Base Camp Brewery Has Arrived!

basecamp_ipl
It seems there’s no end to the amount of beer coming up from the south lately. In addition to American, Diamond Knot, and Skagit, a great deal of hubbub is also being made by the operation known as Base Camp Brewing, which like many stellar brewing operations comes to us from Portland, Oregon. I was immediately drawn to their spot in the aisle when I noticed that they store their beer in aluminum tallboys, much like Surgenor brewing – may she rest in peace – used to do.

As it stands, only two beers in their lineup are available locally. And after having tried both, I was quite impressed. This included their IPA and Pilsner, which combined some serious authenticity with just enough experimentation to make them surprising.

In-Tents Lager:
in-tents_IPLThe flagship beer of the brewery, this beer is one of the few that makes it to export. And unlike many India Pale Lagers I’ve tasted in recent years, this beer manages to marry the best of both worlds – rich malts and a strong hop bite with the clean-tasting, refreshing qualities of a lager – without compromising on either. According to the commercial description, this beer is dry-hopped with a combination of Pacific Northwest hops and aged in caskets of toasted white and red oak. The end product is then lagered, which creates a beer that is at once malty, dry, fruity and sugary, but also refreshing and crisp. The play on words that is this beer’s name is clearly well-deserved.


Appearance:
Orange-amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation

Nose: Strong malts, sweet, citrusy hops, ruby red grapefruit
Taste: Sweet and sugary malts, strong citrus, pine, passion fruit hops
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness, mild fruity notes
Overall: 9/10

Ripstop Rye PIls:
ripstop-rye-pilsAnother beer that is available for export, the Ripstop Rye Pils is the breweries reinterpretation of the classic pilsner lager beer. Basically, this beer is a marriage of traditional Pilsner with west coast hops and toasted rye malt. This results in a beer that smells of European malt and noble-type hops are discernible, as are some interesting traces of orchard fruits. In terms of flavor, the characteristic Pilsner taste mingles with some spicy rye notes, added fruit, and some grassy hops. And of course, it all finishes off crisp, clean, with a little lingering spice for emphasis. Quite the pleasing and refreshing hot weather beer and well paired with spicy foods. I think this one just might be a contender for my “Beer that tames the fire” list.

Appearance: Light golden blonde, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Sharp hops, mild fruit, notes of peach and plum
Taste: Immediate tang, slightly bitter, grassy hops, rye spice, touch of peach
Aftertaste: Lingering crisp hop flavor, discernible rye aftertaste
Overall: 9/10

From just a passing glance at their website, I can see there are many left to try. Apparently, their expanded lineup includes 19 beers, ranging from a Pale Ale to a Sessional, from a Saison to a Doppelbock. I can only assume that many of these are only available on tap and not for sale outside of the local brewpubs. Guess I’ll just have to arrange a road trip!

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Paralell 49 Black Hops Cascadian Dark Ale

p49_blackhopsOh my, how Cascadian Darks are becoming all the rage! But seeing as how craft brewers up and down the coast have decided to produce their own version of this dark, hoppy ale, it stands to reason that a brewery such as Parallel 49 would have their own variation to share. And considering their usual, experimental fare, it was quite interesting to see them producing something quite standard for a change.

And as usual, it was quite enjoyable. I’m surprised it took me awhile to find this one, but I imagine distribution is a bit of an issue when a brewery produces so many limited releases. In any case, the Black Hops was an interesting twist on Cascadian Darks, possessing some richly dark, smokey malts, and a strong hoppy profile with serious herbal notes.

Appearance: Pitch black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong, grassy hops, herbal notes, toasty malts
Taste: Immediate burst of hop bitterness, piney, smokey, herbal flavor
Aftertaste: Mild bitterness, lingering herbal essence
Overall: 8.5/10

In truth, I was reminded of herbed bread and stout, which would make for some interesting food pairing. Looking forward to Parallel 49’s next quirky and interesting limited release. Maybe, just maybe, it will be something simple this time… Not holding my breath!

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.

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!

Dead Frog Valiant Belgian IPA

dead_frogvaliant-belgian-ipaDead Frog is back with another limited release, arriving on the heels of their Brazen IPA, Winter Beeracle and Fearless IPA. And with the exception of the Brazen, which I have yet to try, these limited releases have been quite impressive, in my opinion. Basically, they show that the spirit of craft brewing and experimentation are alive and well in yet another big Pacific Northwestern brewery.

As for this latest experiment in craft brewing, the Valiant is a twist on your classic Belgian Abbey ale, relying on Belgian yeast and a lengthy fermentation process to achieve a distinctly strong and flavorful ale. At the same time, they’ve incorporated a good dose of hops, the classic Pacific Northwestern IPA varieties of Centennial and Columbus, to achieve a strong bittering effect.

Appearance: Golden-orange, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Distinct Belgian yeast, notes of citrus hops
Taste: Immediate notes of wheat malt and yeast intermixed with hop bitterness 
Aftertaste: Tang and lingering bitterness, traces of Belgian yeast
Overall: 8.5/10

The result is something that is becoming increasingly common here in the Pacific Northwest, a merger between disparate traditions that work great on their own and are… interesting when combined. Like most Belgian IPA’s I’ve had, I found this one a little odd at first, but grew to like it with each sip. In the end, it really captured the essence of a strong Belgian Ale, and the bitter finish offers enough of a compliment without getting in the way.

Parallel 49 Lord of the Hops

parallel49And we’re back with another installment in the coming of spring beer lineup, which today comes from Parallel 49. And despite that my last tasting from their brewery didn’t go quite so well (see Vow of Silence Quadruple), I’m always interested to see what they do next. Not only do the 49ers know their craft, they can always be counted on to be experimental and cutting edge!

But of course, they’ve been known to be pretty damn good when it comes to your more basic, straightforward products as well. And this IPA would definitely fall into that latter category. In terms of color, head, scent and taste, it has the aromatic and deliciously hoppy nature India Pale Ales are known for. What appear to be crystal malts provide for a rich, semi-sweet malt flavor. And a hefty dose of what is clearly Cascade and other Pacific Northwest varieties of hops provide for an abundance of citrus fruit and passion fruit that is delightful.

Appearance: Golden-amber, slightly cloudy, mild foam and carbonation
Nose: Very hoppy and floral, distinct tropical notes as well
Taste: Immediate hit of citrus and grassy hops, notes of passion fruit
Aftertaste: Slightly bitter finish, some herbal traces
Overall: 9/10

Good job, Parallel 49. You kind of had me worried with that last showing. I was starting to think you’re were getting into some weird territory there. Lucky for me, you guys seem to know you’re way around that area, and you also seem to know your way back!

Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager

rogue_dirtoirJust in time for the holidays, and my local beerstore managed to snag a few cases of one of the limited releases in Rogue’s GYO (Grow Your Own) series. Named Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager, this Schwartzbier-style lager was first introduced in 2010 and has the distinction of being one of the few beers in the Pacific Northwest that is fashioned partially with grains and hops that are grown by the brewery itself. These include the First Growth Risk Malts as well as the FG Independent and Revolution Hops. Taken the tradition of local brewing a step further, the GYO series is all about brewing beer with one’s own ingredients as well.

Being impenetrably dark and featuring a tan head, this beer is easily mistaken for a stout. It’s flavor is also quite similar, since it has some strong coffee notes that are rounded out by the toasted, smoothness of its malts. The addition of Oktoberfest yeast strains also lend it a certain Bavarian character. In fact, I was reminded of a strong Dunkel many times in the course of drinking it, though the flavors are stronger and more enhanced.

Appearance: Black as tar, opaque, dark foam with low retention
Nose: Stout-like aroma of roasted malts
Taste: Coffee-like bitterness, earthy, smooth toasted malty taste
Aftertaste: Mild hop bite and lingering bitter coffee notes
Overall: 9/10

label-rogue-dirtoir

An all around winner and a great intro for me to Rogue’s new GYO series, a lineup which includes a Pilsner, pale ale, pumpkin ale, Blonde, and a wet-hopped ale. And considering the accolades they have all received thus far, I imagine that’s going to be tasty drinking experience! To read more on the GYO series, follow the link below:

http://www.rogue.com/beers/dirtoir-black-lager.php