Lighthouse Jackline Rhubarb Grisette

LIGHTHOUSE_JACKLINEBrewer: Lighthouse Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Saison
ABV: 5.5%
IBU: Unspecified

Description: This Table Saison, or Grisette, is the latest addition to Lighthouse’s Explorer Series. Alongside 10 other beers, it made its debut at the “Craft Beer Thunderdome” during Victoria Beer Week, and is now available. Consistent with this Belgian-style ale, it is brewed with wheat, oats, Pilsner malt, and fresh rhubarb from the Fraser Valley before being fermented using Saison yeast.

Tasting Notes: Saisons and farmhouse ales seem all the rage lately! And I definitely liked what Lighthouse did with this one. The combination of malts made for a very clean, smooth malt base, and the addition of tart rhubarb flavor added was very nice compliment to the Saison yeast, which is usually sharp and spicy. This beer will go great with the approaching summer weather!

Appearance: Light golden, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malt, Saison yeast, tart, tangy notes of rhubarb
Taste: Smooth, mild start, burst of tart rhubarb flavor, slightly sharp yeast finish
Aftertaste: Lingering rhubarb tartness, smooth malt finish, quite refreshing
Overall: 8.5/10

Lighthouse Barque Belgian Golden Strong Ale

belgian_blondeBrewer: Lighthouse Brewery, Esquimalt, BC
Style: Belgian-style Strong Ale
ABV: 8.2%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: The latest in Lighthouse’s Uncharted Series, this Belgian-style strong ale is named in honor of the class of sailing ship that once served as the workhorse of the Pacific – including Captain Cooke’s HM Endeavour. This beer is brewed with a Pilsner malt and bittered with a combination of Saaz, Styrian Golding, and South Pacific Wai-iti hops.

Tasting Notes: I’ve always loved the Uncharted Series, mainly because of its emphasis on big flavor and strength. And this was certainly a big flavor-take on the traditional Belgian Blonde, employing rich malts, lots of candi sugar, notes of honey, white grape and other sweet fruits, and plenty of yeasty effervescence.

Appearance: Light gold, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malt, candi sugar, yeast, grapes, citrus, floral hops
Taste: Rich malt, honey, sugars, yeast, white grapes and fruity esters
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, yeasty bitterness, fruity esters
Overall: 8.5/10

Lighthouse Rhubie Rhubarb Ale

Lighthouse_RhubieBrewery: Lighthouse Brewery, Victoria, BC
Style: Wheat Ale
Alc/Vol: 6.2%

Description: A seasonal brew released just in time for Spring, this Lighthouse fruit-infused wheat ale is brewed using Pilsner malt, flaked wheat, hops, Belgian wheat ale yeast, and is then flavored with organic rhubarb from BC’s Fraser Valley.

Tasting Notes: The Rhubie comes across as very light and refreshing, which is what one would certainly expect from a Krystallweizen (the filtered, clear version of hefeweizen), especially one that is infused with fruit. However, added to this are the subtle, discernible notes of rhubarb, which add a hint of sweetness and some mild acidity to the mix.

Appearance: Light gold, clear, some sediment, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild wheat malt, yeast, hint of rhubarb acidity
Taste: Mild and smooth malt, hint of yeast, hint of sweetness and tang
Aftertaste: Very clean and refreshing, lingering malt and tang
Overall: 8/10

Lighthouse Sauerteig Farmhouse Ale

photo (2)Brewer: Lighthouse Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Farmhouse Ale
Alc/Vol: 7%

Description: Named after the rye flour that is used to make sourdough bread, this farmhouse ale is made using rye, wheat and barley flakes, malted wheat and rye, spelt flour and sauerteig prepared by Byron Fry at Fry’s Red Wheat Bakery. Done in the Farmhouse style, the beer is unfiltered and fermented using Belgian yeast.

Tasting Notes: This latest installment from Lighthouse was consistent with the quality I’ve come to expect from them with their seasonal and limited releases. As a farmhouse, it has a distinctly Belgian flavor which is due to the choice yeasts that impart spicey notes reminiscent of coriander. The combination of starches and malts also lends it a particularly malty, but smooth and complex flavor. And despite the presence of rye malts and flour, it is somewhat subtler and cleaner than most farmhouse ales I’ve tried.

Appearance: Medium gold, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Distinct Belgian yeasts, baked bread, coriander spice
Taste: Smooth, flavorful malts, strong yeast, mild rye bitterness, discernible spices
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, yeasts and rye flavor, light and refreshing
Overall: 8.5/10

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!

Lighthouse 15th Anniversary Ale

Lighthouse_15thanniversaryAs promised, I’m back with one of Victoria’s most important and summer limited releases. It seems that this year marks the Lighthouse Brewing Company’s 15th anniversary. And to celebrate, they have produced an anniversary ale which was clearly made with the brewery’s history in mind. I say this because over the years, the brewery has shown quite the range when it comes to producing different styles of beer. This has included the standard lineup, consisting of your typical British and American-style ales, but has also extended to include continental and time-honored varieties that are sightly more esoteric.

And it seems that all of these have gone into the creation of this ale, which interestingly enough, names no specific variety on the label. And you’ll understand why as soon as you taste it. It’s dark and possesses some of the toasted, subtle tones of a brown, but is packed with some discernable sugars and is potently strong. And then there’s the hops and yeast, distinctly British in origin, and the Maibock like tang and sweetness that lingering on the palate. It is a brown? It is a barely wine? Is it a bock? Is it a bitter? Well… yes, and no, and all the above.

Appearance: Dark brown, transparent, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dry English hops, light, nutty brown malts, sugars
Taste: Immediate burst of roasted malts, tang, notes of brown sugar and dry, bitter hops
Aftertaste: Lingering sweetness and tang, similar to Maibock, and dry hop bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

Not a bad way to mark 15 years of brewing: produce a beer that cuts across styles and traditions and offers some very varied taste. And of course, Lighthouse is no stranger to this trend, as exemplified by their Big Flavor series. Here, they would combine two distinct styles to produce some rather powerful and flavorful beers. This time around, they appear to have combined about four that I can discern, and with some rather flavorful results. Get some before its gone!

Oh, and Happy Birthday Lighthouse!

Lighthouse 3 Weeds Belgian Wit

lighthouse_maibock_3weedsHello folks. Today, I come to you with a review of a beer that I’ve been neglected for a few weeks now. While this beer has been available, at least in my area, since May, I’ve been hesitant due to the sheer number of Belgian Wits and other assorted wheat beers that have been making the rounds lately. But of course, I am a fan of the variety and I really can’t stand letting a limited release pass me by, so I decided to get on it!

It’s known as the 3 Weeds Belgian Wit, and much like their recent Mountain Goat Maibock (which I have tried a few times but have yet to review), was released in May in honor of spring. Brewed in the traditional Belgian wheat style, it combines pilsner and wheat malts with rolled oats, hops and a dose of coriander spice and ginger. This makes for a brew that can rival the better wits I’ve tried, boasting a gentle malt profile, a yeasty backing, and a some spicy notes that are varied and complimentary.

Appearance: Golden, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Spicy nose, yeast, discernible coriander
Taste: Immediate burst of yeast and mild fruit, pineapple, citrus, spiciness
Aftertaste: Lingering spice and yeast flavor, ginger tang
Overall: 8.5/10

Overall, I enjoyed this beer quite a bit. And I was especially intrigued by the addition of ginger, which manages to compliment the coriander quite nicely. Whereas most Wits rely on orange rind or some other citrusy addition to do this, here you get a more layered spicy flavor in the end. It’s especially good as a warm weather beer, but was well-paired with the spicy food that I ate alongside it. I’m actually sorry I resisted it for as long as I did. This and the Maibock would have made a great two-fer review!

Lighthouse Siren Imperial Red Ale

Frosty glass of red beer isolated on a white background. File contains a path to cut.Hello and welcome to another installment in the Winter Beer series! Today’s feature is Lighthouse’s Siren Imperial Red Ale, a winter seasonal and the latest in their “Big Flavor” series. Since its inception, I’ve had mostly good things to say about the this expanded lineup, mainly because of the dedication it shows to craft brewing and experimentation. In fact, pretty much everything that has been coming out of the Lighthouse brewery in the last few years has been demonstrative of this commitment, including the Switchback IPA and Tasman Ale which have become part of their regular lineup.

But it’s really with the Big Flavor series that the brew masters at Lighthouse have been especially experimental and bold, combining various traditions and a wide array of ingredients to create distinct, challenging beers. And, consistent with the other members of the series – Deckhand Belgian Saison, Shipwrecked Triple IPA, Navigator Doppelbock, Overboard Imperial Pilsner, and Uncharted Belgian IPA – this beer has rich malts, generous hops, and at 8% alc/vol, packs a good punch!

Appearance: Dark red-amber, clear and low foam retention
Nose: Rich, floral and citrus hop aroma
Taste: Immediate burst of citrus, giving way to rich malts, viscous, semi-sweet
Aftertaste: Bitter finish, coarser malt taste and citrus rind
Overall: 9/10

Congratulations, Lighthouse. Of the eight beers in your Big Flavor series I have now sampled seven and highly approved of six. Only the Belgian Black was not my speed, and I plan to try the Dark Chocolate Porter soon. In the meantime, stay tuned for more winter beers, including some new reviews from Hoyne and Tree Frog!

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!

New Beers

Some new samples from back in September 2011. Another Big Flavor beer and a session ale from the new brewery that opened up in Tofino. Wishing it and the Lighthouse signature line many happy returns!

You know, I’ve noticed that I tend to take my time between posting new reviews. Luckily, that means I have time to sample more than one new beer or restaurant, which ensures a bigger and more varied entry once I do get around to posting! So here’s what I had an opportunity to try as of late:

Uncharted Belgian IPA: This is the latest installment in the Big Flavor series from Lighthouse Brewery. Much like its predecessors, its a strong beer, combining some powerful hops with a strong, lingering aftertaste. The name refers to the two yeast strains that were used in making it; a Belgian Abbey style and a West Coast style yeast. The result is decidedly West Coast in flavor, being crisp, hoppy and with a strong citrus profile that is reminiscent of grapefruit. At 7.5% alc/vol, its a little lighter than either the Shipwrecked or Doppelbock, which I approve of. While I do enjoy a good triple fermented beer or a doppelbock, the heavies can be a bit daunting! 4/5

Tuff Session Ale: When I first heard there was a brewery in Tofino, I was pretty psyched! So far, I only got to try their session, and can’t find a store locally that holds it. But, its only a matter of time… Anyhoo, this ale is a faithful version of a session, being mild in flavor with a nice, dry finish. Fans of bitter would be advised to check this one out, it is a fitting example of a real British ale. 4/5

Well, that’s about it for now. Stay tuned for a review of SoBo’s! Tonifo’s premiere restaurant specializing in Sophisticated Bohemian cuisine! SoBo’s, get it?

P.S.: Here’s the link to Tofino’s new upstart. From what little I’ve seen, they do good work, and are in a great position to serve real beer to plenty of thirsty travellers!
Tofino Brewing Company