Gaedingur Stout

gaedingur_stoutBrewer: Gaedingur Brewery, Skagafjordur, Iceland
Style: Stout
ABV: 5.6%
IBUs: Unspecified

Description: My latest sampling from the Advent Beer Calendar, this stout comes all the way from Iceland, and combines the stout malt, water and hops with licorice to create a strong yet smooth ale that is rich and varied in flavor.

Tasting Notes: Ordinarily, I’m not a big fan of licorice stouts, but this one managed to strike a very nice balance. The nose is definitely yeasty, and has some sugar to it that reminded me of a Bock or Belgian ale. And the flavor is nicely varied, packing espresso, bitter chocolate, and licorice in a nice, bitter (but not too bitter) balance.

Appearance: Black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dark, roasted malt, roast espresso, sugars, licorice, yeast
Taste: Rich malt, dark chocolate, espresso bitterness, licorice, yeast
Aftertaste: Lingering malt bitterness, licorice and espresso
Overall: 8/10

Mikkeler Dry Stout BA Sauternes Edition

mikkeler_drystoutBrewer: Mikkeler Brewery, Copenhagen, Denmark
Style: Stout/Sour
ABV: 4.1%
IBUs: Unspecified (low)

Description: As part of the breweries Sour/Wild lineup, this stout is brewed at their branch plant in D’Proef, Belgium. It is fashioned using dark-roasted malts that are then fermented with brettanomyces yeast before being aged in Sauterne (French sweet wine) barrels for a complex flavor.

Tasting Notes: This was an odd combination, and one which works on some levels, but not others. It combines a stout base, with all the bitter notes of coffee and dark malt, and the addition of brettanomyces yeast adds a dimension of sour cherry and lactic acid that gives it a certain bite. These seem a bit at odds, and very little of the Sauterne wine comes through, except at the tail end of things. Not the best combination beer, in my humble opinion, but certainly an interesting one.

Appearance: Black, virtually opaque, medium foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dark roasted malt, roasted espresso, brettanomyces
Taste: Rich malt, bitterness, notes of coffee, sour cherry, yeast, hint of sugars
Aftertaste: Lingering malt bitterness, sour yeast and coffee
Overall: 7.3/10

Muskoka Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout

muskoka_beardBrewer: Muskoka Brewery, Bracebridge ON
Style: Strong Stout
ABV: 8%

Description: Muskoka’s Winter seasonal beer, this stout is brewed using dark roasted chocolate malts which are then infused with cocoa, 70% dark chocolate, and freshly harvested local cranberries. The result is a strong stout with hints of sweetness and a smooth backing.

Tasting Notes: This is one of those “long time coming” drinking experiences. I can recall seeing this beer on the shelves back when I visited Ottawa, and made a mental note to try it once I saw that it was available here in BC. It took awhile, but I finally managed to get my hands on one and give it a go. And the combination was pretty pleasing. Tart and sweet cranberry flavor play well with a strong stout, cutting the bitter malt flavor, while chocolate provide an undertone of smoothness.

Appearance: Black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich, roasted malt, chocolate, hint of espresso, licorice
Taste: Dark, rich malts, cocoa and espresso, hint of tartness and sugary finish
Aftertaste: Lingering roasted malt flavor, chocolate and espresso, licorice
Overall: 8.5/10

Lighthouse Seaport Vanilla Stout

Lighthouse_SeaportBrewer: Lighthouse Brewery, Victoria BC
Style: Vanilla Stout
ABV: 5.5%

Description: This latest release is part of the brewery’s Explorer Series. It begins with dark roasted malts, and finishes with the infusion of Madagascar vanilla beans. This beer is also part of their Bounty series – alongside the Tasman Ale and Shipwreck IPA – as part of the breweries new look and structure.

Tasting Notes: The addition of vanilla to this West Coast-style stout creates a well-balanced and smooth drinking experience. With the addition of chocolate and coffee notes, it wasn’t dissimilar to a Mochachino, or a Milk Stout with a hint of cocoa. And it certainly was an interesting departure for the Lighthouse Brewery, a fan of big flavor that usually involves hops!

Appearance: Tar black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Deep roasted malts, espresso, chocolate and vanilla
Taste: Smooth malt, creamy, strong hint of vanilla, chocolate, hint of coffee
Aftertaste: Lingering vanilla flavor and smooth malt flavor
Overall: 8/10

Off To The Beer Seminar!

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Today is a great day for beer appreciation, because it is the day that I finally get to host my long-overdue beer-tasting and history of beer seminar. Ten participants have signed on, the space has been reserved, and in a few hours time, I will be giving the attendees a quick (well not too quick) run-down on the history of the brewing craft, coupled with some generous sampling.

I’ve prepared the following list based on what I could find and what seemed indispensable to me as far as representing the history and full range of brewing was concerned. All told, they are divided by style more than historical period, but I will be presenting them in this order since it gives a pretty good idea of how the art evolved over time.

Ancient Beers:
Heather: Salt Spring Island Heather Ale (5% / 650 ml)
(I desperately wanted to find a bomber of Gruit as well, but that variety of beer is both hard to find and hopelessly out of season right now)

Abbey Beers:
Blonde: Affligem Blonde (6.8% / 330ml)
Tripel: Townsite Charleston Tripel (9% / 650 ml)
Sour: Driftwood Belle Royale (8% / 650 ml)

Anglo-American Beer:
Pale Ale: Hoyne’s Down Easy (5.2% / 650ml)
India Pale Ale: Driftwood Fat Tug IPA (7% / 650 ml)
Stout: Hopworks 7-Grain Stout (5.3% / 650 ml)
Barley Wine: Howe Sound Wooly Bugger (10.5% / 375 ml)

German Beer:
Lager: Ayinger Dortmunder Lager (5.5% / 500 ml)
Oktoberfest: Russel Marzen (5.5% / 650ml)
Hefeweizen: Schneider Weisse (5.4% / 500 ml)
Bock: Schneider Weisse Aventinus (8% / 500ml)
Smokebeer: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier (6.6% / 500 ml)

The seminar will begin with where and how beer became a cornerstone of civilization – emerging alongside agriculture and sedentary communities some 8000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent. I will then go on to how the rise of wine making introduced a sense of cultural distinction during Classical Antiquity, and the influence was largely confined to the parts of Europe where the Roman Empire had influence (France, Spain, Italy, the Mediterranean, but not Germany, the Low Countries, Eastern Europe, or the British Isles).

Then comes the Middle Ages, the establishment of Abbey/Monastery Brewing, the rise of hop use, the advent of Lager and the growing professionalization of the industry. Which then gives way to the industrial revolution and the emergence of brewing as a big business, followed of course by the modern era and the resurgence in craft brewing. It promises to be interesting, I just hope I can keep it down to 20 minutes. Leaves more time from sampling!

I’ll be sure to let you all know how it goes and I hope to repeat it in the very near future with some other (and larger) groups of people.

Granville Island Shamrocker Potato Stout

shamrocker_stoutBrewer: Granville Island Brewery, Vancouver, BC
Style: Stout
Alc/Vol: 4.8%
IBU: 35

Description: Released just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, this limited release from Granville Island Brewing combines Crystal and base Stout malts with Delta hops and an infusion of potato to create a stout that the brewery describes as “a medley of Celtic proportions.”

Tasting Notes: As stouts go, this one was a little light in alcohol content and flavor, and put me in mind of an auburn ale (another Irish classic!) in a few respects. At the same time, it managed to achieve a nice balance between roasted malts, an hint of espresso bitterness, and the earthy flavor that comes from Delta hops and the addition of potatoes. This last ingredient also came through with the pervasive starchy, slightly sweet essence I noticed throughout. All of this makes for a rather interesting drinking experience, and a welcome addition to St. Patrick’s Day. Slainte!

Appearance: Black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malt, hint of espresso, smokey aroma
Taste: Light malt flavor, hint of starch, tang, espresso, smokey, earthy hop finish
Aftertaste: Lingering earthy flavor and hints of espresso and malt
Overall: 8.5/10

Two Beers Heart of Darkness CDA

TwoBeers_HeartofDarknessCDABrewer: Heart of Darkness, Seattle, Washington
Style: Imperial Black IPA
Alc/Vol: 6.8%
IBUs: 67

Description: A seasonal release, available from November through February, this Imperial Black IPA is brewed according to the increasingly popular “Cascadian Dark Ale” style – a characteristically Pacific Northwest ale that combines dark, roasted malts with an intense hopping to achieve a strong but balanced flavor that reminiscent of both a stout and an IPA.

Tasting Notes: As far as Black IPAs go, this beer is definitely a winner. While the addition of “Imperial” seems a bit much – at 6.8% alcohol, it hardly seems that strong – the flavor is complex, varied, and delightfully strong. In addition to a good hop bitterness, its darkened malts are rich and flavorful, calling to mind a good stout’s balance of chocolate and coffee flavor. Definitely one of the best CDAs I’ve had in awhile.

Appearance: Black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malt, notes of espresso and dark chocolate, piney hops
Taste: Rich smokey malt, citrus hops, espresso flavor and bitterness, mild chocolate
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness and smokey notes
Overall: 9/10

Also, this was my 250th post! Yay for beer!

Lighthouse Desolation Imperial Oyster Stout

Desolation-1024x682Back with more holiday beer! And for tonight’s review, I have decided to take in the latest limited release from the Lighthouse Brewery, which just happened to be their Desolation Sound Oyster Stout. As the name might suggest, this is a rather interesting and unique contender, an imperial stout made from 10 malts and a full shuck of Okeover organic oysters that were harvested directly from Desolation Sound.

Desolation_oysterstoutAnd in truth, I kind of avoided this beer for many weeks, thinking it was just a little too experimental for my taste. However, it came highly recommended from a trusted source who works at my local beer store, who compared it quite favorably to Parallel 49’s Salty Scot. Between that, and Driftwood’s recent Gos-uh brew, there really hasn’t been a shortage of local beers that incorporate sea salt. And I had no complaints about any of them.

And as promised, the end result was quite pleasing. In addition to possessing all the proper qualities of a fine, well-rounded and strong stout, the addition of oysters provided a certain briny, smoky texture that was actually quite complimentary. And what resulted from all this was a very smooth beer with a supple mouthfeel and a varied flavor profile – one which ranged from salty and sweet to smoky and bitter. And at 9.3% alc/vol, it also provides a strong alcoholic kick, but one that manages not to overpower the taste.

Appearance: Black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich stout malts, hint of smoke, briny, salty backbone
Taste: Smooth, sweet malts, mild licorice, hint of smoke, espresso, hint of saltiness
Aftertaste: Lingering licorice and espresso malt, smoke and salt
Overall: 8.5/10

Salt and beer… not something we North Americans tend to think of as being entirely natural. And yet, it is surprising how many styles of beer incorporate sea salt in order to effect a varied, balanced flavor. But it does serve to remind us just how diverse and varied the art of beer making is. Until next time!

Ommegang Take the Black Stout

OmmegangIf there’s one thing I can appreciate almost as much as beer, its an inspired yarn, the likes of which that authors like George R.R. Martin (aka. “The American Tolkien”) has been known to spin. So you can imagine how enthusiastic I was when I found out that a craft brewing operation from Cooperstown, New York was partnering with HBO to create a series of beers with a Game of Thrones theme.

And this week, as part of my series on holiday beers, I finally managed to get a bottle of their Take the Black Stout, the first beer in the series. Currently, the only other is their Iron Throne Blonde, with a third – Fire and Blood – due to come out in spring of 2014. In truth, the only reason I waited this long to get into this series is because I’ve been so backlogged with new beers and just haven’t found the time to try them all. But the holidays are a good time for imbibing and catching up on things!

Named in honor of the oath taken by all the Night’s Watch, the men who stand the Wall in the GOT series and defend the Realm against all the threats from the frozen north. The stout consists of a malt base composed of Caramel, Chocolate and roasted barley, as well as Northern Brewer and Columbus hops. It is then spiced with licorice root and star anise to give it a full-bodied flavor that is coarse, slightly sweet, and has a distinct Belgian yeast flavor. And of course, it ranks in at solid 7% alc/vol, making for a

game-of-thrones-beer-take-the-black-stout-zap2itAppearance: Dark black, opaque, thick lacy dark head and good carbonation
Nose: Roasted malts, espresso, licorice, mild yeast
Taste: Bitterness, yeast, anise and citrus hops, giving way to espresso beans
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness giving way to hint of licorice
Overall: 8.5/10

Not a bad beer at all, and this is coming from a man who doesn’t normally enjoy extra strong stouts, especially ones flavored with licorice. In all honesty, it really didn’t make me think much of the Night’s Watch or the wall. Perhaps it’s because I’m a committed geek of the franchise, but I can’t imagine them enjoying a Belgian-style stout flavored with spices. That just seems to high-end for the Black Brothers! 😉

What I was reminded of was Unibroue, another Belgian-inspired operation that is also in the habit of serving its beer in three-quarter liter, corked bottles. And much like this Quebec-based operation, these folks do seem to appreciate traditional recipes while still remaining open to crossovers and experimentation. Onto the next beer and hopefully more in this brewery’s GOT series!

And be sure to check out the brewery’s website. It promises for some interesting reading 🙂

Moon Under Water Victoria’s Sticke Fusion Stout

MoonLogo1It had to happen sooner or later. With all the experimentation happening since the new management took over, it was only a matter of time before they produced a stout that combined a few disparate brewing traditions. That’s the idea behind Moon Under Water’s Victoria Sticke Fusion Stout, a beer that combines wheat, chocolate and Munich malts to create a hefeweizen/stout – something that is toasted, bitter, and also effervescent and yeasty all at once.

Imperial_stoutAnd while it is a brave combination, it was not their greatest experiment to date, in my humble opinion. While I lauded their combination of hefeweizen and bock to create their Victorious Weizenbock, somehow, the combination of flavors just didn’t seem to compliment each other this time around. While they were both present in abundance, they tended to compete for attention rather than blend seamlessly into each other. Black in appearance and opaque, with a lacy, foam head, the beer has a mixed nose of wheat malt, yeast, and toasted dark malts. In terms of flavor, what you get begins with the yeasty, smooth notes of hefeweizen, followed by the mild chocolate notes, toasted malts, and strong bitterness of a stout. All this comes at a respectable 6% alc/vol.

Appearance: Black, opaque, good head, foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Wheat malts, yeast, mild toasted malts
Taste: Mixed palette, wheat and yeast, chocolate, espresso, strong bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering strong bitterness and yeast
Overall: 7.5/10

In short, not their best experiment in brewing thus far. But certainly not a poor beer, and their past efforts have certainly earned them the benefit of the doubt with this, the first stout to enter their regular lineup. As we get into winter, I do hope they can be coaxed into making a barely wine or Christmas Ale of some kind. Man, I’ve been craving those lately!