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…

St. Ambroise Seasonals!

Hello again, and we’re back with the many delicious brews from Montreals award-winning purveyor of craft beers! Last time, I covered their regular lineup, including the beers that were were first for me and remain the best beers I’ve ever had in their respective categories (i.e. pale ales, oatmeal stouts, etc). Now, I’d like to get into their seasonal beers, of which they have many.

Most of these are relatively new to me, having just become available here in BC. And frankly, I sometimes wonder if I would be as crazy about St. Ambroise beers had they NOT been the ones to introduce me to certain varieties of beer. Well, I’m a much more seasoned beer drinker now, but I was still wholly impressed with the new additions to their lineup! Though they may not all be “the best”, they are certainly up there! Here goes…

St. Ambroise IPA: I saw this beer just a few months ago, located in one of my favorite liquor stores on the island (hey Beverly Street Liquor Store!). All I could say was, “’bout time!” and snatched some up. And after years of being heavily impressed with McAuslan, and as a huge fan of IPA’s, the bar was set pretty high on this one. However, McAuslan did it again! Though I’ve had some pretty damn good IPA’s in my time, this one was both impressive and rather unique! I thought I knew all there was to know about hops, but the combination of Golding and Willamette hops produces a flavor and an aroma which is both bitter and uniquely floral. In addition, the combination of the renowned Munich and Crystal malts allows for a degree of smoothness which balances very well with the bite and lingering hop aftertaste. Congrats, McAuslan, you’ve done it again! 5/5

St. Ambroise Scotch Ale: Done in the tradition of the “wee heavy” winter ales of Scotland, this beer boasts a strong, malty profile, a viscous taste that is balanced by a touch of sweetness, a good hop bite, and complex, lingering aftertaste that is reminiscent of vanilla and butterscotch. It’s like Scotland in a bottle! As a guy who doesn’t go in for the “wee heavies” much anymore, I still found this one a fitting example of a Scotch Ale and give it tops marks! 4/5

St. Ambroise Pumpkin Ale: Now here’s a variety that is becoming incredibly popular of late. Everywhere I turn, I see examples of pumpkin ales, the breweries of the Pacific Northwest, East, and everywhere in between producing their own version as a Fall Seasonal. And this baby is no slouch when compared to its competitors; in fact, I was quite impressed. Boasting a golden, caramel color, and smacking of pumpkin, cloves and allspice, this beer is a fitting accompaniment to Fall weather, thanksgiving feasts and as a Halloween treat! 4/5

St. Ambroise Raspberry Ale: Again, a popular example of fruit beers that have been making the rounds for over a decade, and a fitting follow-up to their Apricot Wheat Ale. In fact, I was somewhat surprised that it took this long for it to make an appearance, but I was happy with the end product. My wife, always the fan of rapsberry ales, is my go-to when it comes to comparisons, and this beer had some rather tough local competition (Longwood and Swann’s both brew their own faithful version of this). However, McAuslan’s faired well once again! This beer balances a good malty taste and a pleasant hop character with a strong infusion of raspberries, resulting in a flavor that is at once smooth, tart and semi-sweet. And the color… golden red. Nice touch! 4/5

St. Ambroise Vintage Ale: As I recently learned, St. Ambroise produces a Vintage Ale once a year that is of the same variety as their Millennial Ale (still the best beer I’ve ever had!) However, being outside of Quebec, I have a monster of a time trying to get my hands on some! Which is too bad, considering that this trend began shortly before I moved to the west coast. Apparently, due to high demand, McAuslan decided that beers such as their vaunted Millennial Ale needed to make more appearances, and do so almost every year now in the form of the Vintage. Much like their Millennial Ale, this ale is a combination of wheat and barley malts and hops that is fermented extra-long and then served unfiltered, resulting in a beer that is a deep rich color, smooth on the palate with a complex, semi-sweet flavor that calls to mind caramelized fruit and molasses. It’s time to call in favors! I want me some Vintage Ale for Christmas! 6/5 (again, I know it doesn’t make sense. It’s just that good!)


(The 2010 Release)

Yet to try: St. Ambroise Imperial Stout. Looking for it now…

Swan’s Brewpub

Looking back this weekend, I realized that I have yet to dedicate a review to some of my favorite watering holes here in Victoria. Sure, I’ve mentioned them, maybe even rated their wings, but where’s the page dedicated to them? Time to remedy this! And I shall start with the place me and wife know as “Old Faithful”. Swan’s Brewpub.

I can remember when I was a young man and living in Ottawa, some friends of mine who were from Victoria and periodically came back to visit family would always bring some Swan’s beer home with them. Yeah, it was always a treat to enjoy a few frosty Swans and watch some our favorite shows in those days. If they’re reading this, hi Aaron, hi Megan! Miss you guys!

Since moving to the west coast, dining in at Swan’s has been a recurring treat. Not only are their beers faithful examples of craft brewing, their food is also a tasty treat. It’s little wonder then why my wife and I refer to this place as “Old Faithful”. Alas, some specific examples feel necessary. First up, the taps!

Appleton Brown Ale: A nice, tawny, smooth ale that is in keeping with a London-style dark ale. Highly drinkable, smooth and yet complex. 4/5

Arctic Ale: Definitely one of the lightest beers I’ve ever had, and certainly the lightest produced by Swans. Named in honor of Canadian-style beers, apparently, this beer is clean tasting, has a quick, light finish, and is completely inoffensive. However, that is not necessarily a good thing, not when you’re me at any rate. Nothing wrong with it, but not my favorite either. 3.5/5

Buckerfield’s Bitter: One of my favorite ESB’s (Extra Special Bitter) to date. Copper colored, clean tasting, with a nice dry hop finish; this bitter taught me what this beer is all about! A favorite I routinely order! 5/5

Extra IPA: A true India Pale Ale, at 6.8% alc/vol and full of hops! The color is a rich orange, the nose is floral, and the flavor both sweet, dry and lingering. I’ve had so many I think I’ve OD’d! Best enjoyed with food and in moderation, unless your an IPA lover like me! 4/5

Old Towne Bavarian Lager: A fitting accompaniment to spicey food or on its own as a nice light drink. This beer is a faithful lager, combing a clean taste, crisp hops and a lingering finish. Its color is also clear and golden, reminiscent of traditional lagers found in your famed Munich beer halls. 4/5

Pandora Pale Ale: Probably the most faithful brew offered by Swans, I can attest to both its popularity and its drinkability. Golden amber, with a nice hop nose, clean taste and short, sharp finish, this beer is their flagship brew for a good reason! 4.5/5

Raspberry Ale: My wife and I agree, there are few who do fruit beers up right. These guys would be one of them! This ale combines a nice drinkable ale with a tart and semi-sweet touch that is both refreshing and is well paired with deserts or just on its own. It’s especially refreshing when enjoyed on your patio during a hot summer’s day. The taste also manages to conceal the fact that its actually quite strong, at 7% alc/vol! 4/5

Riley’s Scotch Ales: A traditional ale done in the “wee-heavy” style, meaning of high alcohol content. And this customer is no exception, being 8% alc/vol and possessing a strong, malty flavor, a big dose of hops and a sweet finish. Definitely not for the unititiated or the faint of heart. Definitely not for light beer drinkers! 4/5

Swan’s Oatmeal Stout: Swan’s was one of the first microbreweries in my experience to incorporate the Oatmeal Stout into their lineup. And there stout is definitely among the best I’ve had. Well rounded, creamy smooth, but with a nice, bitter bite for a finish. Stout lovers will approve! 4/5

Legacy Ale: This ale you won’t find on the regular menu. It’s an anniversary ale, which means it was made in honor of the brewery’s anniversary back in 2007. Hence, it is only available periodically, and let me tell you… it is one of the best beers I’ve ever had! Comparable only to McAuslin’s Millennial Ale, this Barley Wine has it all. Rich, mahogany color, smooth malty goodness, and a semi-sweet touch with just the right hop finish. I give this beer 6/5. Yes, I know that doesn’t make any sense, but who cares? I love it!

You might have noticed, most of these beers are rated pretty close to each other. But that’s a testament to their quality. And now, the food! However, know that the menu has changed since we ate there last, so some of these items might be out of date.

Chicken Wings: Not the best wings on the island, but definitely faithful and consistently good. The wings themselves are not plump, but not emaciated either, and the sauce is simply Frank’s Red, but they get the job done. Especially with beer! 3.5/5

Yam Fries: Now I’ve had several version of yam fries over the years, especially since I moved to BC (seems to be a local thing!). However, this remains the place that does it best, in my humble opinion. Sweet, lightly dusted with Cajun spice, granulated salt and accompanied by a kick-ass chipotle mayo! 5/5

Chicken Focaccia: A very decent sandwich! The focaccia bread is the perfect accompaniment to a chicken breast, don’t ask me why, and the veggies, red onions, and mayo compliment the flavor perfectly. 4/5

Buckerfield’s Burger: One of the best burgers I’ve had since moving to the island. Hand made patties, cheese, bacon, grilled mushrooms and onions and a smokey bbq sauce. This burger is exceptional when pared with a Pale Ale and some yam fries! 5/5

Apple Pie: Apple pie is just one those things. It’s hard to screw up,  but its still nice to find a place that does it especially well. And as you can imagine, this is one such place. The pastry is hearty, the apples sweet and spiced just right with loads of cinnamon! And of course, the accompanying dollop of vanilla ice cream, ya can’t go wrong! 4/5

Creme Caramel: It has always been a source of consternation to me that Swans doesn’t do a creme brulee. However, their creme caramel is a fitting stand in! Creamy, rich, sweet, but not overpowering, this desert is the perfect end to an evening of fine beer and fine dining! 4/5

Hmm, seems I did it again with the food. Just about all them score within the eighty-percentile. But hey, that’s how it is. Good food, good beer, good times. If you’re interested, here’s a link to Swan’s full and updated menu. Check it out, preferably in person!

Swans Brewpub

Beer that Tames the Fire

Not that long ago, I tried my hand at homemade curry paste. The results were… shall we say, less than mild? Yes, I’m still getting the bugs out of the recipe, not literally of course, but I maintain that homemade is best. Which brings me to something else I’ve been working on of late: a list of suitable, spice-appropriate beers. Granted, its not exactly rocket science. Pairing beers with spicy food is fact more of an art, and highly open to interpretation. Nevertheless, it generally is wise to avoid anything too heavy, hoppy, or best when served warm (aka. stouts, porters, ales, etc). In short, when dealing with spicy foods, one should stick to lagers, pilsners and other beers that offer a clean, crisp taste and are best when served cold.

With that in mind, I’ve assembled a list of just a few that are particularly good in this respect. Interestingly enough, most happen to be from the very parts of the world that are famous – or infamous – for producing some of the world’s spiciest food. And just to be helpful, I’ve grouped them from best to worst, at least according to my own taste and standards.

Sapporo: 8.5/10 A Japanese draft lager that dates back to the Meiji period (19th century). Like most Asian breweries, it was established by a German brewmaster and it shows in the taste and character of the beer. Although not surprising or particularly complex, it is a very reliable beer that is at once clean, crisp and quite tasty, with a mild bitter finish that does not interfere or enhance the taste of spicy food.

Tsingtao: 8/10 Compared to some of its competitors, this Chinese beer, named after its town of origin, is somewhat hoppier. However, it still retains the characteristic flavor of a German lager; crisp, clean, and not overpowering. As you can imagine, they can easily be found wherever Chinese cuisine is available, and pair well with the spicier Hunan and Szechuan dishes.

Dab: 7.5/10 From Dortmund, Germany, the name is actually an acronym for the brewery itself (Dortmunder Actien Brauerei). I would have to say that this has got to be one of the cleanest beers I’ve ever tasted, meaning it has a light taste and little to no aftertaste. Not the best standalone beer, but excellent when paired with something spicy. One can expect the heat not to linger when this exceptionally light lager is introduced to the palate.

Red Stripe: 7.5/10 Next, we have Red Stripe beer, Jamaica’s famous export lager. It might seem just the slightest bit stereotypical to assume that warm-weather climes would produce beer that goes well with hot food and hot weather, but this beer certainly lives up to that reputation. Like a true lager, it is light, refreshing and has a gentle, lingering hop aftertaste. And like just about all Caribbean brews, it goes well with Jerked food, curry, and spicy Roti.

Tiger Beer: 7/10 Last, but not least… From Singapore, Tiger is the flagship brand of beer for this city-state/nation that dates back to 1932. Its flavor is reminiscent of pilsner, the hops tasting sharp and distinctively Czech, and maintains a well rounded, light taste that finishes quite clean. All of this makes Tiger quite drinkable and well suited to dishes featuring chilis, curry, or other such delights.

I could go on, but this is making me hungry AND thirsty! Time to seek out spicy food and a cold beer! Until next time, keep sampling my friends!

Surgenor Brewery, We’ll Miss You!

Just got back from Comox where I was visiting with friends and family, as I periodically do. I was hoping very much to find a sample of Surgenor’s latest beer – In Seine Pale Ale – and instead came away with a dire piece of news. It seems that Surgernor, Comox’s own brewhouse, has closed down! Naturally, I wasn’t too surprised, there were rumors that this upstart brewery – just a few years up and running – was falling on hard times.

After experiencing a setback with their aluminum bottling – which I still think was brilliant and made their beer taste fantastic! – it seemed they had encountered some problems with government regulations and distribution. Naturally, there’s only so many setbacks and frustrations and upstart business can stand, and so its owners decided to close up shop and move on.

However, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t find the announcement both sad and deplorable! Its always sad when a great microbrew closes down, but when it’s a hometown operation that also makes a damn fine product, you got to take it personally! I tell you, I haven’t been this disappointed since the Hart brewery shut down in Ottawa. The world of craft brewing  is always diminished when one of its own succumbs…

So it seems only fitting that I dedicate this next review to Surgenor’s line of signature beers. Not only were they tasty, creative choices, they were also a truly local operation, making beers that were named in honor of Comox Valley’s history and heritage.

Steam Donkey Lager: This beer takes its name from the steam powered winch which played an important role in Comox Valley’s historic timber industry. Since it was the workhorse of west coast logging operations, its understandable why the folks at Surgenor decided to name their own workhorse in honor of it. Having enjoyed several, I can attest to its authenticity, solid flavor and drinkability. It’s color is a rich, orange-yellow, the taste is malty and has a nice hop finish which lingers nicely on the tongue. 4/5

Red House Ale: Named in honor of the Surgenor brew house, the Red House is my personal favorite of Surgenor’s lineup. Rosy red in hue, this beer combines a strong malt profile with crisp hops and a touch of citrus. The nose is especially nice, sharp, floral, and with a touch of effervescence. 5/5

#8 Shaft Black Lager: I take full credit for this one! No joke, when the brewery was first starting up, they were taking suggestions from the community on what beers people would like to see them make. Given the fact that they were naming their beers in honor of Comox Valley’s heritage, I thought a dark lager or ale named in honor of the Cumberland coal mines was a good idea. A little over a year later, at Nautical Days, what do you think they’ve got on tap at the beer tent?

Okay, I can’t take full credit (or any in all likelihood). After all, it’s kind of obvious when you think about it. Dark Lager, coal mining, it’s just a matter of time! Glad they came up with it though, and enjoyed the flavor even though I only got to taste it once. Light, but tawny and smooth, this black lager is reminiscent of Vancouver Island Hermann’s or Sleeman’s Dark, both fine dark ales in their own right. A little weak for my taste, but still enjoyable. 3.5/5

In Seine Pale Ale:  Another name that is one part Comox history, one part delicious pun, In Seine honors the fishermen of the West Coast. Unfortunately, I have yet to sample this one, and now that the breweries shutting down, I will scowering the island looking for some. Expect to hear about it soon!

Rest In Peace, Surgenor’s. And if you get the chance, get back in business! See what you can do about bringing those aluminum bottles back, that was lighting in a bottle!

The Longwood Brewpub

This review is from awhile back, dated May of 2011. But since its of one of my favorite restaurants and watering holes on the Island, I can’t NOT include it. If you’re in Nanaimo, check it out!

I’ve been wanting to do this review for awhile now, but lacked the means.  It’s a venerated place that’s been around for close to a decade AND was voted as Nanaimo’s best pub for four years, running from 2006 to 2009.  Yep, I am referring to Longwood!

http://www.longwoodbrewpub.com/

For starters, this place scored immediate points with me in that they are a brewpub.  That is to say, they are a microbrewery and make their own beer on the premises.  I’ve sampled most of them and can attest to them all! 

Longwood Ale: not bad as a starting ale.  It’s mild, not too bitter or complex on the palate, clean aftertaste. Inoffensive all around.

Czech Pilsner: a very nice variation on the traditional Czech beer, clean, crisp, with a nice lingering, but subtle, aftertaste.

India Pale Ale: many people have a problem with this traditional ale.  It can be overpowering at the best of times, too fruity and too hoppy all at once.  But I seriously enjoy this version.  It has a nice fruity taste, plenty of aroma and a good solid bitter aftertaste.  Like a nice punch in the gullet!

Dunkelweizenbrau: this is a nice combination of a dark beer and a wheat beer.  It has a tawny flavor that works on a couple levels.  It is subtle, deep, and yet refreshing, everything you’d expect from a dunkel and a weizen.

Weizenbock: haven’t tried this one in awhile, but I do recall how much I enjoyed it!  A strong wheat ale is one nature’s most perfect foods (that’s right, beer IS food!  Deal with it!) Strong yet smooth, refreshing and tasty.

Extra Special Bitter (ESB): a favorite of mine, and Longwood’s happens to be one of the best I’ve ever tasted.  It’s got all that’s right about a bitter to it.  A nice, crisp, bitter taste with a lingering, tawny aftertaste.  The quality comes through in the careful balance of lightness, bitterness, and deep complexity.  Not sure how they do it, but I like it! 

Oatmeal Stout: geez, everybody’s doing an Oatmeal Stout these days!  And you know what?  Most of them aint’ half bad!  This one is one such none-too-bad number.  It’s got rich, deep hop tones with a heavy tannin flavour that comes from dark, roasted oats and barley! One of the better microbrewed stouts I’ve had on the island. 

Framboise: this one is not a favorite of mine, but only because I don’t do the fruity beers if at all possible.  Still, if I were a fruit beer guy, this would be my go-to!  It’s got a genuine tart and sweet rasberry flavour that is a perfect compliment to its light, refreshing flavour.  Nothing artificial about it.

Barley Wine: I took a case of this camping to Pachena Bay.  In all honesty, its not the best barley wine I’ve ever tasted.  Barley wine, by nature, is both sweet and hoppy, richly malty and complex, and has a strong tannin flavour.  It’s dark beer on steriods, essentially.  This one has just about all of that going, except for the sweetness.  It’s not especially hoppy either.  Mainly, its just strong and tawny. In a nutshell, good, not great.  Hate to say it considering how much I love the place and it’s beer, but it’s only because they set the bar so high that I felt a tad bit underwhelmed.

They have others, but I either can’t remember what they taste like or haven’t had them out of lack on interest.  Hope the above reviews are enough for the curious and enthusiastic.

Okay, now to the food!

Obviously, I can’t attest to the quality of everything, but there a few items I have had a few times and am prepared to rave about… 

Crab Cakes: I’ve been to many pubs that served crab cakes before, sampled them whenever possible, and I thought that these were among the best.  They were fresh, crunchy on the outside, rich and delicious on the inside!

Sweet Potato Fries: always a favorite of island pub-goers!  Again, one of the best variety I’ve tried.  Rivalled only by Swan’s in Victoria.

Wings: I’m a wing man!  I go to bars specifically to see how their wings stack up. The whiskey bbq jalapeno wings are some of the best I’ve had.  Not too spicey, which I love and demand, but they got a real nice rich flavour that is perfectly complimented by some blue cheese dressing.  Not to mention they are always plump and never overcooked.  Hate it when that happens!  

Spinach Salad: a nice light salad, good combination of sweet, fresh and salty flavours.  A perfect accompaniment to a plate of wings or fries and some beer.

Brewmaster’s Salad: looks good on paper, looks good on your plate, not so good when you taste it though!  You’d think the combination of seafood, chicken cheese and salad would be an instant hit, but it isn’t!  It’s cold, fishy, and overpowering.  In terms of the overall menu, it’s a rare miss! 

Burger: it’s awesome!  Handmade patties, grainy mayo, and the smoked cheddar is especially good!

Beef Dip: awesome for the same reasons.  Piled high shaved beef that is always fresh when I order it.  And of course, smoked cheddar to compliment.

Fettucini: one thing I love about their pastas is the freedom to make your own.  I have tried the fettucini with chicken and cream sauce, and it was amazingly tasty and satisying.

In total, I give Longwood’s a 9 out of 10.  That one point deduction is largely because of the brewmaster salad, but the remaining nine points are well deserved!  The reliable menu and great beer selection make for a killer combination that brings me back over and over.  The only other drawback is the price, dinner and beers is kind of expensive, but well worth it. In short, when you eat the food and drink the beer, you’ll know where that money went!

The Canoe Club

Here is my latest restaurant review, dated October 16th, 2011.

Here’s a restaurant and brewpub that I’ve been wanting to review for months, but never seemed to get around to. It was completely by coincidence that I ended up there one night, but I figured as long as I was there, I might as well take notes! In addition to their taps, I was able to sample a small array of their food and came away quite pleased. As usual, I will start with the taps!

Red Canoe Lager: This lager is light, summery and has a nice nutty finish to it. Very good with spicey food (like wings!) or as a hot summer beverage. 3.75/5

Siren’s Song Pale Ale: This microbrew reminded me of Fat Tug IPA, one of my favorite beers in recent memory. It’s crisp, has a good malt taste and has a strong hop profile that is reminiscent of grapefruit and other citrus fruits. Definitely one of the better pales I’ve tried of late. 4.5/5

Beaver Brown: This ale is a good example of Victoria browns, similar to Spinnakers and Swans. The taste is smoky and tawny, but also smooth and with a nice nutty aftertaste. 4/5

Riverock Bitter: This beer is a perfect example of an ESB. Dry hopped, clean malty taste, and with a robust finish. Definitely one of the better microbrewed bitters I’ve had. 4/5

Honey Wheat: This seasonal beer is definitely one of the lightest Canoe has on tap. Like the lager, the flavor is clean and summery, but the tinge of honey grows on the palate. Perfect for spicy food, hot weather and drinking on the patio. 3.75/5

Now for the food. It doesn’t come cheap, but when you eat it, you know where the money went.

Flatbreads: I can honestly say that the presentation alone was worth the price. Served in margherita pizza fashion, it consists of cherry tomatoes, basil, crushed olives, arugula pesto, olive oil and smoked sea salt. Fresh baked and tasty!

Wings: Comparable to the better wings I’ve had on the island as of late, and with the decline of some of my favorite places, the Canoe Club just might become my new go-to wing place! They were plump, juicy, had a good level of spice, and came with a damn good blue cheese sauce. And unlike some other places, the sauce seemed to consist more of just Franks Red Hot. Nothing personal, but if you’re making wings, it seems lazy not to make your own sauce!

And now deserts…

Creme Brulee: Like wings, spinach salads, and beer, here is another thing that I like to sample wherever I can! And the Canoe’s was not only delicious, but also excelled in the key departments of consistency and firmness.

Ice Cream Sandwich: I can’t imagine a desert worth dying for, but I think this one might be worth killing for! Decadent, chocolately, good vanilla ice cream, and with fresh baked tasty cookie to sandwich it!

We shall be going back! That Winter Ale looks delectable and I haven’t had my fill of their food yet. Expect an updated review! To finish, here’s a pic my wife took the last time we were there: