Driftwood Pilsner Doehnel

driftwood_pilsnerBrewer: Driftwood Brewery, Victoria, BC
Style: Pilsner
ABV: 5%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: This latest release by Driftwood’s is also the brewery’s first-ever attempt at a lager. In keeping with that venerable tradition of brewing, they have chosen to go with a Czech-style Pilsner. And in true craft brewing fashion, they fashioned this brew using malts that were grown and malted on the Saanich Peninsula by artisan Maltster Mike Doehnel. Hence why it is named in his honour. It was then lagered for six weeks prior to being released this past June. Get it while it lasts!

Tasting Notes: This Pilsner was definitely a great addition to Driftwood’s lineup – a Czech-style lager with a West Coast twist. Crisp malts intermix with notes of citrus, herbs and minerals, and finish very cleanly, offering a refreshing and tasty brew with just enough complexity. Kudos to Driftwood for expanding into unknown territory and creating a winner in the process!

Appearance: Straw gold, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Sharp, grainy and crisp malts, dry, herbal hops, minerals
Taste: Crisp malt, mineral tang, dry, herbal hops
, mild citrus rind bite
Aftertaste: Lingering malt and mineral tang, citrus bitterness, clean finish
Overall: 9/10

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Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale

Arrogant_bastard_aleBrewer: Stone Brewery, Escondido, CA
Style: Strong Dark Ale (bit indeterminate)
ABV: 7.2%
IBU: ??? (high)

Description: First brewed back in 1997, Arrogant Bastard Ale was a tribute to craft brewing and a giant middle finger in the face of mass brewing and generic beer. Employing strong malts, a high alcohol content, and a hefty dose of unidentified hops, this beer defies convention and classification.

Tasting Notes: This beer is aptly named, and I do feel like it was brewed with people like me in mind! I mean, just look at the name on my blog. And I have been hearing its name uttered for quite some time by craft beer enthusiasts, so its high time I drank some. In terms of taste, it comes off in the vicinity between a strong dark ale and an IPA, with a darkly roasted malt base and a hefty dose of hops. It’s not exactly well-balanced, or easy-drinking, but it makes its point, and without a hint of subtlety!

Appearance: Dark reddish-brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malt, grassy, herbal notes, floral and citrus hops
Taste: Rich malt, hint of sweetness, strong notes of dry, herbal and citrus hop flavor
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, citrus rind and malt flavor
Overall: 8.25/10

New Belgium 3 Floyds Lips of Faith Grätzer Ale

New_Belgium_Three_Floyds_GratzerBrewer: New Belgium, Fort Collins CO/3 Floyds, Munster IN
Style: Gratzer (Smoked Wheat Ale)
Alc/Vol: 4.5%

Description: A collaboration between the New Belgium Brewery of Colorado and 3 Floyds of Indiana, this seasonally-appropriate, Halloween-themed ale resurrects the age-old Polish style of smoked wheat ale that has nearly gone extinct. The brew is fashioned using oak-smoked wheat and Midnight Wheat, which is then fermented using a wild strain of top fermenting yeast that gives it a slightly sour flavor.

Tasting Notes: Another interesting sour from the Lips of Faith series (and of course their friends at 3 Floyds), this beer is also a style that I was previously unfamiliar with. And though the flavor was a bit unusual and took some getting used to, I ultimately enjoyed its particular strengths. Like a stout, it starts with dark, roasted malts and notes of coffee. Like a Rauchbier, it has that smokey aged-whiskey flavor with a peaty finish. And like a wheat, it has a clean, refreshing profile that buoys up the middle. I was also impressed with the effort made by these two breweries. Much like Driftwood’s recent experiments with the Leipzig-style of Gose, this beer is an example of the power of craft brewing to bring old and venerated styles back from the brink.

Appearance: Black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malt nose, hint of smoke, espresso, stout-like
Taste: Toasted malt, tang, clean, giving way to smoky flavor, notes of peat
Aftertaste: Lingering peat flavor, smoke and malt flavor
Overall: 8/10

Off To The Beer Seminar!

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Today is a great day for beer appreciation, because it is the day that I finally get to host my long-overdue beer-tasting and history of beer seminar. Ten participants have signed on, the space has been reserved, and in a few hours time, I will be giving the attendees a quick (well not too quick) run-down on the history of the brewing craft, coupled with some generous sampling.

I’ve prepared the following list based on what I could find and what seemed indispensable to me as far as representing the history and full range of brewing was concerned. All told, they are divided by style more than historical period, but I will be presenting them in this order since it gives a pretty good idea of how the art evolved over time.

Ancient Beers:
Heather: Salt Spring Island Heather Ale (5% / 650 ml)
(I desperately wanted to find a bomber of Gruit as well, but that variety of beer is both hard to find and hopelessly out of season right now)

Abbey Beers:
Blonde: Affligem Blonde (6.8% / 330ml)
Tripel: Townsite Charleston Tripel (9% / 650 ml)
Sour: Driftwood Belle Royale (8% / 650 ml)

Anglo-American Beer:
Pale Ale: Hoyne’s Down Easy (5.2% / 650ml)
India Pale Ale: Driftwood Fat Tug IPA (7% / 650 ml)
Stout: Hopworks 7-Grain Stout (5.3% / 650 ml)
Barley Wine: Howe Sound Wooly Bugger (10.5% / 375 ml)

German Beer:
Lager: Ayinger Dortmunder Lager (5.5% / 500 ml)
Oktoberfest: Russel Marzen (5.5% / 650ml)
Hefeweizen: Schneider Weisse (5.4% / 500 ml)
Bock: Schneider Weisse Aventinus (8% / 500ml)
Smokebeer: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier (6.6% / 500 ml)

The seminar will begin with where and how beer became a cornerstone of civilization – emerging alongside agriculture and sedentary communities some 8000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent. I will then go on to how the rise of wine making introduced a sense of cultural distinction during Classical Antiquity, and the influence was largely confined to the parts of Europe where the Roman Empire had influence (France, Spain, Italy, the Mediterranean, but not Germany, the Low Countries, Eastern Europe, or the British Isles).

Then comes the Middle Ages, the establishment of Abbey/Monastery Brewing, the rise of hop use, the advent of Lager and the growing professionalization of the industry. Which then gives way to the industrial revolution and the emergence of brewing as a big business, followed of course by the modern era and the resurgence in craft brewing. It promises to be interesting, I just hope I can keep it down to 20 minutes. Leaves more time from sampling!

I’ll be sure to let you all know how it goes and I hope to repeat it in the very near future with some other (and larger) groups of people.

Manx Visit 2013!

manx_tapsAs is our custom whenever visiting Ottawa, the wife and I chose to stop by the Manx Pub this year in order to sample from their vast array of taps. In addition to their fine food (I still think they make the best burger in town), the Manx has always been known to host a vast array of local craft breweries. And this year, I managed to find a whole slew of new beers to choose from. I tell ya, its not easy fitting five pints into one evening, but somehow I managed!

And if you get a chance, stop by their new website which went online just a few months ago. Lord knows they took their time putting one up, but that’s part of their charm. They’re not into trends, just good food and drink. And now that they’ve entered the realm of “the internets”, more people can learn about them and see what they’re all about. In any case, here’s what was on tap for me in 2013…

Broadhead Maddog IPA:
broadhead_beerAn old friend from high school recommended I try this one (hi Chris!), not that I needed much encouragement. Since arriving in Ottawa this year, Broadhead was a label that kept popping up whenever I went to a bar or to the LCBO. So naturally I was eager to try it and see what the hubbub was all about. I started with their Maddog IPA, which was a fitting example of a India Pale Ale brewed and fashioned by the good people of the Valley. In addition to a good amber hue, a nose rich in malts and hops, the flavor was both refreshing and clean while still malty and varied in terms of hop bitterness. An all around mouth-pleaser!

Appearance: Amber, lightly cloudy, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Rich syrupy malts, subtle citrus hops
Taste: Semi-sweet, rich malt, citrus and piney hops
Aftertaste: Mild, lingering hop bitterness, relatively clean
Overall: 8.5/10

Muskoka Harvest Ale:
muskoka_harvest_aleNext up was my latest sampling from the venerable Muskoka brewery. During our last visit, I was pretty blown away by their Dark Ale – a smooth, rich and chocolatey take on an English brown. So I was naturally interested to see what they did with this seasonal installment. As the first in an emerging lineup of limited run beers, this beer is a strong twist on a Fall Harvest Ale, being dark in colour, dry-hopped, and weighing in at a respectable 7% alc/vol. This proved a bit much for me, as the beer was quite bitter and had notes of espresso and smoke on top of its already noticeable hop bitterness. Not a bad beer by any means, and certainly not a bad start to their limited runs, but it did prove a little out of character to me.

Dry hopped and brewed using a selection of premium local ingredients, this ale has a rich malt backbone and a subtle grassy character reminiscent of the freshly cut harvest. It’s our way of celebrating another prosperous growing season. – See more at: http://www.muskokabrewery.com/harvest-ale.php#sthash.HPvSpDdv.dpuf
Dry hopped and brewed using a selection of premium local ingredients, this ale has a rich malt backbone and a subtle grassy character reminiscent of the freshly cut harvest. It’s our way of celebrating another prosperous growing season. – See more at: http://www.muskokabrewery.com/harvest-ale.php#sthash.HPvSpDdv.dpuf
Dry hopped and brewed using a selection of premium local ingredients, this ale has a rich malt backbone and a subtle grassy character reminiscent of the freshly cut harvest. It’s our way of celebrating another prosperous growing season. – See more at: http://www.muskokabrewery.com/harvest-ale.php#sthash.HPvSpDdv.dpuf

Appearance: Dark amber-brown, slightly cloudy, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malts, mild grassy hops
Taste: Rich malt, notes of espresso, smoke, citrusy hops, mild skunk
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor and espresso bitterness
Overall: 7.5/10

Spearhead Morroccan Ale:
Moroccan-Brown-Ale-199x300
Now this beer proved to be one of two that I managed to sample from this brewery while in Ottawa. And in both cases, they were indicative of the experimental spirit that so clearly characterizes the brewery. In all cases, they appear to be about marrying disparate flavors and traditions, not unlike BC’s own Parallel 49. Basically, it is a brew that merges the spirit of the Maghreb to the style of an English brown ale. And the results are quite pleasing and appetizing, bringing together dark brown malt, subtle dried fruits (raisins, figs, dates) and a mild spice palate. It also weighs in at a slightly stronger than usual 6% alc/vol, and is highly refreshing in addition to being rather sweet and tasty.

Appearance: Dark brown, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dark roasted malt, hints of fruit, hint of cinnamon spice
Taste: Rich, syrupy malt, hint of raisins, figs, dates and cinnamon
Aftertaste: Lingering spice and mild malt sweetness
Overall: 9/10

Beyond The Pale Pink Fuzz:
beyond_the_pale_pinkfuzzThese next two samples come from one of Ottawa’s newest breweries, the Beyond The Pale operation that I was surprised to learn about. After many years of starts and stops, it now seems that Ottawa is exploding on the craft brewing scene. And from what I’ve seen from their website, it looks like they are off to a very good start with their product lineup. As for this beer, it was a very nice introduction to what they have to offer.

And as their name suggests, they are committed to making beers that go beyond your basic pale ales and into the realm of the experimental. Nowhere is this more clear than with their grapefruit wheat, a slight twist on a traditional hefeweizen. Light gold in color, it has a gentle wheat malt nose that is imbued with citrus fruit, and has a flavor to match. Overall, it is very light and refreshing, but of course possesses a strong citrus tang that is a great accompaniment to lighter dishes.

Appearance: Golden, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild grapefruit and citrus nose
Taste: Immediate tang, grapefruit and citrus flavor
Aftertaste: Lingering citrus rind, quite clean
Overall: 8/10

Beyond the Pale Darkness:
beyond_the_pale_darknessThis second sampling was better than the first. As the breweries take on a traditional oatmeal stout, this beer manages to bring all that’s right about this classic British style into good balance. In addition to being pitch black and opaque, the nose boasts plenty of coffee and dark roasted malts and bitter hops. This carries through into the flavor department, being at once smooth, smokey, creamy and malty, and complexly bitter. It then rounds everything out with a flavorful but relatively clean finish, which is surprising with an oatmeal stout. While not one of their more experimental brews, it was certainly a fitting example of what they can do. Not a bad intro to Beyond The Pale, I must say!

Appearance: Pitch black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Notes of coffee, bitter hops, and dark roasted malt
Taste: Smooth, smokey malts, creamy head, discernible hop and coffee bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering coffee and malt flavor, quite clean
Overall: 8.5/10

And that’s all I managed to sample on that particular outing. More are coming, as the wife and I were sure to visiting other favorite haunts (such as Pub Italia) and managed to do some sampling on our own between lengthy walks through my old hometown. Stay tuned!

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…

Lighthouse 15th Anniversary Ale

Lighthouse_15thanniversaryAs promised, I’m back with one of Victoria’s most important and summer limited releases. It seems that this year marks the Lighthouse Brewing Company’s 15th anniversary. And to celebrate, they have produced an anniversary ale which was clearly made with the brewery’s history in mind. I say this because over the years, the brewery has shown quite the range when it comes to producing different styles of beer. This has included the standard lineup, consisting of your typical British and American-style ales, but has also extended to include continental and time-honored varieties that are sightly more esoteric.

And it seems that all of these have gone into the creation of this ale, which interestingly enough, names no specific variety on the label. And you’ll understand why as soon as you taste it. It’s dark and possesses some of the toasted, subtle tones of a brown, but is packed with some discernable sugars and is potently strong. And then there’s the hops and yeast, distinctly British in origin, and the Maibock like tang and sweetness that lingering on the palate. It is a brown? It is a barely wine? Is it a bock? Is it a bitter? Well… yes, and no, and all the above.

Appearance: Dark brown, transparent, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dry English hops, light, nutty brown malts, sugars
Taste: Immediate burst of roasted malts, tang, notes of brown sugar and dry, bitter hops
Aftertaste: Lingering sweetness and tang, similar to Maibock, and dry hop bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

Not a bad way to mark 15 years of brewing: produce a beer that cuts across styles and traditions and offers some very varied taste. And of course, Lighthouse is no stranger to this trend, as exemplified by their Big Flavor series. Here, they would combine two distinct styles to produce some rather powerful and flavorful beers. This time around, they appear to have combined about four that I can discern, and with some rather flavorful results. Get some before its gone!

Oh, and Happy Birthday Lighthouse!