Lighthouse Siren Imperial Red Ale

Frosty glass of red beer isolated on a white background. File contains a path to cut.Hello and welcome to another installment in the Winter Beer series! Today’s feature is Lighthouse’s Siren Imperial Red Ale, a winter seasonal and the latest in their “Big Flavor” series. Since its inception, I’ve had mostly good things to say about the this expanded lineup, mainly because of the dedication it shows to craft brewing and experimentation. In fact, pretty much everything that has been coming out of the Lighthouse brewery in the last few years has been demonstrative of this commitment, including the Switchback IPA and Tasman Ale which have become part of their regular lineup.

But it’s really with the Big Flavor series that the brew masters at Lighthouse have been especially experimental and bold, combining various traditions and a wide array of ingredients to create distinct, challenging beers. And, consistent with the other members of the series – Deckhand Belgian Saison, Shipwrecked Triple IPA, Navigator Doppelbock, Overboard Imperial Pilsner, and Uncharted Belgian IPA – this beer has rich malts, generous hops, and at 8% alc/vol, packs a good punch!

Appearance: Dark red-amber, clear and low foam retention
Nose: Rich, floral and citrus hop aroma
Taste: Immediate burst of citrus, giving way to rich malts, viscous, semi-sweet
Aftertaste: Bitter finish, coarser malt taste and citrus rind
Overall: 9/10

Congratulations, Lighthouse. Of the eight beers in your Big Flavor series I have now sampled seven and highly approved of six. Only the Belgian Black was not my speed, and I plan to try the Dark Chocolate Porter soon. In the meantime, stay tuned for more winter beers, including some new reviews from Hoyne and Tree Frog!

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Big Flavor!

As promised, the full review of the Big Flavor series by Lighthouse, from July 2011.

Awhile back, I reviewed a beer brewed by Lighthouse that goes by the name of Navigator Doppelbock. As I’m sure I mentioned at the time, this beer is part of their Big Flavor series, a series which I have now completely sampled and am ready to review! In truth, I didn’t realize until today that I had tried everything in this new lineup. In fact, it was months ago, during my month of IPA’s, that I tried the first in that series – Shipwrecked Triple IPA. And when the month of Doppelbock rolled around, Navigator became number two. How coincidental! The third in the lineup, Deckhand Belgian Saison, slipped in there somewhere. And as of the other night, Overboard Imperial Pilsner graced my palate, thus completing the series. So let me describe each in detail, recapping some of what I’ve said with some new thoughts. (note: the scores may have also changed, reflecting my evolving opinion of them, and how well they stack up against each other).
Shipwrecked Triple IPA: Strong, dark, and powerful! And I mean that in terms of both alcohol and hop content. At 10% alc/vol, and being triple fermented, its stronger than most IPA’s, hence the name. Though IPAs may be part of our nautical history, no one should ever consider boating after drinking a few of these. Not the most drinkable, but thoroughly enjoyable and good for bragging rights! 3.75/5

Navigator Doppelbock:
A characteristic example of doppelbocks, this brew is strong and hoppy, but has a malty, tawny taste and sweet finish that balance it out well. Also quite strong, being 8.5 %alc/vol, which is typical of a double-fermented, bock beer. A little on the heavy side, but a fitting drink for red meat dishes, or as an after-dinner dessert drink. 3.75/5

Deckhand Belgian Saison:
A faithful example of a Belgian-style beer, combining the flavors of a Heffewiezen and Pilsner through the addition of wheat with Vienna and Pilsner hops. It combines this mixed malty composition with a fruity, refreshing finish. At 8% alc/vol, and with a comparatively light profile, its good with most foods or on its own, especially on a hot day! Not sure which Saison they had in mind, but my money’s on summer! 4/5

Overboard Imperial Pilsner:
Wasn’t sure what to expect from this one, but I was pleasantly surprised! For one, it says Pilsner, but its strength would lead one to believe that it was a cross with something else, like an IPA, or that it was double or triple fermented. And upon tasting it, I could have sworn that that was the case. Apparently, its a straight Pilsner, extra strong at 8.5 alc/vol, but the hop profile is highly reminiscent of an IPA. Which makes for both a delicious taste and refreshing beer, excellent when served ice cold. Best one yet! 5/5

And kudos to Lighthouse for creating this series in the first place. Seasonal beers are nice, but year-round specialties are even better!

Navigator Doppelbock

Continuing with my theme for Dec of 2010, I dedicated this next review to a local favorite by Lighthouse Brewery. Not only was it the second installment in my “Month of Doppelbock” series, it was the second in the line of “Big Flavor” beers by Lighthouse that I would come to sample and enjoy. Look for the full review of the “Big Flavor” series, coming up in a few posts!

It’s called Navigator Doppelbock, and is part of their “Small Brewery-Big Flavour” line which includes last month’s Shipwrecked (see below). Weighing in at a hefty 8.5 percent alcohol, this customer has strong malts and hops but is balanced by a sweet, smooth finish. It is like most Doppelbocks in that it delivers a strong punch in a velvet glove. A little too sweet for me, but that’s a matter of personal preference. As far as Doppelbock’s go, it delivers and is faithful to the brewing tradition, not to mention a pleasure to drink. 4/5 for this one!
Honourable Mention: (3.75/5)Old Cellar Dweller Barley Wine. Though not a doppelbock, I felt this brew was close enough to sneak in. And since I am a big fan of the Driftwood Brewery (especially since the creation of Fat Tug IPA), I also wanted to give it a review. Much like Doppelbock’s, barley wines are renowned for their strength, intensity, and fruity flavour. This beer is certainly no stranger to any of those qualifiers, being strong, sweet, and with intense tawny flavour! It’s also a whopping 12 percent alcohol, so its not for the uninitiated or faint of heart. All that being said, not my favorite barley wine. It’s strength and sweetness can be overwhelming at times, which is not good if all you’re looking for is an enjoyable drinking experience. If, however, you are looking for a challenge and aren’t afraid of getting a little smashed, then it’s right up your alley!

Month of IPA’s (continued)

November 2010, the month that was dedicated to India Pale Ale’s. Here was my second post for that month, encompassing all the beers I managed to find, sample, and review. It was a perfect cross-section of the obscure (at least to me), the new, and the enduringly famous. So here they are, in sequential order from least to most appealing:

Thunderhead IPA:(3/5) By Pyramid Brewing, from California, this IPA is pretty light by Canadian standards. While the overall alcohol and hop content is consistent with a regular IPA, it is smooth in a way that is typical of many west-coast US beers. This can be a good or bad, depending on your preference. For those who love hoppy beers, it can be a bit of a letdown, but it makes for a more accessible, drinkable beer.

Shipwrecked IPA: (4/5) By Lighthouse Brewery, made here in Victoria, this beer is part of their Small Brewery-Big Flavour line. At 10 percent alcohol, it is truly strong, even for an IPA, and only for those who are already familiar with this type of brew. Much like a true IPA, it combines strength with heavy malts and a floral, even piney, aftertaste taste that lingers quiet nicely. I recommend it, but only for people looking to sample outside the mainstream of IPA’s, or the experimentally minded.

Brutal IPA: (4/5) By Rogue Breweries, from Oregon, this is yet another big hit by Rogue who are known for their signature microbrews and are committed to excellence in everything they do! As you might guess, I’m a big fan and found this beer very enjoyable. It lives up to the name, being both strong and very hoppy. With floral notes and a strong, crisp taste, its very much in keeping with the tradition of IPA’s. Keep in mind that the name is no idle boast. It is strong to the point of brutality and should only be enjoyed by those who know (and love) their IPA’s!

90 Minute IPA: (4.5/5) By Dogfish Head, located in Denver, this brew was declared by Esquire magazine as being “possibly the best IPA in America.” Having tried it more than once, I can honestly say they may very well be right. Crisp, clean, hoppy and strong, this beer lives up both to the IPA tradition and the high standard set by Dogfish Head. Much like Rogue, they are a brewery that can do little wrong in my eyes and I’m always interested to see what they’ll make next.

Fat Tug IPA: (5/5) As they say, save the best for last! This customer, brewed by Driftwood Brewery right here in Victoria, is the best IPA I’ve had in awhile. It is a true IPA, bringing both strength and a powerful, fruity palate to the table. The result is a crisp, clean taste that both smells and tastes like grapefruit and melon. I was pleased not only with the beer itself but also to find out that this new release is now a permanent part of their repertoire! Challenging, not for everyone, but that’s the point of IPA. Much like the Lord, it hates a coward!

(Dis)honourable Mention: Alexander Keith’s IPA. (1/5) Okay, I know knocking this beer is like knocking a proud Canadian tradition, not to mention the beer of choice for millions of undergrad students, but I got to speak my mind here! For years, I have sat idly by in bars and pubs and watched people order this beer, thinking they were sampling an actual IPA. But they weren’t! From the moment I tried Scotch-Irish’s Sergeant Major, I knew something had to be said. While Keith’s may have started out as a true IPA, brewed in the Maritimes for export to British Troops in India, it has since evolved (or devolved) into its current form.

While it is drinkable and certainly inoffensive, it doesn’t constitute an IPA by any stretch of the imagination or even the definition. IPA’s are supposed to be offensive! They are by their very nature brews that are tough to handle and should only be enjoyed by people who know their stuff! It is not a beer that was ever intended for mass production or accessibility. And quite frankly, if “inoffensive” or “drinkable” are the best things you can say about a beer, then you know there’s something wrong! It generally means that the beer is tasteless, being brewed in mass quantities for consumption by people who don’t care about quality and taste, just getting drunk. “Get’s the job done” is another indicator of quality-less beer, which usually translates to “cheap and easy-drinking” (aka. gets you drunk!)