Brewer: 4 Mile Brewing, Victoria, BC Style: English Strong Ale ABV: 8.2% IBUs: 40
Description: This seasonal release (which became available as of Dec.1st) is a slight twist on the brewery’s English Strong, which is aged in bourbon barrels to achieve a stronger, bourbon flavor-infused beer.
Tasting Notes: I was surprised by this entry. Ordinarily, you’d expect a dark, strong ale that’s been aged in bourbon barrels to combine some serious sugary maltiness with a strong whiskey bite. You know, a winter warmer meets a haymaker punch! However, the malt flavor was actually quite smooth and subdued while the whiskey flavor comes on mild, only to finish quite bitter. Not what I was expecting.
Appearance: Deep ruby/brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation Nose: Rich malts, tinge of alcohol, hints of whiskey and oak Taste: Smooth, rich malt base, mild whiskey bite, hint of brown sugar and dark fruit Aftertaste: Lingering whiskey bite, alcohol and coarse malt bitterness Overall: 7.5/10
Brewer: Russell Brewing Style: Wheat Wine Ale Alc/Vol: 10% IBUs: 70
Description: As part of the brewery’s Specialty Series, this extra strong ale is fashioned using fifty-percent wheat malts and fifty-percent Munich malts. The end product is then aged for four months in Tennessee Bourbon Barrels and is available seasonally.
Tasting Notes: This beer is wonderfully complex, delivering strong fruit esters, notes of vanilla and a smokey, whiskey finish. Wheat and Munich malts provide a smooth, semi-sweet base, while the presence of tannin and fruit flavors provide a lovely complexity. The process is then completed by the presence of vanilla and smokey bourbon flavor, which compliments the sweetness and fruit flavor exceptionally. Definitely one of the best beers I’ve had so far this year.
Appearance: Soft amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation Nose: Fruity nose, strong esters, cherry, vanilla, oak, and hint of whiskey Taste: Smokey and sweet start, mouth-popping cherry and oak, strong bourbon Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness, smokiness and bourbon flavor Overall: 10/10
As February gives way to March, we in the beer snob community bid adieu to the winter brewing season and prepare for the spring lineup. And I have to admit, 2012/13 was a pretty interesting year for winter brewing. Some creative, questionable, and classic things were created and I feel like taking stock. From barley wine to barrel-aged, from Belgian darks to bocks and trappists. There was plenty to choose from and all of it enjoyable.
Of course, I would be lying if I said I got to try everything I wanted to, and there are still a few I want to squeeze in before the winter is over. But overall, I’m pretty pleased with the range of samples I got to try and think that it constituted a pretty good range of styles, be they regional or historical. From the Pacific Northwest to Central and Western European, from the medieval to the modern.
And so here they are, listed from the first of the season to the most recent tried, with a few slots reserved for those that have yet to make the list for this year:
Parallel 49 Christmas CDA – Dec. 1st 9/10
Spinnakers Festive Saison – Dec. 1st 7.5/10
Thor’s Equinox – Dec. 6th 9/10
Philips Trainwreck Barley Wine – Dec. 6th 7.5/10
Lighthouse Siren Red Ale – Dec. 9th 9/10
Dead Frog Winter Beeracle – Dec. 13th 8/10
Hoyne Gratitude Winter Warmer – Dec. 14th 9/10
Chateau Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager – Dec. 18th 9/10
La Rochefort Trappist 8 – Dec. 19th 9.5/10
Orval Trappist – Dec. 21st 9/10
La Rochefort Trappist 10 – Dec. 21st 9/10
Phillips Instigator Doppelbock – Dec. 27th 8.5/10
Howe Sound Wooly Bugger – Dec.31st 10/10
Moon Under Water Potts Pils – Jan. 22nd 8.5/10
Lost Coast Winterbraun – Jan. 26th 8.5/10
VIB Storm Watcher Winter Lager – Jan. 29th 7.5/10
Phillips Twisted Oak Scotch Ale – Jan. 29th 7.75/10
Phillips Leviathan Milk Stout – Jan. 31st 8.5/10
Parallel 49 Vow of Silence – Feb. 8th 7/10
Steamworks Heroica Stout – Feb. 12th 8/10
Howe Sound Wee Beastie Scotch Ale – Feb. 12th 7.75/10
Driftwood Old Barrel Dweller – Feb. 13th 8/10
Mill Street Barley wine – yet to try
Steamworks Blitzen – yet to try
Granville Island Barley Wine – yet to try
Perhaps it’s was simply to get a well-rounded list with 25 candidates, but the last three are ones I know I have access to and really want to try before it’s too late. And once I’ve finished with them, I will rate which one I enjoyed the most. The winner for the brewing season of 2012/13! Cheers, and here’s to the ongoing and venerated tradition of seasonal brewing!