Phillips Super Cooper Anniversary Ale

Super-Cooper-Anniversary-AleBrewer: Phillips Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Imperial Pale Ale
ABV: 11.6%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: In honor of their anniversary, Phillips offers another specially-themed limited release brew. This time around, the theme is Donkey Kong, which alludes to the bourbon barrel-aging process the Imperial Ale goes through. The result is then dry-hopped with American varieties, giving it a flavor profile that is potent and flavorful.

Tasting Notes: I was reminded of Russel’s Nectar of the Gods with this one, though with some added octane! The bourbon barrel-aging adds a hint of smokey, vanilla-like flavor and fruity esters that pair well with the strong malt base, which is then complimented by notes of citrus, tropical fruit and herbs. And of course, the alcoholic bite, which is present throughout, but not overwhelming. Still, not a beer for the faint of heart or weak of liver!

Appearance: Dark golden, mildly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malts, bourbon, vanilla, cherry, tropical fruit, citrus, herbs
Taste: Rich coarse malt, hint of vanilla, passion fruit, citrus, whiskey bite 
Aftertaste: Lingering whiskey flavor, alcoholic bitterness, dry herbs
Overall: 8.5/10

Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller Barley Wine 2013

oldcellardweller_2013Now here is a holiday beer I was not expecting to sample. Usually when I see a beer I’ve had before, I do not feel particularly compelled to hurry up and try it again. But in this case, I heard tell from a friend and fellow zythophile (Hi Mike!) that it was quite different from its previous incarnations. This should really not have come as a surprise, as last year’s Old Barrel Dweller was quite a departure. Whereas 2011’s was the first Old Cellar I ever sampled, 2012’s was bourbon barrel-conditioned. I guess I just assumed this year’s would be back to its old self.

But as Mike pointed out, this year’s barley wine was actually quite different, in a way that made it seem more like an Imperial IPA. And in this, he was exactly right. Though it ranks in at a whopping 11.6% alc/vol, the similarities pretty much stop there. In terms of color, malt backbone, and hop content, an English-style barley wine is dark, slightly coarse, sugary, and contains strong traces of dark fruit (plums, dates, prunes, raisins, etc). This beer, on the other hand, is light in color, has a syrupy malt backbone, but is otherwise characterized by very strong hops and a powerful alcoholic bite.

Appearance: Amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong citrus nose, syrupy malts
Taste: Slightly sweet malt start, strong notes of pine, citrus, passion fruit
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness and coarse malts
Overall: 8/10

All in all, the only thing that seemed consistent about this beer with its professed style is its alcoholic content. It is certainly not a bad vintage or a bad beer, but again I feel this is a case of a “barley wine” that was mislabeled. Strangely enough, the last one was also a BC beer (Scandal Brewing’s Mt. Everest) that produced a barley wine that seemed much more like a Maibock. I sincerely hope this is not the beginning of a trend!

Trainwreck Barley Wine 2013

TRAINWRECK-2013-LABELJust in time for the holidays, Phillips is once again back with their annual Trainwreack Barley Wine. This year, much like last, they have decided to release their extra strong ale to a bourbon barrel-aging process in order to produce an ale that is strong (10% alc/vol), yet smooth, and has a strong whiskey tang. This is the second year in a row that they have gone this route, whereas their 2011 was just the barley wine without any whiskey-infusion. As I’ve said before, I preferred the original and feel that Phillips has been on an inexplicable Bourbon kick for the past few years.

Nevertheless, they seem committing to making ales that have that extra kick. And the end result is hardly unpleasing or unappetizing, and is pretty much what one would expect from a faithful example of an American Barley Wine that is infused with a bit of Bourbon flavor. It pours out dark and clear, has a good head and carbonation, has some smooth malt the tastes of molasses, dark sugar, dark fruits (dates, plums and raisins), and is of course punctuated by a strong whiskey tang and bite.

Appearance: Dark brown amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong whiskey notes, dark malt, brown sugar and molasses
Taste: Dark malt, molasses, dark fruits, strong burst of bourbon tang and bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering malt and whiskey notes, slight sourness and bitterness
Overall: 7.5/10

Definitely something to keep you warm around the fire! Between two annual barley wines, their Twisted Oak Red Ale and Bock, they’ve managed to barrel-age four limited release so far. Can’t imagine what they’ll do next…