Longwood Winter’s Own Weizenbock

longwood_wintersownBrewer: Longwood Brewery, Nanaimo, BC
Style: Weizenbock
Alc/Vol: 6.5%

Description: Longwood’s winter seasonal beer, the Winter’s Own is a German-style hefeweizen that is fashioned from a combination of 50% wheat and barley malt and brewed bock-style to create a slightly darker, stronger wheat ale.

Tasting Notes: This is a beer that has been difficult for me to get my hands on, due in part to seasonal availability and distribution. Luckily, while having lunch at Longwood’s this weekend with my folks (happy birthday Pop!), I managed to snag one. And I was a bit surprised by what I found. Typically, a weizenbock is a smooth, malty, and rich beer, combining the best of a German wheat and bock. Such a beer would certainly be a good winter warmer. However, this beer is fermented using what I can only assume is brettanomyces yeasts, which give it a sour, oaky punch, which when combined with a rather light malt base, leads to an entirely different experience. Not bad at all, just not what I would have expected given the style and the fact that its a winter seasonal release. I think this brew would have been better targeted to summer drinking. Still, good marks for taste and authenticity, but some deductions for missing the mark.

Appearance: Amber-orange, cloudy with sediment, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Light wheat malt, yeasty, sour cherry, apple cider, oak
Taste: Mild wheat malt, tang, hint of sour cherry, tart apple, oak, dry finish
Aftertaste: Lingering yeast bitterness, tang, and sour fruit flavor
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

Longwood The One That Got Away Red Wheat Ale (2014)

https://d1c8v1qci5en44.cloudfront.net/photo/2014_08_15/d7333af8244a89b47e52a55c4b9438ce_640x640.jpgBrewer: Longwood Brewery, Nanaimo BC
Style: Wheat Ale
Alc/Vol: 6%

Description: Inspired BC Tough’s annual West Coast Tuna Shootout, a fishing derby that takes place in the wild waters off Bamfield, BC, this wheat ale is crafted using 50% Wheat and a healthy dose of Crystal Malt. The end result is a copper colored, unfiltered ale that is cloudy, malty, and effervescent.

Tasting Notes: Last summer, I had my first sampling of this beer and was not very pleased. I chose to not to review it that time, thinking it might be a bad bottle. However, a subsequent tasting confirmed that the beer was in fact quite coarse and somewhat metallic-tasting. However, this latest batch, recently released with a new bottle (as you can see from the picture above) was surprisingly better. While it still has that characteristic, slightly bitter tang to it, this is nicely balanced amidst flavors of yeast, some tart fruit esters, and a bubbly character. I am therefore upgrading this beer a full point!

Appearance: Dark amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Wheat malt, tart and bitter fruit esters, minerality, yeast
Taste: Wheat malts, tartness, yeasty effervescence, sour cherry, citrus
Aftertaste: Lingering malt bitterness, minerals and yeast
Overall: 8.5/10

Longwood Berried Alive Raspberry Ale

longwood_berried_aliveHello folks. Today, I managed to snag another brew from one of my favorite Island operations, and one which has been undergoing a bit of rebranding as of late. I refer of course to the Longwood Brewery located in Nanaimo, BC, a venerable brewpub that has been expanding its distribution in the past year and creating some new brands to share. I was quite excited to hear about this, since its damn near impossible to find any Longwood products outside of the Nanaimo area.

berried-alive-bottle-isolatedHowever, that excitement has since abated somewhat due to a number of reasons. For one, I still await the arrival of the free samples of the full lineup that were promised to me months ago. Back then, I was contacted by an advertiser who works with the brewery who offered to ship me some; and to this date, none have arrived. Second, thus far, the majority of their beers I have managed to get my hands on have been very light, mild, and generally in tune with British-style ales and not so much the Pacific Northwest.

Here on the West Coast, we tend to like our beers hoppier, stronger and more flavorful than your average British operation. I can certainly see the value in trying new things, but I would like to remind Longwood that Moon Under Water did the same thing with their sessionals, and that didn’t go so well. However, this does not meant that I’ve been unimpressed with their newer brews, and the lineup is still evolving, so its really too soon to assume what direction the brewery is taking. And with this latest sample, I am just one beer short of having tried everything they’ve produced so far. Here’s what I thought:

Appearance: Dark red, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Tart berry nose, mild malts
Taste: Immediate tartness, slight transition to mild wheat malts
Aftertaste: Mild bitterness and lingering tart berry flavor, quite clean
Overall: 7.75/10

Overall, it was a refreshing and fruity brew, but again, a little light for my taste. This is due to the combination of wheat and barley malts, which lends it a mixed malty profile that is neither particularly effervescent, yeasty, or syrupy. This certainly works in the refreshing department, but leaves it a little high and dry in the flavor department. In terms of fruit, there’s plenty of tartness, but very little sweetness or complexity. In short, it’s good, but I think they can do better.

Longwood Steampunk Dunkelweizenbrau

longwoodBy now, news has reached the brewing and beer snob community that Longwood Brewery, the famous craft brewing operation in Nanaimo BC, has undergone a bit of a revamp. Basically, they are releasing beers that will be available in the retail market, and will be somewhat different than their regular lineup. Ah, which brings me to today’s review…

longwoodgrowlerKnown as the Steampunk Dunkelweizenbrau, this new dark wheat is a twist on one of Longwood’s most awesome beers. For years now, I have raved about their regular Dunkelweizen, so when a variation of it appeared at my local beer store sporting a name that is both a tribute to a famous science fiction genre and implying some degree of the steam brewing process, I had to act!

And what I found was both consistently awesome with their brewing process and with a nice little twist. Basically, it was much like their Dunkelweizenbrau of yore, being wheaty, yeasty, and boasting some nice roasted coffee malt. However, it also finishes very clean and is profoundly refreshing. Little wonder then why it is one of my favorite beers from this respective brewing operation, and on the island.

Appearance: Dark brown, translucent, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malt, hints of espresso coffee and yeast
Taste: Tawny flavor, slight smoke, wheat malt and and light yeasts
Aftertaste: Clean finish, mild coffee notes lingering on the tongue
Overall: 9/10

Onto new things with Longwood, who’s got several more new beers to sample. FYI, Longwood, still waiting on those samples. Getting thirsty over here ūüėČ

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!

Wings! (Updated)

Here is the updated review of the Islands wings, dated July 2011:

A little over a month ago, I did a review of the best wings on the island. Since then, a few things have changed. For one, the Longwood Brewpub has changed up their game. They’ve finally introduced a spicy wing, which I believe I might have recommended! And – wouldn’t you know it? – Craig Street changed theirs, with dire consequences! So the following changes need to be made to my ratings:

Longwood Brewpub: 5/5!! Once a runner-up to Craig’s because of a lack of spiciness, this baby now makes the best wings on the island! While the jalapeno wings have been around for some time, they possessed just a little kick, not the spicey punch in the gullet I personally crave! But with the addition of the suicide hots, that’s all remedied! Plump, tasty, well-prepared, and now nice and spicey! Best wings on the island!

Canoe Club: 4.5/5 Comparable to the better wings I’ve had on the island as of late, and with the decline of some of my favorite places, the Canoe Club just might become my new go-to wing place! They were plump, juicy, had a good level of spice, and came with a damn good blue cheese sauce. And unlike some other places, the sauce seemed to consist more of just Franks Red Hot. Nothing personal, but if you’re making wings, it seems lazy not to make your own sauce!

Craig Street Brewpub: 3/5… A sad day indeed! Not long ago, my wife and I went back to our favorite watering holes, right up there with Swans and Spinnakers. I was wary, having had wings there that were clearly different once already. But this visit confirmed my worst fears: they’ve changed the wings and not for the better! They took what was an original and turned it into a generic knock-off! Whereas they were trim and tastily glazed with sauce, now they’re thick skinned and slathered in it! And the sauce has changed too, I swear to God its just Franks Red Hot with some added chili flakes! Not impressed Craig’s! You had the best wings and for some reason, you decided to downgrade. And the serving I had last time was dry, overcooked, and oversauced. I choose to believe this was an aberration, which is why I’m only dropping you two grades!

(New mention!) Glo Nightclub: 3.5/5 located on the Gorge, this posh “Euro pub and Grill” does a pretty good spread. Their wings are not stellar, but they get the job done, especially when paired with a spinach salad (never liked the beets though!). The sauce is basic, Frank’s Red Hot, but at least they tell you that up front. And like most of the menu, they’re not cheap, but when you sit down and take in the atmosphere, decent food, many taps and house music playing the background, you’ll know where your money went. Been a few times and plan to go back!

http://www.longwoodbrewpub.com/salads.html

http://glovictoria.com/menu

Wings!

Here is an old review, dated May 2011, of my favorite haunts to get chicken wings on the island. Be warned, I get a little fanatical when it comes to my wings. So if you don’t agree with my assessment… well, then let me know and I’ll be sure to check out any place you deem fit! Having a good wing is more important to me than being right ;):

Great wings on the island!¬† Yep, I’m dedicating an entire entry on the subject of chicken wings, and who does em right!¬† I know there are other wing enthusiasts out there and I hope they will appreciate this info.¬† For simplicity sake, I use a simple grading scale. 1-5, with one being the worst and 5 being the best.¬† Okay?¬† Here goes:

Avenue, Comox: 3/5¬† Okay, technically they’re not wings.¬† They are “chicken drummettes”.¬† What’s the difference you ask?¬† You pay a lot more for them and there aren’t that many!¬† But they are nevertheless tasty and satisfying, both in terms of meatiness and flavor.

Christie Carriage House, Victoria: 3.5/5¬† Not bad, both the Louisiana and the Five Alarm are spicy and relatively plump.¬† Except on Wing Night!¬† Then they get a bit skinny, but everybody knows wing night when they get rid of their B-grade stuff, and its cheap, so you pretty much get what you pay for!¬† Otherwise, not the best I’ve had, but pretty good overall!¬† Also best when enjoyed with a nice cold brew, and the house has many taps!

Craig Street Brewery, Duncan: 5/5 Yep, best wings I’ve had on the island.¬† Not only is the chicken healthy (that is to say, neither the hormone-fed tasteless variety, nor the skinny kind), the sauce is awesome.¬† My favorite is the suicide hot!¬† Holy crap it’s hot!¬† And best when washed down with a few of their microbrews.

Fat Teddy’s, Mount Washington: 2.5/5¬† What can I say?¬† You get what you pay for, and Fat Teddy’s isn’t exactly gourmet.¬† It’s a nice place to sit and have an after-ski beer, and these wings fit that bill just fine.¬† And they got a relatively nice spicy number, though I suspect its just Franks Red.

Longwood Brewpub, Nanaimo: 4.5/5¬† Runner up to the Craig’s.¬† Plump and delicious, and the beer-b-q sauce is one of the best I’ve ever had.¬† It comes in at a close second for one reason only, no spicy flavors!¬† I need a little kick in my wings.

Lorne Pub, Comox: 1/5¬† Worst wings I’ve had since moving to the island, possibly ever!¬† Not only were the wings dry and emaciated, they were over fried and the sauce came on the side!¬† And it was obviously just a cup of tabasco!¬† What the hell man!

Spinnakers, Victoria: 3.5/5¬† Not bad, definitely not bad.¬† But not exactly stellar given the ostentatious nature of their menu and beer.¬† The beer-b-q sauce sure is decent enough, and the chicken is neither too plump nor too skinny.¬† But dang it if I don’t want a spicier flavor on the menu!

Swan’s Brewpub, Victoria: 3/5¬† Nothing to write home about, but they’re not offensive, /just not very special.¬† They aren’t very plump, and the sauces, while somewhat creative (beer-b-q flavor is never a bad idea!), don’t put them over the top.

The Black Fin, Comox: 3.5/5¬† These are a little harder to rank.¬† Pound for pound, the Fin makes a damn good wing.¬† They’re plump and the Louisiana sauce is hot, hot, hot!¬† On the other hand, they don’t always add up to a pound!¬† Ten bucks is a lot to pay for a mere hand-full.¬† If they get this squared away, they can expect a better review.

Note: this list has seen been updated due to some changes and one instance of fire. To the Lorne, my humble apologies for criticizing your wings. Had I know Comox’s most historic building was about to burn down, I would have kept my mouth shut and warned you about the impending crisis! Rest In Peace!

The Longwood Brewpub

This review is from awhile back, dated May of 2011. But since its of one of my favorite restaurants and watering holes on the Island, I can’t NOT include it. If you’re in Nanaimo, check it out!

I’ve been wanting to do this review for awhile now, but lacked the means.¬† It’s a venerated place that’s been around for close to a decade AND was voted as Nanaimo’s best pub for four years, running from 2006 to 2009.¬† Yep, I am referring to Longwood!

http://www.longwoodbrewpub.com/

For starters, this place scored immediate points with me in that they are a brewpub.¬† That is to say, they are a microbrewery and make their own beer on the premises.¬† I’ve sampled most of them and can attest to them all!¬†

Longwood Ale: not bad as a starting ale.¬† It’s mild, not too bitter or complex on the palate, clean aftertaste. Inoffensive all around.

Czech Pilsner: a very nice variation on the traditional Czech beer, clean, crisp, with a nice lingering, but subtle, aftertaste.

India Pale Ale: many people have a problem with this traditional ale.  It can be overpowering at the best of times, too fruity and too hoppy all at once.  But I seriously enjoy this version.  It has a nice fruity taste, plenty of aroma and a good solid bitter aftertaste.  Like a nice punch in the gullet!

Dunkelweizenbrau: this is a nice combination of a dark beer and a wheat beer.¬† It has a tawny flavor that works on a couple levels.¬† It is subtle, deep, and yet refreshing, everything you’d expect from a dunkel and a weizen.

Weizenbock: haven’t tried this one in awhile, but I do recall how much I enjoyed it!¬† A strong wheat ale is one nature’s most perfect foods (that’s right, beer IS food!¬† Deal with it!) Strong yet smooth, refreshing and tasty.

Extra Special Bitter (ESB): a favorite of mine, and Longwood’s happens to be one of the best I’ve ever tasted.¬† It’s got all that’s right about a bitter to it.¬† A nice, crisp, bitter taste with a lingering, tawny aftertaste.¬† The quality comes through in the careful balance of lightness, bitterness, and deep complexity.¬† Not sure how they do it, but I like it!¬†

Oatmeal Stout: geez, everybody’s doing an Oatmeal Stout these days! ¬†And you know what? ¬†Most of them aint’ half bad! ¬†This one is one such none-too-bad number. ¬†It’s got rich, deep hop tones with a heavy tannin flavour that comes from dark, roasted oats and barley! One of the better microbrewed stouts I’ve had on the island.¬†

Framboise: this one is not a favorite of mine, but only because I don’t do the fruity beers if at all possible. ¬†Still, if I were a fruit beer guy, this would be my go-to! ¬†It’s got a genuine tart and sweet rasberry flavour that is a perfect compliment to its light, refreshing flavour. ¬†Nothing artificial about it.

Barley Wine: I took a case of this camping to Pachena Bay. ¬†In all honesty, its not the best barley wine I’ve ever tasted. ¬†Barley wine, by nature, is both sweet and hoppy, richly malty and complex, and has a strong tannin flavour. ¬†It’s dark beer on steriods, essentially. ¬†This one has just about all of that going, except for the sweetness. ¬†It’s not especially hoppy either. ¬†Mainly, its just strong and tawny. In a nutshell, good, not great. ¬†Hate to say it considering how much I love the place and it’s beer, but it’s only because they set the bar so high that I felt a tad bit underwhelmed.

They have others, but I either can’t remember what they taste like or haven’t had them out of lack on interest. ¬†Hope the above reviews are enough for the curious and enthusiastic.

Okay, now to the food!

Obviously, I can’t attest to the quality of everything, but there a few items I have had a few times and am prepared to rave about…¬†

Crab Cakes: I’ve been to many pubs that served crab cakes before, sampled them whenever possible, and I thought that these were among the best. ¬†They were fresh, crunchy on the outside, rich and delicious on the inside!

Sweet Potato Fries: always a favorite of island pub-goers! ¬†Again, one of the best variety I’ve tried. ¬†Rivalled only by Swan’s in Victoria.

Wings: I’m a wing man! ¬†I go to bars specifically to see how their wings stack up. The whiskey bbq jalapeno wings are some of the best I’ve had. ¬†Not too spicey, which I love and demand, but they got a real nice rich flavour that is perfectly complimented by some blue cheese dressing. ¬†Not to mention they are always plump and never overcooked. ¬†Hate it when that happens! ¬†

Spinach Salad: a nice light salad, good combination of sweet, fresh and salty flavours.  A perfect accompaniment to a plate of wings or fries and some beer.

Brewmaster’s Salad: looks good on paper, looks good on your plate, not so good when you taste it though! ¬†You’d think the combination of seafood, chicken cheese and salad would be an instant hit, but it isn’t! ¬†It’s cold, fishy, and overpowering. ¬†In terms of the overall menu, it’s a rare miss!¬†

Burger: it’s awesome! ¬†Handmade patties, grainy mayo, and the smoked cheddar is especially good!

Beef Dip: awesome for the same reasons.  Piled high shaved beef that is always fresh when I order it.  And of course, smoked cheddar to compliment.

Fettucini: one thing I love about their pastas is the freedom to make your own.  I have tried the fettucini with chicken and cream sauce, and it was amazingly tasty and satisying.

In total, I give Longwood’s a 9 out of 10. ¬†That one point deduction is largely because of the brewmaster salad, but the remaining nine points are well deserved! ¬†The reliable menu and great beer selection make for a killer combination that brings me back over and over. ¬†The only other drawback is the price, dinner and beers is kind of expensive, but well worth it. In short, when you eat the food and drink the beer, you’ll know where that money went!