Hoyne’s Appleton Extra Special Bitter

Hoynes_Appleton_ESBBrewer: Hoyne Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Extra Special Bitter
ABV: 5.2%
IBUs: Unspecified (but I’m guessing 40s range)

Description: This brew is Hoyne’s latest limited release, which pays homage to Frank Appleton, the man who taught Sean Hoyne the art of brewing and started many breweries. Much like the Swan’s ESB that bears his name, and brewed is the tradition of the classic English Extra Special Bitter, this brew combines (among other things) Thomas Fawcett Golden Promise, Bairds, and Crystal malts with Fuggles and East Kent Golding hops.

Tasting Notes: Buckerfield’s ESB was one of my favorites when I was known to frequent Swan’s brewpub. And I’m happy to see that Sean Hoyne, who apprenticed with Appleton at Swan’s, is carrying on in that tradition, making a clean-tasting, crisp, and dry-hopped ale! Like a kick-ass ESB, it has a good malt base that is slightly sweet and reminiscent of sweet bread, and is packed with dry hops that have notes of grass, dried herbs, and a nice mineral tang to finish it all off.

Appearance: Amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich pale malt, sweet breads, notes of dry hops, grassyand dry herbs
Taste: Crisp malts, good tang, hint of sweetness, dry hops, hints of grass, herbs, minerals
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, mild malt sweetness
Overall: 9/10

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Phillips Coast to Coastless Imperial ESB

Phillips_coasttocoastlessBrewer: Phillips Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Imperial ESB
ABV: 7.6%
IBUs: Unspecified

Description: Brewed in honor of Canada Day 2015, this beer is the result of collaboration between four separate breweries – Garrison Brewing  (NS), Microbrasserie Le Trou du Diable (QC), Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery (ON) and Phillips Brewing in BC. The end result is an Imperial ESB combining pale malts and dry-hops to create a strong but subtle brew.

Tasting Notes: I do so love a good ESB and it was nice to see that Phillips latest limited release yielded one. As always, there’s the rich malts and notes of baked bread and syrupy goodness. There’s also the dry herbal flavor, which as always has the telltale quality of Pacific Northwest hops – with plenty of citrus and tropical fruit flavor. Happy Canada Day y’all!

Appearance: Dark amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malts, dry herbs, notes of citrus and passion fruit
Taste: Strong malt, caramel and sweet bread, dry-hop bitterness, mild citrus
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, herbs and citrus
Overall: 8.5/10

Big Rock Fowl Mouth ESB

fowl_mouth_esbBrewer: Big Rock, Calgary AB
Style: Extra Special Bitter
Alc/Vol: 5.5%

Description: Part of the brewery’s Brewmaster Series, the Fowl Mouth is made in the “Cornish Bitter” fashion and combines Pale and Crystal malts with East Kent Golding and U.K. Fuggle Hops to create a dry-hopped English-style pale ale.

Tasting Notes: It’s been some time since I enjoyed a Big Rock beer. I can remember quite fondly when they first began to appear in pubs in Ottawa in the late 90s, and enjoyed many a pint of their Traditional Ale as they years went on. And these days, their product catalog only seems to be expanding, so I knew I had to start catching up. And as far as ESBs go, this one was quite refreshing, had a lovely malt profile, and was surprisingly fruity, in addition to the subtle, dry-hop profile. I definitely want to see more from the Brewmaster Edition and will do my best to review in the future.

Appearance: Copper, clear, milder foam retention and  carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, notes of orchard fruit, English hops
Taste: Smooth crystal malt, mild tang, sweet bread, hint of blackcurrant, dry hop finish
Aftertaste: Lingering malt, chewy bread, mild citrus and dry hop flavor
Overall: 9/10

Russel Blood Alley ESB

bloodalley_esbBrewer: Russel Brewing, Surrey, BC
Style: Extra Special Bitter
Alc/Vol: 5.5%
IBU: 50

Description: This beer is named after the historic and notorious cobblestone laneway in Vancouver’s Gastown District where numerous butcher shops were located. Apparently, the laneway was also known for its many robberies, muggings and murders. As part of Russel’s Brewmaster Series, it only recently became available in six packs as well as 650 ml bottles.

Tasting Notes: Though it has a slightly higher IBU rating than most ESBs, the Blood Alley has the same subtle hop flavor due to the fact that they are added post-boil. They are also clearly local – most likely of the Cascade or Centennial variety –  imparting a slightly floral, citrusy flavor. The deep amber malts balance this out nicely and lead to an all around stronger, but faithful example of an ESB, albeit with a Pacific Northwestern twist!

Appearance: Deep copper/amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Deep, roasted, and syrupy malts, floral, citrusy hops
Taste: Smooth malt, hint of sweetness, baked bread, dry hops, subtle citrus bite
Aftertaste: Mild, lingering bitterness and dry hop flavor
Overall: 8.5/10

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!

Ninkasi Renewale 2013 ESB

ninkasiI think it’s fair to say the season of winter beer is officially over. Lately, I’ve been inundated with IPAs, Pales and Ambers that foretell the coming of Spring, much like the mild weather we’ve been experiencing.

ninkasi_esbAnd to break my fast on more inclement-weather beers, I’ve gone back to Eugene Oregon, or rather just sampled a beer from there. Known as their ReNEWale, this seasonal release meets the winter thaw with a beer that’s dry, malty, and has a complex hop flavor. True to its roots, its got everything an EBS is known for, combining pale Crystal, Pilsner, and Munich matls with East Kent Golding, Northern, and Nugget hops. All this combines to give it a a darker, syrupy character, with a decidedly light, bitter mouth feel.

Appearance: Dark amber, transparent, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Dry hop nose, slight syrupy and coarse malts
Taste: Immediate burst of dry, slightly bitter hopes, syrupy malts
Aftertaste: Dry finish, slightly bitter
Overall: 9/10

Another winner from the Ninkasi operation! However, having reviewed their list of beers, I am dubiously aware that I’ve barely scratched the surface. So many regular beers and so many seasonals… I’m both excited and bewildered at the same time! Stay tuned for more on the Spring Beer front!

Naughty Hildegarde

And she’s back in town! I can recall drinking this beer sometime last summer. Unfortunately, I neglected to take notes, so when it came time to acknowledge Driftwood’s contributions to Island brewing, I was unable to say anything about this seasonal specialty.

Luckily, its available again and I’ve managed to secure several bottles. I might just stock up too in case I get a hankering for a strong ESB during the rainy winter months!

But I digress… Named in honor of the venerated nun who’s written works contain the first mention of hops in brewing, the Naughty Hildegarde is a stronger and especially hoppy take on the traditional ESB. In fact, it would be more accurate to describe it as a cross between an IPA and an ESB. Given that bitters are typically lower in alcohol content and dry hopped, this might seem like a contradiction. But as someone who loves both varieties, I can tell you they go quite well together!

Appearance: A dark amber, similar to an IPA
Nose: Citrusy and floral, consistent with Cascade and Citra hops
Taste: An immediate contrast in flavors, smooth tawny malts giving way to dry hops and then citrus notes
Aftertaste: Citrus notes are lingering and combine once again with a tawny aftertaste
Overall: 9/10

A winner all around, like all of their seasonals I’ve tried! As I said before, the combination might seem odd, but in the end, the characteristics are faithful and balance out quite nicely. I recommend it highly, but keep in mind that it’s a seasonal. So get a dose of Hildegarde before she’s gone!