Hoyne’s Voltage Espresso Stout

It’s here! The other limited release that Hoyne and company promised has been released! And as promised, it is an espresso stout, known by its full name Voltage Espresso Stout. And this time around, unlike that little misfire with the Wolf Vine Pale Ale, I arrived in time to get some fresh from the tap! No bottles for me… not until the growler is finished I mean.

And as usual, the beer is pretty fantastic. As I learned from the staff while getting my growlers filled, the espresso which gives Voltage Espresso it’s character comes from the local coffee shop known as Habit. As a Victorian, I can attest that it too is an awesome operation, and it’s good to see independent businesses coming together like this. The Espresso beans are also roasted right up the road from a brewery, and then infused into the beer on site. Talk about a local operation!

Oh, and the name, I imagine, requires some explanation. It goes without saying that the people at Hoyne like to give their beers meaningful monickers. Dark Matter Dark Lager, Devil’s Dream IPA, Summer Haze Hefeweizen, and now this. Apparently, the name is a tribute to the beer’s “polarity”, meaning it’s ranking on the color, hops and malt scales Hoyne employs with all their beers. On the one hand, it is at the far end of the spectrum when it comes color and malts, but at the other end when it comes to hop content. So basically this is a “bipolar” beer, kind of like an electrical current? Interesting…

Appearance: Very deep brown, clear and slightly transparent, mild foam
Nose: Strong notes of coffee and roasted malts
Taste: Slight tang and bitterness giving way to notes of real espresso coffee
Aftertaste: Lingering notes of espresso, mild bitterness
Overall: 9/10

You know, this kind of success rate is beginning to get annoying, Hoyne. If I keep doing reviews like this, people are going to think I’m getting kickbacks or something. Speaking of kickbacks, I wouldn’t be averse to being plied with plenty of free beer. But of course, that willingness might be interpreted as a sign of quality… Quite the conundrum! 😉

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Wolf Vine Pale Ale

Its finally here! After months of teasers, guessing, and even an online poll (conducted by yours truly!), Hoyne’s Fall surprise is finally here. And wouldn’t you know it, they’ve chosen to go with a pale ale. And not just any pale ale, mind you. Apparently, this ale is of the  “wet-hopped” variety, a process whereby the hops used are not dried beforehand.

What’s more, the varieties used are locally sourced from Sartori farms BC in fact, and include the ever popular Cascade and Centennial varieties. The result is a floral and herbal pale ale with a mild citrus kick and a very smooth flavor. And above all, it’s very drinkable, goes down easy, but still delivers a very appetizing, well-rounded flavor.

Appearance: Ruby amber hue, clear and good amount of foam
Nose: Subtle hop scent, notes of citrus and floral traces
Taste: Very smooth malts giving way to slightly bitter, mild citrus and herbal bite
Aftertaste: Dry bitterness slowly giving way to clean finish
Overall: 9.5/10

Overall, the wife and I were very impressed. Which is good, considered we waited some uncomfortable months for it’s release! Once again, Hoyne, you’ve hit it out of the park. You better have this one in growlers soon because I want to secure as much as I can before you cease production on this one!

Of the Rise in Craft Brewing

A long time ago, I did an article for this site addressing what I saw as a criminal trend in the brewing industry. Not just any crime mind you, but a crime against nature itself, as far as I was concerned! I was referring to the expansion of major brand names and how it seemed to be leading to an overall dip in quality.

To illustrate, I referred to how some of my favorite craft brewers from over the years had been altering their recipes, mainly so they could achieve mass appeal and expand their sales. Others, also personal favorites of mine, had closed down instead, unable to compete in a mass market dominated by major names and low standards. Not a happy article. But if I’ve realized anything in the past two years, it is that this trend has swung sharply in the other direction.

Yes, craft brewing is becoming more and more popular, and may I say that it’s about bloody time! Whether its an upsurge in the number of micro-breweries or the adoption of a craft beer line by major breweries, the trend seems consistent. Granted this is all based on my own anecdotal experience, but when you notice it happening everywhere, you have to assume you’re onto something!

First, as I said, is the expansion in craft brewing. Of all the micro breweries that I’ve discovered since moving to BC, few seem to have opened their doors before the year 2000. For those that did, you’d be hard pressed to find one that’s been in operation since before the late 90’s. This is true of the Driftwood Brewery, the Cannery Brewery, Moon Under Water, Phillips, Old Yale, Hoyne, Dead Frog, Surgenor, Longwood, Swan’s, Spinnakers, and a host of others that I’ve sampled over the years. Back in Ontario, this is similarly true. It was only in the late 90’s and early millennium that the spectacular operations of McAuslan’s, Creemore, Scotch-Irish, Mill St., Heritage, Cameron’s, Muskoka, and a slew of others were established. And their ongoing success is a testament to fact that the popularity of craft brewing is on the rise.

As for the adoption of special, small-batch product lines adopted by larger operations, I am satisfied to say that this trend seems to be catching on, particularly with breweries that I noticed were watering down the wares. In recent years, the Vancouver Island Brewery, Granville Island Brewery, the Lighthouse Brewery have all began releasing signature or limited release beers that are not part of their regular lineups, and take advantage of the small batch production methods that ensure better quality.

This is also true of such giants as Keith’s, which has expanded its lineup by incorporating a white, an amber and a dark ale. This began in recent years, and represents a complete 180 from what they’ve been doing for the generations now – producing a single, watery ale that bears no resemblance to a real IPA. And Sleeman’s, a major operation in its own right, has even expanded its repertoire by introducing an IPA and a Porter to their lineup.

Granted, brewery ownership is still concentrated in the hands of a few major multinationals, and the vast majority of beer consumed today consists of mass produced, flat and flavorless numbers. Still, the trend towards authenticity and flavor seems to be clear. Consumers are demanding beer that is made locally, in small batches, and in accordance with traditional standards. And for beer snobs, who insist on authenticity over accessibility, this can only be seen as great news. Great news indeed!

So when you’re out next weekend, find yourself a local microbrew, a brewpub, and drink up! And be sure to tip your barmaid. Cheers!