Hoyne Gratitude Winter Warmer 2014

beer-gratitudeBrewer: Hoyne Brewery, Victoria BC
Style: Winter Ale
ABV: 9%

Description: Hoyne is back with there third annual Gratitude Winter Warmer, which began as a holiday expression of gratitude to all those who’ve supported them. As with previous years releases, this special limited-release comes in individual bombers wrapped in paper.

Tasting Notes: This is the third sampling I’ve done of Gratitude, and I have noted that the recipe has been changing over the years. Either that, or my tastes have been evolving and I’ve been noticing different things. In any case, this year’s offering seemed lighter than the previous two. While it maintains its smooth malty base, a hint of spice and a very well-balanced character, it was more reminiscent of a Marzen to me than a Christmas ale (though I did get some traces of Urbock as well). For the third time, a big hit and one I would like to try again before it goes out of stock!

Appearance: Dark amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, minerality, mild sugars, allspice, mild hops
Taste: Smooth malt, mild tang, hint of sweetness, brown sugar, allspice
Aftertaste: Lingering tang and minerality, lingering spice palate
Overall: 8.75/10

Hoyne Wolf Vine Pale Ale 2014

hoyne_wolfvineBrewer: Hoyne Brewery, Victoria, BC
Style: Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 5.3%

Description: Hoyne’s fall seasonal release is back, employing fresh Centennial and Cascade hops from Sartori Farms to create a “wet-hopped” West Coast-style pale ale. Brewed in conjunction with the hop harvest, this beer is available for only a short time during the early Autumn.

Tasting Notes: This is my second sampling of the Wolf Vine, after it first premiered last year, and I was suitably impressed again. Much like its predecessor, this pale ale has achieves a nice balance between smooth pale malt and a lovely hop palette that is both varied and subtle. At once dry, citrusy, herbal and grassy, this brew is reminiscent of both a West Coast Pale and an ESB. Glad they chose to bring it back!

Appearance: Deep amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild pale malt, mild notes of dry citrus and herbal hops
Taste: Smooth malt, mild tang, dry, subtle notes of herbal, grassy, and citrus hops
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, and dry subtle hop flavor
Overall: 9/10

Hoyne/Driftwood Rock Bay Mashup Baltic Porter

driftwood_hoyne_rockbayBrewer: Hoyne Brewing/Driftwood Brewing, Victoria BC
Style: Baltic Porter
Alc/Vol: 8%

Description: This beer is a collaborative effort between Victoria’s own Hoyne Brewing and Driftwood Brewing, which are situated next door to each other in the industrial district of Rock Bay (hence the name). As a Baltic Porter, it is a high alcohol, malt-forward beer that originated in the Baltic states that is quite similar to a Russian Imperial Stout.

Tasting Notes: Ordinarily, I’m not that big a fan of Baltic Porters or Imperial Stouts, due to the fact that the rather robust and sweet tasting malts are a little out of my comfort zone. But this collaborative brew, which brought together two of my favorite breweries, managed to create something truly appealing and appetizing. While it manages to capture all the renowned characteristics of a Baltic Porter – high alcohol content, dark malts, toasted malt, sweetness – it was also very smooth, balanced, and varied in flavor. I’ve yet to try anything these guys made that didn’t please me!

Appearance: Deep black/brown, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Toasted malt, baked bread, hint of smoke and coffee
Taste: Deep, rich malts, tang, hint of sweetness, smoke, banana and licorice
Aftertaste: Lingering malt, banana and licorice flavors

Overall: 9/10

Hoyne Helios Golden Lager

hoyne_helios_labelBrewer: Hoyne Brewery
Style: Dortmunder Export Lager
Alc/Vol: 6%

Description: The Helios is the latest limited release by Hoyne Brewing, brewed in the style of a Dortmunder Export, which is a slightly stronger and darker malt-forward take on the traditional lager. According to the brewmaster himself (Sean Hoyne) it is made using Vienna, Munich and other German malts and bittered with a variety of Hallertau hops.

Tasting Notes: I am a big fan of Marzen, Oktoberfest, and other forms of stronger, maltier lagers. And this beer was definitely no slouch when it came to delivering on the quintessential flavors these beers are famous for. In addition to its smooth and slightly tangy start, the malt flavor really comes through in the middle with characteristically grainy and slightly sweet Vienna and Munich accents. It then accompanies this with an infusion of subtle, dry and bitter Noble hops. A clean finish and a beautiful orange hue make it a delight all around. I strongly recommend beer lovers in the Victoria area get a growler of this lager while they can. Limited releases tend to run out after just two weeks at the Hoyne brewery, so be quick about it!

Appearance: Golden-orange, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Discernible Munich-style malts, grainy, subtle notes of Noble hops
Taste: Grainy start, slight tang, hint of sweetness and syrupy malt, dry, herbal hops
Aftertaste: Mild, lingering hop bitterness, mainly clean finish
Overall: 9.5/10

 

Hoyne’s Gratitude Winter Warmer 2013

slider-gratitudeLast year, the Hoyne brewery was barely out of the cradle when they produced their first-ever Christmas ale, known as the Gratitude Winter Warmer. Now, a year later, they have once again made this limited release available just in time for the holidays. And of course, I felt the need to grab a bottle and see how this year’s vintage compared to last years.

And just like it’s predecessor, this year’s Gratitude lived up to the name. In addition to being very smooth, malty, and balanced, it packed a nice spicy profile that was very pleasing to the palate and very warming to the body. I did note a certain creamy quality that was not there last year, one which reminded me of their Off the Grid Red Lager (which is currently my favorite from Hoyne’s lineup). Pound for pound though, I’d say its just as good as last year’s.

Appearance: Deep red-amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Spicy nose, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sweet malts
Taste: Smooth, spicy start, creamy malts, mild tang, allspice, mild hops
Aftertaste: Lingering tang and spice, enduring malts
Overall: 9/10

I really do need to get back to the brewery and see what they are up to these days. Somehow, this fall season (what with all its sickness) has not been too conducive to growler drinking! But I shall remedy that soon enough. And I’m sure Hoyne is also taking donations of clothes and canned food this year, so be sure to swing by if you’ve got an overabundance of both. Tis the season for good beer and helping out, after all 😉

New from Howe Sound!

howesoundOn one of my recent trips up island, I had the chance to stop in at the town of Duncan, my wife’s old hometown, and do some shopping. As usual, the Blackberry Liquor Store was one of the stops on our tour, and I managed to find some new and interesting beers to bring home with me. This time around, all three happened to be new releases (new to me at least) from Howe Sound Brewery. These include their Bay Ale, Loose Cannon Dark Lager, and You’re My Boy Blue.

For awhile now, I feel like I’ve been neglecting this BC brewery, one which has been a favorite of mine for years. As I’m sure I’ve explained before, it was at Howe Sound that Frank Appleton, who went on to become brewmaster at Swan’s brewpub, got his start. And it was here that Sean Hoyne himself got his start, apprenticing under Appleton before going forth to establish the Canoe Club and Hoyne Brewing. So this brewery is not only a great purveyor of beer, its also part of proud genealogy that embraces some of my favorite breweries and brewpubs here on the island.

Loose Cannon Dark Lager:
Loose+Cannon+Botl+with+pint+glass+(2)The commercial description lists this beer as a “lightly-hopped, medium bodies lager”. But in many ways, this lager is akin to a stout, with a very dark profile and some serious traces of roasted malt, smoke and bitter chocolate. At the same time, it manages to finish quite clean and has a relatively mild, light flavor overall.

All of this comes down to the combination of dark crystal and chocolate malts with German and Polish hops. Clearly, the name was chosen with this interest mix of characters and profiles in mind! And in a market where dark lagers are pretty well represented, its not a bad contender. Hoping to see more like it from Howe Sound soon.

Appearance: Dark brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Deep toasted malts, mild hops, smoke
Taste: Dark roasted malt, notes of coffee, bitter chocolate
Aftertaste: Mild bitterness, relatively clean, mild hop finish
Overall: 9/10

Troller Bay Ale:
Bay+Ale+botl+image+with+pint+(3)Apparently, this beer harkens back to when John Mitchell first opened Howe Sound pub back in 82 and was looking to create a true English-style amber ale. And this beer certainly fits that profile, combining smooth, toffee-like malts, mild hops, and subtlety, but with undeniable BC character.

This is made possible thanks to the combination of Fuggles and Nugget hops and London ale yeast with Canadian barley malt and West Coast water. And according to legend, the brewery promptly sold out of the ale soon after it was released. But given its smooth, drinkable nature, that really shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Appearance: Dark amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Syrupy malts, toffee, crisp, mild hops
Taste: Mild tang, crisp, smooth, lightly toasted malts, dry hops
Aftertaste: Trace minerality, grassy hop finish and lingering tang
Overall: 9/10

You’re My Boy Blue:
Boy+Blue+Botl+with+pint+glass+(1)
Now this was a surprising addition! Ordinarily, one tends to find raspberries, cherries, or even apricots wherever fruit is married to wheat ales. But blueberries? That’s a new one as far as I can tell! But in the end, the marriage worked quite well, with smooth, yeasty wheat malt flavors complimented by the slightly tart, slightly sweet character of fresh blueberries.

And much like most fruit-infused wheat ales, this beer is cloudy, unfiltered, and has a slightly pink tint to it. And given the unseasonably hot weather we’ve been enduring here this summer, its a welcome addition to any beer drinkers sampling lineup.

Appearance: Purple, translucent, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Subtle wheat malts, yeast, mild fruit tartness
Taste: Smooth, mild tartness and sweet traces of blueberry, discernible yeasts
Aftertaste: Very clean, lingering fruit flavor
Overall: 8.5/10

Not a bad re-introduction to an old favorite. And I am glad they are moving away from the high gravity, very strong, very malty special releases that have dominated their lineup in recent years. While I respect the fact that they were honoring John Mitchell with many, if not most, of these specialty brews, I was getting a little overwhelmed by all the Imperial Ales and strong stouts that were coming out, one after the other. A man cannot live on heavy malts alone, you know! 😉

Hoyne’s Gratitude Winter Warmer

slider-gratitudeEarlier this evening, I made one of my regular trips to the Hoyne Brewery, but not just as part of one of my regular visits to refill my growlers. No, this time around, I also came heavily laden with bags full of clothes, since the brewery is taken donations of used clothing, canned goods and non-perishable items for the holiday season. So if you’re in the Rock Bay region and have some canned goods or clothes you don’t know what to do with, consider donating, because you know someone else could use more than yourself 😉

But of course, there was also a festive spirit in the air that had to do with something other than their generosity of spirit.There was also the availability of their special winter warmer, Gratitude, which has been making the rounds in the Victoria area of late. An extra-special limited release, this beer was not even available on tap, but only by the bottle – the paper-wrapped, specially labeled bottle that is. Yes, each bottle of this winter ale comes with a label that expresses the brewery’s thanks to all those who’ve supported them this past year and all the things that we all are thankful for during the holiday season.

And as winter warmers go, this beer is faithful to tradition and a pleasure to consume. Combining subtle spice notes with a strong, dark, malty base, the beer warms the gullet, ignites the palate, but is also smooth and appealing despite its strength (9% alc/vol). And surprisingly, the beer is quite clean despite its dark and rich character, something which is relatively rare in winter ales and barley wines.

Appearance: Dark amber/brown, transparent and good foam retention
Nose: Notes of clove, nutmeg, and figgy pudding
Taste: Opens with sweet malts and spices, cloves, all spice, plums and figs
Aftertaste: Slight tang, relatively clean finish, slight lingering notes of spice
Overall: 9/10

Congrats again Hoyne for creating something subtle, experimental, but altogether appealing and satisfying. Congrats also on your first great year, conveying quality craft beers to Victorians and people of the Pacific Northwest. Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t go changing to try and please people. I meant it, don’t change!