4 Mile Bourbon Oak Aged English Strong Ale

4mile_bourbonstrongBrewer: 4 Mile Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: English Strong Ale
ABV: 8.2%
IBUs: 40

Description: This seasonal release (which became available as of Dec.1st) is a slight twist on the brewery’s English Strong, which is aged in bourbon barrels to achieve a stronger, bourbon flavor-infused beer.

Tasting Notes: I was surprised by this entry. Ordinarily, you’d expect a dark, strong ale that’s been aged in bourbon barrels to combine some serious sugary maltiness with a strong whiskey bite. You know, a winter warmer meets a haymaker punch! However, the malt flavor was actually quite smooth and subdued while the whiskey flavor comes on mild, only to finish quite bitter. Not what I was expecting.

Appearance: Deep ruby/brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malts, tinge of alcohol, hints of whiskey and oak
Taste: Smooth, rich malt base, mild whiskey bite, hint of brown sugar and dark fruit
Aftertaste: Lingering whiskey bite, alcohol and coarse malt bitterness
Overall: 7.5/10

Category 12 Subversion Imperial IPA

c12-bottle-shot-SUBVERSIONBrewer: Category 12 Brewing, Central Saanich, BC
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.7%
IBUs: 85

Description:  This latest release from Category 12 is the brewery’s shot at what is currently one of the most popular styles of West Coast ale. It is fashioned using plenty of (what I can only assume are) pale and Crystal malts, then generously hopped with Mt. Hood, Cascade & Centennial hops for an intense flavor – like a good IIPA!

Tasting Notes: Let me just say I’m very proud of C12 and the work they’ve been doing of late. This brew is just one of a few new concoctions they have come up, and intend to review them all. In any case, this beer was a faithful example of a West Coast Imperial IPA, employing a strong, slightly sweet and coarse malt base and an intense hop flavor that has notes of citrus, pine, passion fruit and dried herbs. And yet, despite it power, it manages to finish quite nicely and cleanly. Not what you’d generally expect from a Imperial IPA.

Appearance: Deep amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, good hop nose, notes of citrus, pine, tropical fruit, grass
Taste: Strong malt, slightly sweet and coarse, notes of pine, passion fruit, herbs
Aftertaste: Lingering malt bitterness, malt coarseness and sweetness
Overall: 9.5/10

Driftwood Blackstone Porter

Driftwood_porterBrewer: Driftwood Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Porter
ABV: 5%
IBUs: Unspecified

Description: As one of the breweries regular-lineup creations, this London-style Porter is brewed with a combination of caramel, black and chocolate malts. As was relatively common with pre-Industrial Porters, the brewers also added partial sour mash to the mix, creating a beer that combines a slight tartness with chocolaty malts.

Tasting Notes: This Driftwood brew has been a standout for me, at least as far as reviews go. It is a weakness of mine, I tend to avoid porters and stouts because they are not my favorites. And yet, I can always find things to rave about when one is done right; and this would be one such case. The Blackstone came highly reviewed by peers of mine so I decided it was high time to sample it again. The subtle nature of the sour mash, combined with rich dark malts that elicit flavors of roast espresso and bitter chocolate are quite lovely.

Appearance: Tar black, opaque, thick foam retention and good carbonation
Nose: Rich, dark malt, sour notes, notes of coffee and chocolate
Taste: Rich, roasted malt, mild tartness, notes of espresso and bitter chocolate
Aftertaste: Lingering malt bitterness, coffee and hint of licorice
Overall: 8.25/10

Hoyne Hard Rain Double IPA

hoyne_poster_hardrain-01Brewer: Hoyne Brewing, Victoria BC
Style: Imperial India Pale Ale
ABV: 7.6%
IBUs: Not Available (High!)

Description: This latest limited release by Hoyne, this double IPA is named in honor of Victoria’s reputation for prolonged, wet weather. Befitting that is an IPA of increased strength and intense bitterness, made possible by a hefty dose of finishing hops that are added late in the boil.

Tasting Notes: This is the second ale I’ve had recently that took advantage of finishing hops to achieve extra bitterness. And I have to say, I’m not a huge fan. While the craft of this brew and its makers’ talent cannot be denied, it just wasn’t that pleasing to drink. The hop flavor is intensely bitter in a way that obscures the malt base and doesn’t provide any fruity notes to balance out the bitterness. Sorry, but this is one trend I’m not able to get behind just yet.

Appearance: Strong amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malt nose, strong dose of hops, grassy, herbal and citrus peel
Taste: Immediate burst of hop bitterness, herbal, hints of grass, powerful citrus rind
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness, citrus rind, and herbal notes
Overall: 7.5/10

Two Victorian Maibocks


Hello all and welcome to another two-fer. Today, as I get ready to head back to the Sunshine Coast Trail with my darling wife, I am reviewing two beers that are both of the Maibock variety. Ever since I tried my first, which was Holstein’s own, I was a fan of the seasonal beer that combines slightly sweet, heavier malts and sugars with mild hops and a generally refreshing quality. And in addition to including a beer that I’ve been meaning to review for some time, I managed to grab a new and surprising limited release. Here’s what they were and what I had to say about them…

Lighthouse Mountain Goat Maibock:lighthouse_maibock_3weeds
At long last, I’m getting around to giving this beer its due with a fitting review. I believe I’ve sampled this beer three times at this point, and enjoyed it every time, but never had I been able to take down its particulars and give it the four point assessment. And I’ve been meaning to, since I was quite impressed with it the first time and have remained so since.

Much like all of Lighthouse’s limited releases, this beer has legs and some genuine signs of craftbrewing quality. And like a good Maibock, its got a good balance of sweet malts, mild tang, light hops, and a good long, semi-bitter finish. It also boasts an interesting balance of fruit and honey, both in terms of scent and taste. And all of this rounds out quite nicely in the finish, which is long but ultimately refreshing.

Appearance: Light amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Sweet malts, mild hops, notes of mango and honey
Taste: Immediate sweetness, honey, mild tang, mild hops
Aftertaste: Mild cloying quality, lingering coarseness
Overall: 9/10

Moon Under Water Brewvic Maibock:moonunderwater_maibock
The second sample comes from one of my favorite local operations. Moon Under Water began as a purveyor of sessional ales, but then switched over to a more diverse and challenging array of beers shortly thereafter. And I’ve had nothing but good things to say about their old and new lineup. And now that they are creating seasonal and limited release beers, I’d say the circle is now complete. And how fitting that the first of these be a Maibock, a venerable brew that’s in time for summer?

And overall, I was quite pleased. Thought this one leaned towards the lighter end of things, in all departments, it remained a balanced and appealing example of a Maibock. And I was quite impressed that the Moon Under Water brewery has branched out to seasonal releases so soon after releasing an entirely new lineup, which already consisted of four really good beers! So really not a bad start to an expanded repertoire, and I look forward to their next one.

Appearance: Amber-gold, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Sweet, slightly cloying nose, mild hops
Taste: Immediate burst of mild sweetness, giving way to tang and dry hops
Aftertaste: Slight coarseness, lingering bitterness
Overall: 8/10

VIB Storm Watcher Winter Lager

Storm-WatcherTo be honest and fair with my followers, this beer is one I’ve really taken my time to sample. In fact, I can recall seeing it in arriving in the beer store well over a year ago, greeting the winter drinking season of 2011/2012 with promise. And I must admit, it caught my eye and I was eager to see how it stacked up to other winter beers, most notably Granville Island’s, Tree’s, and Dead Frog’s. And yet I did nothing…

Until now. And since it’s still winter and the seasonal beers keep coming, I thought it was high time to strike this one off my list. And, once again in the spirit of honesty and fairness, this beer did not stack up extremely well, at least when compared to its brethren. Much like the aforementioned winter seasonals, it boasted a dark character, sweet malts, and notes of vanilla. However, unlike the others, it was a rather light lager, which kind of detracted from the overall experience. Though still pleasant and drinkable, the famous winter flavor kind of falls flat amidst its crisp, clean-tasting body.

Appearance: Dark brown-amber, transparent and mild foam retention
Nose: Sweet malts, caramel, vanilla
Taste: Immediate hint of vanilla, mild caramel and honey malts
Aftertaste: Lingering vanilla taste, malts, very clean
Overall: 7.5/10

Yes, this beer was by no means a slouch, but it was a little light and clean for my taste. Personally, I do wonder why they went with a lager instead of ale for this installment in their lineup. But then again its entirely possible they were looking to build on the success of their Hermann’s Dark Lager. But in this case I’d say it was a marriage which, though done well, could have been done better.

Phillips Analogue 78 Kolsch

Jeez, there’s just no end to Phillips signature creations these days, is there? Seems like every time I turn around, they have another beer on the shelves. Quite surprising seeing as how they are only eleven years old at this point. One would think relatively upstart breweries would need to stick to a few beers and push them like nobody’s business.

But what do I know about business? I just know what I like, and this beer definitely filled a certain niche. That’d be the spot that can only be filled by a light, refreshing, unassuming ale. That’s the essence behind a true Kolsch, which are by tradition light in color, light in taste, and finish clean and mild. Such a beer is a nice change of pace for people who are used to heavier ales that deliver strong, sweet and/or coarse malts with a hefty dose of bitter, citrusy hops.

Appearance: Pale golden straw color, consistent with a light lager
Nose: Distinctly mild, grainy malty smell reminiscent of German lager
Taste: Light, semi-sweet malts giving way to the slightly crisp taste of Czech hops
Aftertaste: Mild aftertaste, slightly bitter tang and minerals
Overall: 8/10

And if this wasn’t enough for the Phillips operation, they also released a Dunkel to greet the coming of summer. Look for my review, of Phillips other tribute to German brewing, Dr. Funk Dunkel!

Honey Hefe

Just yesterday I was raving about the proliferation of wheat beers that are just in time for the summer. And then what happens? My favorite brewery puts out a seasonal wheat and we show up at the brewery just in time for its release. It’s true. Months back, I was able to speak to the good people at Hoyne about their products and was invited to come by and get some growlers. When my wife and I finally got around to popping in (today), we were told that a new beer was being released and it just happened to be on tap. Sampling ensued…

The friendly staff were on hand to guide us about. And of course, a few samples loosened my tongue and I began yammering to our lovely host about their beers and all the nice things I had to say about them. And wouldn’t you know it, the man himself was there to say hello! I wish I could have chatted with him some more but unfortunately he was busy with a number of things so I didn’t try to keep him. Just as well, I probably would’ve fawned and yammered some more. In any case, we also filled some growlers and brought them home. Drinking ensued…

But allow me to tell you what I thought of their Honey Hefe, as I feel I am in the unique position to speak about it before most other people will get a chance. Combining local honey from the Empress Hotel’s own beehives with a German-style hefewiezen, Hoyne has produced yet another winner which also happens to be a very refreshing take on the summer wheat.

Appearance: Light straw gold, translucent and very cloudy
Nose: light clove scent complimented by slight notes of honey and blossoms
light wheat malts, slight taste of cloves, mild honey sweetness
Aftertaste: mild clove bitterness and malts giving way to a very clean finish
Overall: 8.5/10 (perfect for hot summer weather!)

Yeah, somehow these guys just keep making great beer. Perhaps that’s why they’ve become my favorite brewery, at least locally (musn’t let the Ontario beers of my youth feel left out!). My wife and I have agreed that they shall be our near-exclusive supplier of beer this summer since the growler sales are such a deal! I recommend people drop by, sale hours are posted on their website: http://hoynebrewing.ca/