Russel Blood Alley ESB

bloodalley_esbBrewer: Russel Brewing, Surrey, BC
Style: Extra Special Bitter
Alc/Vol: 5.5%
IBU: 50

Description: This beer is named after the historic and notorious cobblestone laneway in Vancouver’s Gastown District where numerous butcher shops were located. Apparently, the laneway was also known for its many robberies, muggings and murders. As part of Russel’s Brewmaster Series, it only recently became available in six packs as well as 650 ml bottles.

Tasting Notes: Though it has a slightly higher IBU rating than most ESBs, the Blood Alley has the same subtle hop flavor due to the fact that they are added post-boil. They are also clearly local – most likely of the Cascade or Centennial variety –  imparting a slightly floral, citrusy flavor. The deep amber malts balance this out nicely and lead to an all around stronger, but faithful example of an ESB, albeit with a Pacific Northwestern twist!

Appearance: Deep copper/amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Deep, roasted, and syrupy malts, floral, citrusy hops
Taste: Smooth malt, hint of sweetness, baked bread, dry hops, subtle citrus bite
Aftertaste: Mild, lingering bitterness and dry hop flavor
Overall: 8.5/10

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Russel Hop Therapy Double IPA

Hop_Therapy_Press_ReleaseAdmittedly, Russel brewing is one operation I don’t get around to sampling much. In the past, I have had their Angry Scotch Ale, their IP’eh, their Blood Alley ESB, their VCBW Cascadian Brown Ale, and most recently, their Naughty Spiced Porter. However, very few of these beers ever got a review, and I would be lying if I were to say that I recalled what more than half of them tasted like. However, with few exceptions, I have had nothing but good things to say about this brewery. And after looking through their extended lineup and seeing what they have to offer, I have to say that I’m pretty eager to expand on my sampling repertoire.

And I’ll start with this example of their Brewmaster Limited Edition series – the Hop Therapy Double IPA – a beer that more than lives up to its name. In addition to weighing in at a hefty 9% alc/vol, the beer boasts three American hop varieties (Amarillo, Cascade and Columbus) which were added a total of six times during the kettle boil, and then twice afterwards as dry hopping. This brings its bitterness to a threshold of 100 IBUs, which is well balanced by some seriously sweet and syrupy malt flavor.

Appearance: Light amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong bouquet of floral and citrus hops, slight piney nose
Taste: Sweet, coarse malt, viscous and chewy, citrus and pine hops, resiny
Aftertaste: Lingering malt and hop bitterness, slight feeling of residue
Overall: 9/10

Basically, I would say this beer is not for the faint of heart. But it is definitely for people who insist that their beer be chock-full of flavor or just don’t mind a beer that pushes the envelope in terms of malt and hop strength. For me, it a very fitting example of a double IPA and an enticement to try more of what Russel has to offer.