it came from:

L’Assoiffe: brewed by Brasseurs du Monde, from St-Hyacinthe, Quebec, this beer’s name literally translates to “thirsty”. A double brown ale, brewed Belgian-style, it was expectedly strong and quite dark, combining a strong malty profile with the tawny character of a brown. Lightly scented but firmly flavored, it was quite the thirst quencher! 3.75/5

Trois-Mousquetaires Wiezenbock: this beer, I quickly realized, is something we have in BC. In fact, I can recall drinking one or two Mousquetaires not that long ago; luckily they weren’t the Wiezenbock so I didn’t consider this experience wasted! Brewed in Brossard, Quebec, Trois Mousquetaires is another Quebec craft brewery specializing in continental-style beer making. And at 10% alc/vol, this wheat beer was certainly a unique experience, combining strong wheat  malts with a very rich, very dark profile that called to mind brown sugar, molasses and a hint of smoke and bananas. Quite the powerful number, and definitely for the barley wine enthusiast, if not the casual beer drinker! 3.5/5

La Noblesse: Possibly my favorite from the IGA section, this beer was reminiscent of Chimay in a number of ways. For starters, its a dark amber, cloudy in appearance, and boasts a strong oaky flavor that reminds one of sour ale.  I was also told to be on the lookout for a touch of vanilla, though I admittedly took awhile to find it! Definitely something I’ll be on the lookout for in the future. 4/5

McAuslan Brewing:
Technically, the bar hosting McAuslan’s fine products was hosted by the radio station CKOI (104.7 Outaouais), but to me, they were the centerpiece so they might as well have been running it themselves. Several other brewers were represented here; unfortunately, I only got to try one other. Lucky for me, it was worth it since I finally got to try McAuslan’s latest Vintage Ale as well as the rather unique and intriguing Diablo. Of these:

Millesimee: This is the name of McAuslan’s 2010 Vintage Ale. Awhile back, I reviewed McAuslan and claimed that their Millennial Ale, the 2000 Vintage, was the best beer I’ve ever tried. Well that’s still true, but unfortunately, I’ve been unable to offer any opinions on any of the vintages they’ve produced since. Thanks to this event, those days are now behind me, even if it’s likely to be awhile before I can review any of their vintages again. That being said, I have to say that I was unimpressed with this latest vintage by the good folks at McAuslan. Unlike its Millennial predecessor, the 2010 Vintage was an amber ale, very strong, slightly sweet, and quite rough on the palatte. I was reminded of Scotch-Ale, the “Wee Heavy” style of beer that combines rich, heavy malts with a touch of sweetness and a bitter, highly viscous aftertaste. That’s what you got here, and I have to say that I do not think these different elements go together well. This is not to say that the beer is a bad contribution, far from it! In fact, its without a doubt a faithful adaptation of an extra-strong amber ale and an interesting choice for their latest vintage. It just didn’t agree with me personally. Mainly because the strong flavor has a way of really lingering. Seriously, after a glass of this, everything tasted rough and bitter! 3/5

El Diablo: Last of the festivals lineup comes to you from the Brasserie du Lievre located in Mont-Laurier, Quebec. And I can honestly say that my choice to try this over several others from this bar was thematically consistent, given the fact that it too was a strong amber, rough on the palatte, and quite rich and chewy. However, the Diablo combines all of this with a strong, vanilla flavor that is surprising and quite palatable. A touch of velvet you might say to an otherwise rough and tough brew. Little wonder then why they call it Diablo! 3.75/5

Well, that is all for now. Like I said, there were many drinking experiences during my Ottawa trip, and it will take some time to do it all justice. Lord knows I spent plenty of time this trip with a beer in one hand and my PDA in the other, constantly drinking and typing, hoping to get all my impressions down so I could do faithful reviews later.

Coming up next, the Mill Street Brewpub, a newly opened branch of the Toronto-based craft brewery!