Spinnakers Quince Sour Saison

Spinnakers_quincesourBrewer: Spinnakers Brewery
Style: Sour Saison Ale
ABV: 5.0%
IBUs: 5

Description: Brewed in honor of Spinnaker’s 32nd anniversary, this sour ale is made using backyard quince fruit, which is then fermented with wild yeast strains and aged in tequila barrels.

Tasting Notes: I say this all the time, but this beer is an interesting combination. At first, I was turned off by the label, being somewhat tired by all the sour offerings of late, and not  a huge fan of tequila. And the first sip was heavy on the sour side. However, this beer does grow on you with each successive drink. In the end, what you get is an ale with strong notes of sour lemon, a hint of saison spicy yeast, a hint of dry apple, and some smooth tequila backing. Definitely a gamble that paid off!

Appearance: Yellow-amber, very cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong notes of acid, lemon juice, yeast, spice
Taste: Mild malt, strong yeast tang, sour lemon, yeast, hint of tequila
Aftertaste: Lingering sour lemon flavor, yeasty bite
Overall: 8/10

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Deep Cove Sun Kissed Tea Saison Ale

sunkissed_saisonBrewer: Deep Cover, Vancouver, BC
Style: Saison
Alc/Vol: 5%

Description: A summer seasonal release, this pale ale is made in the Belgian farmhouse Saison style, and is then infused with a blend of apple, mango and papaya Rooibos teas.

Tasting Notes: As Saisons go, this one was a rather interesting mix and was definitely very refreshing, not to mention a good accompaniment to the coming summer weather. In addition to the mild malt, hints of spice and yeast, it has a delicate infusion of fruit flavor and a tea backing that plays nicely on the tongue, and a nice refreshing finish to boot.

Appearance: Golden orange, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Grainy malt, yeast, mild hints of apple and tropical fruits
Taste: Light malts, discernible yeasts and spice, hint of apple and mango
Aftertaste: Mild malt and yeast aftertaste, some tea, clean finish
Overall: 8.5/10

Townsite’s Latest

townsite-logo-Back with some new beers from the Townsite Brewery of scenic Powell River BC! Since it first opened less than two years ago, they’ve been producing hit after hit. From their regular lineup, to their seasonal (their Blackberry Festivale was the first I tried while staying there in the summer of ’12), to their YOGN 82 (best Tripel I’ve had in years!), there’s very little that this brewery has produced that I didn’t find highly impressive.

I’m especially happy about this for a couple of reasons. For one, they are a local brewing operation, which is a mark of sophistication for any community that has one. Second, it is very convenient to be able to find great beer on one’s own doorstep! And third, all too often, craft brewers find themselves unable to compete in a market dominated by major and not-so-micro operations. Knowing that they are producing an extensive lineup of really good beer gives me confidence that they will be around for some time to come…

So here are the latest Townsite beers that I’ve managed to sample and what I had to say about them!

7800 Saison:
Townsite_7800_SaisonThe 7800 is named in honor of the distance that lies between the Townsite Brewery of Powell River and the brewmaster’s home in Horrues, Belgium. Brewed in the Saison farmhouse fashion, once again owing to the brewmaster’s Belgian roots, this beer is made with a combination of barley, spelt, oats, and rye. The end result is cloudy in appearance, golden orange, and has the characteristic Saison flavors. These include a spicy, yeasty character, but also some complex malt flavor that is more bitter than usual. This is due to the admixture of rye, oats and spelt, which achieve a bite that is somewhat reminiscent of an oatmeal stout or rye ale, unexpected but certainly welcome to the mix.

Appearance: Golden-orange, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Distinctive yeasty and spicy notes
Taste: Smooth malts, spicy yeast backbone, giving way to bitter, grainy bite
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness, rye flavor, yeast
Overall: 8.5/10

Shiny Penny Belgium IPA:
townsite_shinypennyThe beer is named after the gastropub that brewmaster Cédric Dauchot and his wife (and brewery manager) Chloe Smith, planned to open in Saskatoon. As their take on a new style that is becoming all the rage, the Belgian IPA is a marriage of Belgian yeasts and strength with the characteristic hoppyness and higher malt gravity of a Pacific Northwest IPA. And when you drink it, that is precisely what you get: a rich, malty brew that boast plenty of citrus and tropical fruit. The appearance is consistent with an Imperial IPA, dark amber, but has little head or carbonation to speak of. The total gravity is 21.5 Plato, and the alcohol strength is just shy of a Tripel (8.5% alc/vol). A very interesting and, as usual, awesome product from this brewery!

Appearance: Dark amber, slightly cloudy, mild foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Floral, citrus hops, thick, syrupy malts
Taste: Heavy malts, slight sweetness, Belgian yeast, citrus hops, coarse malt flavor
Aftertaste: Lingering hop and malt bitterness, passion fruit, yeast and sugars
Overall: 9/10

With these two down, there are only two seasonals that remain to be had. This includes their Perfect Storm Oatmeal Stout, and their Beer D’Hiver Winter Ale. Man, these guys are productive as hell! I hope I can keep up…

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!

Parallel 49 Humphrey Biere de Garde

parallel49As anyone familiar with BC craft beers would know by now, the Vancouver-based Parallel 49 brewery is renowned for their interesting and weird combinations, producing beer that is both appealing to drink and esoterically complex. And they seem to know no limits when it comes to variation and experimentation, combining different processes, ingredients, and merging disparate styles to create something new every few weeks. And whenever they decide on a new combination, it comes in the form of a limited release.

P49_humphreyThe latest is Humphrey’s Biere de Garde, a malt-forward twist on a traditional style of beer that, similar to Saison, is a farmhouse beer that comes to us from northeastern France. A cottage industry for the longest time, large-scale breweries have taken to producing Biere de Gardes in recent years, especially craft-brewing operations. So it is little wonder why Parallel 49 chose to tackle this beer, which is also a seasonal variety that was typically brewed during the spring and stored for the summer months. The twist, which is to be expected when dealing with P49, comes in the form of rosewater, which was added to provide another dimension of flavor. Typically used to scent and flavor foods, perfumes and ointments, the admixture of this syrupy, fragrant liquid provides for a drinking experience which is at once traditional and at the same time odd and interesting…

Appearance: Amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malts, hint of sweetness
Taste: Semi sweet malts, syrupy and viscous, slight floral, herbal infusion,
Aftertaste: Lingering sweetness, chewy mouthfeel, relatively clean
Overall: 8/10

As you may be able to tell, it was quite difficult to describe the flavor of this beer. All throughout, I had the feeling that I was getting notes of something sweet, distinct, and not really consistent with malt or hops. I wasn’t sure how to describe this, and didn’t want to fall back on the all-too-convenient “like rosewater”, especially since I’ve never tasted it before. But the end result of this beer is certainly something that most beer drinkers will at least partially recognize – a malt forward beer that is reminiscent of a nice amber ale that also comes with a herbal/floral taste provided by a rosewater tincture. Not P49s best beer by my measure, but definitely worth sampling.

Steamworks Saison

steamworkssaisonJust in time for… uh, Fall! Yes, I know this is not technically appropriate to the season, but the recent arrival of Steamworks Saison to one of the local dispensaries was not something I could very well ignore. More and more, I am seeing this Vancouver-based craft brewery’s good turning up here on the island, and its exciting. In fact, almost a year ago I took a trip to their brewery for the third time and sampled as much of their lineup as I could. I really must publish the results one of these days…

steamworks_saisonBut in the meantime, I am satisfied to sample their Saison, a tribute to the French-speaking province of Wallonia in southern Belgium where the style originated. Typically brewed in the colder, less active months of autumn, this variety of beer is generally milder and lighter than your typical Belgian ales – that is to say 7% alc/vol, as opposed to those with a heftier rating of 9% and above. And like many of its compatriot beers, Saisons tend to boast notes of fruit and spice, either the result of the specialized yeast that is used in fermentation or due to the additional of actual fruits and spices. In keeping with that tradition, Steamworks’ own Saison is made using a combination of wheat and barley malt, is light and yeasty, and slightly stronger than your average fare, clocking in at a respectable 6.5% alc/vol.

Appearance: Light blonde, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Distinct notes of Belgian yeast, dry, slightly spicy
Taste: Slightly bitter hops, strong yeasts, hints of coriander, fruit reminiscent of dry cider
Aftertaste: Lingering yeast and coriander flavor, mild bitterness
Overall: 8/10

Yes, this beer did much to enthrall and confound me. On the one hand, it was very consistent with what I’ve come to expect from a Belgian Saison, loaded with its distinct yeast and malt flavor with hints of coriander. At the same time, I was reminded of cider, another regional favorite, since the nose and flavor of it seemed dry and acidic. But like I said, Saison beers are renowned for being spicy and fruity, and this one certainly measures up in both regards! Islanders would be well advised to get some while they can…

Spinnakers Festive Saison

spinnakers_festivesaisonSince I tried this one in the pub itself, I’ve been yearning to get my hands on a bottle so I could give it a proper review. Like many brews they produce, it can be a challenge to find some in a bottle. Luckily, this holiday season, some was retrievable at my favorite local watering hole. So here we are!

And as my second winter seasonal beer review, it was also quite impressive. To be fair, I’m not a huge fan of the Saison beer variety, but I do approve of a refreshing beer with notes of spice and fruit that is gentle on the palate and quite refreshing. And thought this one was a bit light for my taste, I still found plenty to enjoy about it.

Appearance: Light yellow, transparent and very mild foam retention
Nose: Belgian yeast, notes of coriander and clove spice
Taste: Light, slightly bitter tang, yeasty and clean
Aftertaste: Mild taste of coriander and clove spice, citrus rind
Overall: 7.5/10

Stay tuned! More holiday beer to come soon. And maybe a few more fall beers that didn’t quite make it out in time.