Category 12 Transmutation Belgian Specialty Ale

C12_transmutationBrewer: Category 12 Brewing, Central Saanich, BC
Style: Belgian Tripel/IPA
ABV: 9.6%
IBUs: Unspecified (but high)

Description: This is the latest release of Category 12, which just premiered yesterday at the brewery, and amidst quite a bit of fanfare. Brewed in the Tripel fashion, but with a significant hopping consistent with a Northwestern IPA, this beer is brewed using Superior Pilsner and Belgian Caravienne malts, Hallertauer and Northern Brewer hops, and then fortified with Amber Candi sugar that was handcrafted in house.

Tasting Notes: Where to begin with this one? For starters, the term “Belgian specialty ale” is appropriate given that it has elements of both a tripel and a saison, but also some distinct West Coast flavor. This leads to an eclectic taste, where three times the malt, candi sugar and a high alcohol content lead to a powerful malt base. Add to that some strong yeast flavor and some powerful hops that compliment the yeasts, and you’ve got this baby in a nutshell. Between the fact that they handcrafted their own candi sugar to make this beer and it happened right in my backyard makes me especially proud!

Appearance: Dark ruby, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, sugars, notes of citrus and tropical fruit hops, strong yeasts
Taste: Rich and coarse malt, saison-like yeast, caramelized sugar, hop bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering malt coarseness, hop and yeast bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

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Dubussion Scaldis Ambrée

Scaldis-Ambree-bout-verre-270x400Brewer: Dubussion, Pipaix, Belgium
Style: Belgian Amber
Alc/Vol: 11.8%

Description: The Scaldis amber is an unfiltered, high fermentation beer fashioned exclusively made from caramel malt, hops, natural sugar, water drawn from the brewery’s basement and an exclusive yeast. The end result is then stored for a period of 4 to 6 weeks to achieve its characteristic combination of dense malt, smooth flavor and the highest alcohol content of any Belgian beer (11.8% ABV).

Tasting Notes: The Scaldis Ambrée is another first for this Beer Snob, and apparently a rather significant one as it is apparently Belgian’s strongest. It was also quite fitting as a extra strong amber, bringing that characteristic combination of maltiness, sugary sweetness and fruity esters one would expect. What was surprising for me was the level of smoothness. Given the alcohol content, I expected it to be far more coarse. Still, the alcohol does comes through with the rather delightful warming sensation it finishes with. This beer is recommended as an aperitif or digestif, and I can attest to it being well-suited to the latter.

Appearance: Amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich and coarse malt, sugars, notes of cherry, fruity esters, caramel
Taste: Smooth malt, slight tang and coarseness, syrupy sweetness, warm alcohol finish
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt flavor, sugars, cherry and fruit esters
Overall: 9/10

Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel

ChouffeHoublon330mlBrewery: Brasserie d’Achouffe, Achouffe, Belgium
Style: India Pale Ale/Tripel
Alc/Vol: 9%

Description: This crossover British and Belgian-style ale was brewed for the first time in 2006. In addition to employing three types of hops, which provide a marked bitterness, the beer is re-fermented in the bottle to provide its tripel strength and malt profile.

Tasting Notes: I was surprised to see the description of this beer, but I found the flavor quite familiar and enjoyable. It was a fitting example of a Belgian Tripel, and in many ways reminded me of Duvel because of its strong, slightly coarse malt flavor. However, this was rounded out somewhat by the hop flavor and what I assume is a lack of candi sugar in the fermentation process.

Appearance: Golden blonde, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Coarse, grainy malts, yeast, slight sugars, hints of citrus hops
Taste: Coarse malts, yeast, mild tang, hints of citrus and hop bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering malt and hop bitterness, citrus rind
Overall: 8/10

Moon Under Water Belgium Triple Wedding Ale

moonunderwater_weddingMoon Under Water has produced yet another limited release, and it sure took me long enough to secure a bottle! Yes, it seems like only yesterday that this brewery was celebrating its first anniversary with a wheat wine (a very good one, btw). But this brewery has been shown no signs of slowing down since its inception. And their penchant for experimentation has remained consistent throughout.

Brewed in honor of the brewmaster’s own marriage, this beer is a fitting example of an Abbey-style Triple Ale, and comes sealed in the bottle with white wax. It is a light golden color, has a thick, lacy foam, and was highly reminiscent of La Fin Du Monde in terms of flavor. But it is comparatively lighter, owing no doubt to the use of Bohemian Pilsner malts and wheat. But of course, it still packs a wallop, weighing in at 9% alc/vol and fermented using candi sugar.

Appearance: Golden, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malts and yeast, sugary, mild hint of banana
Taste: Strong malts, slightly sweet and coarse, strong yeast, mild banana and spice
Aftertaste: Lingering yeasts, malt coarseness,
Overall: 8.5/10

Looking forward to the next limited release from this brewery. 2013 was a pretty good year for them. Here’s hoping 2014 continues to prove as fruitful and creative for them!

Townsite Biere D’Hiver Winter Ale

townsite_dhiverIt has taken me some time, but I appear to be closing in on my goal of trying every single beer the Townsite brewery has yet produced. It hasn’t been easy keeping up with them, thanks to their prolific nature and the fact that they only recently started distributing to the island. But I still consider it a lucky break that I finally managed to secure a bottle of this seasonal beer before winter officially ended and it would no longer be available.

Another beer that was inspired by local legend, the Biere D’Hiver is another Belgian-style brew that is dark, yeasty, has a sugar and dark fruit malt taste, and is spiced with coriander, star anise & brewmaster’s own hand-made Candi Sugar. The end result is something that seems like a cross between a winter warmer, an extra strong Belgian brown, and a spiced Wit. And of course, it has some serious strength (7.5% alc/vol).

Appearance: Dark molasses brown, virtually opaque, strong foam and carbonation
Nose: Notes of caramelized sugar, plums, dates, and coriander
Taste: Immediate spice and malt sweetness, coriander and sugars, strong yeast
Aftertaste: Slight coarse malt bitterness, lingering sugars and spice
Overall: 9/10

Between this and their Shiny Penny Belgian IPA (another winner!), and this latest installment, I am now just two beers away from sampling everything Townsite has ever produced. That would include their Perfect Storm Oatmeal Stout and their Time Warp Wet Hopped Pale Ale. My kudos to Cédric for his endlessly inventive spirit!

 

Steamworks Blitzen

steamworks_paleYears back, while in Vancouver, the wife and I had a chance to visit the brewpub and I can recall enjoying a tall, frosty Trappist glass of this winter ale. Since that time, it has been damn near impossible to find  bottle of it on the island. As a tribute to the style of Belgian Tripel ales, it was not only strong, malty, and highly yeasty, it was highly reminiscent of one of my favorite beers of all time – La Fin Du Monde.

The beer is golden blonde, slightly cloudy, spicy, malty, mildly hoppy (20 IBUs), and has a strong alcoholic punch (9% alc/vol). Brewed with Pilsner malt, flavored with Fuggles and Sterling hops, this beer is also = in true-Belgian fashion – fermented with some added candi sugar. The end result is a strong ale that has both subtle and saccharine malts, calls to mind the flavors of a Bavarian lager as well as a good-old fashioned Belgian Tripel, with just a hint of Duvel.

Appearance: Golden, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Belgian yeast, semi-sweet, sharp and spicy malts
Taste: Strong malt start, mild tang, spicy yeast notes, mild hop bite and alcohol
Aftertaste: Mild yeast and lingering malt flavor, sharp and clean
Overall: 8.5/10

Glad I could finally find some of this beer in the bottle. As always, seasonal beers are a rare and delightful treat, and Steamworks has generally been known to produce some pretty impressive seasonal specialties in addition to their regular lineup.