Townsite Barrel Aged Cardena Belgian Quad 2016

townsite_barrelagedBrewer: Townsite Brewery, Powell River, BC
Style: Quadruple Ale
ABV: 10.5%
IBUs: 30

Description: The third installment in their “Hulk Series” – named for the decommissioned vessels that make up the floating breakwater in Powell River – Cardena is a Belgian-style Quadrupel ale. And since 2015, they have be re-releasing this ale as part of the breweries new barrel-aged lineup, where established brews are aged in whiskey barrels.

Tasting Notes: I loved Cardena when I first tried it. In fact, it would be fair to say that it was one of the best beers I had in 2014. So I was a little intrigued and surprised by the addition of the barrel-aging process, which I’ve had mixed experiences with. In this case, the end resuilt was interesting, but a bit perplexing. On the one hand, you have all that was great about the Cardena. A strong Abbey-style ale rich with notes of brown sugar, dates, raisins, and figgy pudding.

But add to that the bite of whiskey and the end result was (and I’m not bullshitting here) a bit like blue cheese! It was the oddest thing, getting a taste I immediately recognized but couldn’t quite place. And then I remembered the last time i had hot wings or a spinach salad! Ordinarily, I love blue cheese, but not so much in my beer. So I had to give this one a slightly mixed review. Great to be branching out, but 2016’s Barrel aged Cardena is not quite what I was hoping for.

Appearance: Deep brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong malt, brown sugar, whiskey, dark fruits, spices, alcohol, yeast
Taste: Rich malt, immediate whiskey bite, blue cheese, sugar, dark fruits, alcoholic bite
Aftertaste: Lingering whiskey, malt, cheesy flavor, alcoholic warmth
Overall: 7.2/10

Townsite Lil’ Red Sour Red Ale

townsite_Lil-RedBrewer: Townsite Brewing, Powell River, BC
Style: Sour Ale/Red Ale
ABV: 6%
IBUs: 14

Description: Like all Townsite creations, this seasonal beer is named in honor of something that calls to mind the town’s history. In this case, it is a little red chair that has been “photobombing Powell River landscapes since August 2010.” The brew is fashioned using a red malt base, and the fermented using wild yeast strains, and fortified with Belgian candi sugar.

Tasting Notes: It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed anything by Townsite. And I’ve had a bit of a bad run with sours lately – being either too light or too vinegary. So this beer was both timely and refreshing. On the one hand, it seems like a fine addition to Townsite’s seasonal lineup. On the other, it is a very lovely take on a sour ale, which has a good red malt base and packs plenty of tart raspberry flavor on top of it – rather than sour cherries, apple cider vinegar, or other familiar sour flavors. It also has usual notes of oak, zesty yeast, and lactic acids to boot. A good reintroduction to the brewery and a lovely sour!

Appearance: Dark ruby, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, raspberries, wild yeast cultures, oakiness, lactic acid
Taste: Syrupy malt,tart raspberry, lactic acid, hint of oak, mild and zesty yeast bite
Aftertaste: Lingering zest, tart raspberry, yeasts, acid, quite clean
Overall: 8.5/10

Townsite Cardena Belgian Quad Townsite Brewery, Powell River, BC
Style: Quadruple Ale
Alc/Vol: 10.5%
IBU: 30

Description: This is the third beer in the Hulks Series named for the decommissioned vessels that make up the floating breakwater in Powell River. Brewed in the Abbey ale-style, the Cardena is a quadruple. And consistent with this style, it employs a strong malt base with a high alcohol content.

Tasting Notes: It’s always a delight to try one of Townsite’s specialty brews. Without exception, they’ve done great things with their Hulk Series and this one was no exception. In addition to being deliciously malty, dark, fruity and sugary, it’s got a well balanced flavor due to just enough citrus hop bitterness. It’s a lot like a barley wine, but except with the infusion of the telltale Belgian yeasts that give it an added distinctive flavor. Like Kerstmis in the glass!

Appearance: Deep amber/brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, dark fruits, brown sugar, yeast, hops
Taste: Rich malt, raisins, dates, sugar, good tang, yeast, snap of citrus hops
Aftertaste: Lingering malt bitterness, fruit and yeast
Overall: 10/10

Townsite Charleston Belgian Triple

Townsite_Charleston1Brewer: Townsite Brewing, Powell River, BC
Style: Belgian Triple
Alc/Vol: 9%
IBUs: 34

Description: A reboot of the breweries original Charleston, one of several beers in the Hulk series, this beer is another bottle-conditioned Belgian Triple that honors Cédric the brewmaster’s Belgian heritage. Due to popular demand, the beer has been brought back, with some minor alterations – including increased alcohol content and a slightly different flavor.

Tasting Notes: In addition to being a faithful example of a Belgian Triple, with plenty of malt flavor and yeasty notes, this beer has a smooth profile and some nice honey overtones. While it what was not as pleasing to me as their YOGN 82, it is still a delight and I am glad I got a chance to sample it. The original Charleston escaped me; and with the exception of the Timewarp and the new Cardena, it was the only beer in their lineup I had yet to try.

Appearance: Deep orange, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Belgian pale malt, yeast, honey, alcohol
Taste: Smooth malt flavor, good tang, yeast, sugars, honey sweetness
Aftertaste: Lingering malt bitterness, alcohol, mild hops and yeasts
Overall: 9/10

Townsite Perfect Storm Oatmeal Stout

townsite_perfectstormAt long last, I am closing in on my goal of having sampled the entire Townsite lineup. Ever since they began delivering to the Island, I have been steadily working my way through every beer they have put out since my wife and I first visited their operation. At this point, only seasonal releases remain; and after tonight, only one beer will be left! But since I’ll have to wait until October to try that one (their Time Warp Wet-Hopped Pale Ale), there’s nothing to but wait and enjoy this one!

As far as Oatmeal Stouts go, this one was very good. In addition to the usual stout characteristics – black and opaque body, a rich malt with notes of coffee and chocolate, and a pleasantly bitter finish – this one has a hint of coffee liqueur of the nose. Not something I was expecting, but it certainly didn’t detract from the overall experience. In fact, I might go as far as to say this is one of the best stouts I’ve had in some time.

Appearance: Pitch black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, notes of espresso, dark chocolate, coffee liqueur
Taste: Coffee-like dark malt and mild hop bite, semi-sweet and bitter chocolate
Aftertaste: Lingering bitter malts and espresso flavor
Overall: 9/10

In truth, there are actually two Townsite beers that I have yet to try. But from what I’ve been told, the Charleston Belgian Triple was discontinued after its first year and replaced by the YOGN 82. As such, it is beyond my reach and any reasonable expectation of sampling. Unless anyone has a bottle of it lying around they would be willing to part with…?

Townsite Biere D’Hiver Winter Ale

townsite_dhiverIt has taken me some time, but I appear to be closing in on my goal of trying every single beer the Townsite brewery has yet produced. It hasn’t been easy keeping up with them, thanks to their prolific nature and the fact that they only recently started distributing to the island. But I still consider it a lucky break that I finally managed to secure a bottle of this seasonal beer before winter officially ended and it would no longer be available.

Another beer that was inspired by local legend, the Biere D’Hiver is another Belgian-style brew that is dark, yeasty, has a sugar and dark fruit malt taste, and is spiced with coriander, star anise & brewmaster’s own hand-made Candi Sugar. The end result is something that seems like a cross between a winter warmer, an extra strong Belgian brown, and a spiced Wit. And of course, it has some serious strength (7.5% alc/vol).

Appearance: Dark molasses brown, virtually opaque, strong foam and carbonation
Nose: Notes of caramelized sugar, plums, dates, and coriander
Taste: Immediate spice and malt sweetness, coriander and sugars, strong yeast
Aftertaste: Slight coarse malt bitterness, lingering sugars and spice
Overall: 9/10

Between this and their Shiny Penny Belgian IPA (another winner!), and this latest installment, I am now just two beers away from sampling everything Townsite has ever produced. That would include their Perfect Storm Oatmeal Stout and their Time Warp Wet Hopped Pale Ale. My kudos to Cédric for his endlessly inventive spirit!


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…

Townsite Brewing Has Arrived!

townsite-logo-Ever since my wife and I landed in Powell River as part of our summer trip last year, hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail, we were surprised and impressed to find a craft brewing operation in the heart of town that catered to the Sunshine Coast. Not only were they well-situated as an operation, they seemed to know what they were doing when it came to producing quality beers. I can still remember sampling their Pale Ale, Blonde Ale, Porter, and the summer seasonal, a Blackberry Wheat that honored the city’s annual Blackberry Festival.

Unfortunately, I lamented the fact that, at the time, their products were not available on Vancouver Island. With the exception of Comox, which is a short ferry ride away, not a single beer store on the island was known to carry their lineup. Sure, you could find it up and down the Sunshine Coast, in Vancouver, and even parts of Washington State. But not in Victoria or the Southern Island, no sir!

Well, as it turns out, that is no longer the case. A number of private stores (such as Metro and Cascadia Liquor) have begun stocking their full lineup. That includes their Tin Hat IPA, Zunga Blonde Ale, Suncoast Pale, Pow Town Porter, Westview Wheat, and the latest, the YOGN 82 Belgian Triple. And with the exception of a few labels, I can attest to the quality of these beers. I even had a chance to sample some of the latest now that they are available locally. Here’s what I had to try most recently:

Said the Ale Belgian Pale Ale:
townsite_said_the_aleA special release from the Townsite Brewery, this beer has a rather interesting origin story. Apparently, the beer is part of a commitment on behalf of BC brewers to produce beer in honor of various Canadian bands. In this case, the Townsite brewery made this beer in honor of Said The Whale, a Canadian indie rock group that has was recently featured on CBC radio.

Appearance: Deep red/amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Distinctive Belgian yeast, mild notes of bitter hops
Taste: Immediate burst of Belgian yeast, rich malts, snap of piney hops
Aftertaste: Quite clean, mild tang, lingering yeasts and mild citrus
Overall: 8.5/10

As a Belgian Pale Ale, this beer combines aspects of the most famous variety of beer to be brewed in the Pacific Northwest and is fermented using a specific strain of Belgian yeast. The result is an interesting brew that boasts a yeasty nose and flavor with the rich malts and sharp, hoppy taste of a pale ale. In keeping with the recent trend of Belgian IPAs, this Belgian Pale Ale is quite refreshing and balanced in terms of flavor and quite appealing to the palate.

YOGN 82 Belgian Triple:
townsite_yogn82Brewed in honor of Cedric, the Townsite Brewer Engineer who hails from Belgium, and “the Hulks” – the concrete ships that make up the town’s breakwater – the YOGN 82 is the brewery’s latest triple-fermented Belgian-style beer. The second in the series, after last year’s Charleston Triple, this beer weighs in at a hefty 9% alc/vol and has all the characteristics a Belgian Tripel is famous for.

This includes a golden blonde hue, a distinct yeasty nose, strong alcohol content, strong malts, and a distinct oaky flavor. And like each Hulk beer, it features a label created by a Powell River artist; this year’s featuring the art of Emma Bell.

Appearance: Dark golden, light cloudiness, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Distinctive Belgian yeast, strong notes of banana, sugars
Taste: Sweet malts and Belgian yeast, burst of banana and citrus fruit and oaky notes
Aftertaste: Sweetness giving way to coarse flavor, slight bitterness and alcohol
Overall: 9.5/10

Overall, I was strongly reminded of La Fin Du Monde, another famous Belgian-style Tripel which also possesses some serious Belgian-yeast flavor, strong malts and an oaky undertone. The difference here is in the level of fruit flavor and sweetness, in that this one possesses a good deal more of it. In addition to some serious sugars, there was also a strong hint of banana that played well with the strong alcohol content, oak and yeastiness of the beer. Might seem a little overpowering to some, but I enjoyed it very much. In fact, it might just be the best Belgian Tripel I have had in recent memory!

In short, not a bad set of additions to their overall lineup. I’m pretty pleased that the brewery is available here in my corner of the world, especially since I learned that they were turning out seasonal and special releases that I had no access to! It’s not like I can pop over to Vancouver every time they release a new beer, you know!

Townsite Brewing

Hello all, and let me start by saying that it’s good to be back from the brink! After a week of romping around in the bush (aka. The Sunshine Coast Trail), my wife and I had the privilege of retiring to the lovely town of Powell River for a brief stopover before coming back to the Island. While there, we got to sample from a new brewery, one which is (sadly) still unavailable in Victoria or anywhere outside the mainland.

It is known as The Townsite Brewery, an operation which took over the Townsite building of Powell River in recent years and began producing beer by and for the Sunshine Coast. And I can tell you from having kicked around their for the last week or so that the locals are pretty proud of this home-town operation! Just about everywhere we went – pubs, bistros and liquor stores – we saw signs, taps and heard plenty of verbal endorsements in favor of this new beer.

And while in Lund, Powell River, and anywhere in between, my wife and I managed to sample the better part of their lineup and were pretty pleased. We were even fortunate enough to get a hold of a bottle of their first seasonal beer, a blackberry-wheat which is brewed in honor of the Annual Blackberry Festival. And here they are, in the order in which they were sampled, with my humble thoughts…

Tin Hat IPA:
Named in honor of Tin Hat Mountain on the Sunshine Coast, which in turn is a reference to the town’s own mining heritage, this IPA is aptly named. A sessional IPA (meaning, lower in alcohol content and gravity) this beer is light, dry, and packs a piney hop bite. And like all IPAs, I found it particularly refreshing when sitting in Lund harbor, dealing with the inexorable heat!

Initially bitter, it grew on me as I continued to sip throughout the hot afternoon. As a sessional IPA, one can expect that the malt character will be subdued, bringing out more hop characteristic. In time, I began to enjoy the strong hops combined with the light, drinkable quality, and we began to bond. By the end, we had become friends and I promised to visit again real soon! 8/10

Suncoast Pale Ale:
A true session beer that is has nice amber hue and a smooth, tawny character to match. This beer was introduced to me and my wife while dining at the Boardwalk Restaurant while digging into some burger platters. Nothing like burgers and beer to beef up for a big hike!

Like all good sessions, this beer had a light, semi-sweet malt characteristic that was balanced out by a light dose of hops. The result is a beer that is infinitely drinkable and has a a good, clean finish. Also great for beating the heat and well paired with both seafood and meat dishes, as we learned that night on the boardwalk. 8.5/10

Zunga Blonde Ale:
Coming in next, I believe during our last night before setting out for the Sunshine Coast Trail, was the Zunga Blonde Ale. Again, I felt the brewery hit this one right on the head, creating a beer that was both faithful to the best in brewing traditions while still both being drinkable and accessible.

Like your typical Blondes, this beer is light in color, has a slight cloudiness, and comes on with slightly coarse, syrupy malts and a mildly bitter finish. The name is also a reference to the peculiar word for a rope swing which is indigenous to Powell River. 8/10

Pow Town Porter:
Speaking of words indigenous to Powell River, the name of this Porter is the very name of Powell River itself, as it is known to the locals. It may just be the esoteric appeal that makes this beer a porter, or it may be a historic reference of sorts, not sure…

All I know is, the beer itself was mighty pleasant and delivered in the flavor department. Smelling of rich coffee notes, the taste is somewhere between cocoa and espresso, finishing slightly bitter but still possessing of a smooth, clean quality. In terms of appearance, she is also quite dark, but still manages to be relatively clear. 8.5/10

Blackberry Festivale:
And here we have the brewery’s first seasonal beer, brewed in honor of Powell River’s annual Blackberry Festival. For my money, there are few beers more appropriate than ones which are brewed in honor of local seasonal festivals. And in that respect, the Townsite folks really came through here. We’re talking nailed it in one!

A blackberry-wheat beer (natch) which calls to mind the long and venerated Belgian tradition of brewing witbiers infused with fruit, this beer contains no artificial flavors or colors, just blackberries. In terms of appearance, it is slightly cloudy with a nice dark amber hue and the slightest hints of ruby, indicating the presence of real blackberry fruit.

The taste comes on with a tart kick, reminiscent of genuine fruit beer, but finishes clean and smooth. All of this adds up to a beer which is mighty refreshing on a hot August afternoon, especially when its one of the hottest on record. A supremely appropriate summer ale and a fine addition to any BC beer fridge during this sweltering month! 8/10

Well, that’s all that I managed to get from Townsite this trip. I have yet to sample their Westview Wheat, which is named in honor of the Westview burb of the city. All points in Powell River look west, you see, and look to the Comox Glacier on the Island. And from the descriptions of this beer, I think it might just be my favorite of the lot. Only time will tell…

In the meantime, might I implore the good folks at the brewery, or whatever BC provincial authorities, to see to it to make sure that this beer can be made available it to the Island? You won’t be sorry, I know I won’t 😉