Philips Twisted Oak Rye Bock

whiskey_barellI’m back with another limited release from Philips ample and ever-expanding stock of small-batch beers. And this time around, its another installment in the Twisted Oak series that I managed to procure. This is the third beer in that lineup, and I’m quite proud that I’ve been able to keep pace with their releases. Between the Scotch Ale, the Red Ale, and now the Rye Bock Ale, I’ve now tried them all, and have been pretty pleased.

Twisted-Oak-Rye-BockThe first installment was a bit of a misfire for me, an imperial Scotch ale where the whiskey infusion managed to overpower the rest of the flavors. And then there was the Red Ale, which was aged in rum barrels and achieved a rich, malty, vanilla-like flavor. This one I was quite impressed with, as it was very smooth flavor, but with a certain candy-like flavor without the addition of any added sugars.

As for this installment, I have to say that I was similarly impressed. Combining a bock-style beer with a rye whiskey barrel-aging process, they managed to create a beer that is possessed of the usual sweet, malty flavors and multi-layered nature of a bock with (once again) a certain vanilla-like, smokey flavor. All of this is quite pleasing to the palate without being overpowering. A hit for me, like their Red Ale, and an example that oak barrel-aging can work.

Appearance: Dark brown-amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malts, mild vanilla, brown sugar
Taste: Mild tang, notes of whiskey, sweet malt and sugar
Aftertaste: Mild bitterness, hint of vanilla and smokey flavor
Overall: 8.5/10

Slowly, but surely, I am coming around to barrel-aged beer! It seems that everyone and their brother was doing the bourbon barrel-thing in 2012 and I had few nice things to say. But it seems Philips is determined to make this a regular thing, and is getting better at it all the time…

Phillips Twisted Oak Scotch Ale

whiskey_barellIt seems everybody is doing a barrel-aged winter ale these days! Everywhere I’ve looked in recent months, I’ve found barley wines, winter ales, or other varieties of seasonal dark ales that brewers thought could use an infusion of whiskey! Bottled, and then released for the 2012/13 season, these beers have pretty much set the trend this year in the South Island region.

Not sure why, just seems to be the thing. And for me, it began with Phillips Trainwreck Barley Wine, which differed from last years release of the beer of the same name in that this year, they had decided to age it in bourbon barrels and send it out. Shortly thereafter, I discovered Driftwood had done much the same, putting their Old Cellar Dweller barley wine in whiskey barrels and releasing it as Old Barrel Dweller. Then came Parallel 49’s Imperial Stout, a winter beer that was also aged in a bourbon barrel. Somehow, it seemed no one was immune!

In any case, I thought it was time I get back on the whiskey barrel-aged train and spotted this number: Phillips Twisted Oak Scotch Ale. According to the brewery, this beer is the “flagship” beer in their Twisted Oak Stillage series, meaning that the first in a lineup of beers which will be aged in Oak barrels once used for making whiskey. And as a Scotch Ale, it is both appropriately paired with a whiskey aging process, and experimental in that they used Bourbon instead of Scotch barrels.

And I was largely pleased, though I am still on the fence about the whole whiskey infusion process. While it was certainly a more appropriate pairing than their Trainwreck barley wine, it still smacked of the same dominating character, where the whiskey overpowers the beer in terms of taste and smell. In the description, oak and vanilla are mentioned as part of the palate, but I detected hints of neither. Whiskey is all that I could taste, aside from a noticeable cream ale base which comes through immediately in the taste. But that quickly gives way to bourbon which not only dominates the smell, but is all one can taste before long.

Appearance: Amber, clear, good foam retention
Nose: Predominant whiskey nose, peaty and strong
Taste: Mild malts, reminiscent of cream ale, big hit of bourbon whiskey, smoky and sharp
Aftertaste: Lingering bourbon and peat flavor
Overall: 7.75 /10

Twisted-Oak-Scotch-AleAlthough an appropriate and decent beer, it felt hard to appreciate it fully because its profile was so dominated by its strong bourbon character. It would be nice if that were offset or balanced more by the spices which are advertised, such as vanilla or possibly some anise. But this really doesn’t happen and one is left feeling as if they are sipping whiskey, though with a significantly better aftertaste!

And this is hardly the first time Phillips has gone down the barrel aging road. I can recall with some lack of mirth, their Double Barrel Scotch Ale from a few years back. That was also an experiment which I felt was ill-advised and won’t get into here (Wine and whiskey? What were they thinking?) So while this trend is certainly interesting and somewhat appealing, I do wonder what inspired it and when it will be making an exit from the BC beer scene. I also wonder if Phillips simply got a deal on bourbon barrels and that’s why they’re doing so much with it of late!

Spinnakers Jameson’s Scottish Ale

Next up in the weekend from Spinnaker’s lineup, we have the traditional cellar ale known as Jameson’s Scottish Ale. Though it is not a new brew, or particularly summery, it’s been some time since I sampled it last. As such, I could not resist picking it up so I could re-familiarize myself.

And for the most part, I was pleased and not the least bit surprised. But that’s a good thing in this case. For many years now, I’ve known Scottish Ales to be rich, heavy and malty affairs that generally come dry hopped and smack of the peat moss and smoky flavor of Scotch whiskey.

Named in honor of the Jameson clan who settled in Victoria in 1889, and grew rich of the tea, coffee and spice trades, this beer is a nice take on the traditional Scottish ale, being at once malty and complex, but lighter and less sweet than many of its stronger variants. In addition, the dry hop characteristics provide a slight bitterness that helps balance the flavor.

Appearance: Dark amber/brown and slightly translucent
Nose: Sweet and slightly smoky with a note of bananas
Taste: Heavy malt flavor, slightly coarse, giving way to slight hop bitterness
Aftertaste: A touch of smokiness with a mild bitter aftertaste
Overall: 7.5/10

Cameron’s Brewing

Welcome back to my series on Ontario beers, in honor of my old stomping grounds. Today, I pay homage to Cameron’s brewery of Oakville, Ontario. I remember these guys quite well because of their eight packs. Yes, whereas everyone else chooses to pack their bottles by the six, twelve, and two-four, these guys put out boxes numbering eight. I tell ya, it’s the perfect cube to fit in the back of your car! Weird, yet unique, and somehow esoterically pleasing! And the beer is good too! Speaking of which, onto that…

Cameron’s Auburn Ale: Cameron’s Auburn has apparently earned them the bulk of their awards and praise. Having sampled this one in the early 2000’s, I can tell you that I was relatively new to the whole Auburn ale thing. If there were a fitting comparison, I’d say it’s an Irish/Amber, with a malty profile, a tawny aftertaste and a subtle yet lingering hop finish. Over the years, this one sticks out in my memory because it is both a distinctive beer and my introduction to this particular variety. 4.5/5

Cameron’s Cream Ale: This beer, contrary to what I thought, is actually their flagship beer, the one that started their brewery and is the mainstay of their product line. Having tried the Auburn first, I naturally thought it was their first beer. Live and learn! Anyway, this beer is a somewhat different take on the cream ale, possessing a strong malty taste and a clear British hop presence, but with a clean taste that is reminiscent of lager. I have since learned that this is due to the cold fermentation they use to make this brand. The result is much like their Auburn, a beer that is subtle and quite unique. 4/5

Cameron’s Lager: An aromatic, crisp, clean lager that is nevertheless quite light and (again) subtle to the palate. Their lightest tasting beer, it is not my personal favorite, but is nevertheless consistently good and possesses layers of flavor, in spite of its light hop profile. This becomes evident the more ones get into it, a clear sign of quality and in keeping with Cameron’s ability to balance subtlety and complexity. 3.5/5

And of course, this brewery has also come out with some additional products since I left town. Naturally, I am never happy when I find this out, but when I saw what they’ve been producing, I was REALLY unhappy! Yes, it seems they’ve come out with a dark lager, a series of whiskey-barrel aged seasonals (in 750 ml bottles) and a doppelbock! Three of my favorites, all from one place that I have no access to! I tell ya, this would seriously piss me off if I weren’t on my way there soon! Beware LCBO, I will be coming soon and I will be bringing a big shopping bag. Do not be out of stock, or you shall see what I’m like when I’m sober!