Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller 2015

driftwood_ocd2015Brewer: Driftwood Brewery, Victoria, BC
Style: Barley Wine
ABV: 11.4%
IBUs: Unlisted (60ish or more)

Description: This is the latest vintage of Driftwood Brewery’s Old Cellar Dweller, a seasonal barley wine released every year in time for the holidays. This year’s offering is brewed with 98% Pale Malt and a small trace of CaraMunch thrown in for color, and is then bittered using a generous dose of Columbus hops.

Tasting Notes: As I’ve said before, every year’s OCD is a little different. This year, they chose to tone down the alcohol (just a little), and go the single hop and (mostly) single malt route in order to showcase what both of these ingredients, in their most concentrated states, could do. And like the two previous vintages, this year’s tends more towards the Imperial IPA than a barley wine. But it remains a powerful winter warmer, boasting some rich malts, powerful hops, and a warm, alcoholic bite!

Appearance: Deep gold/light amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Powerful hop-forward aroma, grassy, citrus, pineapple, rich malt
Taste: Sweet, semi-coarse malt, notes of pineapple, citrus rind, grass and pine
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt and hop bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

Category 12 Insubordinate Session IPA

c12_insubordinateBrewer: Category 12 Brewing, Central Saanich, BC
Style: Session IPA
ABV: 4.5%
IBUs: 58

Description: In what is Category 12’s latest seasonal release, the Insubordinate is a sessional take on the Pacific Northwestern India Pale Ale. Crystal and Vienna malts provide the base, which is then bittered using Centennial and Columbus hops, along with an infusion of Zythos for some extra dry-hopping.

Tasting Notes: Given that this brewery is right here in my neighborhood, I was able to snag some bottles of this brew direct. And while sampling, I was even able to guess the hops used (well, it took a few guesses to get all three). In any case, this brew is a good addition after the powerhouse that was their Transmutation, employing a lighter malt base with a good hopping that employs both a bitter, citrus and tropical fruit start with a herbal, dry hop finish. An all around crisp and refreshing take on the Pacific Northwestern IPA.

Appearance: Amber/orange, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Gentle malt, tropical fruit nose, pineapple, passion fruit, herbal infusion
Taste: Crisp malt, citrus, pine, herbs, dry hop bitterness, mineral tang
Aftertaste: Lingering dry hop bitterness, herbs, citrus rind, quite refreshing
Overall: 8.5/10

Tree Rickshaw Raspberry IPA

tree_rickshawBrewer: Tree Brewing, Kelowna, BC
Style: Fruit-infused India Pale Ale
ABV: 5%
IBUs: 64

Description: A spring/summer seasonal beer, Tree’s Rickshaw combines traditional lager malt (Pilsner and Vienna) with a significant dose of Northwestern hops (Centennial, Cascade, Columbus, and Crystal) and an infusion of fresh raspberries.

Tasting Notes: As combinations go, this one seemed a bit odd and quite gutsy. For instance, I would have expected an IPA to employ a pale malt base rather than ones consistent with a lager. That, and the combination of raspberries with an IPA-size dollop of hops seemed especially gutsy. But guts aside, the end result seemed mainly skunky and bitter, with very little raspberry to speak of and not as much refreshment as say a raspberry wheat, pale or lager. Not a bad idea, but needs a reboot!

Appearance: Deep ruby/orange, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Crisp, skunky malt, notes of herbal hops, hint of raspberry
Taste: Smooth malt, strong hop bitterness, citrus rind, skunk, light raspberry finish
Aftertaste: Lingering skunky malt and citrus rind bitterness, hint of fruit
Overall: 7.2/10

Category 12 Disruption Black IPA

C12_disruptionBrewer: Category 12 Brewing, Central Saanich, BC
Style: Black IPA
ABV: 6.7%
IBU: 77

Description: Category 12, which is located just up the road from me, has recently opened its doors and began distributing. This is their second release, and my first sampling. The Black IPA is made using Carafa and Munich malts and then bittered with Simcoe, Cascade, and Columbus hops.

Tasting Notes: This beer delivered in all the expected departments. On the black side of things, it had dark roasted malts that were reminiscent of a good stout or porter. On the IPA side of things, it had a good dose of citrus and herbal hop flavor that lingered long after the initial tasting. A good start for this hometown brewery, and a good intro for me.

Appearance: Black, translucent, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malt, hint of espresso, strong notes of citrus and pineapple
Taste: Toasted malt, mild espresso, citrus rind, herbal hops
Aftertaste: Lingering herbal flavor, malt and hop bitterness
Overall: 8/10

Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller Barleywine 2014

Driftwood_OCD2014Brewer: Driftwood Brewery, Victoria BC
Style: Barleywine
ABV: 13.1%
IBU: Unlisted (best guess, 60 – 80 range)

Description: This is Driftwood’s 7th Vintage of this annual December release beer. This year, the Old Cellar Dweller is even stronger, with five times the malt and three times the hops of regular beer, and an alcohol per volume rating of over 13%. It also consisting of 98% Pale Malt and a bag of CaraMunch thrown in for color, and a single hop variety (Columbus) in heavy concentrations.

Tasting Notes: Much like last year’s offering, this year’s OCD (ha!) was more akin to an Imperial IPA than a barleywine. It’s malt is rich and delicious (though a bit lightly colored), but the hop-forward nature really comes through with overwhelming notes of pineapple. It’s also quite smooth despite its strength, and very pleasant-tasting, but not exactly reminiscent of an English-style barleywine. Top marks for drinkability, minor deduction for mislabeling.

Appearance: Dark amber/brown, clear, medium foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, floral hops, notes of citrus and tropical fruit
Taste: Strong malt, alcohol, overwhelming notes of pineapple and tropical fruit
Aftertaste: Lingering hop and malt bitterness, alcohol
Overall: 8.5/10

Driftwood Entangled Hopfenweisse

entangled-circular-logoBrewer: Driftwood Brewery, Victoria BC
Style: Hefeweizen/IPA
ABV: 7%

Description: This Fall limited release combines a Hefeweizen base that employs wheat malts and Hefeweizen yeast, along with a generous dosing of North American hops (what I assume are Centennial, Cascade and Columbus – the 3 Cs) to create a fusion brew the combines a German Wheat beer with a West Coast IPA.

Tasting Notes: This brew was quite delicious, combining the smooth drinkability and yeasty backbone of a Hefeweizen with a serious infusion of fruity, floral and bitter West Coast hops. Definitely an improvement on the many Belgian IPAs that have been fashionable these past few years. I do hope this is the beginning of a trend.

Appearance: Orange, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malt, rich hop nose, strong citrus, tropical and passion fruit notes
Taste: Smooth malt, strong tang, yeast, notes of grapefruit, passion fruit, pineapple
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, citrus rind, yeast bitterness
Overall: 9/10

Philips Octofox India Pale Ale

Philips_octofoxBrewer: Philips Brewery, Victoria, BC
Style: India Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 6.5%

Description: As part of their Area 52 series, the Octofox IPA comes straight from the Philips Brewery’s “hoptomology lab”, where the brewers combine different strains of hops to achieve unique IPA flavors. The Octofox was one of their earliest specimens, and for the first time is available in a bomber as a Fall limited release!

Tasting Notes: This is my first exposure to an Area 52 release, and hence the work of the Philips “hoptomologists”. The beer is what one could expect from a solid West Coast IPA, consisting of some good strong malt. And the hop profile is definitely varied and complex, consisting of citrus, tropical fruit and pine-resin flavors that come from what I can only assume is a blend that includes Zythos, Columbus, Centennial, Cascade and Amarillo hops.

Appearance: Light amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, bright bouquet of floral hops, citrus, pine, tropical fruit
Taste: Strong malt, milt coarseness, strong notes of grapefruit, pineapple, and pine
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, citrus rind and pine and tropical fruit
Overall: 8.5/10

Dead Frog Furious Friar Belgian IPA

Dead-Frog-furiousfriarBrewer: Dead Frog Brewery, Aldergrove BC
Style: Belgian Triple/India Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 9%
IBUs: 55

Description: A continuation and twist on their Valiant Belgian IPA, the Furious Friar is a hybrid ale that merges an IPA with Belgian influences to craft an extra strong, extra hoppy brew. It is fashioned using a combination of 2 Row, Cara 8, and White Wheat malts, bittered with a generous dose of Columbus and Centennial hops, and fortified with invest sugar before being fermented with Belgian yeast.

Tasting Notes: I can recall the Valiant IPA from last summer being a pretty big hit. The combination of an Belgian Abbey-style ale with a West Coast IPA is something that they’ve already been shown an aptitude for. But this year, I actually enjoyed it more. Not only is the strong malt and generous hopping reminiscent of an Imperial IPA, these same malts and Belgian yeasts also call to mind a good solid Triple or Blonde. In essence, two my absolute favorites in one glass!

Appearance: Orange/amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Belgian yeast, citrus, tropical fruit, cloves, coriander spice
Taste: Sharp, crisp malt, burst of citrus and passion fruit, Belgian yeast and spice
Aftertaste: Lingering yeast, coarse malt, clove and coriander, citrus rind
Overall: 9/10

Two Beers Evolutionary IPA

twobeers_IPABrewer: Two Beers, Seattle, Washington
Style: India Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 6.2%
IBUs: 70

Description: A Northwest IPA by design, the Evolution combines Pale, Munich, Vienna, Crystal and Carapils malts with  Simcoe, Amarillo, and Centennial hops for the initial boil, and is then dry-hopped with Simcoe and Columbus.

Tasting Notes: The Evolution is definitely what one would expect from a Northwest India Pale Ale, containing a rich, dark amber malt with plenty of citrus and strong hops notes. The dry hopping also comes through in the taste, adding a subtle, dry finish to a strong hop start. Citrus rind lingers on the tongue long after the beer is drunk, and is relatively appetizing and pleasing. It was lighter than what I was expecting, given the full-flavored CDA in their lineup, but good nonetheless.

Appearance: Copper-colored, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Discernible citrus, pine and tropical fruit and dry, subtle hop notes
Taste: Strong grapefruit and pine hops, giving way to dry hop finish, tangy and herbal
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness, citrus rind and herbs
Overall: 8/10

Russel Hop Therapy Double IPA

Hop_Therapy_Press_ReleaseAdmittedly, Russel brewing is one operation I don’t get around to sampling much. In the past, I have had their Angry Scotch Ale, their IP’eh, their Blood Alley ESB, their VCBW Cascadian Brown Ale, and most recently, their Naughty Spiced Porter. However, very few of these beers ever got a review, and I would be lying if I were to say that I recalled what more than half of them tasted like. However, with few exceptions, I have had nothing but good things to say about this brewery. And after looking through their extended lineup and seeing what they have to offer, I have to say that I’m pretty eager to expand on my sampling repertoire.

And I’ll start with this example of their Brewmaster Limited Edition series – the Hop Therapy Double IPA – a beer that more than lives up to its name. In addition to weighing in at a hefty 9% alc/vol, the beer boasts three American hop varieties (Amarillo, Cascade and Columbus) which were added a total of six times during the kettle boil, and then twice afterwards as dry hopping. This brings its bitterness to a threshold of 100 IBUs, which is well balanced by some seriously sweet and syrupy malt flavor.

Appearance: Light amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong bouquet of floral and citrus hops, slight piney nose
Taste: Sweet, coarse malt, viscous and chewy, citrus and pine hops, resiny
Aftertaste: Lingering malt and hop bitterness, slight feeling of residue
Overall: 9/10

Basically, I would say this beer is not for the faint of heart. But it is definitely for people who insist that their beer be chock-full of flavor or just don’t mind a beer that pushes the envelope in terms of malt and hop strength. For me, it a very fitting example of a double IPA and an enticement to try more of what Russel has to offer.