Category 12 Transmutation Specialty Belgian Ale 2016

C12_transmutationBrewer: Category 12 Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Belgian Tripel
ABV: 9.6%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: Transmutation is a limited release that did very well the last time it was around. And so they’ve decided to bring it back into circulation. And just like last time, this Belgian-style Tripel is brewed using Superior Pilsner and Belgian Caravienne malts, which are them fortified with amber Candi sugar that is made in-house. It is then bittered with a modest amount of Hallertauer and Norther Brewer hops.

Tasting Notes: This beer has once again excited and surprised me. It has the distinct notes of a Belgian Tripel, which include a strong malt base and some serious alcohol! At the same time, you’ve got Belgian Strong notes, in the form of burnt sugar flavor. And again, there are the Saison notes, in the form of some spicy, sharp, yeasty notes. And the end result is a big pleasure, and my favorite creation of theirs. I’m very glad they brought it back.

Appearance: Solid amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt base, citrus and orchard fruit, candy floss, spicy yeast
Taste: Strong malt, slightly coarse, burnt sugar, alcoholic bite, yeasty notes
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt, burnt sugar, alcohol
Overall: 9/10

Category 12 R&D 1 Belgian Golden Strong Ale

category12_logoBrewer: Category 12 Brewing, Central Saanich, BC
Style: Belgian Blonde Strong Ale
ABV: 11.2%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: Earlier this year, Category 12 launched a new series of limited release, single keg beers known as their R&D series. One installment in this series was their Belgian Strong Ale, a 10% abv Belgian-style golden ale that was brewed during Victoria Beer Week in collaboration with a group of local homebrewers led by Russ Huband.. And with the lessons learned from this previous release, C12 tweaked the recipe, re-crafted the beer, and has re-released it as their R&D 1 Belgian Golden Strong Ale.

Tasting Notes: How to describe the flavor of this beer? It was like La Fin Du Monde (a favorite Tripel of mine), except on steroids! A strong golden malt base is accentuated by notes of candi sugar, honey, mild citrus, and some serious yeasty notes. And of course, the alcoholic bite, which weighs in at a hefty 11.2%! I feel privileged that I got to sample this brew while it was still available months back, and even more so to have got a Boston Round of it today, on their official re-release day!

Appearance: Deep golden, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, sugars, hint of honey, floral notes, mild citrus
Taste: Crisp malt, yeasty backbone, hint of oak, candi sugar, alcoholic bite
Aftertaste: Lingering malt bitterness, alcohol, oak and sugary sweetness
Overall: 10/10

Townsite Zwarte Wheat

townsite_zwartewheatBrewer: Townsite Brewing, Powell River, BC
Style: Dark Witbier
ABV: 5.2%
IBUs: Unspecified

Description: Townsite’s latest offering, this beer is described as an “accidental seasonal”, meaning that its creation was no-doubt serendipitous. Combining the tradition of Witbier with the addition of midnight wheat, we get a dark take on the Belgian wheat that is just in time for summer.

Tasting Notes: I am a lover of dark wheats, but those have typically taken the form of Dunkelweizens. So it was both interesting and educational to try a dark wheat with a Belgian twist. In addition to being very smooth, clean and refreshing, it had a slight tang and a yeasty bite that could only come with Belgian yeasts and dark roasted malts. A good summer refresher!

Appearance: Deep brown/black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Gentle wheat malts, mild toasted notes, yeast, minerals
Taste: Smooth wheat malt, mild tang, yeasty bitterness, hint of sourdough bread
Aftertaste: Lingering yeast notes, clean finish, quite refreshing
Overall: 8.5/10

Four Winds Saison

Fourwinds_saisonBrewer: Four Winds Brewing, Delta BC
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: 30

Description: As part of this mainland BC-based brewery’s Standard lineup, this beer is brewed with a combination of pale malt, then bittered with Noble and Pacific Northwest Cascade hops, then fermented using Belgian Saison yeasts.

Tasting Notes: This beer came highly reviewed from my local watering hole, and is perhaps one of the better Saisons I’ve had in recent years. A good, crisp malt base is augmented by a varied hop profile which gives it some citrusy, lemony notes. A strong yeast backbone lends it a degree of effervescence, strong carbonation, and finishes things off with a spicy, fruity finish. Definitely a great operation and one I need to learn more about!

Appearance: Golden, cloudy, very good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malt, floral hops, citrus, yeasty, spicy
Taste: Crisp malt, notes of lemon and honey, yeasty effervescence
Aftertaste: Lingering yeast and malt flavor
Overall: 9.5/10

Sound Entendez Noel Belgian Style Pale Quadrupel

sound_quadrupelBrewer: Sound Brewery, Poulsbo, WA
Style: Belgian-style Quadrupel
ABV: 10.6%
IBUs: 50

Description: This special seasonal release is part of the Sound brewery’s Belgian-style lineup. It is fashioned using Belgian Pilsner malt, bittered with Motueka hops, and then fermented with cane sugar and Trappist yeast to create a strong, fruity, hoppy, and balanced quadrupel.

Tasting Notes: Another Advent Beer Calender offering, one which comes from Washington and is Belgian-inspired. Like a good quadrupel, it delivers in the flavor department with plenty of strong malt, brown sugar, and dark fruit flavor. However, there is also an interesting twist added by some Pacific Northwest hops that add some pineapple notes and hop bitterness. And of course, its got quite the alcoholic bite, but manages to remain smooth and fruity throughout.

Appearance: Amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, sugars, floral hops, citrus, raisins, tropical fruit, alcohol
Taste: Smooth malt, brown sugar, yeast, raisins, dates, pineapple, alcoholic bite
Aftertaste: Lingering alcoholic warmth, yeast, malt and fruit
Overall: 9/10

Category 12 Unsanctioned Saison

C12_unsanctionedBrewer: Category 12 Brewing, Central Saanich, BC
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.9%
IBUs: Unspecified

Description: Another Belgian-inspired creation by Category 12, the Unsanctioned Saison is part of their regular lineup. Superior Pilsner, Belgian Caravienne malts are combined with a hint of rye, bittered with Zythos hops, and then fermented using their household Belgian yeast strains.

Tasting Notes: Once again, I’ve reserved reviewing this beer until I had it in a bomber. This is the problem with living close to a brewery – it is exceedingly easy to get beer in growlers! Anyway, this brew was an exercise in balanced flavor. Crisp malts are accented by Saison yeast, which provides a nice, spicy bite. The Zythos hops and a touch rye provide some lovely balance by adding notes of pineapple and body to the mix.

Appearance: Golden/amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Crisp malt, floral, spicy yeast, mild hops, faint trace of rye and pineapple
Taste: Smooth, semi-sweet malt, yeasty tang, pineapple and rye bread, spicy yeast finish
Aftertaste: Lingering yeast, rye, and malt sweetness
Overall: 9/10

Moon Under Water Hip As Funk Farmhouse IPA

moonunderwater_hipasfunkBrewer: Moon Under Water Brewpub, Victoria, BC
Style: Farmhouse/India Pale Ale
ABV: 7%
IBUs: Unspecified

Description: Released in honor of International Women’s Day, this brew is part of a recent effort on behalf of Victoria breweries – which have women brewmaster’s – to push back against sexist attitudes and advertising in the brewing industry. Combining Belgian-style saison yeast, brettanomyces, and an IPA-level of hops, the beer is an homage to both Beglian and Northwestern-styles.

*The label art is the work of Vancouver based graphic-designer Bjauna Sorensen, and features an image of an attractive but strong-looking, non-sexualized woman.

Tasting Notes: It seems that Belgian IPAs are the trend these days. Just about every brewery I’ve sampled from in the past few months has had their own variation on this. But that’s hardly a bad thing. And this is my second sampling of this particular beer, the last time being after getting a growler of it from the brewery itself. As a rule, I prefer to review a beer after drinking it from a bomber since it means less chance of the flavor being bruised from being poured out twice. In any case, the beer boasts a very mixed palate, with saison yeast providing a sharp and spicy backbone, which is well complimented by citrus and tropical fruit flavors that come with a good dose of West Coast hops. There is also some lingering sour flavor that comes from the addition of brettanomyces. Kudos to the women of Victoria taking back brewing!

Appearance: Gold/orange, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose:  Crisp malt, saison yeast, citrus, orange, floral hops
Taste: Smooth malt, sharp, spicy yeast, notes of citrus and passion fruit, hint of sourness
Aftertaste: Lingering sharp and sour yeasts and hop bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

Ommegang Valar Morghulis Dubbel Ale

ommegang_valar_morghulisBrewer: Ommegang Brewery, Cooperstown, NY
Style: Dubbel Ale
ABV: 8%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: As part of Ommegang’s limited edition Game of Thrones theme, this beer’s name is a tribute to the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, specifically the continent of Essos where these words are a popular saying (meaning “all men must die”). This beer is brewed in the Belgian Dubbel-style, employing a dark, rich malt base and fermented in the bottle with active yeast cultures.

Tasting Notes: This is my third sampling from the GOT lineup, which has now grown to five beers. And it was really quite good, and consistent with what a Belgian Dubbel usually has to offer. The dark malts possess a rich, brown sugar-like sweetness and a slight mineral tang, plenty of yeasty goodness and some trace amounts of spice. And of course, there were lots of dark fruit esters to accompany it. It was smoother than I am used to, but this was hardly a bad thing. Looking forward to the next two!

Appearance: Deep amber.brown, clear, thick foamy head, good carbonation
Nose: Smooth malt, yeast, oak, hint of spice, cherry and dark fruit, minerals
Taste: Rich malt, mild tang, brown sugar, plums, raisins, yeast, hint of clove, minerality
Aftertaste: Lingering malt, yeast, and mineral finish, quite smooth
Overall: 8.5/10

Abandoned Abbey Belgian Style Dark Ale

bigrock_abbeyBrewer: Big Rock Brewery, Calgary AB
Style: Belgian Dark
ABV: 9.2%
IBU: 28

Description: As part of Big Rock’s Brewmaster’s edition, this dark ale is brewed in the venerable tradition of Belgian Abbeys and Monasteries. It is fashioned using Belgian Dark, Wheat, and Chocolate malts, then lightly hopped for a deep, rich, and complex brew.

Tasting Notes: Again, I am glad I was able to find a limited release beer from Big Rock, as its not readily available out here on Vancouver Island. And it was certainly enjoyable, reminding me of a good Belgian Dubbel with its rich malt, esters of dark fruit, notes of brown sugar, molasses, and plenty of yeast and spices.

Appearance: Deep brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malt nose, molasses, sugars, yeast, dark fruits, spices
Taste: Rich malt, tang, yeasts, dates, raisins, brown sugar and molasses, spicy finish
Aftertaste: Lingering malts, spices, alcohol and yeasts
Overall: 8.2/10

Unibroue Grande Reserve 17 (2014)

Unibroue_17Brewer: Unibroue, Chambly, QC
Style: Extra Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 10%
IBUs: 35

Description: This limited release from Unibroue comes but once a year to mark the brewery’s anniversary. The first batch of the Trappist-inspired ale was created in 2007 to mark their 17th, and the name has stuck since. Rich, dark malts are aged in French oak barrels, and then refermented in the bottle with active yeast culture.

Tasting Notes: The last time I sampled a Grand Reserve 17 was 2012, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the flavor has changed somewhat with the passing of time. It could be the result of better aging with this bottle, but the sugary notes were more subdued this time around. While I got a whiff of brown sugar, the overall malt flavor was much more coarse. What really came through was an effervescent, yeasty quality with a nice, spicy finish. And of course, there was the notable alcoholic punch, but which was nicely rounded out. All in all, I was reminded of both Chimay and Trois Pistoles – two other fine examples of Belgians and the Belgian-inspired!

Appearance: Dark brown, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, brown sugar, effervescent, yeasty, floral hops, alcohol
Taste: Strong malt, oaky, tang, caramelized sugar, yeasty, spicy finish, alcoholic bite
Aftertaste: Lingering malt bitterness and alcohol
Overall: 8.5/10