Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller Barley Wine 2016

driftwood_ocd2016Brewer: Driftwood Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Barley Wine (apparently)
ABV: 11.2%
IBUs: Unlisted (but damn high!)

Description: This is the latest release of the Old Cellar Dweller, which is not quite seasonal, but intermittent throughout the year. The 2016 release coincides with the holiday season, and is brewed using a combination of Pale, Pilsner, Crystal malts, and then heavily bittered using Columbus and Cascade hops.

Tasting Notes: This year’s Old Cellar Dweller has been in keeping with what they’ve been doing in recent years, which is to produce an Imperial IPA and call it a barleywine. As is stated on their website –  “When young, it is a hoppy treat with plenty of citrus and pine; cellared for a few years and Cellar Dweller gracefully ages into a rich, round reward for patience, hinting at flavours of tawny port.” However, offering that were from 2012 and earlier were not required to undergo aging before they began to resemble actual barleywine. So… why do we wait for it to mature? And what’s with the mislabeling?

Appearance: Strong orange, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malts, strong notes of citrus, pine and tropical fruit
Taste: Sweet and coarse malt, tang, notes of pine, pineapple, passion fruit
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt, hop bitterness, alcoholic warmth
Overall: 8/10

Category 12 Subversion Imperial IPA

c12-bottle-shot-SUBVERSIONBrewer: Category 12 Brewing, Central Saanich, BC
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.7%
IBUs: 85

Description:  This latest release from Category 12 is the brewery’s shot at what is currently one of the most popular styles of West Coast ale. It is fashioned using plenty of (what I can only assume are) pale and Crystal malts, then generously hopped with Mt. Hood, Cascade & Centennial hops for an intense flavor – like a good IIPA!

Tasting Notes: Let me just say I’m very proud of C12 and the work they’ve been doing of late. This brew is just one of a few new concoctions they have come up, and intend to review them all. In any case, this beer was a faithful example of a West Coast Imperial IPA, employing a strong, slightly sweet and coarse malt base and an intense hop flavor that has notes of citrus, pine, passion fruit and dried herbs. And yet, despite it power, it manages to finish quite nicely and cleanly. Not what you’d generally expect from a Imperial IPA.

Appearance: Deep amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, good hop nose, notes of citrus, pine, tropical fruit, grass
Taste: Strong malt, slightly sweet and coarse, notes of pine, passion fruit, herbs
Aftertaste: Lingering malt bitterness, malt coarseness and sweetness
Overall: 9.5/10

P49 Corn Hops Imperial IPA

P49_cornhopsBrewer: Parallel 49, Vancouver, BC
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.2%
IBUs: 86

Description: P49’s latest summer seasonal is a new take on the Imperial IPA. Combining Pilsner malt with flaked corn, this Imperial IPA is then hopped with a significant dose of Chinook, Ahtanium, and Citra hops to achieve a strong but slightly sweet brew packed with citrus and tropical fruit flavors.

Tasting Notes: This was definitely a consistent P49 offering! As always, the combination was quite interesting and the end result quite flavorful. The infusion of corn added a hint of sweetness and light color to an otherwise malty Imperial IPA. And of course, the heft hopping added plenty of citrus, passion fruit, and pineapple flavors, along with a nice, dry herb essence.

Appearance: Light gold, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malts, good notes of citrus, pineapple, herbs and passion fruit
Taste: Strong malt, hint of corn syrup, notes of citrus, pineapple, pine and herbs
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, herbs and tropical fruit
Overall: 8.5/10

Double Mountain Pale Death Belgian-Style Imperial IPA

doublemountain_paledeathBrewer: Double Mountain, Hood River, OR
Style: Belgian-Style Imperial IPA
ABV: 9.3%
IBUs: 93

Description: This apocalyptic-themed ale features a combination that is growing in popularity of late – the fusion of Pacific Northwestern and Belgian-style ales. In this case, pale malt and a very generous dose of Northwestern hops co-mingle with strains of Ardennes yeast to create a beer that is very powerful, but strangely balanced.

Tasting Notes: I was a little wary of this beer to begin with. An Imperial IPA that embraces elements of an extra strong Belgian ale is sure to be powerful and potentially overwhelming, maybe to its own detriment. But I really like the way that Pacific Northwest hops (Cascade, Centennial and/or Columbus for sure) play well with Belgian flavors. You’ve got the citrusy and tropical fruit flavors of of a Northwestern IPA, which are nicely balanced by the spicy, citrusy flavor of Belgian yeast. And the strength, while considerable, doesn’t intrude on the flavor. Things finish smoothly and warmly!

Appearance: Amber, cloudy, sediment, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, citrus, passion fruit, pineapple, spicy yeast, coriander
Taste: Strong malt, citrus bite, grassy, piney, yeasty, orange peel, coriander, alcoholic bite
Aftertaste: Lingering spice, yeast, alcoholic and hop bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

Parallel 49 Rye The Long Face Imperial Rye IPA

p49_ryethelongfaceBrewer: Parallel 49 Brewing, Vancouver BC
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.5%
IBUs: 86

Description: Part of Parallel 49 Spring Seasonal lineup, this Imperial IPA combines a hefty combination of pale and rye malts, and is then bittered using a similarly robust amount of Chinook, Simcoe, Amarillo and Centennial hops.

Tasting Notes: As Imperial IPAs go, this beer was quite smooth and drinkable. Surprising considering its strength and the hefty dose of rye. And yet, the rye malts and heavy helping of Pacific Northwest hops balance out to create a pretty subtle but complex brew.

Appearance: Deep orange, mildly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: rich malt, rye notes, citrus, pineapple, and passion fruit hops
Taste: Smooth, slightly crisp malt, notes of herbs, citrus, peach, pineapple
Aftertaste: Lingering tang, citrus and tropical fruit and rye bitterness
Overall: 8.3/10

Parallel 49 Toques of Hazard Imperial White IPA

P49_toquesBrewer: Parallel 49 Brewing, Vancouver BC
Style: Imperial India Pale Ale/Wheat Ale
ABV: 9.2%
IBU: 76

Description: This seasonal release from Parallel 49 celebrates winter in a rather cheeky fashion, which is very befitting of this brewery! The beer is a combination wheat and barley malt Imperial IPA, with high alcohol content and plenty of citrus, grass and piney notes brought on by a generous dose of Citra and Nelson Sauvin hops.

Tasting Notes: As usual, Parallel 49 manages to combine some interesting styles into a single brew, and said styles certainly come through in the flavor. This is characterized by a semi-sweet and coarse malt palate, some smooth wheat malts, and plenty of hop flavor that rings true with notes of grass, pine, and citrus. Once again, a combination that works.

Appearance: Dark gold, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malts, strong hop nose, citrus, pine, tropical fruit
Taste: Sweet and slightly coarse malt, hint of smooth wheat malt, citrus bite, grassy, pine
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, clean wheat and slightly coarse malt finish
Overall: 9/10

Evil Twin All Occasions IPA

evil_twin_0015_all_occasions_ipaBrewer: Evil Twin Brewing, Brooklyn NY
Style: Imperial India Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 8%

Description: Originally from Denmark but currently headquartered in Brooklyn, the Evil Twin Brewery is a gypsy operation that produces limited-edition and one-off beers as well as a series of seasonal and year-round beers available internationally. This all-season Imperial IPA hails from the Fanø Bryghus microbrewery of Denmark, and is faithfully brewed to create a heavily- hopped beer with a heavy malt character.

Tasting Notes: This is my first time trying anything by Evil Twin and their Imperial IPA can definitely stand alongside anything I’ve tried here on the West Coast. Employing rich and coarse malt base, it also has some serious hop content. This comes in the form of the usual strong citrus and tropical notes, but which are decidedly English in character (i.e. more subtle). The brewery is definitely worth further investigating!

Appearance: Dark orange/amber, very cloudy, sediment, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, good notes of floral hops, citrus and tropical fruit
Taste: Sweet and coarse malt, citrus and alcoholic bite, passion fruit and pineapple
Aftertaste: Lingering hop and malt bitterness, citrus rind and alcohol
Overall: 8.5/10

Spinnakers Jolly Hopper Imperial IPA

Jolly_Hopper_Bottle-WEBBrewer: Spinnakers Brewpub, Victoria BC
Style: Imperial IPA
Alc/Vol: 8%
IBUs: 100

Description: Named after the flag pirate ships would fly to signal imminent attack, this Imperial IPA is brewed is using a variety of experimental hops, and in significant doses. The end result is a very strong, very hoppy India Pale Ale that combines English-style and West Coast-style brewing traditions.

Tasting Notes: This beer delivered in all the usual departments. It had the strong, coarse malts of an Imperial IPA, plus a very significant dose of hop bitterness. And you can sense the varied hop profile in both the smell and the taste. While it comes through with what appear to be West Coast Cascade, Centennial and Amarillo hops in the taste department, the nose calls to mind Kent, Golding and Fuggles – all English strains. A good IIPA, but definitely not for the faint of heart or unaccustomed.

Appearance: Amber, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, fruity, English-style hops
Taste: Heavy malt, coarse and tangy, bitter burst of grapefruit
Aftertaste: Citrus rind, lingering malt coarseness
Overall: 7.8/10

Alameda Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA

alameda_ipaBrewer: Alameda Brewing, Portland, OR
Style: Imperial India Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 8.2%
IBU: 103

Description: Since 1996, the Alameda Brewery has been producing a wide variety of craft beers in Northeast Portland. Their Golden Wolf Imperial IPA is hoppier and stronger than anything in either their regular lineup or their limited-release and seasonal releases. As one of their “House Beers”, it is available year-round.

Tasting Notes: This brew was a little different from what I’ve come to expect from Imperial IPAs. At 103 IBUs, it was certainly as bitter as I expected it to be, but the malt profile was decidedly light in terms of color and flavor. With a name like “Imperial”, one would expect the usual combination of sweet and coarse malts to be twice as potent. Still, this brew was strong and appetizing and did not slouch in the flavor department!

Appearance: Light golden/orange, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Passion fruit and citrus notes, grassy, piney hops
Taste: Subtle malts, dry hop flavor, passion fruit and bitter citrus
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness and grapefruit rind
Overall: 8/10

Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller Barley Wine 2013

oldcellardweller_2013Now here is a holiday beer I was not expecting to sample. Usually when I see a beer I’ve had before, I do not feel particularly compelled to hurry up and try it again. But in this case, I heard tell from a friend and fellow zythophile (Hi Mike!) that it was quite different from its previous incarnations. This should really not have come as a surprise, as last year’s Old Barrel Dweller was quite a departure. Whereas 2011’s was the first Old Cellar I ever sampled, 2012’s was bourbon barrel-conditioned. I guess I just assumed this year’s would be back to its old self.

But as Mike pointed out, this year’s barley wine was actually quite different, in a way that made it seem more like an Imperial IPA. And in this, he was exactly right. Though it ranks in at a whopping 11.6% alc/vol, the similarities pretty much stop there. In terms of color, malt backbone, and hop content, an English-style barley wine is dark, slightly coarse, sugary, and contains strong traces of dark fruit (plums, dates, prunes, raisins, etc). This beer, on the other hand, is light in color, has a syrupy malt backbone, but is otherwise characterized by very strong hops and a powerful alcoholic bite.

Appearance: Amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong citrus nose, syrupy malts
Taste: Slightly sweet malt start, strong notes of pine, citrus, passion fruit
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness and coarse malts
Overall: 8/10

All in all, the only thing that seemed consistent about this beer with its professed style is its alcoholic content. It is certainly not a bad vintage or a bad beer, but again I feel this is a case of a “barley wine” that was mislabeled. Strangely enough, the last one was also a BC beer (Scandal Brewing’s Mt. Everest) that produced a barley wine that seemed much more like a Maibock. I sincerely hope this is not the beginning of a trend!