Trafalgar Fresh Hop Harvest

trafalgar_hopharvestBrewer: Trafalgar Ales and Meads, Oakville, ON
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 5%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: This recent addition to the Trafalgar lineup is brewed using a combination of pale malt and fresh hops harvested from from the local Van De Slyke Farms, located in Statfordville, ON. This is the second fresh-hopped beer in their lineup, and carries on in the tradition of Trafalgar being the first modern brewery to locally source fresh hops for use in their beers.

Tasting Notes: Here is a brewery which I have sorely missed since moving to BC, especially their Celtic Ale. And while I could not find this beer while in Ottawa, I did stumble across their Fresh Hop Harvest and knew I had to try it. And while it is certainly on the powerfully bitter side, I can’t deny the quality and craft of it. A smooth and semi-sweet malt base combines with strong notes of grapefruit, citrus and floral hops, augmented by a yeast culture that is somewhat reminiscent of a saison. Basically, a sharp and bitter punch to the tastebuds. Glad I got it!

Appearance: Golden orange, slightly cloudy, thick and lacy foam, good carbonation
Nose: Gentle malt nose, notes of citrus, grapefruit, floral traces, sharp yeast
Taste: Syrupy malt, immediate burst of grapefruit rind and dry herbs, yeasty backbone
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, smooth malt, yeasty undertones
Overall: 8.3/10

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Big Rock Anthea Wet Hop Ale 2014

bigrock_antheaBrewer: Big Rock, Calgary, AB
Style: Wet Hopped Pale Ale
ABV: 6%
IBUs: 39

Description: As part of the Alchemist Edition, a series of one-off, very limited release small batch brews, the Anthea is Big Rock’s contribution to move towards locally-sourced, wet-hopped beers. The name means “blossom” in Greek, and the brew is fashioned from Pale and Caramel Malt with Fresh Cascade hops sourced from the Yakima Valley in Washington state.

Tasting Notes: It’s rather difficult for me to find anything from Big Rock’s limited releases out here, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found this. Like most wet-hopped ales I’ve had, this one was rather subtle and easy drinking. The relatively crisp and smooth malt is balanced by hop flavor that has discernible citrus and grassy notes that are understated, but present throughout.

Appearance: Golden amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Gentle malts, mild floral and citrus hop notes
Taste: Crisp malt, hint of grapefruit, gentle hop bite, grassy and citrus notes
Aftertaste: Mild lingering hop flavor, crisp malt, refreshing finish
Overall: 7.7/10

Hoyne Wolf Vine Pale Ale 2014

hoyne_wolfvineBrewer: Hoyne Brewery, Victoria, BC
Style: Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 5.3%

Description: Hoyne’s fall seasonal release is back, employing fresh Centennial and Cascade hops from Sartori Farms to create a “wet-hopped” West Coast-style pale ale. Brewed in conjunction with the hop harvest, this beer is available for only a short time during the early Autumn.

Tasting Notes: This is my second sampling of the Wolf Vine, after it first premiered last year, and I was suitably impressed again. Much like its predecessor, this pale ale has achieves a nice balance between smooth pale malt and a lovely hop palette that is both varied and subtle. At once dry, citrusy, herbal and grassy, this brew is reminiscent of both a West Coast Pale and an ESB. Glad they chose to bring it back!

Appearance: Deep amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild pale malt, mild notes of dry citrus and herbal hops
Taste: Smooth malt, mild tang, dry, subtle notes of herbal, grassy, and citrus hops
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, and dry subtle hop flavor
Overall: 9/10

Driftwood Sartori Harvest IPA 2014

Driftwood_Sartori2014Brewer: Driftwood Brewery, Victoria BC
Style: India Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 7%

Description: This limited release IPA from the Driftwood Brewery is crafted once a year, immediately following the Centennial hop harvest of Satori Cedar Ranch, located near Chilliwack BC. Combined with Canadian grown base malt, this fresh-hopped IPA is a celebration of locally-grown hops and craft brewing!

Tasting Notes: Back in 2013, I was introduced to wet-hopped Sartori brews, thanks to Hoyne’s Wolf Vine Pale Ale and Philips Green Reaper IPA. However, I somehow missed Driftwood’s Sartori Harvest IPA, a mistake I remedied this year. Compared to its compatriots, this brew is heavily infused with herbal, citrusy hops, and weighs in at a heftier 7% alcohol per volume. Still, it is comparable in that it is subtler and more layered than your typical IPA, but still appropriately hoppy, citrusy and bitter!

Appearance: Golden, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Good malt, strong floral, herbal hops, notes of citrus
Taste: Smooth malt, tang, strong notes of grapefruit, herbs, grassy hops
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, citrus rind
Overall: 8.5/10

Saltspring Homegrown American Pale Ale

saltspringBrewer: Gulf Island Brewing, Saltspring Island BC
Style: American Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 5.5%
IBUs: 80

Description: Brewed for the Hopoxia 2014 – the fourth annual festival dedicated to the brewing of hoppy craft beers – the Homegrown Pale Ale is made using a combination of locally sources hops. These include 90% Nugget, 5% Willamette, and 5% Cascade hops, all grown here in BC and added fresh to this hoppy, unfiltered ale.

Tasting Notes: This ale, in addition to using locally-sourced English and West Coast varieties of hops, was also definitely of the wet-hopped variety. This is clear from the hop flavor which is complex, ever-present, but always subtle. Definitely an interesting offer for Hopoxia – a heavily hopped beer that manages to stay clean tasting and refreshing throughout.

Appearance: Amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malts, dry, herbal hops, notes of citrus and orchard fruit, pine
Taste: Smooth malt, subtle wet-hopped flavor, piney, herbal, touch of apricot
Aftertaste: Lingering subtle hop bitterness, relatively clean finish
Overall: 8.2/10

Le Terroir Wet Hopped Sour Ale

LeTerroir_lNew Belgium Brewing has been on my radar ever since my brother-in-law introduced me to their Fat Tire Amber Ale. Years later, I find myself struggling to get my hands on the many, many beers in both their regular lineup and their seasonal releases. Lucky for me, their Le Terroir just happened to be available in my locality, and just in time for my birthday beer collection! And since I’m becoming such a fan of sours, it seemed like the perfect thing to mark the occasion!

The term Terroir means “of the territory”, a French term that is often used to describe wines by region. However, this term is just as applicable to beer, seeing as how Belgium is so renowned for regional styles. Consistent with a sour, this beer is made using wild yeast strains that cause lactic acid to accumulate, and then age it in oak barrels for three years. The end result of all this is a beer that is delightfully tart, fruity, and quite earthy. It is also wet-hopped using Amarillo and Citra varieties, resulting in a nice herbal infusion on top of the general sourness.

Appearance: Golden orange, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Notes of peach, passion fruit, sour cherry, oak, apricots
Taste: Burst of sour cherry and dried fruits, oaky, earthy undertones, hint of bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering sourness giving way to dry herbs
Overall: 10/10

Another brilliant sour! It’s really too bad I didn’t get to try this beer last year, as it would be the perfect addition to my Best Beers of 2013 list. Oh well, there’s always next year I guess 😉

Philips Green Reaper Fresh Hop IPA

It seems just about everybody in Victoria was getting on the “wet-hopped” thing this past summer. First there was Hoyne’s Wolf Vine Pale Ale, then Driftwood’s Sartori Harvest IPA, and now Philips Green Reaper. What do these three venerable breweries and these most recent products have in common? They are all fresh-hopped (aka. wet hopped), meaning they use hops  that are local and fresh off the vine rather than of the usual, dried variety.

However, whereas the previous two beers used Sartori hops fresh from Vancouver, Philips uses Willamette hops were harvested from Nanaimo, mere hours before they were added to this latest limited release. Though I came to it late this past summer, I am happy to add it to my review lineup now.

Appearance: Light, rosy amber, good clarity, low foam
Nose: Light scent of floral and citrus hops
Taste: Light, sweet malts accented by mixed hops palate, herbal, mild citrus,
Aftertaste: Light bitterness, quite smooth and clean
Overall: 8/10

You may notice the word “light” being featured here a few times. Well, there’s a reason for that. As is the case with all fresh-hopped beers that I have now sampled, the flavors are quite subtle and smooth. There is of course the usual combination of citrus and grassy bitterness, but they come across as more subdued and layered. As we are now coming into winter, I have to admit that I will miss this variety of beer which I am quite new to. However, I’m quite sure the winter seasonals will keep me entertained until next summer!