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.

Double Mountain Pale Death Belgian-Style Imperial IPA

doublemountain_paledeathBrewer: Double Mountain, Hood River, OR
Style: Belgian-Style Imperial IPA
ABV: 9.3%
IBUs: 93

Description: This apocalyptic-themed ale features a combination that is growing in popularity of late – the fusion of Pacific Northwestern and Belgian-style ales. In this case, pale malt and a very generous dose of Northwestern hops co-mingle with strains of Ardennes yeast to create a beer that is very powerful, but strangely balanced.

Tasting Notes: I was a little wary of this beer to begin with. An Imperial IPA that embraces elements of an extra strong Belgian ale is sure to be powerful and potentially overwhelming, maybe to its own detriment. But I really like the way that Pacific Northwest hops (Cascade, Centennial and/or Columbus for sure) play well with Belgian flavors. You’ve got the citrusy and tropical fruit flavors of of a Northwestern IPA, which are nicely balanced by the spicy, citrusy flavor of Belgian yeast. And the strength, while considerable, doesn’t intrude on the flavor. Things finish smoothly and warmly!

Appearance: Amber, cloudy, sediment, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, citrus, passion fruit, pineapple, spicy yeast, coriander
Taste: Strong malt, citrus bite, grassy, piney, yeasty, orange peel, coriander, alcoholic bite
Aftertaste: Lingering spice, yeast, alcoholic and hop bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

Unibroue Seigneuriale

Unibroue_seigneurieleBrewer: Unibroue Brewery, Chambly. QC
Style: Strong Ale
ABV: 7.5%
IBUs: 33

Description: This is the latest special release by Unibroue, a strong ale which pays homage to the Seigneuriale system and the role it played in the settlement of “New France”. Like all Unibroue’s products, it is brewed in the Belgian-style and refermented in the bottle with active yeast cultures.

Tasting Notes: This brew was best described as a stronger version of their Blanche de Chambly, a Belgian-style wheat. Much like the Blanche, it has some strong wheat malts, a yeasty backbone, and some coriander and orange zest. However, this one adds to that with some notes of pineapple in the nose and stronger, slightly sweeter malts.

Appearance: Deep orange, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Wheat malt, yeast, pineapple, hint of coriander spice
Taste: Crisp malt, tang, yeast, caramelized sugar, mild orange zest and spicy finish
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, yeast bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

Red Truck Riding Shotgun Belgian Blonde Ale

Credit: untappd.com

Credit: untappd.com

Brewer: Red Truck Brewery, Vancouver BC
Style: Blonde Ale
ABV: 6%
IBUs: 25

Description: This Belgian-style blonde ale is one of the the brewery’s many limited releases, from their “Limited 650” series. It is fashioned using Superior Pils, Vienna, and Specialty B malts, bittered with a combination of Noble, German Spalt and Saaz hops, and then aged for 21 days before being bottled.

Tasting Notes: Ever since I got back from Belgium, I have been missing good , clean-drinking blonde ales. So it’s nice when local breweries do one and do it right. Like a good blonde, this one has all the right yeasty notes, a hint of sugar, and some crisp, clean malt flavor. It also has a discernible apple cider-like scent and flavor going on.

Appearance: Light gold, clear, medium foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Sharp malt, mild hops, strong Belgian yeast, hint of sugar, apple cider
Taste: Crisp malt, mild tang, yeasty notes, hint of apple, mild tartness
Aftertaste: Lingering malt and yeast flavor, refreshing, clean finish
Overall: 8.5/10

Barkerville Prospector’s Peril Blonde Ale

Brew_HahaBrewer: Barkerville Brewing, Quesnel, BC
Style: Blonde Ale
ABV: 5.4%
IBUs: 24

Description: As part of the brewery’s regular lineup, this Belgian-style Blonde Ale is named in honor of another aspect of the Gold Rush – which was the risk prospector’s ran of going mad. Pale malt is combined with Belgian yeasts and a mild hopping to effect a light, refreshing golden ale.

Tasting Notes: This beer actually put me in mind of some of my favorite Belgian blondes. Sharp yeasts combine with a hint of sweetness, notes of honey, and mild hop bitterness to create a very refreshing and drinkable brew.

Appearance: Deep golden, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malt, strong honey notes, Belgian yeast
Taste: Grainy, crisp malt, mild sweetness, yeast, mild hops
Aftertaste: Lingering malt and yeast bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

Le Trou Du Diable Shawinigan Handshake

Latroudediable_shawiniganBrewer: Le Trou Du Diable, Shawinigan, QC
Style: Hopfenweisse
ABV: 6.5%
IBU: 42

Description: A combination of wheat and barley malt, German yeast, and West Coast Chinook hops, this hopfenweisse-inspired ale is dedicated to Prime Minister Chretien – Canada’s Prime Minister for ten years and who hails from Shawinigan.

Tasting Notes: This brew was an interesting break from my usual samplings of West Coast IPAs and Belgian strong ales. Ironic that it combined elements of both then! On the one hand, it has the smooth malt backing and fruit flavor of a good heffeweizen, and just enough bitterness and tropical flavor of a West Coast ale.

Appearance: Yellow/orange, cloudy, heavy foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malt, strong notes of peach, passion fruit, yeast
Taste: Smooth start, yeast bitterness, notes of peach, banana and cloves
Aftertaste: Lingering yeast bitterness
Overall: 9/10

Muskoka Legendary Oddity

muskoka_oddityBrewer: Muskoka Brewery, Bracebridge ON
Style: Vintage Ale
Alc/Vol: 8%

Description: This limited release Spring-seasonal ale pays homage to the legends of the lumberjacks and furtraders who experienced the mysterious culture and wildlife of the North during the 1800’s. Brewed in the Belgian style, it brings together a combination of North American malts, Noble hops, heather tips, juniper berries and sweet orange peel shavings, before being fermented with Belgian yeast and fortified with Candi sugar. The end results is then bottled and cellar aged to bring the flavors together to maturity.

Tasting Notes: This beer brought to mind many drinking experiences, all of them pleasant. First, there are the distinctive Belgian-style elements, which are similar to a good Tripel; a barley-wine in terms of the sweet and sugary notes; and a juniper pale ale with the infusion of gin-like flavor and a crisp finish. I am always happy when I get to reconnect with breweries from back east that I don’t always have access to. And this beer was definitely a lovely and worthy addition to Muskoka’s lineup.

Appearance: Gold/orange, clear with sediment, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, sugary nose, barley wine-like, floral, citrus, Belgian yeasts
Taste: Strong malts, sugars, Belgian yeast, citrus rind, crisp finish, hint of juniper
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt and yeast bitterness, juniper berry, citrus rind
Overall: 9.5/10

Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel

ChouffeHoublon330mlBrewery: Brasserie d’Achouffe, Achouffe, Belgium
Style: India Pale Ale/Tripel
Alc/Vol: 9%

Description: This crossover British and Belgian-style ale was brewed for the first time in 2006. In addition to employing three types of hops, which provide a marked bitterness, the beer is re-fermented in the bottle to provide its tripel strength and malt profile.

Tasting Notes: I was surprised to see the description of this beer, but I found the flavor quite familiar and enjoyable. It was a fitting example of a Belgian Tripel, and in many ways reminded me of Duvel because of its strong, slightly coarse malt flavor. However, this was rounded out somewhat by the hop flavor and what I assume is a lack of candi sugar in the fermentation process.

Appearance: Golden blonde, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Coarse, grainy malts, yeast, slight sugars, hints of citrus hops
Taste: Coarse malts, yeast, mild tang, hints of citrus and hop bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering malt and hop bitterness, citrus rind
Overall: 8/10

Ommegang Take the Black Stout

OmmegangIf there’s one thing I can appreciate almost as much as beer, its an inspired yarn, the likes of which that authors like George R.R. Martin (aka. “The American Tolkien”) has been known to spin. So you can imagine how enthusiastic I was when I found out that a craft brewing operation from Cooperstown, New York was partnering with HBO to create a series of beers with a Game of Thrones theme.

And this week, as part of my series on holiday beers, I finally managed to get a bottle of their Take the Black Stout, the first beer in the series. Currently, the only other is their Iron Throne Blonde, with a third – Fire and Blood – due to come out in spring of 2014. In truth, the only reason I waited this long to get into this series is because I’ve been so backlogged with new beers and just haven’t found the time to try them all. But the holidays are a good time for imbibing and catching up on things!

Named in honor of the oath taken by all the Night’s Watch, the men who stand the Wall in the GOT series and defend the Realm against all the threats from the frozen north. The stout consists of a malt base composed of Caramel, Chocolate and roasted barley, as well as Northern Brewer and Columbus hops. It is then spiced with licorice root and star anise to give it a full-bodied flavor that is coarse, slightly sweet, and has a distinct Belgian yeast flavor. And of course, it ranks in at solid 7% alc/vol, making for a

game-of-thrones-beer-take-the-black-stout-zap2itAppearance: Dark black, opaque, thick lacy dark head and good carbonation
Nose: Roasted malts, espresso, licorice, mild yeast
Taste: Bitterness, yeast, anise and citrus hops, giving way to espresso beans
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness giving way to hint of licorice
Overall: 8.5/10

Not a bad beer at all, and this is coming from a man who doesn’t normally enjoy extra strong stouts, especially ones flavored with licorice. In all honesty, it really didn’t make me think much of the Night’s Watch or the wall. Perhaps it’s because I’m a committed geek of the franchise, but I can’t imagine them enjoying a Belgian-style stout flavored with spices. That just seems to high-end for the Black Brothers! 😉

What I was reminded of was Unibroue, another Belgian-inspired operation that is also in the habit of serving its beer in three-quarter liter, corked bottles. And much like this Quebec-based operation, these folks do seem to appreciate traditional recipes while still remaining open to crossovers and experimentation. Onto the next beer and hopefully more in this brewery’s GOT series!

And be sure to check out the brewery’s website. It promises for some interesting reading 🙂