Howe Sound Anvil Island Dark Lager

Anvil+Island+with+Pint+GlassBrewer: Howe Sound Brewery, Squamish, BC
Style: Dark Lager
Alc/Vol: 5.5%
IBU: 21

Description: As part of their series of limited release beers, the Anvil Dark Lager takes its name from the third-largest island in Howe Sound, and is made using dark crystal malts as well as German and Polish hops. Consistent with their reputation for bringing home awards, the Anvil Dark Lager won the gold medal from the North American Beer Awards in the Munich-style Dark category.

Tasting Notes: I’ve rarely met a Howe I didn’t like. And unfortunately, I’ve been somewhat negligent in my sampling from this brewery in recent years. Anyway, as dark lagers go, this beer was no slouch and had all the right things going for it. These included toasted malts, hints of chocolate and coffee, a light hop and roasted malt bitterness, and a nice, clean finish. Definitely one of their hits!

Appearance: Dark brown/red, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Deep roasted malt, hints of smoke, coffee, leather
Taste: Toasted malts, mild tang, hints of smoke, coffee, crisp hop bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering roasted malt flavor, coffee, but otherwise clean
Overall: 9/10

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VIB Thirty Years Imperial Red Ale

Thirty-Years-Bottle-Mock-smBrewer: Vancouver Island Brewery
Style: Imperial Red Ale
Alc/Vol: 8.5%

Description: A limited release brewed in honor of the brewery’s thirtieth anniversary, this beer pays homage to their Piper’s Pale Ale by ramping up the recipe. This includes Two-Row, Crystal and Chocolate Malts with Northern Brewer, Perle and Hallertau hops, but brewed to extra extra strength.

Tasting Notes: This beer was highly reminiscent of an Irish Red, given that it has that characteristic syrupy malt and chewy mouthfeel. And of course, there was a noticeable citrus hop backing. However, the overriding characteristic of this beer is the intense malt flavor and the alcohol content, which create a heavy, slightly sweet, smokey, and coarse profile that lingers on the tongue..

Appearance: Dark amber, dense, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich red malts, baked sweat breads, mild citrus
Taste: Immediate burst of rich malt, tang, coarseness, viscous malts, hint of bitter hops
Aftertaste: Lingering malts, slight tang and coarseness, chewy mouthfeel
Overall: 7.75/10

Ommegang Take the Black Stout

OmmegangIf there’s one thing I can appreciate almost as much as beer, its an inspired yarn, the likes of which that authors like George R.R. Martin (aka. “The American Tolkien”) has been known to spin. So you can imagine how enthusiastic I was when I found out that a craft brewing operation from Cooperstown, New York was partnering with HBO to create a series of beers with a Game of Thrones theme.

And this week, as part of my series on holiday beers, I finally managed to get a bottle of their Take the Black Stout, the first beer in the series. Currently, the only other is their Iron Throne Blonde, with a third – Fire and Blood – due to come out in spring of 2014. In truth, the only reason I waited this long to get into this series is because I’ve been so backlogged with new beers and just haven’t found the time to try them all. But the holidays are a good time for imbibing and catching up on things!

Named in honor of the oath taken by all the Night’s Watch, the men who stand the Wall in the GOT series and defend the Realm against all the threats from the frozen north. The stout consists of a malt base composed of Caramel, Chocolate and roasted barley, as well as Northern Brewer and Columbus hops. It is then spiced with licorice root and star anise to give it a full-bodied flavor that is coarse, slightly sweet, and has a distinct Belgian yeast flavor. And of course, it ranks in at solid 7% alc/vol, making for a

game-of-thrones-beer-take-the-black-stout-zap2itAppearance: Dark black, opaque, thick lacy dark head and good carbonation
Nose: Roasted malts, espresso, licorice, mild yeast
Taste: Bitterness, yeast, anise and citrus hops, giving way to espresso beans
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness giving way to hint of licorice
Overall: 8.5/10

Not a bad beer at all, and this is coming from a man who doesn’t normally enjoy extra strong stouts, especially ones flavored with licorice. In all honesty, it really didn’t make me think much of the Night’s Watch or the wall. Perhaps it’s because I’m a committed geek of the franchise, but I can’t imagine them enjoying a Belgian-style stout flavored with spices. That just seems to high-end for the Black Brothers! 😉

What I was reminded of was Unibroue, another Belgian-inspired operation that is also in the habit of serving its beer in three-quarter liter, corked bottles. And much like this Quebec-based operation, these folks do seem to appreciate traditional recipes while still remaining open to crossovers and experimentation. Onto the next beer and hopefully more in this brewery’s GOT series!

And be sure to check out the brewery’s website. It promises for some interesting reading 🙂

Moon Under Water Victoria’s Sticke Fusion Stout

MoonLogo1It had to happen sooner or later. With all the experimentation happening since the new management took over, it was only a matter of time before they produced a stout that combined a few disparate brewing traditions. That’s the idea behind Moon Under Water’s Victoria Sticke Fusion Stout, a beer that combines wheat, chocolate and Munich malts to create a hefeweizen/stout – something that is toasted, bitter, and also effervescent and yeasty all at once.

Imperial_stoutAnd while it is a brave combination, it was not their greatest experiment to date, in my humble opinion. While I lauded their combination of hefeweizen and bock to create their Victorious Weizenbock, somehow, the combination of flavors just didn’t seem to compliment each other this time around. While they were both present in abundance, they tended to compete for attention rather than blend seamlessly into each other. Black in appearance and opaque, with a lacy, foam head, the beer has a mixed nose of wheat malt, yeast, and toasted dark malts. In terms of flavor, what you get begins with the yeasty, smooth notes of hefeweizen, followed by the mild chocolate notes, toasted malts, and strong bitterness of a stout. All this comes at a respectable 6% alc/vol.

Appearance: Black, opaque, good head, foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Wheat malts, yeast, mild toasted malts
Taste: Mixed palette, wheat and yeast, chocolate, espresso, strong bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering strong bitterness and yeast
Overall: 7.5/10

In short, not their best experiment in brewing thus far. But certainly not a poor beer, and their past efforts have certainly earned them the benefit of the doubt with this, the first stout to enter their regular lineup. As we get into winter, I do hope they can be coaxed into making a barely wine or Christmas Ale of some kind. Man, I’ve been craving those lately!