GIB Cocoa Loco Chocolate Imperial Stout

GIB_cocoa_locoBrewer: Granville Island Brewery, Vancouver BC
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 8.7%
IBUs: 45

Description: A seasonal released for the winter months of November and December, this imperial stout is brewed using a combination of four different types of malt and Sterling hops, then flavored with cocoa and cocoa nibs to create a strong, and intense “winter warmer”.

Tasting Notes: I am especially interested in what breweries like GIB produce as part of their limited runs these days – mainly because it’s a testament to how breweries that went big are getting back to their craft brewing roots. In any case, this was a good example of an imperial stout (which I’m not usually a fan of) that was nicely rounded out. The infusion of cocoa provides a nice balance to the intense stout flavor, which comes through in some seriously strong malt and licorice favors.

Appearance: Dark brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malt, strong notes of cocoa, espresso
Taste: Rich malt, notes of licorice, chocolate and roasted espresso
Aftertaste: Lingering malt, roasted coffee bitterness, and cocoa
Overall: 7.8/10

Central City The Hobbit Smaug Stout

smaug_stoutBrewer: Central City Brewing, Surrey, BC
Style: Stout
ABV: 8.5%

Description: As one of three beers released in time for the premier of the final movie in the Hobbit Trilogy, Smaug Stout pays tribute to the namesake of the second installment in the trilogy – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The beer combines chili peppers with a strong stout base, resulting in a brew that is both potent and spicy.

Tasting Notes: I’m often not a fan of the Baltic Porters or Imperial Stouts, so this beer already had a strike against it. And while I’m not a fan of the Hobbit Trilogy, I still respect what they’ve done with this particular beer. The combination of a strong stout and a kick of chilis is interesting, as are the earthy tones and mild burn that come through in the end. Well paired thematically with a Tolkienesque dragon.

Appearance: Black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich, dark malty nose, notes of licorice, coffee
Taste: Strong malt, mild sweetness, hint of licorice, coffee, strong hop, earthy finish
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, mild chili spice burn
Overall: 7.5/10

Longwood Stoutnik Imperial Stout

Longwood_stoutnikBrewer: Longwood Brewery, Nanaimo BC
Style: Imperial Stout
Alc/Vol: 7.5%

Description: One of the Longwood brewery’s signature releases, this stout is brewed in the Russian Imperial fashion and fashioned using a combination of Black Barley malt, Chocolate malt, and Stout malt to create an extra strong, complex brew that is packed with coffee and licorice notes.

Tasting Notes: Of all of Longwoods brews, this is one that I’ve admittedly been resisting for quite some time. This may have something to do with the fact that stouts have been a little hit or miss for me (especially imperial stouts). Alas, I decided to finally remedy this and just dive in, and I was suitably impressed. The Stoutnik has all the things going for it that one would expect from an Imperial Stout, combining roasted malts with notes of espresso, licorice, and a nice bitter finish. Definitely wish I had tried it sooner.

Appearance: Black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malt, espresso, hint of licorice, mild hops
Taste: Dark malt flavor, good tang, notes of espresso, licorice, and grassy hops
Aftertaste: Lingering bitter malt and coffee flavor, licorice and mild malt sweetness
Overall: 8.25/10

Lighthouse Desolation Imperial Oyster Stout

Desolation-1024x682Back with more holiday beer! And for tonight’s review, I have decided to take in the latest limited release from the Lighthouse Brewery, which just happened to be their Desolation Sound Oyster Stout. As the name might suggest, this is a rather interesting and unique contender, an imperial stout made from 10 malts and a full shuck of Okeover organic oysters that were harvested directly from Desolation Sound.

Desolation_oysterstoutAnd in truth, I kind of avoided this beer for many weeks, thinking it was just a little too experimental for my taste. However, it came highly recommended from a trusted source who works at my local beer store, who compared it quite favorably to Parallel 49’s Salty Scot. Between that, and Driftwood’s recent Gos-uh brew, there really hasn’t been a shortage of local beers that incorporate sea salt. And I had no complaints about any of them.

And as promised, the end result was quite pleasing. In addition to possessing all the proper qualities of a fine, well-rounded and strong stout, the addition of oysters provided a certain briny, smoky texture that was actually quite complimentary. And what resulted from all this was a very smooth beer with a supple mouthfeel and a varied flavor profile – one which ranged from salty and sweet to smoky and bitter. And at 9.3% alc/vol, it also provides a strong alcoholic kick, but one that manages not to overpower the taste.

Appearance: Black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich stout malts, hint of smoke, briny, salty backbone
Taste: Smooth, sweet malts, mild licorice, hint of smoke, espresso, hint of saltiness
Aftertaste: Lingering licorice and espresso malt, smoke and salt
Overall: 8.5/10

Salt and beer… not something we North Americans tend to think of as being entirely natural. And yet, it is surprising how many styles of beer incorporate sea salt in order to effect a varied, balanced flavor. But it does serve to remind us just how diverse and varied the art of beer making is. Until next time!

Driftwood Singularity Stout

Finally, I got around to picking up this Driftwood seasonal. These days, I’m not that big a fan of stouts, but that’s mainly because of the proliferation of them, most of which tend towards the higher gravity and bitter tasting. But alas, if I’m going to be picky (as opposed to snobby) I’m going to miss out on things!

What’s more, I realized after doing a review of the Driftwood Brewery that there an exorbitant amount of seasonals and special releases which I have yet to review. This seemed like the perfect place to start.

For starters, this beer is “Imperial”, which in the case of stout implies that it is a variety of strong stout that was made especially for export from London to the Russian royal court during the 18th century. At 11.8% alc/vol, this beer certainly fits into the strong category! Add to that the fact that they aged it in Bourbon barrels and you’ve got yourself a pretty interesting combination.

As for the rest, well, I’ve broken that down into the usual tasting format:

Appearance: Blacker than the inside of a cow, as advertised!
Nose: Toasty malts, oats, molasses and a distinctive touch of whiskey sourness
Taste: Slight sweetness, quite smokey, tangy bite of whiskey malts
Aftertaste: Quite bitter and lingers for a long, long time
Overall: 7.5/10

Wellington Brewery

Another Ontario beer maker, and one that I’ve come to feel pretty nostalgic about over the years. In fact, back in my university days, this label was one of the most popular items to be featured in my beer fridge. In addition, its popularity at the local bars meant that new additions did not remain put of my sampling range for long! It has been a few years since I’ve drank from their lineup, as they are not available in BC, and during my most recent trip, I really didn’t partake too much. But given my long-standing history with Wellington, I can tell you a great deal about them just from memory, most of it good!

Based in Guelph, Ontario – as a good many breweries seem to be – the Wellington brewery is renowned for producing many true British-style ales. I’ve tried all of them, with the exception of their wheat ale, and found that they were both authentic and highly enjoyable. All across Ontario, pubs boast many taps dedicated to their beers, and for good reason. Between the quality, the name and the image they carry, Wellington commands a certain air of respect amongst English-speaking Canadians who are proud of their heritage. But getting to specifics, here is their lineup, in alphabetical order:

Arkell Best Bitter: A light and dry beer, the Arkell is served in both the “real ale” (i.e. hand-pulled) and draft/bottle style. In both cases, it boasts a sweet malt taste and a light hop finish, combined with a light copper color and a grainy, nutty nose.Of course, the draft and bottled varieties also possess a degree of carbonation and a more refreshing finish, that goes for all beers that come in both cask and draft. Although not particular dry, bitter or tawny (like many of its peers) this beer is very appealing, refreshing, and well paired with your high-end pub grub, especially chicken pot pies or Beef Wellington. 4/5

Country Dark Ale: Clear, dark amber, smelling of oak and strong malts, this beer is a perfect example of a traditional dark ale. Nutty, with a sweet taste that is reminiscent of toffee and baked bread, it is well suited to heavier fare, such as roast beef, assorted red meats, and stews. 4/5

Imperial Stout: A stronger customer (at 8% alc/vol), this deep, black stout is a historic creation. Originally made by British breweries for export to Russia, Imperial stouts were renowned for being strong, rich, and heavy with coffee and chocolate-like characteristics. This beer achieves all that, with a slight, anise note that is discernible after just a few sips. Another 4/5!

Iron Duke Strong Ale: An unusual beer, at least to those not familiar with winter ales and barley wines. Named in honor of the Duke of Wellington himself, this seasonal ale boasts a dark burgundy color, is cloudy, and has a real viscous, malty quality that is apparent the second it hits the tongue. It’s nose is a rich cherry, and the taste is rich and slightly tawny, reminiscent of port or other fortified wines. A true Brit! Cheers! 4.5/5

Special Pale Ale: Another lighter beer, reminiscent of an ESB and Niagara Pale due to its dry hop, tawny quality. Although it is not as bitter or citrusy as many pale ales go, this too is an easy-drinker with a rich, sweet aroma and nice, balanced finish that is well paired with spicey dishes. 4/5

Trailhead Lager: Without a doubt, one of the lightest lagers I have ever tasted. Initially, I was taken aback by its nutty, clean, taste and very light hop finish (normally, I prefer a heftier dose). However, I soon learned to appreciate it for the simple reason that it was just so drinkable and well paired with spicey dishes. In addition, its subtle malt flavor and hop profile tend to become more discernible as time goes on, leading to a deeper appreciation. Hmm, that’s two spicey food beers from one brewery… I smell a revised “Beer that tames the fire” posting in the near future! 3.75/5

New and yet to try: Only one! Their Silver Wheat Ale came out since my departure, and which I shall be seeking out the next time I’m in town! Cheers to all!

Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout

Is it an imperial stout? Is it a barely wine? That’s what I wondered the moment I opened a bottle of this beer and gave it a whif. The aroma immediately reminded me of barley wine, that thick, syrupy smell that makes you think of pudding and molasses. Then came the taste, and the mystery continued…

I only recently came into contact with Brooklyn, a micro-brewery that has been making craft beer since the late 80’s. Having sampled their lager at a local eatery here in Victoria, I found that I was quite pleased. And after some research, I learned that they’ve earned a few awards for their products over the years. So when my bro-in-law got me some for Christmas (hi Isaac!), I was pretty pleased.

On the one hand, the use of dark malts give it a bitter, chocolatey flavor. On the other, the fact that it is an especially strong beer (10 % alc/vol) lends it the strong, sweet taste of a barley wine. An interesting combination if ever there was one, but the taste, smell and deleterious effects were nothing short of welcome. And as a fan of both chocolate stouts and barley wines, I could appreciate the combination.

You might not think these two would go together, but I’ve been wrong about combos before. Honey and beer and Pilsner and IPA come to mind, and that’s just off the top of my head! So if you’re in a private beer store and are fan of stouts, strong beers, or barley wines, I recommend you pick up a bottle of this seasonal stout! Perfect for the holidays, great when paired with deserts and decadent when used to make a beer float! 4/5