Spencer Trappist Ale

spencer_trappistBrewer: Spencer Trappist Ales/St. Joseph Abbey, Spencer, MA
Style: Trappist Ale
ABV: 6.5%
IBUs: Unlisted (mild)

Description: This brew is the Abbey’s only brew, and is made in the Trappist fashion using a proprietary blend of 2 row and 6 row malted barley, and some caramel Munich specialty malt from Wisconsin for color. It is then bittered using a combination of Willamette, Nugget, and other hops from Washington state’s Yakima Valley. It is then unpasteurized and unfiltered with active yeast still in the bottle.

Tasting Notes: This brew was a fortunate find. It definitely has the character of a Trappist ale, possessing that same oaky, yeasty flavor that I have come to associate with beers like Orval and Chimay. But it is also delightfully subtle and lightly colored, and comes with notes of fruit – the foremost being cherry and apricot – that you don’t usually get from a Belgian Trappist. I will be definitely be seeking more in the future.

Appearance: Golden orange, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt base, floral hop bouquet, traces of citrus and orchard fruit
Taste: Smooth malt, hints of oak, mild traces of cherry, apricot, yeast
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor, oak, yeasty aftertaste, quite clean
Overall: 9.5/10

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Spinnakers Sooke Harvest

Spinnakers_Sooke_HarvestBrewer: Spinnakers Brewpub, Victoria, BC
Style: Fresh-Hopped Pale Ale
ABV: 5%
IBUs: 40

Description: This fresh-hopped ale is brewed using a combinatio of Pale and Crystal malts, then bittered using late addition Cascade, Chinook and Willamette hops, all of which are freshly picked from hop farms in the Sooke region.

Tasting Notes:  Spinnakers, it seems, is getting on the fresh-hopped game. And their offering is quite good, consisting of a nice, balanced pale ale with a hint of sweet bread flavor, and a nice, dry hop backing that has hints of West Coast flavors – i.e. herbs, grass and citrus.

Appearance: Deep ruby, clear, lacy foam retention, good carbonation
Nose: Rich pale malt, sweet bread, mild citrus, grassy and herbal hop notes
Taste: Smooth malt, hint of sweetness, dry hops, herbal and grassy, mild citrus
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness and malt flavor
Overall: 8.2/10

Porcupine Quills Karoo Red

Quills_karooredBrewer: Porcupine Quills Brewing, Bothas Hill, South Africa
Style: Red Ale
ABV: 5.5%
IBUs: 49.4

Description: This dark “real ale” is the brewery’s second creation, and combines deep red malt with a generous hopping using Willamette whole flower hops. At 5.5% alc/vol, just under 50 IBUs of hops, and yeast cultures still in the bottle, it strikes a nice balance of rich malt, floral hops, and yeasty effervescence.

Tasting Notes: This is my sampling of the Quills Brewery, courtesy of my local beer store selling off all the beers that were part of advent calenders that didn’t get sold. In a lot of ways, I was reminded of Orval, mainly by the rich, yeasty malt base and the trace of oak flavor. At the same time, it had some strong caramel flavor (similar to Tripel Karmeliet), and an interesting hint of floral hops. Definitely wish I could find more Quills around here!

Appearance: Deep amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, strong notes of caramel, bread pudding, yeast, oak
Taste: Sharp start, yeasty, notes of caramel, hints of oak and flowery hops
Aftertaste: Lingering caramel, yeast and malt flavor, mild bitterness
Overall: 9/10

P49 Sun of Hop Belgian Summer Ale

P49_sonofhopBrewer: Parallel 49 Brewing, Vancouver BC
Style: Belgian-style Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 5.1%
IBUs: 26

Description: Another Parallel 49 seasonal release, this summer ale brings together Belgian Pilsner and Aromatic malts along with a combination of Willamette, Styrian Goldings and Sorachi Ace hops. It is then fermented using a Belgian strain of top fermenting yeast to achieve a summery, smooth flavor with a mixed hop palate.

Tasting Notes: Very little that Parallel 49 does manages to surprise me anymore. In fact, I feel like I’m beginning to become familiar with some of their niches. These include doing crossovers that merge Belgian, English/American and German styles, and the inclusion of hop varieties that normally aren’t associated with the style in question. And this is certainly no exception, employing a Belgian malt base, Belgian yeast, and a combination of American, English and Japanese hops. The end result, as expected, is a smooth, crisp ale that has a yeasty backbone and subtle but complex hop flavor.

Appearance: Light golden, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Grainy malt, Belgian yeast, hint of lemon and herbs
Taste: Crisp, Pilsner-like malt, mild tang, Belgian yeast, mild herbal and lemony hops
Aftertaste: Lingering tang, Pilsner malt, yeasts and mild hop finish
Overall: 8/10

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

New Belgium Rewind India Pale Ale

New-Belgium-Rewind-India-Pale-Ale1Brewer: New Belgium, Fort Collins, CO
Style: India Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 7%
IBUs: 64.5

Description: As part of their Hop Kitchen series, the Rewind IPA is brewed and named in honor of the brewery’s roots and the heyday of craft brewing during the early 90’s. Maris Otter and Special B malts give this beer its malt base, while Horizon, Willamette and Galena hops provide the hop flavoring. 

Tasting Notes: As India Pale Ales go, this beer is quite different, being rather subtle and complex at the same time. Rather than the sweet and coarse profile one typically expects from an American IPA, the Rewind has slight, subtle, and mildly syrupy malts. The hop pallet is also quite complex, combining earthy tones, grassiness, and traces of orchard fruit. I’m tempted to say it’s more akin to a British IPA, but its more of a standalone example really, and a quite interesting one.

Appearance: Deep amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malts, grassy and floral hops, notes of peach and orchard fruit
Taste: Subtle malt flavor, slightly syrupy, apricots, peaches, grassy, earthy hops
Aftertaste: Relatively smooth finish, lingering hop flavor and mild fruit
Overall: 8.5/10

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!