Category Archives: Ale

On Trend

Often craft breweries seem to pick up on a unique flavour, hop, herb, flower etc. and next thing you know there are countless options on the shelf boasting said ingredient du jour. I feel like hibiscus may be a somewhat slow-burning example of this. At first, I recall having one hibiscus craft beer and it was good, then another brewery followed suit and it was good, then… Well you get the picture.
This brings me to the current beer in my glass, Hibiscus Saison from Guelph’s Royal City Brewing Co. This beer pours a rose gold colour, a bit hazy and with tons of airy bright white head. Slightly funky on the nose typical of the saison style and perhaps a bit of fruitiness, this may be the hibiscus influence. First few sips and I would know this is a saison but not sure I can discern the hibiscus flavour. Truth be told, any of the other hibiscus beer I have tried is equally subtle with the star ingredient imparting a tepid, tea-like character or a slight fruity or berry taste but one that is not too sweet. A fairly light-bodied beer with impressive head retention and some carbonation. Finishes on the slightly spicy side. Overall a decent saison but not sure I would say the hibiscus was a crucial factor here. Maybe I need to sample some straight hibiscus tea to get a better handle on what this edible flower is bringing to the bottle.


Hibiscus image from https://funflowerfacts.com/2013/07/17/13-fascinating-uses-for-hibiscus

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New Brew Friday Holiday Honey

Happy Friday beer aficionados!

This time around we have Holiday Honey from Old Credit Brewing Co. out of Mississauga, Ontario. We visited the brewery to pick up some of the beer and the brewery is in a great location right down near the Lakeshore. The brewery itself is pretty blasé, a red brick store front, some beer historical memorabilia in the shelves, a few fridges stocked with the three available beers and a nice gentleman behind the counter offering wisdom on which beer to pick up. I’ll post a brewery write-up soon.

The said gentleman recommended their award-winning Holiday Honey so I took his advice and brought a 650ml home.

Holiday Honey pours a really clear reddish gold colour with lots of airy head on the initial pour and the head dies down pretty quickly. Sweet honey on the nose, first few sips are very malt forward with a mineral water taste. There is just the slightest bit of bitterness on the finish but nothing to really discern the hop character. A light bodied 5% ABV beer, a nice choice for summer, one that drinks well when it remains cold. Overall a nice beer, not outstanding but safe and easy.

20140606-175833-64713105.jpg


Craft Beer Market, the Vancouver Edition

I am a little slow on the draw so while I was aware of the fact that a behemoth tap room opened a location in Vancouver, BC it took me until last week to actually visit and, to be honest, I only went in because I was at nearby Legacy liqour store and managed to snag a free parking space.

Craft Beer Market

Craft

The Vancouver edition of Craft Beer Market is located in Olympic Village (False Creek) in the gorgeous Salt Building. Before I get to the modern incarnation of the building here is a little history courtesy of Scout Magazine

“Thanks to its crisp, polished finishes and bold color scheme, the Salt Building could easily be mistaken for a brand new structure leaning on our city’s penchant for industrial design. The truth, however, is that this spot is the real deal featuring a long history that reflects much on our city’s changing industrial landscape and operations. 

Built circa 1930, the original 13,000 square-foot space served in partnership with the Bay Area salt trade in San Francisco, whereby unrefined salt was shipped to Vancouver for secondary processing and extraction… The structure features a complex roof truss system bearing weight onto numerous columns, with a large clerestory of windows brightening the long stretch of working space.” 

Craft Beer Market Kegs

Craft Beer Market Inside

Craft Beer Market a self-described ‘premium casual restaurant’ boasts 140 taps with over 100 of said taps devoted to beer, Canada’s largest selection. The sheer logistics of the volume of beer being tapped here is staggering and the sight of a mountain of tapped kegs sprouting silver tentacles, filled with numerous beer lines, is worth the visit alone.

Now I have to interject with a bit of a personal hang-up before I continue. Typically, I am not a big fan of big. Big beer, big box stores, big vehicles, big homes, (big hair is cool though), I feel like it all screams over-compensation or, even worse, it is simply big for the sake of being, well, big. As I sat down to peruse the menu I did my best to shelve this bias and be the objective blogger I was destined to be.

Craft Beer Menu

Lo’ and behold there are many beers on tap here so it is as advertised. Beers are broken down by style to help guests manage the mega-menu. Rotating guest taps and cask night on Tuesdays add some new items into the mix, while pre-chosen flights offer guidance to the overwhelmed – though the ‘what the locals drink’ menu boasting two Stanley Park beers did set off some alarm bells.

Flight at Craft

Odd as it may sound in this veritable sea of options I had a really hard time choosing something to drink, not because there were so many beers I wanted to try but rather just the opposite because there were so few.

The beer menu was predictable in the sense there were no surprises to be found.  It was like walking into a provincial liqour store and seeing the familiar beers we know and love from the familiar brewers we know and love and feeling that slight twinge of disappointment that there is nothing to get excited over, nothing different to be discovered. For the non-craft beer nerd it must seem like a cornucopia of choice but for the veteran it felt a little stale. Granted the usual suspects are on tap so if draught versus bottle turns your crank you will be pleased.

I settled on an Elysian Oddland Series Spiced Pear Ale, a hoppy ale, and the hubby tried Ommegang Game of Thrones Take the Black Stout, a pretty standard stout. Overall, both beers were pretty middling. When our server asked what we thought I mentioned some thoughts on the Elysian but they pretty much tuned out so I figured we were not going to talk shop.

Elysian Spiced Pear Ale

Game of Thrones Take the Black Stout

Personally, the whole thing felt a little corporate lacking in the ambiance, engaged staff and unique and/or challenging beer options that really make a tap room worth its’ salt. While I understand the need to have the majority of beers be something accessible I felt like there was no heart behind brand, that behind the beautiful facade there is no real love of craft beer here.

Beer on Tap


Ontario Craft Beer, As Advertised – Beer 7

Muskoka Harvest Ale (7%) Strong Ale

Described by the brewery as a dry-hopped malt forward seasonal commemorating the end of the growing season. Harvest Ale pours a hazy dark amber colour with lots and lots of off-white airy head. A hoppy nose giving citrus and piney notes. As you drink the caramel malt character emerges but not as much as I expected the hops take over flavour-wise making the ale earthy, grassy and slightly bitter. There is also an herbal almost spicy quality to this beer. Medium bodied with a slightly creamy mouthfeel and some carbonation. This ale ends with a primarily bitter finish.

Overall not really my ‘cup of tea’ but interesting nonetheless and sure to please those who love a hop heavy ale.

Harvest Ale


I said I would never do that again…

Last year I endeavoured to taste test as many pumpkin beers as I could during a stretch of a couple weeks in October. For my efforts I learned if you enjoy a certain style of beer it is best not to exclusively drink said style for weeks on end as routine consumption is a surefire way to cure your fondness – in other words the very sight of pumpkin beer this year made my stomach turn.

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your stance in the controversial pumpkin beer debate) I could really not help myself when I spotted a can of Fall Hornin’ from Anderson Valley Brewing Company. I mean it was just a wee little can, it is not like I had to drink a big 650ml of pumpkin flavoured beerness, and it was an ale to boot so all should go well and my faith in the power of pumpkin should be restored right?

Fall Hornin'

Fall Hornin’ (6% ABV) pours a dark reddish brown with lots of off-white head that really sticks to your glass. This beer is clear with good carbonation. There is some earthiness on the nose reminding me more of roasted pumpkin than pumpkin pie. As you drink the pumpkin pie spices emerge but it is not an overly sweet beer by any means. Fall Hornin’ has some body and depth that carries the spiced flavours well (I find beers that are too light can be overtaken by the earthy pumpkin pie spices). A roasted malt finish and just a hint of hoppy bitterness finishes this beer off.

Overall I have to say this beer redeemed pumpkin beer a bit for me and while I won’t be going on a pumpkin bender again any time soon I think a pumpkin beer or two might find their way back into my fall rotation.


Crowd Surfing at Brassneck Brewery

More beer

On my recent pilgrimage back to the city I stopped to try another new Vancouver beer hot spot Brassneck Brewery, which just happens to be the progeny of some serious local beer pedigree, Nigel Springthorpe (of The Alibi Room) and Conrad Gsomer (former brewer at Steamworks).

The Growler Wall

Brassneck Artwork

Brassneck is located on Main Street just north of many great food spots, quirky used book stores, trendy coffee shops and local clothing merchants, in other words in a pretty great neighbourhood.

The brewery, growler fill station and tasting room are housed in a rather nondescript building but it has a big glass front allowing people the chance to see the brewers in action and to see the depth of the line-up at the growler fill counter.

Barely open two weeks when I stopped by, the hubby and I just squeezed into the seating area under the max capacity allowance.

A View to the Room

Brassneck Entrance

Food Truck

Nice touch

The long narrow tasting room is, well, woody, which for some reason seems to be the decor choice of many a brewery. A giant communal table extends from the end of the bar and the other half of the room has equally cozy tables where drinking with your neighbour is somewhat unavoidable – the exception being one table tucked away at the back for secret meetings and brewery espionage (I presume). Little cutout windows afford patrons a view behind the scenes.

The aesthetic here seems to be studied quirkiness (very Main Street) with pen and ink sketches for the beer ‘labels’, underwear branded with the brewery name and, of course, a food truck parked in front – oh, and a grain sack for a garbage.

Behind the scenes it looks like most breweries lots of stainless steel, plastic bucks and an endless nest of hoses running here and there.

More behind the scenesBeer, Beer and more Beer

The Maze

Beer, beer, beer…

They have a lot on tap for a new brewery, ten beers in fact. Oddly though the taster flights come in fours so this begs the inevitable question what to leave out? I decided to let the guy pulling the taps make that decision for me so I would not discriminate uninformedly (not sure this is a real word).

One other thing that seemed like an ‘ironing out the kinks’ kind of issue is that there is no means to differentiate the beers in your flight other than the whirlwind recount from your server. So when you are forgetful like me (or you’ve had one too many beers) this lack of labelling makes it hard to remember what is what and I noticed more than one beer geek (myself included) with the beer order jotted down on a scrap of paper.

Flight of the Beer

Flight of the Beer part two

While we were at Brassneck we tried:

Small Wonder – A table saison meaning a light and accesible drink to be shared. Light pale gold gold in colour, just a little head and the tiniest bit of funkiness to remind you that this is indeed a saison style brew. A good starter beer.

Kingmaker – A clear golden coloured pils with a light skim of head. A slight yeasty nose and a bit of nutty flavour, which is pretty typical for the style. An okay beer but I wasn’t loving it.

Brassneck Ale – Moving along the colour chart we have a clear light amber ale. A little bit more flavour and depth that the first two beers. Some toasted elements, a hint of bitter and a bit of a coppery taste.

Blichmann’s Finger – We are now onto the golden ale, which in appearance is pretty close to the Brassneck, perhaps a bit darker in colour. Hoppy on the nose and in flavour with equal parts maltiness.

Old Bitch – Cloudy reddish-brown in appearance with very little head. A very tepid and thin beer lacking the malt flavour I expected. A bitter finish but overall really lacking in character.

Passive Aggressive – Bright cloudy orange pale ale with nice lacing. Big floral hop nose with some piney notes. Lots of sweet malt flavour and even more hoppiness as you drink -perhaps more IPA than pale ale. Dry bitter finish. This one is the best of the bunch so far.

Barn Burner – Dark black-brown with some mocha coloured head. This dark saison has a sweet and funky nose, nice roasted malt and leather flavours and a dry finish.

The Geezer – Last but not least the porter. A dark black-brown beer with mocha coloured head. Chocolate and roastiness on the nose, lots of roasted malt flavour. Chocolate is dominant, coffee notes very slight, making this porter not too bitter but it is quite thin. Dry finish.

What's on Tap


Sunday with a Chance of Rasberries

It is still summer and that means it is still okay to drink beer brewed with raspberries. For you see like the looming onslaught of seasonal pumpkin beers heading down the pipe that one can and must only consume in October, I tend to view raspberry (or berry beers of any kind) to be a summer time indulgence.

With that caveat in mind I picked up a can (yes, a can) of Berried Alive from Longwood BrewPub in Nanaimo, British Columbia.

 

Berried Alive

 

The Beer-dict

Berried Alive pours a bright raspberry colour with great clarity and some off-white foamy head. A huge fruity nose all sweet and earthy and one of the most berry berry beers I have ever tried. That is to say a lot of raspberry flavour comes through while you drink it, so much in fact that at times I felt some of the beer part of the equation was being drowned out. At the same time the raspberry is not cloying or artifical, it has that subtle sweetness and hint of tart that speaks to the real deal. Quite light-bodied at 5% ABV, clean drinking and thirst quenching when it is cold. The finish hints at a the ale underneath imparting a slight hoppiness and, well, more berry. Overall a nice treat now and then but definitely not a beer that would make it into regular rotation but hey that’s why it is a seasonal right!

One other thought I liked to toss out there, while drinking this beer, even after de-canning it (i.e. pouring it in a glass) I feel like some of the can taste lingers. Most likely this is all in my head stemming from my early childhood phobia of drinking anything from a can believing it tasted like aluminum but nonetheless given the choice, and I am usually given a choice in the beer I consume, I will continue to choose a bottle over a can.


Summertime and the Drinking is Easy

Last year at this time I wrote an ode to the humble lager, long-time ball park staple and ubiquitous summer brew of choice for those wanting something thirst quenching, ice-cold and somewhat embodying sunshine in a glass. But as all good beer geeks know there are many other options at the lighter end of the spectrum that make equally good summer drinking.

 

Tuff Lite Lime

 

Putting the obvious IPA aside, when it is a hot humid dog-dangling kind of afternoon and your thoughts turn to the beer fridge think pilsner, kolsch, hefeweizen, fruit beer, porters or sour beer for something just a little outside the box. Each of these choices retaining a lighter bodied quality that makes them hot weather compatible while at the same time offering something just a little bit more than your basic lager.

Some of my summer stock includes Mill Street Brewing’s Lemon Tea Beer, Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale, Unibroue Ephemere Cerise, Tofino Brewing Tuff Lite Lime and Swans Brewing Company Coconut Porter.

 

Ephemere Cerise

 

Mill Street Lemon Tea Beer 

A light almost tepid beer that tastes somewhere between ice tea and a summer ale. Very refreshing and simple, I think this makes an excellent starter beer for your BBQ or for sipping under your patio lanterns. Hoping they bring this one out in six-packs in the BC area.

Anchor Liberty Ale

A malt forward ale that also has a decent amount of hoppiness. A bit more body than some of my other summer selections, Liberty Ale is a  great example of the style. No frills, no fruits, no weird flavour combinations; it is what it is and what it is is a really good beer.

Unibroue Ephemere Cerise

Ephemere apple is one of my favourite summer beers so I was quite excited to see a cherry version on the shelves this summer. Unibroue never disappoints on the Belgian beer style but the addition of cherry was a bit of a miss for me. While the apple adds a tartness the cherry flavour just seemed artificial, like cherry candy or cough syrup, and the beer had an almost chalky taste.

Tofino Tuff Lite Lime

Putting a Simpsons’ style label on this beer meant I was going to buy it no matter what, throw in the cheeky wordplay on the nefarious Bud Light with Lime and I may just have to purchase stock options. This may be one of the lightest bodied beers I have had in a long time; clean drinking with a hint of lime this beer it exactly what it claims to be. Another great starter beer when you want something easy.

Swans Coconut Porter

For those who just cannot part ways with their beloved dark beers coconut porter is a great summer option. Lighter bodied but still retaining some roasted malt character the sweetness of the coconut literally makes this beer scream summer, sunscreen and sipping. Also, if everyone else around you breaks out the pina coladas you’ll have you very own beery version.

 

Liberty Ale


New Brew Friday

TGIF fellow beer enthusiasts.

In honour of the end of the week and the dawn of the weekend I thought I would offer up a review of a weekend beer – read big bottle, complex flavours and higher ABV.

 

This week I am reviewing a beer from one of my favourite breweries BrewDog’s Dogma a 7.8% ale brewed with honey, kola nut (a caffeine-containing nut), poppy seed and guarana (a fruit with twice the caffeine of a coffee bean).

 

BrewDog Dogma

 

Dogma pours a cloudy, rusty orange colour with lots of off-white head.  The head dies off to a light skim with some nice lacing. There is a ton of malt coming through on the nose with a slight raw nut aroma. Like the nose belies this beer is about as malt forward as you can get from first sip to finish the palate is dominated with a rich, cloying sweetness and roastiness. There is a nice amount of body to this beer, which allows it to carry the big tastes and at the same time giving Dogma a slight warming quality. There is also a honeyed sweetness you can taste as you drink. As I mentioned the finish is malty but fairly subtle all in all.

Like many other beers brewed with multiple add-ins (I keep picturing the Baskin Robbins sundae bar) I feel like I cannot untangle what exactly each addition brings to the beer but setting aside the ingredient over-enthusiasm as a malt forward beer I quite like Dogma and would recommend it to fellow malt enthusiasts or those looking to get their caffeine fix sans coffee.


If you tweet it…

They will brew it.

Last fall  CBC Music host Grant Lawrence came up with the idea of pairing Canadian Bands with beer names. He  invited his listeners to take their best shots at mashing up beer styles with band names. Original label artwork would be created to showcase the winners.

Just like that the hashtag #CDNbandbeer had its’ brief 15min of proverbial fame.

However, no good idea ever goes unpunished, and here we are several months later and four of our intrepid BC brewers have offered up their skills to make this beer band concept a reality. Check out Canadian Beer News and CBC Music for a more in-depth look at the origin and development of this idea.

 

#CDNbandbeer

 

This leads me to a recent trip to my local BC liqour store where I found three of the four of these inspired brews; You Say Barley! We Say Rye! from R&B Brewing, D.O.Ale from Old Yale Brewing and Pink Mountainhops from Cannery Brewing (sadly Townsite Brewing’s  Said the Ale was ere to be found).

 

You Say Barley! We Say Rye!

A dark rye IPA with an ABV of 5.5% and 55 IBU from R&B Brewing. You Say Barley pours a clear amber with off-white head. The nose has citrus and floral hop notes and a touch of sweetness. First couple of sips, this is an interesting IPA, light-bodied with a bitter finish, somewhat dry and that distinct flavour imparted by rye. As you drink this one does not really evolve part the initial tastes though I think it tastes best on the cold side. Rye tends to be one of those polarizing grains in so much as some people really love that anise-like tang and others not so much. Personally, I became a rye convert as an adult and I think brewing with rye imparts a really unique taste profile, not being a big IPA fan I think the rye really complements the hop bitterness producing a well-rounded beer. Of the three beers sampled this one was my hubby’s favourite and we both liked this #CDNbandbeer name the best.

 

You Say Barley!

 

D.O.Ale

D.O.Ale from Old Yale Brewing Co. is a classic brown ale weighing in at 5%ABV and 28 IBU. This brew pours a dark reddish-brown colour and a nice amount of cream coloured head. On the nose I got a bit of a liquid smoke or hickory-like smell and lots of malt. First few sips, D.O.Ale has a bit of depth body-wise, smooth with roasted malt flavour and that smoky characteristic carries through the the finish. As you drink I find the smokiness I initially noticed changes into more of a roasted or burnt malt flavour. Overall, I quite like this one (though I am partial to browns) and of the three beers D.O.Ale was my favourite.

 

D.O.Ale

 

Pink Mountainhops

Pink Mountainhops is a maibock from Cannery Brewing. Maibocks are helles lagers brewed to bock strength to produce a beer that is lighter in colour and hoppier than its’ bock parentage. The stats are 6.5%ABV and 140IBU. This beer pours a very clear gold with some effervescence and a stiff white head. On the nose I get some yeastiness and banana reminding me a bit of a hefeweizen. First sips and this beer tastes like it smells, slight fruitiness, a bit of a nutty element almost like a commercial lager and a mildly bittered finish. As you drink the hops come through more prominently mostly at the finish imparting a bitter aftertaste. Like the Rye IPA, Pink Mountainhops tasted best at its’ coldest. I am not a fan of this style but for bock fans I say give it a try.

 

Pink Mountainhops


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