Moon Under Water Ancient Ale Series Gaelic Ale (ca. 1700)

Brewer: Moon Under Water, Victoria, BC
Style: Old Ale
ABV: 6.9%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: “For 9000 years our history has been shaped by the myriad of ingredients used to create fermented beverages. This series pays homage to the variety of starches, spices, fruits and whatever else civilizations of the past have used to satisfy humanity’s lover affair with alcohol.”

This year’s installment to their Ancient Ale Series is decidedly Irish in style (as the name would suggest). And consistent with brewing done at the beginning of the 18th century, it is made using smoked and peated malts, is not bittered with hops, and is then fermented with different strands of yeast, and then barrel-aged for a year.

Tasting Notes: This beer has some familiar notes for those accustomed to craft brewing, and have sampled some of the recent revitalized styles. For instance, you have notes of sour fruit and lactic acid (consistent with wild yeast sours), a hint of smoke and peat that is consistent with Rauchbier (smoke ale) and/or a good Scottish ale, and some oaky flavor that is consistent with barrel aging. Altogether, quite smooth and not overly acidic or overpowering.

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

P49 ¡Orale! Tequila Gose

P49!ORALE!_500x500Brewer: Parallel 49 Brewing, Vancouver, BC
Style: Gose
ABV: 4.5%
IBUs: 6

Description: This rarity from P49 takes the traditional Gose –  a beer native to Leipzig, Germany that combines wheat and barley malt malt with sea salt – and then builds on it by aging it in Tequila barrels for 9 months. This combination alludes to tequila shots, complete with a salt lick and a squeeze of lime!

Tasting Notes: This brew does what it sets out to do, which is to allude to the ritual of  Tequila shots. However, this is not a drinking experience that I was ever fond of, so I really didn’t like it in this beer. It is light and somewhat refreshing, but its weak malt is paired with some strong sour flavors – yeast and lime juice – and a hint of salt. This makes for some unappetizing flavor, in my opinion, sad to say.

Appearance: Light blonde, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malt, hint of citrus, tequila nose, quite sour
Taste: Weak wheat malt, hint of salt, notes of sour lime, tequila flavor
Aftertaste: Lingering sour yeast and citrus flavor, wheat malt aftertaste
Overall: 6.5/10

Townsite Barrel Aged Cardena Belgian Quad 2016

townsite_barrelagedBrewer: Townsite Brewery, Powell River, BC
Style: Quadruple Ale
ABV: 10.5%
IBUs: 30

Description: The third installment in their “Hulk Series” – named for the decommissioned vessels that make up the floating breakwater in Powell River – Cardena is a Belgian-style Quadrupel ale. And since 2015, they have be re-releasing this ale as part of the breweries new barrel-aged lineup, where established brews are aged in whiskey barrels.

Tasting Notes: I loved Cardena when I first tried it. In fact, it would be fair to say that it was one of the best beers I had in 2014. So I was a little intrigued and surprised by the addition of the barrel-aging process, which I’ve had mixed experiences with. In this case, the end resuilt was interesting, but a bit perplexing. On the one hand, you have all that was great about the Cardena. A strong Abbey-style ale rich with notes of brown sugar, dates, raisins, and figgy pudding.

But add to that the bite of whiskey and the end result was (and I’m not bullshitting here) a bit like blue cheese! It was the oddest thing, getting a taste I immediately recognized but couldn’t quite place. And then I remembered the last time i had hot wings or a spinach salad! Ordinarily, I love blue cheese, but not so much in my beer. So I had to give this one a slightly mixed review. Great to be branching out, but 2016’s Barrel aged Cardena is not quite what I was hoping for.

Appearance: Deep brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malt, brown sugar, whiskey, dark fruits, spices, alcohol, yeast
Taste: Rich malt, immediate whiskey bite, blue cheese, sugar, dark fruits, alcoholic bite
Aftertaste: Lingering whiskey, malt, cheesy flavor, alcoholic warmth
Overall: 7.2/10

P49 Sour White Ale

P49_sourwhiteBrewer: Parallel 49 Brewing, Vancouver, BC
Style: White Ale
ABV: 7.5%
IBUs: 6

Description: Yet another interesting, experimental P49 brew, this one is part of their barrel-aged series. A wheat ale base is aged in French Chardonnay barrels for over a yea in order to create a sour white ale that boasts the flavors of a sour ale and an oaky, tart Chardonnay.

Tasting Notes: Again, this was an interesting experimentation by the good folks at P49. I have to admit, aging a sour ale in Chardonnay barrels was a good way to achieve symmetry with flavor profiles. However, it was still a bit on the light and the tart side of things for me. If I’m going sour, I want some serious fruity esters and a strong malt profile to back it up!

Appearance: Golden, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malt, mild brettanomyces yeast, white wine, mild oak
Taste: Smooth wheat malt, sour cherry, yeast, tart white wine, mild oak
Aftertaste: Lingering sour yeast and white wine flavor
Overall: 7.5/10

 

Mikkeler Dry Stout BA Sauternes Edition

mikkeler_drystoutBrewer: Mikkeler Brewery, Copenhagen, Denmark
Style: Stout/Sour
ABV: 4.1%
IBUs: Unspecified (low)

Description: As part of the breweries Sour/Wild lineup, this stout is brewed at their branch plant in D’Proef, Belgium. It is fashioned using dark-roasted malts that are then fermented with brettanomyces yeast before being aged in Sauterne (French sweet wine) barrels for a complex flavor.

Tasting Notes: This was an odd combination, and one which works on some levels, but not others. It combines a stout base, with all the bitter notes of coffee and dark malt, and the addition of brettanomyces yeast adds a dimension of sour cherry and lactic acid that gives it a certain bite. These seem a bit at odds, and very little of the Sauterne wine comes through, except at the tail end of things. Not the best combination beer, in my humble opinion, but certainly an interesting one.

Appearance: Black, virtually opaque, medium foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dark roasted malt, roasted espresso, brettanomyces
Taste: Rich malt, bitterness, notes of coffee, sour cherry, yeast, hint of sugars
Aftertaste: Lingering malt bitterness, sour yeast and coffee
Overall: 7.3/10

Serendipity No.8 Whiskey Barrel Aged Beer

Tree-Serendipity 8x325Brewer: Tree Brewery
Style: Whiskey barrel-aged Raspberry Ale/Black IPA
Alc/Vol: 7%

Description: The second beer in Tree’s limited-run barrel-aged series, Serendipity is a combination of their Wild Ruby Raspberry Ale and Black IPA, which is then aged for 169 days in whiskey barrels.

Tasting Notes: This beer is a bit of an enigma to this Beer Snob. For one, combining two very disparate styles (a raspberry ale and a black IPA) can only be expected to yield strange combination. But to then age them in a whiskey barrel to further enhance/influence the flavor, that’s just plain nuts! Luckily, this gambit seems to have paid off with the Serendipity. The Black IPA provides a good firm malt base while the Raspberry Ale manages to smooth out the rough edges. This is then complimented to a good extent by the presence of smokey, peaty whiskey flavor. Not a conventional brew by any standard, but one that works.

Appearance: Dark brown-amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dark malts, mild fruit, whiskey infusion, smoke, peat moss
Taste: Hint of smoke, whiskey, mild raspberry tartness, tang, hop bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering smoke and peat moss flavor
Overall: 8.5/10

First Fall Beer Review!

phillips_labelsphillips_crookedertoothFall is just around the corner, and it seems the Fall beer is already hitting the shelves. And what better way to start my review of this Autumn’s beer than Phillips latest seasonal/limited release Crookeder Tooth Pumpkin Ale. Building on their success with Crooked Tooth, and in what appears to still be a trend in craft brewing with these folks, Phillips latest incarnation of this pumpkin ale is a barrel aged, stronger variant with some added kick! This comes not only in form of added alcohol (7.3% alc/vol), but in an infusion of bourbon made possible by the barrel-aging process.

And much like their Twisted Oak Red Ale, I highly approve of the end result. Rather than adding a whiskey tang and bite to the mix that did not do it justice, the bourbon flavor adds a very nice, velvety texture and vanilla-like flavor. This is highly complimentary to the beer’s heavier malt, spice palate and pumpkin flavor. All in all, its very much like having a piece of well-spice pumpkin pie. Score one more for barrel-aging done right!


Appearance:
Golden orange, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Discernible pumpkin flesh, light traces of cinnamon and nutmeg
Taste: Sweet malt, immediate notes of allspice, vanilla, mild bite of bourbon whiskey
Aftertaste: Lingering bourbon flavor and spices, slight alcoholic bitterness
Overall: 9/10

I can recall enjoying this beer’s predecessor when I tried it. And I can honestly say that I enjoyed this one more. In addition to being pleasing without being overpowering, as the last one was, they also managed some dimensions of flavor and strength. It’s a rare thing when an upgraded model can retain the benefits of the old one while adding new ones. Kudos to Phillips, and welcome to the Fall of Beer!

Howe Sound Wee Beastie Scotch Ale

howesound_weebeastieMy oh my, this winter has certainly seem it’s fair share of oak barrel-aged ales, hasn’t it? From barrel-aged barley wines to bourbon infused stouts, and embracing just about every brewery in the South Island and Lower Mainland, it seems no craft brewer in the region has been immune to this trend. Well, I’ve been holding back long enough and decided it was about time I get over my initial misgiving with this trend and really (I apologize in advance!) jump in that barrel.

And after a visit to one of my many watering holes, I picked up a few bottles. Of particular interest was this latest release from Howe Sound, the Wee Beastie Oak Aged Scotch Ale. Released in honor of Robbie Burns Day (note the veiled reference to the poem To A Mouse on the label), this beer has also made it into the 2013 winter lineup of beers that are aged in oak barrels to achieve a deeper, more complex flavor. And as usual, I was not a huge fan, but was forced to acknowledge the creative and authentic character of the end result.

Appearance: Dark brown-red, transparent, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Smokey, notes of peat moss and roasted malt
Taste: Smooth malts, sweetness giving way to saltiness, hint of peat and nuts
Aftertaste: Lingering smoke flavor and peat bitterness
Overall: 7.5/10

Yes, I’ve never been a huge fan of smoke beer, which makes an ale aged in whiskey barrels less than appealing in my opinion. What’s more, wee heavies have a history of not quite agreeing with me, mainly because the palate they achieve seems odd and unappealing to me. But that’s the thing about beer and its many, many varieties. There’s always something out there to appeal to the individual palate, and a few things that are likely to seem displeasing. And I cant criticize a genuine product, especially when it’s done right!

Phillips Trainwreck Barley Wine

Trainwreck-2012Next up in the winter beer series is a seasonal release by Phillips, one of their many, many limited releases that have graced the shelves of your local watering hole over the years! And it’s one that, I have to admit, this is one I have somehow neglected to sample thus far, in spite of the fact that it’s been available for what seems like a few years now.

And to boot, the 2012 vintage of the Trainwreck has the added surprise of being barrel-aged in bourbon casks, providing an extra layer of peat moss and whiskey flavor to what is already a dark and malty beverage.

*Sidenote: I should mention that they advise serving it at cellar temperatures, meaning just slightly chilled. However, I can tell you that served cold, the flavors of bourbon and barley still come through in spades, so decide for yourself how it will be served. I will be sure to procure a second bottle and be sure to indicate how that alters the overall profile.

Appearance: Dark brown/amber, transparent, good foam retention
Nose: Immediate notes of bourbon whiskey
Taste: Immediate burst of whiskey flavor, combined with slightly sweet malts
Aftertaste: Peaty finish, coarse malts, deep and lingering
Overall: 7.5/10

While I’m not a big fan of bourbon barrel-aged ales, I have to admit that this beer has some serious cajones! It might just be my imagination, but the alcoholic nature of the beer also seems just the slightest bit enhanced thanks to the infusion of bourbon flavor. Definitely a rib-tickler and heart warmer, and a winner if you love the taste of whiskey!