Red Arrow Old Style Lager

redarrow_lagerBrewer: Red Arrow Brewing Co., Duncan, BC
Style: Lager
ABV: 5%
IBUs: 20

Description: The latest addition to Red Arrow’s lineup, this brew is a traditional lager with West Coast influence. It is also aged for an extended amount of time in horizontal tanks to ensure smoothness and clarity.

Tasting Notes: This lager was quite refreshing and clean, and was definitely characteristic of a smooth and somewhat hoppy lager. At the same time, it had a malt characteristic that I’ve found is quite typical of Red Arrow beers – which has a slightly rubbery taste to it. This would seem to indicate that the brewery is still hitting its stride. But they are getting there!

Appearance: Straw gold, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Slight rubbery nose, grainy malt, notes of Noble hops – grainy and herbal
Taste: Crisp malt, slight rubbery flavor, mild tang, grainy hops, mild grass and herbs
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, mild hop bitterness, quite clean
Overall: 7.8/10

Hop City Barking Squirrel Lager

hopcity_lagerBrewer: Hop City Brewing, Brampton, ON
Style: Lager
ABV: 5%
IBUs: 24

Description: This lager, which is Hop City’s flagship beer, is brewed using a combination of of Pale Two-Row, Crystal, Dark Crystal , Munich, and Torrified Wheat malts, which are then bittered with Hallertau Mittelfrueh and Saaz hops.

Tasting Notes: This is the second time I’ve sampled Barking Squirrel, the first time being during my 2013 trip to Ottawa. Somehow, my review card was full and I neglected to give it a proper write-up, which I am corrected now! This is very much a good, clean-drinking lager, with some maltier notes that are reminiscent of a good Marzen. A crisp and slightly sweet malt base with notes of sweet bread and caramel combine with a dry, noble hop flavor to create a very quaffable and drinkable lager.

Appearance: Amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Sharp and grainy malt nose, noble hops, dry grasses and herbs
Taste: Clean, crisp malts, sweet bread, caramel, grassy and herbal hops, minerals
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, grainy and sweet malt flavor
Overall: 8/10

Off To The Beer Seminar!

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Today is a great day for beer appreciation, because it is the day that I finally get to host my long-overdue beer-tasting and history of beer seminar. Ten participants have signed on, the space has been reserved, and in a few hours time, I will be giving the attendees a quick (well not too quick) run-down on the history of the brewing craft, coupled with some generous sampling.

I’ve prepared the following list based on what I could find and what seemed indispensable to me as far as representing the history and full range of brewing was concerned. All told, they are divided by style more than historical period, but I will be presenting them in this order since it gives a pretty good idea of how the art evolved over time.

Ancient Beers:
Heather: Salt Spring Island Heather Ale (5% / 650 ml)
(I desperately wanted to find a bomber of Gruit as well, but that variety of beer is both hard to find and hopelessly out of season right now)

Abbey Beers:
Blonde: Affligem Blonde (6.8% / 330ml)
Tripel: Townsite Charleston Tripel (9% / 650 ml)
Sour: Driftwood Belle Royale (8% / 650 ml)

Anglo-American Beer:
Pale Ale: Hoyne’s Down Easy (5.2% / 650ml)
India Pale Ale: Driftwood Fat Tug IPA (7% / 650 ml)
Stout: Hopworks 7-Grain Stout (5.3% / 650 ml)
Barley Wine: Howe Sound Wooly Bugger (10.5% / 375 ml)

German Beer:
Lager: Ayinger Dortmunder Lager (5.5% / 500 ml)
Oktoberfest: Russel Marzen (5.5% / 650ml)
Hefeweizen: Schneider Weisse (5.4% / 500 ml)
Bock: Schneider Weisse Aventinus (8% / 500ml)
Smokebeer: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier (6.6% / 500 ml)

The seminar will begin with where and how beer became a cornerstone of civilization – emerging alongside agriculture and sedentary communities some 8000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent. I will then go on to how the rise of wine making introduced a sense of cultural distinction during Classical Antiquity, and the influence was largely confined to the parts of Europe where the Roman Empire had influence (France, Spain, Italy, the Mediterranean, but not Germany, the Low Countries, Eastern Europe, or the British Isles).

Then comes the Middle Ages, the establishment of Abbey/Monastery Brewing, the rise of hop use, the advent of Lager and the growing professionalization of the industry. Which then gives way to the industrial revolution and the emergence of brewing as a big business, followed of course by the modern era and the resurgence in craft brewing. It promises to be interesting, I just hope I can keep it down to 20 minutes. Leaves more time from sampling!

I’ll be sure to let you all know how it goes and I hope to repeat it in the very near future with some other (and larger) groups of people.

Longwood Independent Pilsner

independent-pilsner-01Brewer: Longwood Brewery, Nanaimo, BC
Style: Imperial Pilsner
Alc/Vol: 6.5%

Description: This “Noble Imperial” Pilsner is a high-gravity, highly-hopped take on the traditional pilsner, which was apparently done to “preserve it for export from The Republic of Vancouver Island across the frigid Salish Sea.” In short, the brew borrows stylistically from the India Pale Ale to effect a denser, hoppier version of this style of lager.

Tasting Notes: This beer is what one would expect from a Pilsner, employing grainy malt with a good, crisp hop flavor. However, these attributes are amplified, with the malts being more viscous and possessed of a stronger tang. In addition, the grassy hop flavor is intensified, lingering long after the initial sip and well into the aftertaste.

Appearance: Deep gold, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Grainy malt, crisp, grassy hops
Taste: Grainy malt, syrupy, strong tang, good dose of bitter, grassy hops
Aftertaste: Lingering tang and hop bitterness, mild skunk
Overall: 8.5/10

P49 Defibrillator Doppelbock

parallel49_labelsBrewer: Parallel 49 Brewery, Vancouver, BC
Style: Doppelbock
Alc/Vol: 8.5%
IBUs: 25

Description: Yet another limited release by the Parallel 49 Brewery, this beer is fashioned in the historic lager style known as doppelbock, which monastic have been producing since the 18th century for the consumption of German royalty and nobility. This beer uses a combination of Pilsner and Munich malts and is fermented and aged for an extended period to give it a dark, rich, and more alcoholic profile.

Tasting Notes: This latest release from P49 was certainly consistent with what I’ve come to know about bocks and doppelbocks. It was dark, rich, especially malty, and had a smooth, velvety profile. In addition, it has a discernible hint of vanilla that makes it especially drinkable and appetizing, in addition to a hint of herbal hops that – when combined with its other flavors – are reminiscent of Jagermeister and herb liquor.

Appearance: Deep reddish brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Deep malts, sweet herbs, vanilla, mild trace of Noble hops
Taste: Rich, smooth malt, slight sweetness, tang, hint of grainy, herbal hops, vanilla
Aftertaste: Lingering malt, vanilla, and herbal hop flavor
Overall: 8.5/10

Breakside Liquid Sunshine Pilsner

breakside-pilsner-breaks-22863-4zBrewer: Breakside Brewery, Portland OR
Style: Pilsner
Alc/Vol: 5.1%

Description: Located in Portland (with a second taproom/brewery in Milwauki, OR), the Breakside Brewpub has been making handcrafted beers for many years and has created a wide variety in that time. The Liquid Sunshine Pilsner is part of their current, regular lineup and is available year-round on tap at both of their locations, as well as for commercial sales and export.

Tasting Notes: This Pilsner was exceptionally crisp and refreshing and had a nice finish to it that was clean without being watery. The flavor profile was also very consistent with a good Pilsner, calling to the mind the grainy flavor of Munich malts and the sharp, grassy flavor of Saaz and Hallertau hops. Definitely a good hot weather beer, or just something for when you’re craving a good, clean lager.

Appearance: Light golden, cloudy, medium foam retention and good carbonation
Nose:  Gentle smell of Munich malts and Noble hops
Taste: Light grainy malt flavor, mild tang, crisp hop bite, mild bitterness and grassyness
Aftertaste: Mild lingering bitterness and malt flavor, very clean and refreshing
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

 

Back from Ottawa!

DSCF1285As promised, I am back from the east with plenty of beers to rave about! Much like last trip, and the one before that, ad infinitum… I managed to secure some beers from several new breweries, seasonals, and special releases that can only be found in the nation’s capitol. Whether it was on tap, in a can, or a bottle, and found at the local LCBO, bar, or bistro, I had a number of great drinking experiences this trip. And what better place to start than with the latest from Beau’s All Natural Brewing and the Creemore Brewery?

Beau’s Night Marzen Oktoberfest Lager:
beaus_marzenBack in 2012, I saw Beau’s long-necked beers at an Ottawa LCBO, and for some reason didn’t buy one. Perhaps my cart was overloaded, who knows? Luckily, I rectified my mistake this year and promptly picked up a bottle of their seasonal Marzen Oktoberfest. And I was quite pleased, though admittedly I am a fan of this seasonal lager. Compared to your average lager, Marzens are often darker and orange in hue, a heavier, maltier body, and a crisp finish. However, the Beau’s manages to adds to that with a relatively good dose of hops which yield a more bitter, complex and even lemony flavor than I was expecting. This is all complimented by a good, clean finish that manages to round things out. Not your light lager by any means, but a pleaser as far as I am concerned!

Appearance: Orange-amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Grassy, piney notes, subtle malts
Taste: Immediate burst of bitter, piney hops, lemon, grainy malts
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness and citrus rind
Overall: 8.5/10

Creemore Altbier:
creemore_altbierCreemore is without a doubt one of my favorite microbreweries in Ontario. Not only are they the purveyor of one of my favorite beers of all time – Creemore Urbock, one of the finest bocks ever made – I also consider their Pilsner, Lager and Kellerbier to be exceptional. So it was exciting to see that they had produced a collaboration ale that honors the venerable German style known as altbier – “old beer”, which refers to the pre-lager days when German brewers made ales. Produced in conjunction with the brewers at Zum Schlüssel in Dusseldorf, an historic brewery specializing in alts, this beer was released for their 25th anniversary and is now back by popular demand. And much like their other beers, it was very subtle, clean, and highly refreshing.


Appearance:
Dark amber-brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild, toasty malts, mild hops and smokiness
Taste: Smooth, gentle malts, slight tang, hint of grassy hops and smoke
Aftertaste: Mild bitterness, clean, touch of minerality
Overall: 8.5/10

More to follow from my trip! Stay tuned…

Home Made Jerk Seasoning!

jerk_seasoning_16x9At last, I’ve come to embrace the challenge, to make my own homemade jerk seasoning and let the results speak for themselves. As anyone familiar with my site here knows, at times I like to talk about food. I’m pretty DIY when it comes to good recipes, and enjoy making certain foods that promote comfort, are healthy, and go well with beer. And as I’ve come to compile a pretty a long list of spice-compatible beers over the years, I thought it was about time I tried to make my favorite spicy sauce!

For anyone who’s tried making the sauce, jerk seasoning/sauce/spice presents a bit of a challenge. It consists of several ingredients, the exact combination of which are subject to interpretation since it, like the region which spawned it (the Caribbean) is a very diverse place. Nevertheless, the basic premise remains pretty consistent from place to place and household to household. What all agree upon is the fact that anything bearing the name “jerk” is hot, peppery, and multilayered.

jerk_dinnerThe basic rub/spice comes down to scotch bonnet peppers (aka. habanero) and peppercorns, and the calls for the addition of spices which revolves around the holy trinity of allspice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves). You’ve also got your share of onions, garlic, and ginger which, in the case of a rub, would be powdered but need to be fresh if you’re making a sauce or marinade. This not only adds more layers of flavor, but a degree of consistency to it all. The final ingredients which finish the transformation of the spice into a sauce are rum (another Caribbean product of extreme and historical importance) and vinegar.

In my case, I used pale ale and balsamic vinegar, since rum and malt were not available. This did not heavily alter the taste from what I was anticipating, but for purists, I’m thinking only rum and malt vinegar will do here. And of course, only true habaneros should suffice for spice. No chillies, no jalapenos, no substitutes of any kind. Half of making jerk seasoning is measuring out the heat, and with habanero/scotch bonnets, a little goes a LONG way!

The following list was used by me, and the proportions were not exact, hence why I don’t list specific quantities. Best to just experiment until you get the color, consistency, and taste you want. So using the following template, combine the following ingredients in a bowl and grind well.

Ingredients:
bay leaves
black pepper
cinnamon
cloves
garlic
ginger

malt vinegar
nutmeg

onion
rum
sea salt
habanero/scotch bonnet peppers (any more than two and your an adventurous SOB!)

Once finely ground, the resulting sauce should be a deep brown color, speckled from the ground pepper, and should smell strong and acidic. The taste should be spicy (obviously), and boast a fair degree of pepper, onion, garlic and be just slightly sweet, and the allspice should also be noticeable. If not, try tweaking the ingredients. Whatever is overpowering it, balance it out with more of the rest.

When finished, use as a rub, marinade, or cooking sauce, slather conservatively on your food, and let it bring out the taste! Remember, moderation is key here. Proper jerk is HOT, so not much should be needed to really made your food sing!

voltage-stout-sliderAnd of course, beer pairing is essential when dealing with this food. And in this case, keeping things geographically and culturally appropriate, I would recommend either a nice, clean lager or a smooth stout, preferably a St. Amboise Oatmeal, a Hoyne’s Voltage Espresso Stout, or a Brooklyn’s Black or Rogue Chocolate Stout. Nothing too overpowering, as you want smoothness to go with your spice.

This weekend, I will be making a third go at producing this sauce and using it as a marinade for a large roast. Paired with a dark beer and some roasted veggies, I know that dinner will be most enjoyable! I recommend you try this recipe out for yourselves since its an inexpensive way to turn your food into a real experience. Until next time, good luck and good eating!

More Summer Beer Additions!

summer-beerOnce in awhile, I find myself coming back from the beer store with a number of similar selections from different breweries. These I generally buy because they are limited releases, share a common theme, or are beers I simply haven’t tried yet. A few weeks ago, I made such a selection, recorded my observations, but then forgot to share them! Alas, I discovered my error and am now correcting that, and bringing to you some summer beers that are sure to still be available.

They are VIB’s Vicfest and Granville Islands Cloak and Dagger, both of which I found while rummaging around the Cook St. Liquor Store. Every time I go in there, I feel like a kid in a candy store and cant seem to make a decision of what to boy. But since VIB and Granville Island have a few things in common – large-scale breweries that are located here in BC, but who are committed to their craft brewing roots – these two limited releases seems like a good buy. And here is what I thought…

Vancouver Island Brewery Vicfest Festival Ale:
Vicfest-650-Bottle-Mock-FLATInteresting case of timing here, since Vicfest is just a week away. However, VIB and the people of Vicfest teamed awhile back and begin brewing this beer well in advance for this summer’s Vancouver Island Cultural Festival. According to a statement released by the brewery, they were going for something that captured the light, rhythmic sense of the island festival and the people who regularly attend. Or as they put it:

This festival ale is brewed in celebration of the amazing art, music and culture here on Vancouver Island. We’re proud to support local cultural events like VIC Fest that strengthen our island’s unique collection of bouncing souls and kindred spirits. Brewed with a rhythmic blend of malts and lightly riffed hops this beer is a thirst quenching and sensory expanding experience. Turn it up and enjoy.

And I’d say that’s what they wound up with as an end result. Though an west coast ale, the light, crisp and clean quality of the beer is more reminiscent of a lager or altbier. And as such, its quite consistent with warm weather, the outdoors, and summery evenings.

Appearance: Light gold, clear, mild foam and good carbonation
Nose: Light malts, mild hops, lager-like
Taste: Crisp, mild malts, Munich-style hops, trace minerality
Aftertaste: Clean finish, mild hops
Overall: 8/10

Almost as good was sample number two, otherwise known as …

Granville Island Cloak & Dagger Cascadian Dark Ale:
cloak&dagger_cascdarkHere we have a limited released that was produced by the folks at Granville Island Brewing as past of their Black Note Book Series. And as has been increasingly the fashion with GIB of late, they’ve been getting in on the craft brewing train with a long lineup of small batch beers, all of which appear to be consistent with the latest Northwest trends. This Cascadian Dark Ale, which combines aspects of a stout, IPA, is no exception, being a rather popular style of late.

And for the most part, I found this one enjoyable and flavorful, though it was slightly on the light side. With a malt profile of a stout or dark ale and the hoppiness of an IPA, one expects a bit more challenge and flavor. However, the Cloak and Dagger remains a very pleasant spring beer and I hope to see it again.

Appearance: Black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dark toasted malts, bitter citrus hops
Taste: Immediate burst of bitter hops, mild tang, relatively light, smooth malts
Aftertaste: Mild and lingering bitterness, otherwise clean aftertaste
Overall: 7.5/10

That’s all for now. Soon enough, I will be back with more seasonal brews, strictly summer one this time! And given the sheer supply of breweries and styles that are in vogue this season, I’m not sure what to expect. But that’s part of the fun of beer shopping, the selection!