Double Mountain Pale Death Belgian-Style Imperial IPA

doublemountain_paledeathBrewer: Double Mountain, Hood River, OR
Style: Belgian-Style Imperial IPA
ABV: 9.3%
IBUs: 93

Description: This apocalyptic-themed ale features a combination that is growing in popularity of late – the fusion of Pacific Northwestern and Belgian-style ales. In this case, pale malt and a very generous dose of Northwestern hops co-mingle with strains of Ardennes yeast to create a beer that is very powerful, but strangely balanced.

Tasting Notes: I was a little wary of this beer to begin with. An Imperial IPA that embraces elements of an extra strong Belgian ale is sure to be powerful and potentially overwhelming, maybe to its own detriment. But I really like the way that Pacific Northwest hops (Cascade, Centennial and/or Columbus for sure) play well with Belgian flavors. You’ve got the citrusy and tropical fruit flavors of of a Northwestern IPA, which are nicely balanced by the spicy, citrusy flavor of Belgian yeast. And the strength, while considerable, doesn’t intrude on the flavor. Things finish smoothly and warmly!

Appearance: Amber, cloudy, sediment, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, citrus, passion fruit, pineapple, spicy yeast, coriander
Taste: Strong malt, citrus bite, grassy, piney, yeasty, orange peel, coriander, alcoholic bite
Aftertaste: Lingering spice, yeast, alcoholic and hop bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

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Category 12 Insubordinate Session IPA

c12_insubordinateBrewer: Category 12 Brewing, Central Saanich, BC
Style: Session IPA
ABV: 4.5%
IBUs: 58

Description: In what is Category 12’s latest seasonal release, the Insubordinate is a sessional take on the Pacific Northwestern India Pale Ale. Crystal and Vienna malts provide the base, which is then bittered using Centennial and Columbus hops, along with an infusion of Zythos for some extra dry-hopping.

Tasting Notes: Given that this brewery is right here in my neighborhood, I was able to snag some bottles of this brew direct. And while sampling, I was even able to guess the hops used (well, it took a few guesses to get all three). In any case, this brew is a good addition after the powerhouse that was their Transmutation, employing a lighter malt base with a good hopping that employs both a bitter, citrus and tropical fruit start with a herbal, dry hop finish. An all around crisp and refreshing take on the Pacific Northwestern IPA.

Appearance: Amber/orange, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Gentle malt, tropical fruit nose, pineapple, passion fruit, herbal infusion
Taste: Crisp malt, citrus, pine, herbs, dry hop bitterness, mineral tang
Aftertaste: Lingering dry hop bitterness, herbs, citrus rind, quite refreshing
Overall: 8.5/10

Maui Big Swell IPA

maui_ipaBrewery: Maui Brewing, Lahaina, HI
Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.8%
IBU: 82

Description: As part of their Flagship Beer (aka. regular lineup), the Big Swell is a classic example of a Northwestern IPA. It combines pale malt with four different Pacific northwest hop varieties, which are added both during and after the boil to add an additional layer of dry-hopped flavor to the mix.

Tasting Notes: This is my first sampling of the Maui brewery, and given my soft spot for IPAs I naturally I had to start with theirs. And this one definitely delivered in all departments. The malt was smooth and rich, the hop flavor was powerful, explosive and at once citrusy, grassy, herbal and dry on the tongue. Definitely a faithful Northwestern IPA! Onto the next Maui brew!

Appearance: Light amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, mixed nose of hops – grassy, piny, floral, lots of citrus
Taste: Smooth malt, syrupy, grassy, dry hop and powerful notes of citrus, and grapefruit
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, citrus rind and mild malt sweetness
Overall: 8.8/10

American Brewing Has Arrived!

american_brewingAnother great American brewing operation has arrived in my home town. I’m beginning to wonder if this is becoming something of a theme! In any case, I’ve been quite in favor of it, since its making available more and more craft brewing operations that those of us north of the 49th parallel have not previously had access to. And with that, I shall now cover my latest sampling from a American brewing operation, which appropriately comes from the operation known as American Brewing.

Located in Edmonds, Washington, this craft brewery has only been in operation for two years. However, the brewers have been active in the industry since 1992, and from my initial encounter I can tell that they are certainly not lacking in either qualifications or talent. And from what I managed to procure, I think I got a pretty good feel for what they are capable of. In fact, the two beers I tried just happened to be the breweries signature creations – the Breakaway IPA and the American Blonde. This encompasses half of their initial lineup, minus the three seasonals they have produced thus far.

American Breakaway IPA:
american_brewing_breakaway-ipa
Apparently, this beer was the first to be produced by the brewery, and is something that Skip Madsen, the brewmaster, is rather proud of. And since it is a fine example of a true Northwestern India Pale Ale, I could certainly see why. The beer pours a deep amber color, is cloudy (indicative of high gravity), and boasts a pretty good head. On the nose, you get a good combination of citrus and floral aromas. And in terms of flavor, the malts are quite strong, sweet, and have a bit of a coarse finish. And of course, the hops, which contain a burst of citrus, grapefruit and passion fruit, and have a long, bitter finish. Add to that a respectable alcohol content (7.2% alc/vol), and this beer pretty much has all that you would expect from an IPA.

Appearance: Dark amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Malty nose, sugars, good dose of citrusy, floral hops
Taste: Burst of grapefruit and passion fruit, sweet malts giving way to slight coarseness
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt flavor, lingering hop bitterness
Overall: 9/10

American Blonde Ale:
american_brewing_blonde
I was actually warned about this beer in advance. Given its yeasty nature and unfiltered goodness, it can foam up on you. However, I suspect this particular source was not used to drinking bottle fermented or Belgian-style beers. And another source highly recommended it, claiming it was better than the IPA. So naturally, I had to try it. And in the end, they were both right. This beer pours a light, golden blonde, has serious foam and carbonation, and possesses a very nice, very subtle and varied palate. Abundant yeasts are balanced out with mild fruits, and the finish is very clean. In a lot of ways, I was reminded of Belgian-style Wits and Ales, not the least of which was Orval Trappist and Blanche De Chambly.

Appearance: Golden blonde, cloudy, heavy foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dried orchard fruit, cherry, peach, plenty of yeast and mild oak
Taste: Mild malts, gentle hints of sour cherry, oak, yeast and peaches
Aftertaste: Very clean, lingering traces of yeast 
Overall: 9.5/10

Not a bad intro, but its only served to pique my interest further! In addition to their Oatmeal Stout and Pale Ale, they also have a pretty significant seasonal lineup. This includes a Scotch Ale, Brown Ale, and a Winter Ale, style that I must admit, I highly approve of! See you soon, American Brewing!

Moon Under Water Tranquility IPA

MoonLogo1moonunderwater_ipaIt has taken me some time, but I have managed to finally complete Moon Under Water’s new lineup, ever since the brewery underwent a change in leadership and stopped producing sessionals. Unfortunately, I have been rather remiss in taking notes and providing comprehensive reviews. And since I refuse to do reviews based solely on memory (as mine can’t be trusted anyway!), I’ve finally managed to pick up some fresh bottles and resample them.

And here’s what I thought of the Tranquility IPA, a beer without which no West Coast brewery operation would ever be complete. True to its roots, this India Pale Ale combines a strong, semi-sweet malt character with a generous dose of hops. And in what is increasingly becoming the norm with Northwestern IPAs, it combines multiple varieties of hops in order to produce a more complex hop profile.

Appearance: Light golden-amber, transparent, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Citrus and tropical fruit, notes of melon
and passion fruit
Taste: Strong malt beginning, burst of citrus and piney hops, touch of sweetness
Aftertaste: Sweetness giving way to hint of coarse malts, bitter hop finish
Overall: 8.5/10

Not bad Moon, you’re three for three so far. Now there’s the matter of sampling your Victorious Weizenbock, and giving it a fitting review. Spoiler alert: it was good! But as usual, neglected to take notes! I will try to do better next time…

Dead Frog Fearless IPA

I just got a special delivery… and I do mean special! After liaising with the good folks over at Dead Frog brewery a few weeks ago, I was told to expect some samples of their new Fearless IPA. Today was the day that my samples arrived. Yep, three bottles all wrapped up in bubble wrap and sealed in a paper-wrapped box. The sampling began shortly thereafter…

From the earliest indications, the Fearless looks, smells and pours like a true IPA, with an amber color, a hoppy bouquet, and mild foam retention. However, it is slightly different in that it has a very good clarity, which one does not always find with IPAs. The alcohol content and hop content are also consistent with a Northwestern India Pale, weighing in at a respectable 6.5% per/vol and 77 IBUs.

And then of course comes the interesting hop combination. By using Galaxy, Zythos, Cascade and Columbus hops, the brewmasters were clearly going for a unique combination of sweet and robust. The former two strands are Australian and a combination variety that are known for achieving a tropical fruit taste and smell. The latter two are well-known amongst beer drinkers as being what gives Northwestern Pale Ales and IPA’s their citrusy profile. The end result is what one might describe as a rippling effect of flavor.

Appearance: Crystal clear, good amber hue, mild foam
Nose: Citrus notes and hints of pineapple and passion fruit
Taste: Immediate burst of bitterness and malt giving way to citrus and slight sweetness
Aftertaste: Lingering piney flavor, intermittent pineapple
Overall: 8/10

As it stands, this is the third IPA that I’ve sampled from Dead Frog, all of which are only available in the 650ml bottle. First there was their limited release Fusion Hop, followed shortly thereafter by the Citra IPA. Of the three, I think this one ranks the highest. Many beers get bonus marks for experimentation, but this beer gets its marks for being an experiment done right. And just in case people were wondering, absolutely no marks were given for home delivery! 😉 Kudos Dead Frog, congratulation on a fine product and thanks for the sample!

Driftwood Brewery

Recently, I came to the realization that I had tried just about everything a local brewery had to offer, and yet I’d never given them a complete review! This seems to be a pattern with me, but rarely does it happen with a brewery in my own backyard. I am of course referring to the Driftwood Brewery, located right here in beautiful Victoria BC! Oft times I have praised an individual beer of theirs, and even used them as the meter stick when I needed to compare another beer to something. And after a recent visit to one of my favorite dispensaries, I realized that I tried their entire regular lineup. Not quite all their specialty, but dammit, they just make so many! Still, it’s high time I put all my thoughts on this establishment into one place. So here goes…

First off, a note on the brewery itself. Established back in 2008 by Jason Meyer and Kevin Hearsum, this brewery is a recent addition to craft brewing here on the island. However, in just four short years, these guys turned a start-up with a simple but popular selection into a powerhouse of microbrewing with a six beer lineup and a growing line of specialty beers. And they’ve got a memorable and geographically appropriate name to boot, so its easy to see why they’ve done well. Operating out of a former warehouse in Victoria’s Gorge area, they are joined by breweries like Hoyne, Spinnakers, Swans, and Moon Under Water.

Yeah, I’m thinking these guys aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. As for the beer, well…

Regular Lineup:
Driftwood Ale: A balanced and drinkable beer and a fitting example of a West Coast Pale Ale. Rich malt flavors are complimented by a good bite that has notes of grapefruit. This is due to the addition of (what I assume are) Cascade hops, which comes through in the finish. Good on its own, but also well paired with just about anything spicy, meaty, or saucy. 4/5

Farmhand Ale: A Belgian style farmhouse ale, which refers to the tradition of farm-based cottage breweries common to the Wallonia province in Belgium. Also known as “saison” beers, these are typically summer ales that are noted for being light, refreshing, and best when enjoyed in warm weather. Driftwood’s own is a faithful adaptation, relying on sour mash and pepper to accomplish a beer that is distinctly Belgian in flavor, has a light sour malt taste, and a mild hop finish that contains notes of pepper. 4/5 

White Bark Ale: A traditional wheat, as the name implies, which has the expected notes of citrus and coriander. However, this beer was remarkably light, even for a wheat beer, which was kind of disappointing. In many ways, I was reminded of Hoegaarden, another light take on the Belgian wheat. However, this isn’t to say that this beer isn’t both enjoyable and summery, like a good wheat should be! Best enjoyed with heavier fare like game, rich or spicy cuisine, its light taste not taking away from the complexity of its flavors. 3.5/5

Crooked Coast Amber Ale: An Altbier, or “old beer” – which refers to the Rhineland tradition of using top-fermenting yeast – this style predates lagers, but has evolved to include warm-temperature fermentation and cold temperature “lagering”. In keeping with traditional recipes, this beer also combines German noble hops and Munich malts. The end result is a beer that combines aspects of both pale ales and lagers, boasting complex flavors with a crisp, clean finish. Tawny, smooth notes gives way to a dry hop finish and refreshing clean aftertaste. A good candidate for my “go-to” list! 4/5

Fat Tug IPA: You ever wonder if a beer was made just for you? Well, I kind of wondered if someone over at the Driftwood Brewery had a direct line to my hop tooth the moment I tasted this beer! One of the best IPA’s I’ve had in recent years, and a proud entry to my “Best IPA’s” of all time list. Much like the Driftwood Ale, this beer boasts a dose of Cascadia and other varieties of hops, but in doses that make the notes of grapefruit especially fragrant and powerful! The malts are lighter, allowing the hops to really come through and linger long after the last sip. At 7% alc/vol and 80 IBU (international bitterness units) this beer is also a true example of a Northwestern IPA. 5/5

Seasonals:
Bird of Prey Flanders Red: Ordinarily, I’m not a huge fan of sour ales. In fact, I’ve had a few at this point and found them generally disappointing. However, that changed BIG TIME when I sampled this beer for the first time last November. As a historian and lover of all things pertaining to Canada’s involvement in WWI and II, I could not turn down a beer that boasted the name Flanders! I assumed (and still do) that it was a seasonal ale brewed in honor of Flanders Fields. But as if that wasn’t enough, the taste brought me back to it several times over! Brewed in the traditional Flanders style, this beer is a Belgian red that is made using special strands of yeast and then aged in oak barrels for up to a year. Ultimately, what comes out of this is a beer that is reddish in hue and has a complex, sour flavor and rich aroma that is reminiscent of sour cherries, plums and apricots – a true delight for the senses. Oh, how I lamented its disappearance when fall gave way to winter! 5/5!

Old Cellar Dweller: I recall reviewing this one back in December of 2010, during my “Month of Doppelbock” series. And I can recall with some fondness when I first found this beer on the shelf and learned that it was a Driftwood product. Faithful to the tradition of Barley Wine, this beer is dark, sugary, and very powerful – at 12% alc/vol, it isn’t pulling any punches! However, its intense strength and sweetness can be a little overwhelming at times, which is why I highly recommend that this beer be served in a snifter and enjoyed sparingly. Under those conditions, its tawny finish and strong notes of molasses, brown sugar and light hop bite can be appreciated fully. 4/5

Son of the Morning: The most recent Driftwood beer to grace my table. When I first set my eyes on it, I knew instantly that it and I would get along just fine! The label said strong golden ale, and the details emphasized that it was a Belgian-style ale. Man, these guys love their Belgians; but then again, so do I! We get along fine. And, much like their Belgian predecessors, this strong ale is made using coriander and sugar to intensify the flavor and alcohol content. The end is result is what I would describe as a cross between La Fin Du Monde and Duvel, two shining examples of Belgian-style beer-making. In addition to its obvious strength (10% alc/vol) the beer is also distinctly Belgian, spicey, viscous, and finishes with a coarse bite. Not for anyone who’s into light beer, but definitely for fans of true Belgian brewing! 4/5

And like I said before, these guys put out a lot of special beers! In fact, I do believe their signature creations outnumber their regular lineup by a wide margin. As it turns out, I have tried some of the ones which are below, but at the moment they are unavailable to me and I can’t for the life of me remember what they were like. Not enough to give them a full and just review. So let me list them off as those I have yet to try and will get to later:

Blackstone Porter

Cuvee D’Hiver
Naughty Hildegard ESB
Singularity Stout
Spring Rite
Twenty Pounder Double IPA

Quite the list, but then again, these guys have been busy! Kudos Driftwood. You keep making em, I’ll keep drinking em!