Salt Spring Island Spring Fever Gruit

saltspring_gruitThough it may seem like I’m late to the party with this beer, let me assure my readers that I’ve had a bottle of this in my possession for some time. After last year’s Saturnalia Gruit, I was both curious and hesitant to try it. On the one hand, I wanted to sample another example of brewing that predates the Bavarian Purity Law. On the other, I was gearing up for a History of Beer class that I’ve been planning on teaching. As a seasonal limited release, this beer comes and goes, and I wanted to make sure I had at least one bottle in reserve before it went out of stock. Well, lucky for me, my local store has kept several bottles in reserve, so I grabbed some more and treated myself!

Much like the Saturnalia, this beer is definitely for the experimentally minded who appreciate authenticity and examples of historic brewing. It pours a deep amber, is clear, and has relatively little foam or carbonation to speak of. The nose is sweet, fruity, and effervescent, calling to mind orchard fruit and apple cider. The flavor is consistent with this, being tangy, sweet, slightly sour, and quite fruity. If one were not informed in advance what this brew is, they might very assume that it was a dry cider flavored with apricots, plums and sour cherries.

Appearance: Amber, clear, mild foam retention and good carbonation
Nose: Sweet malts, apricots, reminiscent of dry cider
Taste: Immediate tang, hint of apples, apricot, plum, cherries, slight sourness
Aftertaste: Very clean, hints of fruit and dry-cider
Overall: 8.5/10

Now that I’ve got a bottle of gruit beer safe and secure, and had a chance to sample it thoroughly, I’m really looking forward to that beer class. Call me a dunce for not buying two bottles in advance, but after thirteen other samples, providing others with a comprehensive education of the history of beer can get expensive!

Salt Spring Island Creme Brulee Vanilla Stout

saltspring_alesIt’s quite the experience when you wander off the beaten path and find something new, yet related to the things you know and like. That’s kind of how I felt when I wandered into one of the many Liqour Plus depots in Victoria that has been known to stock many of my personal favorites, plus a respectable selection of things I have not heard of from time to time.

saltspringisland_cremeAmongst the gems that appeared in this particular store was a new release  by Saltspring Island Breweries, one which was created through a collaboration with (wait for it) Liqour Plus! Yes, it seems that in addition to selling beer, wine and spirits, this particular chain of private distributors also has a hand in producing them. And this clearly-intended-for-after-dinner-pairings-with-your-dessert beer was the fruit of their labor.

Building on what is clearly becoming a tradition amongst craft brewers who produce stouts, the Creme Brulee Vanilla incorporates lactose into the brewing process to give the beer a highly smooth, almost milk-like profile. On top of that, there’s the addition of organic vanilla beans to add a dimension to the stout flavor which makes the beer live up to its name. Basically, its creamy, smooth, slightly sweet, yet full of all the characteristics true of a dark, roasted stout beer.

Appearance: Black and opaque, mild foam and carbonation
Nose: Deep, roasted malt character
Taste: Smooth, slightly sweet, hint of vanilla, mild espresso flavor
Aftertaste: Combination of vanilla and coffee-like bitterness
Overall: 8/10

I highly recommend this beer paired with an actual creme brulee. In fact, I hardly need an excuse to recommend eating creme brulee, especially when it’s infused with vanilla. Yes, I’m thinking there’s a certain restaurant up in Comox that specializes in one such desert (looking at you, Black Fin Pub) that ought to consider procuring some of this beer very soon. I shall await its arrival and time my next visit to coincide 😉