Mikkeler It’s Alive!

mikkeler_itsaliveBrewer: Mikkeler Brewing, Copenhagen, Denmark
Style: Sour/Amber Ale
ABV: 8.0%
IBUs:
Unspecified

Description: This beer is part of Mikkeler’s Sour/Wild lineup, and a tribute to Orval and Trappist brewing. Employing an amber malt base, the beer is also heavily hopped and bottle-fermented using wild stbrettanomyces yeast.

Tasting Notes: While this is a fitting tribute to Orval (they managed to imitate the taste and appearance quite closely) this brew is a bit heavy on the bitterness. However, it manages to grow on you, it packs the usual punch of a sour ale with notes of sour cherry and oak, and has the strong malt base and effervescence of a Trappist-style ale.

Appearance: Dark amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Coarse malt, strong notes of oak and brettanomyces
Taste: Crisp malt, oak, sour cherry, yeasty effervescence, hop bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, bitter yeast, oak flavor
Overall: 7.8/10

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Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic Bio

Cantillon_kriek-500x500Brewer: Cantillon Brewery, Brussels, Belgium
Style: Kriek Lambic
Alc/Vol: 5%

Description: The Cantillon Brewery is a family business run by the Van Roy-Cantillons of Belgium. Committed to producing traditional Lambics, Krieks, Guezes and other traditional Belgian beers. Much like all Krieks, the beer is made using a Lambic base and then infused with sour Morello cherries, bottle-fermented, and then aged for three to five months to achieve perfect saturation.

Tasting Notes: This beer was a fitting and faithful example of a Kriek. The nose and flavor were packed with sour cherries, discernible sour yeasts, and some serious oaky flavor. For many, the potent, tart flavor might be a bit off-putting or overwhelming, but I’ve always been a fan. The rich aroma and flavor are intoxicating, exciting, and linger on the palate for some time afterwards.

Appearance: Deep burgundy, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong cherry notes, tartness, rich oak, lactic acid and yeast
Taste: Immediate burst of sour cherry, tartness, wild yeast and oak flavor
Aftertaste: Long lingering sourness and cherry flavor
Overall: 9.5/10

Scandal Paricutin Rye Triplebock

photo (1)Brewer: Scandal Brewing, Prince George, BC
Style: Triple Bock
Alc/Vol: 9%

Description: The fourth installment in Scandal Brewing’s Seven Wonders of the Beer World series, the Paricutin Rye Triplebock takes it name from the Mexican volcano that erupted in 1943 and devastated the town situated at the foot of it. The beer is brewed using five different kinds of organic barley, Hallertau Tradition hops and a special Belgian yeast for secondary bottle fermentation. Like all Scandal products, it is also made using spring water from the source the brewery is located on top of.

Tasting Notes: This beer is definitely an interesting take on the traditional bock. In addition to its enhanced strength and rye flavoring, it also has some distinct Witbier characteristics that come across in the noticeable yeast and hint of banana flavor. Other than that, it is what one would expect from a good bock, containing notes of raisins, dates, and a hint of brown sugar, and balancing all that out with more yeast flavor and a hint of rye. This is my second sampling from the Seven Wonders of the World lineup, and it’s definitely made me curious to continue.

Appearance: Dark brown, heavily translucent, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malts, rye bread, dark fruit, yeasty backbone
Taste: Syrupy malt flavor, distinct Witbier yeastyness, raisins, dates, banana
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ftertaste: Lingering rye flavor, yeast and mild fruit
Overall: 8.5/10

Mc Chouffe Ardennes Brune

mcchouffeAs a self-professed beer snob, it’s always a pleasure when I’m able to find obscure and venerated brews at my local liquor store. It’s also a pleasure when said brews extend my overall repertoire of Belgian beers. As the country that boasts more breweries per square kilometer than any other in the world, and the home of Trappist and countless other brewing traditions, they seem to be able to do little wrong.

So it was with some anticipation that I managed to procure and tilt a bottle of Mc Chouffe’s Ardennes Brune. A relatively new operations by Belgian standards, the La Chouffe operation is nonetheless pretty renowned, producing a series of traditional, unfiltered ales that are refermented in the bottle. The Mc Chouffe is the dark ale of their lineup, boasting fruitier, more sugary malts, and weighing in at a respectable 8% alc/vol.

Appearance: Dark brown, opaque, mild foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Sugary malts, molasses, brown sugar, herbs
Taste: Immediate burst of sugars, giving way to mild tang and yeast, molasses, raisins
Aftertaste: Mild bitterness and lingering herbs
Overall: 8.5/10

All in all, the Mc Chouffe dark is comparable to most Belgian brown ales I’ve tried, combining a fruity profile that is typically characterized by raisins, plums and dates with notes of sugar, molasses and spices. And of course, it compliments all this with a telltale yeasty flavor and aroma, and of course a strong dose of alcohol. I hope to sample their flagship brew, La Chouffe Blonde, in the near future. As it happens, I know just where to find it!

Corsendonk Pater Dubbel

corsendonk_paterA familiar name popped for me at the liquor store during my most recent visit. It goes by the name of Corsendonk, a Belgian brewery that I first encountered during my extensive time in the fine bistros of Vineyards and Pub Italia back in my hometown of Ottawa. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a beer by this brewery, or even which kind it was. So naturally, I snatched up one of their fine, 750ml corked bottles as soon as I could and set down to (re)sample it. In this case, it was the Corsendonk Pater, a double-fermented ale done in the traditional Belgian style of top-fermented, bottle conditioned beer.

I’ve had my share of Belgian dubbels in the past, but rarely have they been light, refreshing, and an fine example of clean drinking. But that’s the world of Belgian brewing, where a country with centuries of brewing traditions which boasts more breweries per square kilometer produces can still find ways to surprise you. So here’s what I thought of this traditional, yet surprising Belgian brew:

Appearance: Orange-brown, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Light, sugary malts, bouquet of raisins, apricots and yeast
Taste: Light, sweet malts, notes of raisins, plum fruit, champagne-like effervescence
Aftertaste: Very clean, mild taste of yeast and lingering malt
Overall: 8.5/10

Initially, I was hoping for something a little more sugary, and with stronger traces of raisins, plum fruits, and even spice. Basically, the stuff one expects from a strong Belgian ale. And yet, I couldn’t complain. Not only was it was refreshing and clean, the subtle nature of the taste was also quite pleasing. Moreover, it reminded of several other Belgian beers, such as Belle-Vue Gueze and others that incorporate champagne yeast into the fermentation process. At once bubbly, fruity, clean and mellow, this dubbel was quite the addition to my list of Belgian beers to sample!

Month of Doppelbock!

December 2010, much like November of 2010 for me, was dedicated to a specific type of beer. As usual, I went on a whim and decided to pick the very thing that seemed to be making inroads as far as craft brewing was concerned. In addition, it just happened to be seasonally appropriate. As the title suggests, that choice was Doppelbock! Enjoy!

Bock is a type of strong lager developed in Germany during the Middle Ages. It was considered the aristocrats beer of choice, beating even wine for the privilege of being the snob’s choice of libation. Doppelbock is the stronger version of this beer, meaning double, as in double-fermented. In the last few centuries, countless varieties of Bock and Doppelbock have been produced, and no one person could ever enjoy them all. But I will do my best!

Aventinus: (5/5) By Schneider-Weisse breweries, this wheat doppelbock is one of my favorite beers of all time. It is only fitting then that I dedicate my first review to it. It’s long been a source of consternation for me that I can’t find it here in BC, but since I’ve drank so many over the years, I hardly have to drink it again in order to give it a good review. For starters, this beer is a complex, challenging brew that requires some education before it can be fully appreciated. First, one should familiarize themselves with the rather unique flavor of wheat beer (weissbier or hefeweizen), and second, become familiar with the deep and rich flavor typical of doppelbock. Then, and only then, should someone try to drink this beer!

I recall ordering my first one at the Vineyards establishment, located in the Byward Market of Ottawa. I was new and asked for something tall, dark, and German (with the addendum that I wasn’t a gay man out for a fun time!). The barkeep handed my an Aventinus, which just happened to be the brew masters favorite. It struck me as odd, being fruity, malty, with notes of chocolate and a tang that was reminiscent of Jagermeister. But in time, it came to be one of my favorites, and every time I go to Ottawa for a visit, I’m sure to stock up! Available in half-liter bottles, and at 8 percent alcohol per volume, it’s also highly intoxicating! Drink up!

Joseph

My second review, which was originally posted back in November of 2010. For this particular one, I chose a relatively obscure number that can be found at Liqour Plus, but which no one in that particular store had tried just yet. It’s called Joseph, a spelt-based Belgian beer. Much like La Messagere, made right here in Canada, it’s a gluten-free beer made from a grain that is neither wheat nor barley. Hey, what can I say? It’s a new age and with gluten becoming non-grata, it’s only natural that beer would be following the path of bread, pasta, cookies, and all other traditionally gluten-based products. By I digress, the beer…

My first impression was how it was similar to la Fin du Monde. Much like this famous Belgian-style beer (fyi, also Canadian), it comes in a corked bottle and is bottle fermented. However, unlike its compatriots and Belgian-style counterparts, this beer weights in at a light 5 % alcohol per volume. The spelt also provides some relatively unique flavors, experienced both initially and with the aftertaste. The best way to describe it is semi-sweet with a dry finish. In total, I give it a 4 out of 5.

Joseph can be found at Liqour Plus stores that make a point of carrying it. I have yet to find it at the BCL or any other private store, to my knowledge. I will be looking though!

For more info on gluten-free beers, here’s a list (Joseph not included):

Gluten-free diet goods

Sidenote: be careful when opening this bottle, especially after some serious cold chilling! An impromptu attempt by my wife at removing the metal tie led to an explosive reaction, literally! Ever seen a cork riqouchet off the ceiling and land in the cat’s dish? Wouldn’t recommend it!