Parallel 49 Toques of Hazard Imperial White IPA

P49_toquesBrewer: Parallel 49 Brewing, Vancouver BC
Style: Imperial India Pale Ale/Wheat Ale
ABV: 9.2%
IBU: 76

Description: This seasonal release from Parallel 49 celebrates winter in a rather cheeky fashion, which is very befitting of this brewery! The beer is a combination wheat and barley malt Imperial IPA, with high alcohol content and plenty of citrus, grass and piney notes brought on by a generous dose of Citra and Nelson Sauvin hops.

Tasting Notes: As usual, Parallel 49 manages to combine some interesting styles into a single brew, and said styles certainly come through in the flavor. This is characterized by a semi-sweet and coarse malt palate, some smooth wheat malts, and plenty of hop flavor that rings true with notes of grass, pine, and citrus. Once again, a combination that works.

Appearance: Dark gold, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malts, strong hop nose, citrus, pine, tropical fruit
Taste: Sweet and slightly coarse malt, hint of smooth wheat malt, citrus bite, grassy, pine
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, clean wheat and slightly coarse malt finish
Overall: 9/10

P49 Defibrillator Doppelbock

parallel49_labelsBrewer: Parallel 49 Brewery, Vancouver, BC
Style: Doppelbock
Alc/Vol: 8.5%
IBUs: 25

Description: Yet another limited release by the Parallel 49 Brewery, this beer is fashioned in the historic lager style known as doppelbock, which monastic have been producing since the 18th century for the consumption of German royalty and nobility. This beer uses a combination of Pilsner and Munich malts and is fermented and aged for an extended period to give it a dark, rich, and more alcoholic profile.

Tasting Notes: This latest release from P49 was certainly consistent with what I’ve come to know about bocks and doppelbocks. It was dark, rich, especially malty, and had a smooth, velvety profile. In addition, it has a discernible hint of vanilla that makes it especially drinkable and appetizing, in addition to a hint of herbal hops that – when combined with its other flavors – are reminiscent of Jagermeister and herb liquor.

Appearance: Deep reddish brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Deep malts, sweet herbs, vanilla, mild trace of Noble hops
Taste: Rich, smooth malt, slight sweetness, tang, hint of grainy, herbal hops, vanilla
Aftertaste: Lingering malt, vanilla, and herbal hop flavor
Overall: 8.5/10

P49 Robo Ruby Imperial Red IPA

P49_roborubyBrewer: Parallel 49, Vancouver, BC
Style: Imperial Red India Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 9.3%

Description: The latest release from Parallel 49’s ample array of limited releases, the Robo Ruby is another combination of brewing styles. This time around, they have merged an Imperial Red Ale with an India Pale Ale to create a beer that is employs deep, rich malts and a significant hop content. The end result is something particularly malty, sweet, and with a bitter finish.

Tasting Notes: This latest limited release deliver quite well on what one would hope from the specific combination of styles. As an imperial red, it has the enhanced maltiness, sweetness and coarseness one would expect. At the same time, the hoppiness of an Imperial IPA comes through quite well, with hints of citrus and herbal hops. I remain convinced that there was some dry hopping involved as well, since the hop profile is somewhat dry in addition to its strength.

Appearance: Dark ruby brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dark, syrupy and coarse malts, sugars, floral hops, mild citrus
Taste: Sweet, dark, syrupy, and slightly coarse malt, dry citrus and herbal hops
Aftertaste: Lingering roasted malt flavor and hop bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

Phillips Benefit Brew and King of the Carboy

philips_benefit_carboyWinter is shaping up well for Phillips, the brewery that is famous for its abundant supply of limited releases. And recently, they outdid themselves by unveiling not one, but two limited releases, one being their Benefit Brew for 2013, the other being their King of Carboy release of the year. These are their Little People of BC Blood Orange Wit and the Glen Marhsall American IPA. I bought both yesterday, and was able to premiere my new collection of beer glasses with them!

And both were really quite pleasing, especially when served in an appropriate glass. For the Wit, I broke out the hefeweizen glass, while the American IPA was especially delectable in an English pub-style pint glass. I tell ya, glassware counts for a lot. But I digress…

Little People of B.C. Blood Orange Wit:
As already mentioned, this beer is part of Phillips annual Benefit Brew, where Phillips partners with a local charity group to produce a limited-release beer and donate the proceeds to charity. This year, the charity in question was the Little People of BC – a charitable organization dedicated to promoting awareness here in BC – and the beer they chose to go with was a Belgian-style Wit infused with blood orange. And like a good wit, it is clean, refreshing, has a nice mellow body with good yeasts and carbonation, and the blood orange provides a subtle, but everpresent kick of sweet citrus that lingers in the aftertaste. After a few sips, I was honestly reminded of Orange Crush, but with the delightful kick of Belgian yeast and alcohol!

Appearance: Golden orange, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong notes of orange, Belgian yeast and wheat malt
Taste: Smooth wheat malts, discernible yeast and citrusy, orange flavor
Aftertaste: Clean finish with lingering orange and yeast
Overall: 8.5/10

Glen Marshall American IPA:
This beer, as the name would suggest, was crafted by Glen Marshall, an amateur brewer who’s handcrafted brew won in the IPA category at this year’s CAMRA Victoria Amateur Brewing Competition, and was therefore chosen by Phillips to be this year’s the King of the Carboy. And I personally can attest to its quality, being a complex and highly hoppy India Pale Ale with a deliciously semi-sweet and strong malt base. In a lot of ways, I was reminded of Parallel 49’s own Snap, Crackle and Hop, another IPA that boasted some seriously sweet, savory and herbal hop flavor. Not bad for a basement brewer. May his craft find purchase in the form of a brewery!

Appearance: Light amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Pale malt, mixed hops nose, citrus, grass and pine notes
Taste: Slightly sweet malt and strong hops, piney, resiny, herbal and citrusy
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness and citrus, mild malt coarseness 
Overall: 9/10

Two New Parallel 49s!

parallel49_labelsWith all the drinking I’ve been doing from south of the 49th Parallel, it only seems fair that I sample a few that fall north of that border as well. And I thought I might start with a few from, oh I don’t know, Parallel 49! And that’s easy enough, since these brewers are in the habit of churning out another limited release every few weeks! In fact, in recent weeks, my local stores have been backed up with their latest releases, so I thought I might do another two-fer on their fare. This included the recently-released Crane Kick Sorachi Ace Pilser, a single-hopped German-style lager, and the Snap Crackle Hop Imperial Rice IPA.

Crane Kick Sorachi Ace Pilsner:
Parallel 49 are nothing if not junkies for experimentation. And though this Pilsner might seem like a highly-decent, straightforward example of the Czech-style lager, it’s actually quite the departure. Ordinarily, Pilsner’s rely on German or Noble hop varieties to impart a certain grassy or grainy flavor to their beers. However, the Japanese Sorachi Ace hop strain is known for its lemony, bubble gum, and dill pickle-type taste. Adding this to a Pilsner lager could only be seen as an act of experimentation, but one which yields some positive results!

Appearance: Golden, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Gentle Pilsner malt, grainy, mild grassy hop aroma
Taste: Mild grainy malt flavor, good tang, notes of dill and lemon
Aftertaste: Mild bitterness, notes of lemon rind, mild skunk
Overall: 8/10

Snap Crackle Hop IPA:
And of course, what would a Parallel 49 India Pale Ale be without some grand, odd twist? Yeah, I don’t know either! But luckily, we don’t live in a world where such considerations come true. Once again choosing the venerated style of India Pale Ale as a limited release, the brewers at Parallel 49 decided to switch things up by using rice malt in addition to pale barley malt. And the result is a beer that is quite appetizing, calling to mind rice-crispy squares and rice cakes while also relying on a generous hop profile that includes both citrus and tropical fruit flavors.

Appearance: Gold/amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong floral, citrus hop profile, toasted, grainy notes
Taste: Strong, supple malts, reminiscent of rice cakes, citrus and tropical fruit flavor
Aftertaste: Mild sugars, lingering tropical fruit flavors
Overall: 9/10

If I haven’t said if before, I will say it now. Parallel 49, you got a weird and crazy way of going about your brewing. But I like it! With very few exceptions, your experimental nature has yielded nothing but positive results. And while I often wonder how you would do with a simple, straightforward Pale Ale or Lager, I am always curious to see what you come up with next. You’re like the Howard Sterns of the brewing world! So please, keep on surprising us!

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!

Parallel 49 Vow of Silence

parallel49_labelsThe season of winter continues to throw rainy, icy and snowy weather at us here on the West Coast. And as it turns out, my favorite breweries are still churning out limited releases to mark the occasion. The latest comes from Parallel 49, who decided to greet winter at the halfway mark by doing – once again – something that was both experimental yet traditional.

It’s known as Vow of Silence, a Belgian Quadruple Strong Ale that boast a rather interesting array of flavors. On the one hand, you have a strong, syrupy malty base, reminiscent of bananas, sweet bread, and a touch of herbal infusion. On the other, you have the fortifying effect of candy sugar which adds to the overall alcohol content and lends it a certain candy floss, red licorice flavor. It may sound like an odd combination, but that’s because it is.

Appearance: Dark brown-orange, highly translucent, mild foam and carbonation
Nose: Sweet, malty nose, candy-floss like scent
Taste: Immediate sweetness, notes of banana, herbs, sugar
Aftertaste: Mild bitterness and lingering saccharine malts
Overall: 7/10

Yeah, this wasn’t my favorite example of Parallel 49’s brewing, but that’s what happens when you keep producing big hits. It’s called a success trap, you keep producing something exemplary and people will come to expect great things all the time. Not a bad beer, but somewhat ambivalent in terms of what it was trying to accomplish, and a little odd in terms of flavor combinations.

Phillips Leviathan Milk Stout

leviathanIt’s not secret that the folks at Phillips like to experiment with their beer. And with the new year now upon us, this Victoria-based brewery has shown no signs of slowing down. In fact, three new limited release beers have made it out to the public since 2013 rolled around.

The first was their Bottle Rocket India Session Ale, which I have yet to try. Then came their Twisted Oak Scotch Ale, which I just finished sampling and reviewing the other night. Then came. And last, but certainly not least is their benefit brew, an annual beer that is made specifically for a local charity, where the brewery designs the label, the name, and the product in honor of the charity in question.

Leviathan-Milk-StoutThis year, they have partnered with the Cetus Conservation Society –  a Victoria-based charity dedicated to preserving marine habitats – to produce Leviathan Milk Stout. And, as I suspect, they were inspired by Parallel 49’s success with experimenting with lactic acid to produce what is known as Milk Stout, a variety of stout which is well rounded and creamy in addition to toasted and tawny. And, true to form, this experiment paid off.

Appearance: Black as tar, opaque and good foam retention
Nose: Rich, deep roasted malts
Taste: Immediate tang and roasted barley, slight smoke, cut by creamy mouthfeel
Aftertaste: Lingering smoke and toasted malts, slight creamy finish
Overall: 8.5/10

All in all, the beer possessed all that is good about a stout, but also managed to round out its roasted and smoky profile with a creamy, smooth texture. It’s quite enjoyable to drink, and offers beer drinkers a few things which they are likely to find appealing. For seasoned beer drinkers and fans of stout, it had the dark, tangy and roasted flavor of a real stout. And for people who like a refreshing brew, the beer is smooth, drinkable and has a good mouthfeel. I recommend getting some before it runs out of stock. And remember, all proceeds go towards preserving marine life!

Parallel 49 Black Christmas C.D.A.

dark_aleWinter Beer season is here! And what better way to start this season of beer reviews off than with a newcomer to the beer scene! Known as Black Christmas CDA, this limited release by Parallel 49 is just in time for Christmas, and boasts a lot very Christmasy characteristics!

And interestingly enough, its probably the most normal, run-of-mill, and conventional beer Parallel 49 has yet produced. Compared to Watermelon Wits, Milk Stouts, Salty Scottish Ales, and Chocolate Pumpkin Porters, a Christmas Ale seems pretty… well, normal! And yet, they did a very good job of it and produced a beer which is highly reminiscent of other great Christmas beer I’ve had, the most noteworthy would be Anchor’s 2011 Christmas Ale.

Appearance: Deep brown, virtually opaque, mild foam retention
Nose: Light scent of molasses, caramelized sugar
Taste: Hint of smoke, mild tang, toffee-like undertones and figgy pudding
Aftertaste: Smooth finish, light but lingering bite of hops
Overall: 9/10

I’ve been craving the winter solstice for some time, largely because of the fine and fantastic beer it brings! Congratulations on being my first winter ale of the season, and for another fine beer in your ongoing lineup!

Parallel 49 Salty Scot

parallel49_labelsIt wasn’t long ago that Parallel 49 Brewing first came to my attention. And after trying their combo pack, which provides a pretty good sampling of what they do, I came to two tentative conclusions. One, the brewers at Parallel 49 tend to experiment with some pretty interesting combinations. And two, the result is really quite good.

But I was decidedly unprepared for some of their latest releases. First, there was the Bad Sweater Milk Stout, which I have yet to try, and their Salty Scot Scotch Ale, which I just finished drinking for the first time. And true to form, this beer is pretty damn experimental, combining caramel and sea salt with a “Wee Heavy”-style scotch ale. And also true to form, the end result was quite pleasing…

Appearance: Dark amber brown, slightly cloudy and good foam retention
Nose: Distinct caramel nose, sugary and sticky sweet
Taste: Light, sweet malts giving way to notes of salt water toffee, viscous and chewy
Aftertaste: Slight tang, giving way to more toffee and touch of smoke
Overall: 8.5/10

What can I say? As far as Wee Heavies go, this is one oddball of a beer! But its taste, nose, and good mouth feel make it a pleasure to drink. At 7.5 alc/vol, it’s certainly deserving of its basic designation, and the sea salt and caramel are a very nice accompaniment, providing some balance to what would otherwise be a heavy ale.

I am intrigued and kind of frightened to know what they might come out with next. Might I suggest something run of the mill; perhaps a nice, simple pale ale? No fruit, no dairy, and no particular variety of candy? No dice, huh? Ah, do what you like. You’re five for five so far 😉