Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller 2015

driftwood_ocd2015Brewer: Driftwood Brewery, Victoria, BC
Style: Barley Wine
ABV: 11.4%
IBUs: Unlisted (60ish or more)

Description: This is the latest vintage of Driftwood Brewery’s Old Cellar Dweller, a seasonal barley wine released every year in time for the holidays. This year’s offering is brewed with 98% Pale Malt and a small trace of CaraMunch thrown in for color, and is then bittered using a generous dose of Columbus hops.

Tasting Notes: As I’ve said before, every year’s OCD is a little different. This year, they chose to tone down the alcohol (just a little), and go the single hop and (mostly) single malt route in order to showcase what both of these ingredients, in their most concentrated states, could do. And like the two previous vintages, this year’s tends more towards the Imperial IPA than a barley wine. But it remains a powerful winter warmer, boasting some rich malts, powerful hops, and a warm, alcoholic bite!

Appearance: Deep gold/light amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Powerful hop-forward aroma, grassy, citrus, pineapple, rich malt
Taste: Sweet, semi-coarse malt, notes of pineapple, citrus rind, grass and pine
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt and hop bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

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New Belgium 2015 La Folie Sour Brown Ale

La_Folie2015Brewer: New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, CO
Style: Oud Bruine
ABV: 7%
IBUs: 18

Description: This is New Belgium’s 2015 vintage of their La Folie series of sours. Much like last year’s, this beer is brewed in venerated Oud Bruine style of Belgian sours, combining Pale, Munich Carpils, C-80, Chocolate malts are combined with Nugget hops. It is then fermented using wild brettanomyces strains and then barrel aged in oak barrels for up to 3 years.

Tasting Notes: This year’s offering was much as I remember, tart and sour as all get-out! And much like a good sour brown, it possessed all the usual oaky, fruity, and yeast notes, bringing to mind flavors of sour cherry, plum skin, and red wine tannins.

Appearance: Dark brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malts, lactic acid, yeast, green apple, oak, red wine
Taste: Smooth malt, burst of tartness, plum skin, sour cherry, green apple, tannins, oak
Aftertaste: Lingering tartness, yeast and oaky notes
Overall: 8/10

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

Tree Groove Session Ale

tree_grooveBrewer: Tree Brewing, Kelowna, BC
Style: Session Ale
ABV: 5%
IBU:
18

Description: As part of their regular lineup, and available with the Character Pack, this session ale combines Pale, Light Munich, and Vienna malts with Palisade and Cascade hops to create a mellow, well-balanced ale that lives up to the name.

Tasting Notes: It took me awhile to sit down with this beer and give it a tasting. When breweries you know get prolific, it can sometimes be hard to keep up. Still, I was quite pleased with this easy-drinking ale. While it had plenty of flavor – a smooth malt base and some West Coast hops – they were quite subtle, understated, and went well together.

Appearance: Light amber-orange, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Gentle malt, mild hops, dry and grassy, hint of minerals
Taste: Smooth malt, mineral tang, mild notes of grass, pine, citrus hops
Aftertaste: Lingering hint of citrus rind and minerals
Overall: 8/10

Big Rock Anthea Wet Hop Ale 2014

bigrock_antheaBrewer: Big Rock, Calgary, AB
Style: Wet Hopped Pale Ale
ABV: 6%
IBUs: 39

Description: As part of the Alchemist Edition, a series of one-off, very limited release small batch brews, the Anthea is Big Rock’s contribution to move towards locally-sourced, wet-hopped beers. The name means “blossom” in Greek, and the brew is fashioned from Pale and Caramel Malt with Fresh Cascade hops sourced from the Yakima Valley in Washington state.

Tasting Notes: It’s rather difficult for me to find anything from Big Rock’s limited releases out here, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found this. Like most wet-hopped ales I’ve had, this one was rather subtle and easy drinking. The relatively crisp and smooth malt is balanced by hop flavor that has discernible citrus and grassy notes that are understated, but present throughout.

Appearance: Golden amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Gentle malts, mild floral and citrus hop notes
Taste: Crisp malt, hint of grapefruit, gentle hop bite, grassy and citrus notes
Aftertaste: Mild lingering hop flavor, crisp malt, refreshing finish
Overall: 7.7/10

Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller Barleywine 2014

Driftwood_OCD2014Brewer: Driftwood Brewery, Victoria BC
Style: Barleywine
ABV: 13.1%
IBU: Unlisted (best guess, 60 – 80 range)

Description: This is Driftwood’s 7th Vintage of this annual December release beer. This year, the Old Cellar Dweller is even stronger, with five times the malt and three times the hops of regular beer, and an alcohol per volume rating of over 13%. It also consisting of 98% Pale Malt and a bag of CaraMunch thrown in for color, and a single hop variety (Columbus) in heavy concentrations.

Tasting Notes: Much like last year’s offering, this year’s OCD (ha!) was more akin to an Imperial IPA than a barleywine. It’s malt is rich and delicious (though a bit lightly colored), but the hop-forward nature really comes through with overwhelming notes of pineapple. It’s also quite smooth despite its strength, and very pleasant-tasting, but not exactly reminiscent of an English-style barleywine. Top marks for drinkability, minor deduction for mislabeling.

Appearance: Dark amber/brown, clear, medium foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, floral hops, notes of citrus and tropical fruit
Taste: Strong malt, alcohol, overwhelming notes of pineapple and tropical fruit
Aftertaste: Lingering hop and malt bitterness, alcohol
Overall: 8.5/10

Nelson Organic Pumpkin Ale

Nelson_pumpkinaleBrewer: Nelson Brewing, Nelson, BC
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 5%

Description: This fall seasonal comes to us from Nelson Brewing, located in BC’s interior. The brew combines pale malts with a dose of pumpkin and the usual spice palette – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cloves. And true to Nelson’s tradition, all the ingredients are organic.

Tasting Notes: As pumpkin ales, this one has all the usual things going for it – pale malt, pumpkin flavor, and a spice palette that gives it that pumpkin-pie flavor. But unlike many other pumpkins I’ve had of late, this one was quite subtle and smooth by comparison. The malt and spice notes are all very well balanced and play well together.

Appearance: Ruby/brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Subtle malt nose, notes of ginger and pumpkin pie spices
Taste: Smooth malt, hint of sweetness, pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves
Aftertaste: :Lingering malt, pumpkin flavor and spices
Overall: 8/10