St. Feuillien Tripel

Brewer: Brasserie St. Feullien, Le Rœulx – Belgique
Style: Belgian Tripel
ABV: 8.5%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: This beer has a white, smooth and very compact head. Its pale amber colour is very characteristic revealing a distinctive maltiness. It has a rich aroma with a unique combination of aromatic hops, spices and the typical bouquet of fermentation – very fruity. Secondary fermentation in the bottle gives it a unique aroma due to the presence of yeast. St-Feuillien Triple has a very strong and exceptionally lingering taste thanks to its density and its long storage period. Whether served as a refreshing aperitif in summer or savoured during the winter months, the Triple is a connoisseur’s beer par excellence.

Tasting Notes: This beer is certainly consistent with what I’ve come to expect from a Tripel, and in some ways, reminiscent of Duvel. It is straw golden in hue, semi-cloudy, and has hints of clove, honey and spice on the nose. These come through in the flavor department as well, starting subtle and lingering on the palate, and with a yeasty tang to punctuate things. A good sipping beer, refreshing despite its strength.

Corsendonk Agnus Tripel Ale

Corsendonk-Agnus_tripel-33-1_1024x1024Brewer: Brouwerij Corsendonk, Turnhout, Belgium
Style: Tripel
ABV: 7.5%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: Corsendonk Agnus is the brewery’s take on the traditional Belgian Tripel. True to this tradition, it combines a generous dose of pale malt with a mild hopping, and is then bottle-fermented using active yeast cultures. And the end result is a brew that is rich, malty, crisp and bubbly, and none too shy about its alcohol content.

Tasting Notes: Corsendonk is kind of a big deal as far as the Belgian beer game goes. In the past, I’ve had their Pater a few times, so I was pretty pleased to see their Tripel available locally. And I was quite impressed with it. In addition to all the things I’ve come to love about Tripels – rich malt, strength, lots of yeasty flavor – the Corsendonk Agnus manages to pull all of that with a degree of subtlety. Its drinkable and refreshing on top of it all, which is a nice plus.

Appearance: Golden-orange, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, sugars, citrus, floral nose, coriander spice, yeast
Taste: Rich, crisp malt, hint of sugar, honey, coriander spice, yeasty effervescence
Aftertaste: Lingering notes of honey, yeasty bitterness
Overall: 9/10

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

Four Winds Triplicity Belgian Tripel

Fourwinds_tripelBrewer: Founds Winds Brewing, Delta, BC
Style: Tripel
ABV: 9%
IBUs: 33.3

Description: As part of their Eurus series, the Triplicity is brewed in the tradition of Belgian-style Tripels, but with some added twists. In addition to employing three varieties of malt, three varieties of hop, and three sugar sources, this brew is also fermented with Lillooet wild sage honey. It even weighs in at an exact 33.3 IBUs!

Tasting Notes: Just about everything Four Winds produces has come with a major endorsement. And I was very happy to see that they produce a Tripel, one of my absolute favorite styles! And this brew is not only delightfully esoteric (all things in threes) it is also in keeping with the best of this brewing tradition. Strong malt flavor, a spicy and effervescent yeast backbone, a slight honey and sugary sweetness, and some mild hops make it an all around pleaser!

Appearance: Golden/orange, cloudy, very good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, yeast, spices, honey, herbs, floral hops
Taste: Crisp malt, hint of sweetness, spicy, effervescent yeast, notes of honey
Aftertaste: Lingering malt sweetness, yeast, spices
Overall: 9.5/10

Brouwerji Van Steenberge Gulden Draak

gulden_drakBrewer: Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V., Ertvelde, Belgium
Style: Dark Triple Ale
ABV: 10.5%

Description: This brew takes it name and logo from the dragon that sits atop the Belfry of Ghent, one of three medieval towers that overlook the old city center of Ghent, Belgium. This dark triple is one of several beers brewed by the Van Steenberge brewery in the town of Ertvelde and uses dark malts, a mild dose of hops, and wine yeast for secondary fermentation in the bottle.

Tasting Notes: I first tried this beer back in Ottawa, many years ago. Lucky for me I found a steady supply again and decided to give it a proper review, for I seriously forgot what it tasted like, which is pretty fantastic. Rich, sugary malts packed with notes of dark fruits combine with a yeasty backbone, resulting in a tasty, velvety flavor that is surprisingly smooth in spite of the alcohol content. Definitely something that requires re-re-sampling!

Appearance: Dark brown/amber, very cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dark malt, yeasty, demerera sugar, white wine
Taste: Smooth malt, brown sugar, flavors of dates, raisins, grape, yeasty effervescence
Aftertaste: Lingering malt and yeasty notes, hint of spice
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

Steamworks Blitzen

steamworks_paleYears back, while in Vancouver, the wife and I had a chance to visit the brewpub and I can recall enjoying a tall, frosty Trappist glass of this winter ale. Since that time, it has been damn near impossible to find  bottle of it on the island. As a tribute to the style of Belgian Tripel ales, it was not only strong, malty, and highly yeasty, it was highly reminiscent of one of my favorite beers of all time – La Fin Du Monde.

The beer is golden blonde, slightly cloudy, spicy, malty, mildly hoppy (20 IBUs), and has a strong alcoholic punch (9% alc/vol). Brewed with Pilsner malt, flavored with Fuggles and Sterling hops, this beer is also = in true-Belgian fashion – fermented with some added candi sugar. The end result is a strong ale that has both subtle and saccharine malts, calls to mind the flavors of a Bavarian lager as well as a good-old fashioned Belgian Tripel, with just a hint of Duvel.

Appearance: Golden, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Belgian yeast, semi-sweet, sharp and spicy malts
Taste: Strong malt start, mild tang, spicy yeast notes, mild hop bite and alcohol
Aftertaste: Mild yeast and lingering malt flavor, sharp and clean
Overall: 8.5/10

Glad I could finally find some of this beer in the bottle. As always, seasonal beers are a rare and delightful treat, and Steamworks has generally been known to produce some pretty impressive seasonal specialties in addition to their regular lineup.

The Six Pack Project: BC!

6pack-logo1Today, I have honor of taking part in something new. Specifically, its a project that brings beer snobs and lovers from across the continent – and indeed, the world at large – together in our shared fondness for one of mankind’s oldest spirituous beverages. It’s known as the “Six Pack Project”, a campaign that was started by blogger Bryan Roth who shares his love of beer through his website This Is Why I’m Drunk.

And the rules of the project are really quite simple. Every month, six bloggers are featured where they select six beers that they feel best represents their locality and/or its beer culture. The selections must be brewed in-state (or in my case, province) and should be year-round varieties as much as possible, though seasonals are also acceptable. With these basic criteria in mind, I set about trying to select six beers that I felt best represents British Columbia’s brewing culture.

And here’s what I came up with, a list not only of individual brews but the varieties I wanted to cover. As anyone who has ever experienced BC’s beer culture knows, we produce a wide variety of styles, which is very much reflective of our cultural diversity and heritage. As such, the styles I felt I should cover needed to include the best local representations of British, American and Continental European brewing. And so, here are my six choices for BC brewing styles and the beers that I feel best represents them:

India Pale Ale – Central City Red Racer IPA:
red_racer_ipaDefinitely a contender for the best India Pale Ale in BC, if not the entire country, Central City’s Red Races has everything that a fan of Pacific Northwester IPAs have come to expect. This includes a rich amber hue, a strong and floral hop aroma, and a taste that proceeds in waves. This begins with a syrupy, slightly sweet malt flavor, then gives way to a citrusy blend hops that are highly reminiscent of grapefruit before finishing with a lingering bitterness. Strong, yet balanced, it also manages to be quite refreshing, which is not easy when dealing with your maltier, hoppier brand of India Pale Ale. So really, what you get is a very well rounded beer with a wonderful balance of characteristics. Add to that a respectable alcohol content of 6.5 % per volume and you’ve got a winner!

Brown Ale – Cannery Naramata Nut Brown Ale:
Naramata
British Columbia is renowned for producing some mighty fine brown ales, but Cannery’s Naramata Nut Brown remains one of the smoothest and pleasing ones I’ve had to date. Dark and almost stout like in its appearance, this brown is very smooth to taste, but packs a viscous, chewy mouth feel and some very toasty malts that do a nice dance on the tongue. All of this is then rounding out with a nice hop finish and some well-placed chocolate notes. And consistent with its name, it also has a slight nutty profile that calls to mind the taste of cashews and other roasted, harvest nuts.

Session Ale – Lighthouse Tasman Ale:
tasman_aleProduced by Victoria’s own Lighthouse brewery, the Tasman is an session ale that is brewed with local malts but has the distinction of being flavored with hops imported from the Tasman region of New Zealand – hence the name and label art. The result is an light amber-colored ale with a light head that is reminiscent of both a good Northwestern Pale Ale and an ESB. This comes through in the slightly sweet, syrupy malts and the hop profile that is at once citrusy, subtle, multilayered and reminiscent of a dry-hopped bitter. On top of that, it maintains a respectable 5% alc/vol, despite being a session ale, and finishes quite clean and refreshing, making it an all-around pleaser!

Flanders Red – Driftwood Belle Royale Sour Cherry Ale:
bellelogo-sour
As part of Driftwood’s Bird of Prey series, Belle Royale is the third Flanders-style sour ale produced by this brewery. And in my opinion, it is the best so far. This may have to do with the fact that in all previous cases, I was automatically reminded of the tart taste of sour cherries when I sampled them. So it seemed ridiculously appropriate that they chose to fashion one that actually incorporated the fruit this past year. Combined with an oak barrel-aging process and the addition of specialized yeast that brings out the lactic acid, this beer has several layers of flavor which the accomplished beer drinker will enjoy sorting through. It begins with a burst of tart cherries, then proceeds to an oaky  flavor similar to a dry red wine, and then on to a lingering flavor of mild sugars, yeasts and tart fruit flavor. And at 8% alc/vol, it also packs quite the punch!

Belgian Triple – Townsite YOGN 82 Belgian Triple:
townsite_yogn82
Located in Powell Rivers’ historic Townsite district, this brewery is the chief purveyor of beer to the Sunshine Coast, and arguably one of the best breweries in all of BC. And it is without exaggeration that I say that their YOGN 82, the second beer in their Hulk Series, is one of the better Belgian Triple’s that I’ve ever had. Between its golden blonde hue, distinctive Belgian nose, strong malts, hints of banana, and an oaky aftertaste, it has just about everything I have come to know and love about this distinctive style of beer. But one difference which sets it apart is the added kick of citrus and sugary malts, which add some more dimension to the flavor. And like all good Triples, it weighs in at a hefty 9% alc/vol. To be nurtured slowly, and with care!

Hefeweizen – Moon Under Water Victorious Weizenbock:
logo_weizenbock2
Last, but certainly not least, is my current favorite wheat beer that is brewed right here in-province. Produced by Moon Under Water, another brewery located in the heart of Victoria, the Victorious Weizenbock is also my favorite beer out of their entire lineup. Basically, it incorporates the styles of a hefeweizen and a bock to produce something that is truly interesting and harmonious. This comes from the combination of Canadian wheat, German Munich and Chocolate malts, along with New Zealand hops, specialized yeast, and a bock lagering process. And what comes out of all this is a beer that is smooth and tawny at first, then transitions into the sweet and rich, and has notes of banana, clove spice, chocolate, and a nicely spicy, yeasty aftertaste to round it all out. And at 8.2% alc/vol, it’s no slouch in the strength department!

Believe me when I say this was a tough process and I had some hard calls to make. If I could expand on this, I definitely would. But what can you do? Rules are rules, and there’s only so many spots for top contenders. Here’s hoping it helps some people out there in their ongoing quest to find new and interesting beers to try!

More Six Pack Projects from around the world:

  • Connecticut by Kristen at Now Beer This!
  • Indiana by Rebecca at The Bake and Brew
  • Maine by James at Insurance Guy Beer Blog
  • Minnesota by Paige of Alcohol by Volume
  • Montana by Ryan of Montana Beer Finder
  • Oregon by Chris at I Think About Beer

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Phillips Monkey Drummer and the Incomplete Octave

monkey-drummer-label-cropped-e1373999969432That’s quite the long name, but after so many specialty and limited releases, you gotta figure the people at Philips have to get creative. Released in honor of their 11.9th anniversary, and brewed to a strength of 11.9 % alc/vol – because apparently anything reaching 12% puts it into a new tax bracket or something – this beer is a very strange combination, and calls to mind their Pandemonium 11th Hour Anniversary IPA, but a lot more so! Whereas that beer was discernible in terms of style and just cranked to the point of being extra strong, this beer kind of falls on the far side of indefinable.

Monkey-DrummerAt once cloudy, extra-strong, and loaded with hops and alcohol, its pretty much a mashup, somewhere between an Imperial IPA and a Belgian Tripel, albeit an extra strong one. And once you pour this beer out and begin to sample it, you’ll begin to understand the interesting and colorful description behind it:

This hop-beast drinks like a chimp fisted blast beat from a subtribe percussionist. Slightly off tempo and heavier than a gorilla playing 12 bar blues.

Yeah, that about covers it! It’s hoppy, but that takes a back seat to the ham-fisted alcoholic punch in the mouth! And the oaky, tripel-like malts are also subdued when compared to the sheer alcohol content. In short, drinking this beer is like locking your lips with a freight train! Not to be consumed when operating heavy machinery…

Appearance: Light blonde, slightly cloudy, medium foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong citrus hop scent, sweet, coarse malts, mild tropical fruit
Taste: Slightly sweet start, followed by quick hit of alcohol, mild oak, bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering alcohol bitterness and mild hops
Overall: 7.5/10

While I am tempted to give this beer high marks for being just so damn powerful, I am forced to mark it down for taste. Basically, there isn’t much to speak of. The alcohol taste overpowers both the hop content and the malt profile, which is too bad because they both seem like they would be nice if allowed to come through. Still, this beer has to be the strongest I’ve had in recent memory. You have to respect that much about it!