Phillips Mass Extinction

Winter is a time for many things. Cold weather, warm fires, celebrations to mark the new year, and strong drink with which to do it! In fact, barley wine, a long-standing favorite of mine, was created for just such a purpose. In order to keep people festive and plump during the hard, lean, winter months, barley wine was developed to be both tasty, nutritious and VERY strong, thus ensuring good health and good spirits!

And for the winter of 2012, Phillips Brewery, which can always be counted on to come up with interesting beers, has released an Ice Barley Wine to mark the season. Yes, that’s right, an ice barley wine, meaning they fermented it at ice-cold temperatures in addition to fermenting it longer and stronger. I have to admit, this is a new one for me, but given my love of bock beers (which includes Ice Bock), I was intrigued enough to buy some.

I should also note that, in keeping with the Phillips tradition of giving their beers comical names (especially their vintages), this one is aptly named Mass Extinction. How did they come up with this name you ask? Well, it could a reference to the ice fermentation process (i.e. ice age killed the dinosaurs) or the fact that it is VERY strong (at 12% alc/vol it is one of the strongest beers I’ve ever had!); but somehow, you just get the feeling that this beer was meant to be served chilled and could kill a large animal!

Overall, the taste is what one can expect from a faithful barley wine: syrupy, sweet, with a hint of maple, molasses and rich malts. However, this particular one manages to add a certain toasty, almost stout-like quality to the mix, which is not surprising given its dark color. Clearly, the barley was roasted nice and dark before they fermented and froze it to give its sweet, strong flavor.

And since it is a seasonal, I strongly recommend people get out there and sample this strong ale before… okay, my mind is filling up with bad puns and dinosaur jokes right now! Just try the beer! Winter is a time for strong ale and barley wines are no exception! 4/5

Creemore Springs!

In honor of my pending trip to Ottawa, I have decided to do a few reviews dedicated to some old favorites. In the course of my reviews, I’ve given a few shout-outs to faithful brand names. But as always, some got missed! And shout outs are hardly comprehensive. So I thought I’d dedicate to this first review to an old favorite, one which somehow got forgotten in the shuffle. So without further ado, I give you… Creemore Springs Brewery!

Creemore Premium Lager: A clean, crisp, amber lager that has a rich, malty profile, and a light hop bite that is reminiscent of Czech and Bavarian hops. Apparently, the local spring water also plays a part in giving its its rather unique flavor, which can best be describes as having a certain “minerality.” That’s a wine term I picked up while touring the Okanagan. Trust me, it’s legit! As I can attest from years of drinking this beverage, this beer is well paired with pasta and lighter fare, and is an excellent accompaniment to most desserts. It’s also just fine on its own, in cold weather or hot! 4/5

Creemore Urbock: Bock beer is a strong lager that comes to us from Germany of the 14th century. Being the beer of monks and aristocrats – the former looking for a more tasty, nutritious beverage, the latter looking for something fancy – this style of beer was brewed longer and using the choicest hops and barley. In addition, the name “Ur” designates this beer as the best of the batch, which means it was taken from the bottom of the barrel where the beer is richer, maltier, and more alcoholic. And on a personal note, this beer began my love affair with Bock beers! Years later, it remains my favorite bock, and one of the best beers I’ve ever had. Smooth, dark, matly, and tawny, this beer is a well-rounded winner with a light hop bite and a semi-sweet finish. 5/5

Waiting to try: Yes, Creemore has come up with some new varieties since I left town. Apparently, they now have four, including a Pilsner and a Kellerbier. I will be sure to try them just as soon as I can get my hands on some!

Link to the brewery website:
http://www.creemoresprings.com/

Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel

Wow, a name like that doesn’t exactly roll of the English tongue now does it? But amongst German beer enthusiasts, its kind of a big deal! Referring to the Weihenstephan Abbey, which is located in Freising district of Bavaria, Weihenstephan brewery is actually the world’s oldest commercially brewery. No kidding! Established in 725 by Benectine Monks, the monastery opened a commercial brewery in 1040 and has been a purveyor of beers ever since, making it the oldest brewery in the world that is still in operation.

It is even has its own entry on History of Beer archive, being a nexus between the ancient times when brewing was a cottage industry and modern Europe where it had grown into a full-blown enterprise. Today, they make a dozen varieties, most of which are wheat based, and export to thirty-five countries across the world. However, it is their Hefeweissbier Dunkel (Dark Wheat) which concerns me today, so let’s pack up the history lesson and get to some sampling.

Hefeweissbeir Dunkel: Upon opening the bottle, my nose was immediately graced by notes familiar to a weissbier. Smooth, malty, and yeasty, and with a deep color that was quite appetizing. But of course, being a wheat beer, it was also cloudy and translucent, a very good combination! And ultimately the flavor was a perfect combination of the Dunkel and Weiss, being both tawny and smooth, but also malty with a hint of fruit. the only thing that was lacking was spice; this beer has no traces of cloves, coriander or any of the other trace attributes other weissbiers are known for. However, this allows for an especially clean finish, so it all works out just fine! Perfect when enjoyed in a Hofbrauhaus mug, and since it comes in half liter bottles, I was able to fit two bottles to a stein quite perfectly (minus a little foam overflow of, course). If you can find it, try it! You shant be sorry! 4/5

An engraving of the brewery by Michael Wening, dating from about 1700:

And of course a link to the breweries website:
Weihenstephan Brauerei

Christmas Beer!

This holiday season, my sweetheart treated me to some new microbrews from the great state of Washington. For some time, I’ve known that there are beers from Pike, Rogue and others that are not available here in B.C. So when she decided to head down there with some girlfriends for a weekend getaway, I was sure to put in a request for as many tall boys as she could legally bring back. She did good! And considering that I got me some awesome mugs from Hofbrau, I had the perfect vessel with which to enjoy them. Here are some of the labels I enjoyed!

Pike Monk’s Uncle Tripel: The closest thing I’ve tasted to Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde without being the real thing. Combining wheat and barley malts with a generous dose of hops and then triple fermented, this beer comes off as heavy, rich, yeasty, and with a distinctly Belgian flavor. It’s bite and its intoxicating nose are not to be underestimated, neither is its strength (9% alc/vol) 8.5/10

Odin’s Gift Juniper Ale: A delicious pale ale that my wife substituted for Rogue’s own Juniper Pale, which she could not find. This was an ample replacement however! Like a good pale ale, this beer is crisp, has a floral nose, a good hop bite and a lingering finish. It is complimented by the mild aroma and flavor of juniper berries, giving this beer just the slightest essence of gin. A nice twist on the a pale ale, and well paired with pastas and meats or just on its own. 9/10

Pike Dry Wit: I’ve had several wheat beers over the years, and this was definitely one of the most rare and complex! A strong flavor of wheat malts, a light spice palate that lingers and grows more intricate the deeper one drinks it. I noticed notes of coriander and orange on the first few sips, which is common in witbier. But gradually, I became aware of chamomile and lavender-like notes as well. A definite winner and a very interesting twist on the traditional wit. 9/10

Pike Old Bawdy Barley Wine: At 10% alc/vol, this beer definitely lives up to its name! Heavy, rich and very strong, this beer starts with a sugary nose, a rich malty sweetness, a good hop bite and a long, syrupy finish. Not for the faint of heart, but one of the best dessert beers I’ve had in recent years. 9/10

New Belgium Super Cru: A very interesting fruit beer, reminiscent of poached pears and distinctly Belgian in its flavor. In addition, it’s also very strong, 10% alc/vol, and that’s in spite of its light, fruity taste. Hard to believe they doubled the malts and the hops of the usual Fat Tire. Very good when paired with salads, cheeses, and lighter fare, and also pleasant on its own. 7.5/10

Rogue Brewery!

Many a time I’ve reviewed individual Rogue products and thought to myself, “damn, I need to do a full on review of the brewery, give credit to every beer I’ve ever had from them”. Hell, I think I’ve even said as much in a post here or there. Well, I’m finally putting my money where my mouth is – literally, since some of them were hard to obtain and involved the cost of travel to procure! And coupled with others that I’ve tried over the years, I’ve finally been able to prepare a full list. It’s been difficult given the fact that seasonals come and go, and one can scarcely remember everything one tries (especially when they drink like I do!), but I assure you, I’ve done my best. Here they are, in alphabetical order:

American Amber Ale: I’ve sampled many amber ales in my day, and I’ve come to expect a certain consistency from them. More often than not, they are smooth, light, tawny on the tongue, and are more malty than hoppy in terms of flavor. This is certainly the case with the American Amber. The taste is both complex, yet light, with smooth, slightly viscous malts and a light hop finish. An enjoyable beer when paired with food or as light-drinking fare. 3.75/5

Brutal IPA: This beer I sampled and reviewed last november, as part of my “Month of IPA’s”. And little’s changed since I reviewed it last! A year later and I still it a fitting examples of a west coast IPA, combining a crisp taste, powerful, floral hops and a good alcoholic bite! Definitely not for the faint of heart, as it more than lives up to its name! 4/5

Chipotle Ale: An interesting experiment in beer-making, and one which I just had to try. And I was not disappointed, nor particularly surprised. Overall, this is a perfectly fine ale and characteristic of rogue brewing, combing a good hoppy ale with the slight hint of peppers and a mild spicy aroma. Perhaps I was expecting something different, but with a name like Chipotle, one would expect more of a punch! However, this remains a very decent ale and given its mild bite, would be well-paired with spicey food. 3.75/5

Chocolate Stout: A first for me, in that it was the first time I had ever tried a chocolate stout. Since that time, it seems like everyone is doing a chocolate or coffee stout/porter. And having tried several, I can still honestly say that this one is my favorite. Whereas most stouts tend to have a bitter, almost burn like flavor to them due to the dark malts used (what is typically described as coffee notes), Rogue’s own manages to come off very smooth. And the chocolate notes are the result of real chocolate being used. No artificial flavors here! 4/5

Dead Guy Ale:One of Rogue’s most famous beers, and definitely the easiest to find here in Canada. Done in the style of German Maibock but still boasting a Pacific Northwest character, this beer is deep honey in color, has a rich, malty profile, a strong bite of hops and a relatively sweet profile. It’s also garnered several awards, including silver medals three years running at the World Beer Championships (from 2005 to 2007).4/5

Hazelnut Brown Nectar: I believe I’ve mentioned several times in the course of my reviews how craft brewing has been coming back into vogue in the last few decades. And if there’s one beer that is consistently becoming more popular, its the Brown Ale. True to form, Rogue recently released their own spin on the traditional Brown, combining the flavor or roasted nuts with brown malts in order produce this beer. Living in Victoria, nestled between so many great micro-breweries, each one producing its own exceptional browns, I felt this baby had some stiff competition. And yet it still came out with top marks!  Rich, dark and tawny, like a good brown, this baby is also smooth and boasts a true nut flavor that is paired well with deserts and Christmas cookies (recent experience will attest to this)! 4/5

Irish Lager: This is going back a ways, but many years back, I spotted this brew in my favorite LCBO located on Rideau street at the edge of downtown Ottawa. I believe I bought it as part of a Rogue taster pack, since this particular LCBO could always be counted on to stack plenty of Rogue products. At the time, I was relatively un-wowed, but that was before I developed an appreciation for lighter beers. Today, I would classify this as a nice, light fare, clean, crisp and refreshing, like a good lager! Its also good when paired with food, though it is also recommended for making Guinness floats. That I will have to try… (personally, I’d recommend using a different stout, but a good idea is a good idea!) 3/5

Juniper Pale Ale: Yet another rare one that I tried when visiting my sis and bro-in-law in Oregon. And, much like with the Yellow Snow IPA (see below) I’ve tried to get my hands on some ever since! It was seriously that good. A delicious ale, red in color, with strong, floral hops, a crisp bite, and a lingering finish that is highly reminiscent of juniper berries, this beer is an all around hit! If you can’t find some, I recommend finding a local beer store that’s been known to carry some Rogue products and putting it on order. 4/5

Yellow Snow IPA: The name might deter some, but for me, this beer is a classic, one which I discovered by accident when visiting Portland in 2004 with my sis and bro in law. The color is consistent with the name, a nice golden orange. Strong hops, a good bite, a long dry finish, and a rating of 80 IBU make this a genuine IPA. After trying it for the first time, I would struggle to get my hands on some here in Canada.  It’s not easy, but thanks to my sweetheart, I enjoyed a nice cold bottle this Christmas, and thanks to my folks, I enjoyed in a Hofbrauhaus stone mug! What a perfect experience! 5/5

Ah, and speaking of this Christmas, my darling bride was also able to procure for me some tasty samples from the Pike Brewery that I have been unable to get here in Canada as well. Expect a review dedicated to them as well soon. As with all my Christmas beers by Rogue, they too were enjoyed in a Hofbrauhaus stone mug!

As a finale note, here is a link to Rogue’s website, and a picture of Jack Joyce, the co-founder and CEO of Rogue which I happened to come across in the course of my research into them. Doesn’t he just look like a brewer?!

http://www.rogue.com/

Jack Joyce, Co-Founder and CEO

 

 

Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout

Is it an imperial stout? Is it a barely wine? That’s what I wondered the moment I opened a bottle of this beer and gave it a whif. The aroma immediately reminded me of barley wine, that thick, syrupy smell that makes you think of pudding and molasses. Then came the taste, and the mystery continued…

I only recently came into contact with Brooklyn, a micro-brewery that has been making craft beer since the late 80’s. Having sampled their lager at a local eatery here in Victoria, I found that I was quite pleased. And after some research, I learned that they’ve earned a few awards for their products over the years. So when my bro-in-law got me some for Christmas (hi Isaac!), I was pretty pleased.

On the one hand, the use of dark malts give it a bitter, chocolatey flavor. On the other, the fact that it is an especially strong beer (10 % alc/vol) lends it the strong, sweet taste of a barley wine. An interesting combination if ever there was one, but the taste, smell and deleterious effects were nothing short of welcome. And as a fan of both chocolate stouts and barley wines, I could appreciate the combination.

You might not think these two would go together, but I’ve been wrong about combos before. Honey and beer and Pilsner and IPA come to mind, and that’s just off the top of my head! So if you’re in a private beer store and are fan of stouts, strong beers, or barley wines, I recommend you pick up a bottle of this seasonal stout! Perfect for the holidays, great when paired with deserts and decadent when used to make a beer float! 4/5

http://brooklynbrewery.com/brooklyn-beers/seasonal-brews/brooklyn-black-chocolate-stout

The Howe Sound lineup

Howe Sound, located in beautiful Sqaumish BC, has been making craft beer since the mid nineties. However, as with most BC beers, I only learned about shortly after I moved here. I believe I first spotted some of their signature bottles in a small liquor store in Duncan, and was quite impressed with their appearance. That first impression was surpassed only by the quality of the beer itself and they fast became one of my favorites. And the more of their products I’ve tried, the happier I am making them one of my go-to’s whenever it comes time to do some beer shopping.

And of course, like most established craft beer makers, they have a regular line-up and a line of seasonal releases. And both are growing and becoming more diverse, so there are a few I have yet to try. Give me time and I shall find them all! First up, their regular beers:

Garibaldi Honey Pale Ale: Originally, I was not a fan of honey beers. Sleeman’s Honey Brown Lager turned me around on that. However, a pale ale seems a bit of a stretch to me on that point. Balancing a hoppy, citrusy profile with the taste of honey (heavily sweet) just doesn’t work. This is not to say that this isn’t a good beer. It’s profile is light, slightly sweet, with a slightly hoppy finish. Named on honor of Mount Garibaldi (8,776 ft, 2,675 m) which was named for Italian hero Guiseppe Garibaldi, the man of two worlds, this beer also boasts three medals: the gold medal in the 2007 North American Beer Awards, the bronze for the 2010 North Americans, and the bronze for the 2011 Canadian Brewers Awards. 3.5/5

Rail Ale Nut Brown: One of the finer brown’s I’ve ever had and possibly one of the best browns in BC. Smooth, tawny, with a nutty flavor that lingers on the tongue. This beer is excellent on its own, with most dishes and as a light dessert beer, best when paired with dark chocolate. Named in honor of BC’s strong railway history, particularly Squamish’s own, this beer is also the 2009 silver medalist for the Canadian Brewers Awards. 5/5

Devil’s Elbow IPA: A nice, powerful India Pale Ale, combing a nice floral bouquet, a citrusy profile, and a dry, lingering finish. A deep, golden orange, heavy on the hops and relatively strong on the alcohol (6% alc/vol), this beer is still highly drinkable. A good food pair, and lovely on its own. It was also the Silver medalist in the 2010 North American Beer Awards, no small accomplishment given the competition! On a more modest note, it also won the prize for best IPA at a beer, cider and wine tasting hosted by our friends this past year (Hi Richard and Kim!). Guess who brought it? 4/5

Diamond Head Oatmeal Stout: Named for the razor’s edge ridge that comes off the south flank of Mount Garibaldi’s Atwell Peak, this beer is a fitting example of an oatmeal stout. Boasting strong flavors of roasted barley and oats, this beer also has a light hop bite and a smooth finish with lingering notes that are reminiscent of roasted coffee. In terms of awards, this beer has won both the Bronze in the 2007 North American Beer Awards and the Silver for the 2011 Canadian Brewers Awards. 4/5

Baldwin and Cooper Best Bitter: As Bitters go, this one is right up there, comparable to Swann’s, Spinnakers, and Longwood’s. I guess there’s just something about Vancouver Island, we know our British beers! And the critics seem to agree. This Bitter has won medals three years running now, securing the bronze medal in the 2009 North Americans and silver in the 2010, followed by another silver in the Canadian Brewers Awards for this past year. The name is also significant, in honor of Jim Baldwin & Ed Cooper, the first men to climb the Grand Wall of the Stawamus Chief (702 m) in July, 1961. But the taste is where its really at! Smooth, malty, with a nice dry hop finish, this beer also boasts a certain fruity character that makes it well paired with meat, seafood, spicey dishes, or just on its own. 4.5/5

Whitecap Wheat Ale: A Belgian-style wheat beer that contains the signature traces of orange zest and coriander, combining both wheat and barley malts that result in a clear, lightly colored beer with a spicey taste and clean finish. Delicious when served cold, best when paired with spicey food, light deserts, and most enjoyable on its own, especially on a hot day! 5/5

Bailout Bitter: A nice, dry, yet smooth and light tasting beer, highly remisicent of their Mettleman Copper (see their Seasonal Beers). This beer was a special release, apparently named in honor of the 2008 Banking Crisis and the resulting bailout, which had left plenty of people feeling bitter! I for one championed the release of this beer and drank it heartily, enjoying both nits smooth, dry taste and its message. F@Y%@ you  Wallstreet! 4/5

Coming up next, Howe Sound’s seasonal lineup. Stay tuned…