Breakside Liquid Sunshine Pilsner

breakside-pilsner-breaks-22863-4zBrewer: Breakside Brewery, Portland OR
Style: Pilsner
Alc/Vol: 5.1%

Description: Located in Portland (with a second taproom/brewery in Milwauki, OR), the Breakside Brewpub has been making handcrafted beers for many years and has created a wide variety in that time. The Liquid Sunshine Pilsner is part of their current, regular lineup and is available year-round on tap at both of their locations, as well as for commercial sales and export.

Tasting Notes: This Pilsner was exceptionally crisp and refreshing and had a nice finish to it that was clean without being watery. The flavor profile was also very consistent with a good Pilsner, calling to the mind the grainy flavor of Munich malts and the sharp, grassy flavor of Saaz and Hallertau hops. Definitely a good hot weather beer, or just something for when you’re craving a good, clean lager.

Appearance: Light golden, cloudy, medium foam retention and good carbonation
Nose:  Gentle smell of Munich malts and Noble hops
Taste: Light grainy malt flavor, mild tang, crisp hop bite, mild bitterness and grassyness
Aftertaste: Mild lingering bitterness and malt flavor, very clean and refreshing
Overall: 9/10

Advertisements

Clocktower Brewhouse

beer_taps.jpg

Hello all. As promised, I made it out to the first of the many brewpubs I intend to visit while here in Ottawa, and have returned to share what I learned. As I might have mentioned already, the Clocktower is an old haunt that my friends and I used to hang out at all the time. And while the lot of them enjoyed drinking cider, my fondest memories were for the microbrews themselves. Since I left Ottawa, their operation has expanded to the point where they now have four locations spread across town.

Last night, the friends and I convened there for some much needed catch-up time, some food and drinks. And I did my best to sample the entire lineup, though I did need a little help. Here’s what they had to offer and how it all went down…

Wishart’s ESB:
This is one of my favorites from the old days and was therefore the first that I tried. A traditional English Extra-Special Bitter, the beer is light amber in color, clear, and has a good foam head and carbonation. In terms of smell, what immediately comes through as some syrupy malts, a hint of sweetness, and a dry hop aroma. A slight tang, mild toffee and baked bread are immediately apparent on the tongue, followed by some dry, grassy hops. The beer finishes with a lingering tang, malt and herbal notes, an all around pleaser! 8/10

Clocktower Red:
This one will always be known as Fenian Red to me, regardless of how they change the name over time. This beer is dark red, clear, and with a creamy head and good carbonation, the beer has notes of peat, smoke, and rich malts on the nose. The taste is loaded with syrupy, saccharine malts, with a slight smokey edge and a crisp, bitter dose of hops. The beer finishes with a lingering hop bitterness and some more traces of syrup malts. 8.5/10

Bytown Brown:
Another classic, one which I enjoyed often when I frequented the pub back in the day. This beer pours a deep, dark brown, is clear, and has good foam retention and carbonation. The nose is packed with coffee and chocolate malts, reminiscent of a good, solid stout. This impression continues well into the flavor department, which consists of toasted malts, traces of cocoa, espresso, and a dose of bitter hops. The beer then finishes with more traces of chocolate, hop and coffee bitterness. 8.5/10

Raspberry Wheat:
Another brew that takes me back. It seemed that in the summer of 98, shortly after the pub first opened, every craft brewer was producing their own version of a fruit-infused Krystalweizen. So naturally, I was sure to try the Clocktowers, and I can say it hasn’t changed a bit over the years. The beer pours of a light golden color, is clear, and has good foam retention and carbonation. The nose contains mild yeasts and wheat malts and a good dose of raspberry sweetness. The flavor is much the same, opening with a light tang, traces of wheat and yeast, and a strong tart/sweet fruit flavor. The finish is clean, with small traces of fruit and malt, and is quite refreshing. 8.5/10

Kolsch:
The Clocktower’s take on a venerable German altbier, the Kolsch is now their flagship beer. Light in color, clear, and has good foam retention and carbonation. The nose contains traces of apple and honey, mild hops and subtle malts. In terms of flavor, the beer is very clean, has traces of apple, and possesses some pilsner-like hop crispness. The finish is clean, with some mild malts and lingering grassy hops. 8/10

Pumpkin Ale:
As the brewhouse’s seasonal product, I was absolutely sure to try the Pumpkin ale before calling it a night. And honestly, this beer was the most impressive sampling of the evening. Golden-orange in color, clear, and with good foam and carbonation, this beer smells of nutmeg, allspice, and pumpkin pie. In terms of taste, it has a big burst of spice, semi-sweet pumpkin-infused malts, and a long, lingering finish packed with spice and thick malts. 9/10

Not a bad visit, and it is encouraging to see a favorite old hangout doing so well. Tonight, we go back to Vineyards to pay it another visit and find out if its still one of the best damn bistros and places to get obscure beers in town! More to follow, stay tuned…

Base Camp Brewery Has Arrived!

basecamp_ipl
It seems there’s no end to the amount of beer coming up from the south lately. In addition to American, Diamond Knot, and Skagit, a great deal of hubbub is also being made by the operation known as Base Camp Brewing, which like many stellar brewing operations comes to us from Portland, Oregon. I was immediately drawn to their spot in the aisle when I noticed that they store their beer in aluminum tallboys, much like Surgenor brewing – may she rest in peace – used to do.

As it stands, only two beers in their lineup are available locally. And after having tried both, I was quite impressed. This included their IPA and Pilsner, which combined some serious authenticity with just enough experimentation to make them surprising.

In-Tents Lager:
in-tents_IPLThe flagship beer of the brewery, this beer is one of the few that makes it to export. And unlike many India Pale Lagers I’ve tasted in recent years, this beer manages to marry the best of both worlds – rich malts and a strong hop bite with the clean-tasting, refreshing qualities of a lager – without compromising on either. According to the commercial description, this beer is dry-hopped with a combination of Pacific Northwest hops and aged in caskets of toasted white and red oak. The end product is then lagered, which creates a beer that is at once malty, dry, fruity and sugary, but also refreshing and crisp. The play on words that is this beer’s name is clearly well-deserved.


Appearance:
Orange-amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation

Nose: Strong malts, sweet, citrusy hops, ruby red grapefruit
Taste: Sweet and sugary malts, strong citrus, pine, passion fruit hops
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness, mild fruity notes
Overall: 9/10

Ripstop Rye PIls:
ripstop-rye-pilsAnother beer that is available for export, the Ripstop Rye Pils is the breweries reinterpretation of the classic pilsner lager beer. Basically, this beer is a marriage of traditional Pilsner with west coast hops and toasted rye malt. This results in a beer that smells of European malt and noble-type hops are discernible, as are some interesting traces of orchard fruits. In terms of flavor, the characteristic Pilsner taste mingles with some spicy rye notes, added fruit, and some grassy hops. And of course, it all finishes off crisp, clean, with a little lingering spice for emphasis. Quite the pleasing and refreshing hot weather beer and well paired with spicy foods. I think this one just might be a contender for my “Beer that tames the fire” list.

Appearance: Light golden blonde, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Sharp hops, mild fruit, notes of peach and plum
Taste: Immediate tang, slightly bitter, grassy hops, rye spice, touch of peach
Aftertaste: Lingering crisp hop flavor, discernible rye aftertaste
Overall: 9/10

From just a passing glance at their website, I can see there are many left to try. Apparently, their expanded lineup includes 19 beers, ranging from a Pale Ale to a Sessional, from a Saison to a Doppelbock. I can only assume that many of these are only available on tap and not for sale outside of the local brewpubs. Guess I’ll just have to arrange a road trip!

Two American IPAs

IPA_1This week, I managed to pick up an assortment of new beers, most of which are premiering at my local beer stores for the first time. And with few exceptions, just about all of them are from south of the border, coming to us from Washington state and Oregon. Given that these states happen to hold some of the greatest breweries in the Pacific Northwest, and perhaps even the world, they are certainly good company. Being new to me, they also had some rather stiff competition!

I started my sampling and reviewing with two IPAs, both of which are from Washington state. These were the Diamond Knot Brewery’s own IPA, and Skagit River’s Sculler IPA. The former comes from the craft brewing operation of the same name that owns two restaurants and a brewhouse in Mukilteo and on Camano Island, while the latter brewpub is located in Mount Vernon.

Diamond Knot India Pale Ale:
diamondknot_ipaAccording to the commercial description, this hop-forward IPA was designed with balance in mind, combing a solid malt base with good hoppiness. And for the most part, they accomplished this. But my initial tasting differed from what is advertised in some key respects. For example, the description also claims the beer possesses notes of grapefruit and cedar while the malt is characterized by caramel. While I certainly detected strong notes of grapefruit citrus on the nose and palate, the rest of the hops could only be described as lemony and grassy.

In addition, the malt was somewhat light in color, at least compared to what I’ve come to expect from an IPA. And though there was some caramel sweetness, it was largely coarse, perhaps due in part to presence of powerful hop flavors. Still, it was a pleasing beer and certainly not lacking in India Pale Ale characteristics.

Appearance: Light amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Sweet malt, citrus, lemony, grassy hops
Taste: Immediate bitterness, coarse malts, mild caramel, notes of herbs and lemon
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness and grassiness, citrus rind
Overall: 8/10

Skagit River Sculler IPA:
scullers_ipaAs the brewery describes it, this IPA is basically a “roasty, dry version of an old London style” ale, with of course a generous hopping to ensure it meets the single-greatest requirement of an IPA. And I could certainly sense this inspiration when I began sampling it, as I noted some interesting malts that are not usually present in a Pacific Northwestern IPA. Whereas these tend to have malts that are sweet and coarse, this beer possessed a more gentle and smooth malt profile which contained more of a toffee flavor, a mixed fruity nose, and some mild skunk. Naturally, the hops came through in full force, possessing some strong citrus and combining it with a hint of peach, which was a bit of a surprise.

Appearance: Dark amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mildly skunky malts, notes of citrus and orchard fruit
Taste: Syrupy malt, mild toffee-like sweetness and skunk, citrus hops and peach
Aftertaste: Strong lingering bitterness and coarse malt
Overall: 8.25/10

All in all, not bad showings from these south of the border brewers! Stay tuned for entries from American and Base Camp Brewing…

Visit to Pike Brewery!

Pike-SignHello all! I’ve just gotten back from an exciting trip to Seattle with the family. An annual, or semi-annual thing, the purpose of this trip  was to see my sister and brother-in-law and exchange our belated Christmas and birthday gifts. Due to the border between us, visits are not a regular occurrence, so every such trip is considered a very special occasion.

And in addition to spending time with the people I love, exchanging some choice swag and visiting a lot of interesting places, I finally got a chance to do some on-site sampling at the PIke Brewery this year. Last time I was in Seattle, I got to the front door, but was forced to double back with the rest of my troupe and wasn’t able to dine in. But this year, thanks in part to my darling wife, we managed to secure ourselves a table for some light lunch and some brews.

And let me tell you, it was an experience I would very much like to repeat. Not only is the decor very industrial-chic, punctuated by sculpted metal ceilings, columns, and art deco, it’s also got an unmistakably historic feel to it. Having been established in the early 80’s, only the third brewpub of its kind to open in North America before everybody and their brother was doing it, this place has been around for some time, but still manages to keep things honest.

pike_2Not only was our beer top shelf, we got some awesome food and some choice service. In fact, our server – Melanie, who’s kind of my hero right now – managed to score us some free pints because of a tiny error in our order. How cool was that? And just to return a small shred of that courtesy, I let her and the others know that they would be featured in this review. Hello Pike People! Anyhoo, onto our selection…

As those who follow this site may know, I have reviewed the bulk of Pike’s beers in another post, so I shan’t go over the same ground here. And while I did take the chance to resample some older favorites, I was sure to tackle a few I knew I hadn’t had the chance to review yet. They were…

Space Needle Golden Anniversary Vintage IPA:
Pike-Space-Needle-Golden-IPA-225x225Commemorating 50 years of the Space Needle being built, and roughly 30 years of independent brewing, this golden IPA is a multifaceted and pleasing take on the traditional India Pale Ale. Combining a variety of Yakima Valley hops – Cascade, Columbus, Centennial, Summit – the overall effect is an ale that is both citrusy, slightly sweet, floral and even tropical in nature. Since it is of such limited availability, I’m glad I got some while I could. No telling if it would be available north of the 49th parallel!

Appearance: Golden orange, cloudy, mild foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Varied hops, tropical and floral, heavy on the passion fruit
Taste: Immediate burst of hops, starting with citrus and moving to tropical, then bitter
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness and citrus rind flavor
Overall: 9/10

Tandem Double Ale:
pike_tandem_labelNamed in honor of the Finkel’s tandem bicycle, this beer is a Belgian-style dubbel that is available year round. And like many dubbels, it is spiced with coriander and is double-fermented to get a deep, heavy flavor that is reminiscent of pudding and sweet breads. Though I’ve had this one before, I somehow failed to dedicate a review to it. Not sure why, seems so un-snob like of me! In any case, I made a special point to get some takeaway so I could give this standout its due!

Appearance: Deep brown, very cloudy and almost opaque, mild foam and carbonation
Nose: Ruddy malts, sugary and molasses-like, slight notes of spice
Taste: Immediate dose of mild spice, heavy malts, syrupy and pudding like, mild tang
Aftertaste: Slight notes of coriander and coarse malt
Overall: 8/10

Cask Conditioned IPA:
pike_ipa_labelThis beer was brought to me free of charge thanks to our heroic barwoman (Thanks again, Mel!), and was my choice for last call since Casks are the truest ales around, and hence the ultimate test of a brewer’s mettle. And I was very pleased that this beer was as consistently good with their standard IPA, but still managed to present a few surprises of its own. Served at cellar temperatures, low in foam and carbonation, unfiltered and unpasteurized, true ales are not for the uninitiated, but are a real pleasure once you get a taste for them.

Appearance: Deep amber, very cloudy, low foam and carbonation
Nose: Floral hops, slight citrus notes, mild malts
Taste:  Lighter malts, tawny and clean on the tongue, followed by notes of grapefruit
Aftertaste: Mild bitterness, relatively clean aftertaste
Overall: 9/10

wingsAnd of course, our food! As is customary for us whenever sampling lighter fare, my wife and I decided to get the chicken wings and the spinach salad. Naturally, Pike Brewery has their own twists on both, and they skyrocketed to the top of my list of the best wings I’ve had since moving to the West Coast! Baked, not fried, plump and juicy, with a spicy sauce that achieved a slow-to-build but powerful burn, and with a divine blue cheese dressing, these wings achieved a trifecta of wing perfection! I know nothing comparable to them except for what Craig Street Brewing used to do.

spinach_saladAnd the spinach salad was equally good, made up of mushrooms, pine nuts,sun dried tomatoes, garlic, Parmesan, dried bits of prosciutto, and a light vinaigrette. The merger of these elements achieved a sort of healthy, crunchy, salty goodness, equal parts health food and guilty pleasure! And as always, a good spinach salad is the perfect accompaniment to hot wings and beer!

All around, it was a great time and I’m glad my wife and I had the wherewithal to force the issue. There was no way we were going to miss out on this place a second time! And I look forward to going back someday. Hopefully it won’t take two more years this time!

Moon Under Water Potts Pils Ulfiltered

MoonLogo1

Good evening to all beer snobs and those aspiring to be one! My apologies for a lengthy absence, but life and clean living have a way of interfering with a heavy sampling schedule. Luckily, I was able to run by my local beer store today, and came across some shiny new bottles that I noticed containing a familiar brand name.

potts_pilsYes, it seems that The Moon Under Water, the Victoria brewpub/microbrewery that takes its name from the famous Orwell essay (in which he describes his ideal pub) has undergone a recent change in direction and has hence produced an entirely new product line. It seems that the sessional beers it was once famous for are now out and the new product line is in. And according to their website, this includes a Dunkel, a Pilsner, an IPA and a particularly strong Weizenbock.

Interesting and alluring. Unfortunately for me, I was only able to procure samples of the first two, and shall be dedicating reviews to each. First up, their unfiltered Pilsner, known as the Potts Pils, in honor of their brewmaster, Clay Potter. Fashioned using Bavarian malt, Saaz and Cascade hops, this beer is a marriage between old and new, with a west-coast twist and an certain experimental edge. And the result was quite pleasing.

Appearance: Deep golden, slightly cloudy, mild foam retention
Nose: Distinct Bavarian-malt nose, slightly sweet, hint of skunk
Taste: Light malts and dry hops giving way to herbal notes, touch of citrus
Aftertaste: Slight tang and bitterness, lingering herbal touch
Overall: 8.5/10

Not a bad start to this new lineup, Moon. I look forward to your Dunkel, as well as the other products you now have on tap. From what I’ve seen thus far, it is clear the new Modus Operundi around them parts is to merge traditional British influences with the West Coast take on British brewing traditions. Let me just say, I couldn’t approve more! Stay tuned…

Of the Rise in Craft Brewing

A long time ago, I did an article for this site addressing what I saw as a criminal trend in the brewing industry. Not just any crime mind you, but a crime against nature itself, as far as I was concerned! I was referring to the expansion of major brand names and how it seemed to be leading to an overall dip in quality.

To illustrate, I referred to how some of my favorite craft brewers from over the years had been altering their recipes, mainly so they could achieve mass appeal and expand their sales. Others, also personal favorites of mine, had closed down instead, unable to compete in a mass market dominated by major names and low standards. Not a happy article. But if I’ve realized anything in the past two years, it is that this trend has swung sharply in the other direction.

Yes, craft brewing is becoming more and more popular, and may I say that it’s about bloody time! Whether its an upsurge in the number of micro-breweries or the adoption of a craft beer line by major breweries, the trend seems consistent. Granted this is all based on my own anecdotal experience, but when you notice it happening everywhere, you have to assume you’re onto something!

First, as I said, is the expansion in craft brewing. Of all the micro breweries that I’ve discovered since moving to BC, few seem to have opened their doors before the year 2000. For those that did, you’d be hard pressed to find one that’s been in operation since before the late 90’s. This is true of the Driftwood Brewery, the Cannery Brewery, Moon Under Water, Phillips, Old Yale, Hoyne, Dead Frog, Surgenor, Longwood, Swan’s, Spinnakers, and a host of others that I’ve sampled over the years. Back in Ontario, this is similarly true. It was only in the late 90’s and early millennium that the spectacular operations of McAuslan’s, Creemore, Scotch-Irish, Mill St., Heritage, Cameron’s, Muskoka, and a slew of others were established. And their ongoing success is a testament to fact that the popularity of craft brewing is on the rise.

As for the adoption of special, small-batch product lines adopted by larger operations, I am satisfied to say that this trend seems to be catching on, particularly with breweries that I noticed were watering down the wares. In recent years, the Vancouver Island Brewery, Granville Island Brewery, the Lighthouse Brewery have all began releasing signature or limited release beers that are not part of their regular lineups, and take advantage of the small batch production methods that ensure better quality.

This is also true of such giants as Keith’s, which has expanded its lineup by incorporating a white, an amber and a dark ale. This began in recent years, and represents a complete 180 from what they’ve been doing for the generations now – producing a single, watery ale that bears no resemblance to a real IPA. And Sleeman’s, a major operation in its own right, has even expanded its repertoire by introducing an IPA and a Porter to their lineup.

Granted, brewery ownership is still concentrated in the hands of a few major multinationals, and the vast majority of beer consumed today consists of mass produced, flat and flavorless numbers. Still, the trend towards authenticity and flavor seems to be clear. Consumers are demanding beer that is made locally, in small batches, and in accordance with traditional standards. And for beer snobs, who insist on authenticity over accessibility, this can only be seen as great news. Great news indeed!

So when you’re out next weekend, find yourself a local microbrew, a brewpub, and drink up! And be sure to tip your barmaid. Cheers!