Dead Frog Big Stump Spruce Golden Ale

deadfrog_bigstumpBrewer: Dead Frog Brewery,
Style: Spruce Pale Ale
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: 26

Description: A summer seasonal that celebrates the summer on the West Coast, this brew combines spruce tips with Prairie 2 Row, Maris Otter, Cara 30, White Wheat malts and is then hopped with a combination of Simcoe, Northern Brewer, and Cascade hops.

Tasting Notes: I’ve come to enjoy Spruce ales in recent years. There’s just something about those sprigs that imparts a refreshing flavor to beer. And this brew did a good job of balancing those with a good malt base and some mild hopping that leads to some varied flavor. A good summer drinker!

Appearance: Amber, cloudy, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Pale malt, citrus, pine, resin, tropical fruit, rich spruce notes
Taste: Crisp malt, hint of sweetness, spruce notes, citrus rind, pine and resin
Aftertaste: Lingering spruce flavor and citrus rind, mild malt finish
Overall: 8.5/10

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Category 12 Transmutation Belgian Specialty Ale

C12_transmutationBrewer: Category 12 Brewing, Central Saanich, BC
Style: Belgian Tripel/IPA
ABV: 9.6%
IBUs: Unspecified (but high)

Description: This is the latest release of Category 12, which just premiered yesterday at the brewery, and amidst quite a bit of fanfare. Brewed in the Tripel fashion, but with a significant hopping consistent with a Northwestern IPA, this beer is brewed using Superior Pilsner and Belgian Caravienne malts, Hallertauer and Northern Brewer hops, and then fortified with Amber Candi sugar that was handcrafted in house.

Tasting Notes: Where to begin with this one? For starters, the term “Belgian specialty ale” is appropriate given that it has elements of both a tripel and a saison, but also some distinct West Coast flavor. This leads to an eclectic taste, where three times the malt, candi sugar and a high alcohol content lead to a powerful malt base. Add to that some strong yeast flavor and some powerful hops that compliment the yeasts, and you’ve got this baby in a nutshell. Between the fact that they handcrafted their own candi sugar to make this beer and it happened right in my backyard makes me especially proud!

Appearance: Dark ruby, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, sugars, notes of citrus and tropical fruit hops, strong yeasts
Taste: Rich and coarse malt, saison-like yeast, caramelized sugar, hop bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering malt coarseness, hop and yeast bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

Big Rock Scottish Style Heavy Ale

big-rock-scottishBrewer: Big Rock Brewery, Calgary, AB
Style: Wee Heavy Ale
ABV: 7%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: As part of their Signature Series, this Scottish ale is brewed in the “Wee Heavy” tradition, employing a combination of Pale, Caramel, Munich and Peated malt, and then bittered with Northern brewer hops.

Tasting Notes: This is my second sampling from the Family Jewels pack, and is one which I have had before (but didn’t review). Again, a but on the light side, but this brew certainly comes through in the flavor department. Like a good Wee Heavy, it has some rich malts, a touch of sweetness, hints of peat moss and whiskey, and a respectable 7% alcohol.

Appearance: Deep red, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, syrup, sugars, smoked peat, whiskey
Taste: Sweet malt, hint of peat, syrup, biscuits, smoky tang
Aftertaste: Lingering malt, peat flavor, smoky and tangy finish
Overall: 8/10

VIB Thirty Years Imperial Red Ale

Thirty-Years-Bottle-Mock-smBrewer: Vancouver Island Brewery
Style: Imperial Red Ale
Alc/Vol: 8.5%

Description: A limited release brewed in honor of the brewery’s thirtieth anniversary, this beer pays homage to their Piper’s Pale Ale by ramping up the recipe. This includes Two-Row, Crystal and Chocolate Malts with Northern Brewer, Perle and Hallertau hops, but brewed to extra extra strength.

Tasting Notes: This beer was highly reminiscent of an Irish Red, given that it has that characteristic syrupy malt and chewy mouthfeel. And of course, there was a noticeable citrus hop backing. However, the overriding characteristic of this beer is the intense malt flavor and the alcohol content, which create a heavy, slightly sweet, smokey, and coarse profile that lingers on the tongue..

Appearance: Dark amber, dense, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich red malts, baked sweat breads, mild citrus
Taste: Immediate burst of rich malt, tang, coarseness, viscous malts, hint of bitter hops
Aftertaste: Lingering malts, slight tang and coarseness, chewy mouthfeel
Overall: 7.75/10

Ommegang Take the Black Stout

OmmegangIf there’s one thing I can appreciate almost as much as beer, its an inspired yarn, the likes of which that authors like George R.R. Martin (aka. “The American Tolkien”) has been known to spin. So you can imagine how enthusiastic I was when I found out that a craft brewing operation from Cooperstown, New York was partnering with HBO to create a series of beers with a Game of Thrones theme.

And this week, as part of my series on holiday beers, I finally managed to get a bottle of their Take the Black Stout, the first beer in the series. Currently, the only other is their Iron Throne Blonde, with a third – Fire and Blood – due to come out in spring of 2014. In truth, the only reason I waited this long to get into this series is because I’ve been so backlogged with new beers and just haven’t found the time to try them all. But the holidays are a good time for imbibing and catching up on things!

Named in honor of the oath taken by all the Night’s Watch, the men who stand the Wall in the GOT series and defend the Realm against all the threats from the frozen north. The stout consists of a malt base composed of Caramel, Chocolate and roasted barley, as well as Northern Brewer and Columbus hops. It is then spiced with licorice root and star anise to give it a full-bodied flavor that is coarse, slightly sweet, and has a distinct Belgian yeast flavor. And of course, it ranks in at solid 7% alc/vol, making for a

game-of-thrones-beer-take-the-black-stout-zap2itAppearance: Dark black, opaque, thick lacy dark head and good carbonation
Nose: Roasted malts, espresso, licorice, mild yeast
Taste: Bitterness, yeast, anise and citrus hops, giving way to espresso beans
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness giving way to hint of licorice
Overall: 8.5/10

Not a bad beer at all, and this is coming from a man who doesn’t normally enjoy extra strong stouts, especially ones flavored with licorice. In all honesty, it really didn’t make me think much of the Night’s Watch or the wall. Perhaps it’s because I’m a committed geek of the franchise, but I can’t imagine them enjoying a Belgian-style stout flavored with spices. That just seems to high-end for the Black Brothers! 😉

What I was reminded of was Unibroue, another Belgian-inspired operation that is also in the habit of serving its beer in three-quarter liter, corked bottles. And much like this Quebec-based operation, these folks do seem to appreciate traditional recipes while still remaining open to crossovers and experimentation. Onto the next beer and hopefully more in this brewery’s GOT series!

And be sure to check out the brewery’s website. It promises for some interesting reading 🙂