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.

Townsite/Gladstone Algerme Collaboration No. 1

townsite_gladstone_algermeBrewer: Townsite Brewing, Powell River, BC/Gladstone Brewing, Courtenay, BC
Style: Belgian Single
ABV: 5.8%
IBUs: 38

Description: This beer was a collaborative effort, produced by Townsite and Gladstone Brewing, located just across the water from each other. This ale is brewed in the Belgian Single style (i.e. a Belgian pale ale) that is then bottle conditioned with brettanomyces yeast.

Tasting Notes: This beer is definitely reminiscent of a good farmhouse ale. It is golden in hue, cloudy, and forms a good, thick head. In terms of taste, it starts with a smooth malt base, spicy yeast notes, and a thick, foamy finish that is the result of bottle conditioning.

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.

Phillips Short Wave West Coast Pale Ale

phillips_shortwave-pale-aleBrewer: Phillips Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 5.2%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: The Shortwave is part of Phillips regular lineup of beers, and is a sessional pale ale brewed in the style of the Pacific Northwest. Like Blue Buck, it is one of the few beers that comes in the tall can.

Tasting Notes: This beer is definitely a very pleasant and drinkable pale ale – aka. very sessionable. However, this strength is also its main weakness. Basically, its gentle malt base and not-so-strong hopping make it a bit mild for those who love a good crisp, hoppy ale. A well-balanced ale, but definitely a light one.

Appearance: Light amber, clear, good and lacy foam, good carbonation
Nose:  Notes of citrus, grass, mild malt, tropical fruit, pineapple
Taste: Smooth malt, sweet bread, mineral tang, grassy hops, hint of pineapple and citrus
Aftertaste: Lingering sweet malt taste and mild hop bitterness
Overall: 7.7/10

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

P49 Suspect Device Gruit

gruitBrewer: Parallel 49 Brewing, Vancouver, BC / Crannog Ales, Sorrento, BC
Style: Gruit
ABV: 5.5%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: Another installment in the Brews Brothers Volume 2 pack. This beer, which was produced in collaboration with Crannog Ales, is named after the song Suspect Device by Stiff Little Fingers. It is done in the traditional style known as Gruit, a malt-forward, hop-free variety that predates the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516.

Tasting Notes: Gruits are a bit of a challenge for me, as they tend to come with some rather heavy spices. However, this one had very little spice to speak of, which really let the malt flavor through. I was reminded of a good bock or winter ale, with a smooth, rich malt base with some mild hints of cider, nutmeg and clove spice.

Appearance: Deep amber/red, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, hints of orchard fruit, minerals, alcohol, mild notes of nutmeg and clove
Taste: Smooth malt start, hint of dry cider and brown sugar, mild spices, mineral tang 
Aftertaste: Lingering malt and dry cider flavor, spices and minerals 
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

Spinnakers Sooke Harvest

Spinnakers_Sooke_HarvestBrewer: Spinnakers Brewpub, Victoria, BC
Style: Fresh-Hopped Pale Ale
ABV: 5%
IBUs: 40

Description: This fresh-hopped ale is brewed using a combinatio of Pale and Crystal malts, then bittered using late addition Cascade, Chinook and Willamette hops, all of which are freshly picked from hop farms in the Sooke region.

Tasting Notes:  Spinnakers, it seems, is getting on the fresh-hopped game. And their offering is quite good, consisting of a nice, balanced pale ale with a hint of sweet bread flavor, and a nice, dry hop backing that has hints of West Coast flavors – i.e. herbs, grass and citrus.

Appearance: Deep ruby, clear, lacy foam retention, good carbonation
Nose: Rich pale malt, sweet bread, mild citrus, grassy and herbal hop notes
Taste: Smooth malt, hint of sweetness, dry hops, herbal and grassy, mild citrus
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness and malt flavor
Overall: 8.2/10

Old Abbey Ales Flemish Brett Brown

Old_Abbey_logoBrewer: Old Abbey Ales, Abbotsford, BC
Style: Flemish Brown Ale
ABV: 7.7%
IBUs: 35

Description: This beer is part of Old Abbey’s Innovation Series, a series of limited release experimental beers that is always changing. For their latest, brewmaster Tony Dewald has created Flemish-style Brown ale (Bruine) complete with the wild brettanomyces strain.

Tasting Notes: This is my first visit to the wares of Old Abbey, and I felt quite privileged to be sampling their latest experimental brew – the results of which were quite impressive. This beer packs a lot of Bruin flavor, consisting of dark, toasty malts with lots of roasted nut, coffee and chocolate flavor. But at the same time, the use of Belgian brettanomyces yeast ensures a hint of sour cherry and some dark fruit flavor that really sets it off.

Appearance: Brown, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malts, hints of coffee, roasted nuts, fruits and sugars
Taste: Smooth malt, roasted nuts, mild espresso, dark chocolate, raisins, dates, hint of sour cherries
Aftertaste: Lingering roasted malt aftertaste, malt bitterness, coffee
Overall: 9/10

Russell 2014 Happy Jack Pumpkin Ale

Russel_Happy_JackBrewer: Russell Brewing, Surrey, BC
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 5.5%
IBUs: 25

Description: This seasonal release is available only for the Fall pumpkin season. It is brewed single-batch-style, using pale malts, real pumpkin, and then infused with whole spices (what I strongly suspect are cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice) and aged with oak.

Tasting Notes: Compared to my previous samplings of Happy Jack, this one was stronger on the spice palate. These work well alongside the smooth and slightly sweet malt base, which of course benefits from the infusion of pumpkin. So I actually found myself enjoying it more than last year’s offering. Hence I am upgrading it from last years 8.5 to a solid 9. Kudos to the brewers!

Appearance: Dark Ruby, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Pale malt nose, pumpkin flesh, strong notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice
Taste: Smooth malt, hint of sweetness, notes of cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg
Aftertaste: Lingering malt sweetness, spices and spice bitterness
Overall: 9/10