Category Archives: Fruit Beer

Kawartha Craft Beer Festival

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It has been quite some time since I have had the opportunity to put my beer skills to work so when I saw a local beer festival advertised I heard the hoppy siren song…

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The Kawartha Craft Beer Festival took place in Peterborough Ontario this weekend. The venue was Millennium Park, which is located alongside the river in the city’s downtown. The park provided a picturesque setting with lots of green space to sit and sip. The organizers had several food options, live music and a total of eleven brewers and one cidery in participation. So while technically it was the smallest beer festival I ever attended they put on a good show nonetheless.

 

I am still really getting to know the Ontario craft beer scene so there were lots of new-to-me breweries to explore (one of the best things about beer fests) as well as some familiar faces.

A lot of the breweries stepped up on their serving options, maybe to compensate for the smaller size of the festival, with multiple booths pouring from kegs, bottles and cans.

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Compared to many other festivals I have attended this was a pretty subdued drinking crowd; I do not recall seeing a single drindl or even a person in costume! To be fair this is only the festival’s second year so give it time for the fanboys and fangirls to come out en masse and I definitely was not the only note-taking, picture-snapping, beer geek in attendance so just a heads up Peterborough.

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A few of the standout brews for me were the festival-only option from Port Perry’s Old Flame Brewing Company, a regular line-up beer brewed with stone fruit and the Saison from Bobcaygen Brewing Company based out of, well c’mon guess, Bobcaygen.

I also have to give an honourable mention to Church-Key Brewing Company from Campbellford who brought a Brett beer, which I was so happy to see …for this sour gal it was like finding a long lost friend. Sadly, this Brett brew did not pack the funky, sour wallop I had hoped for but kudos for bringing some sourness to the province.

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My gluten-free hubby (who also happens to be my only hubby) made do with the two offerings from County Cider Company, who brought a Ginger Peach Cider and their very nice, dry Waupoos cider. He also indulged in some olfactory appreciation of my selections.

Overall a pleasant evening spent sipping beer alongside the river and a great reminder of what I have been missing as of late. Perhaps I have been away too long, beer my old friend…

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Beer, meet Blueberry

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Fruit beer is tricky. Err on the too sweet side and you risk alienating beer fans, err on the too sour side and you become a niche beer but when it all comes together in harmony the results are good, really good.

Lanark County Blueberry Mead comes to us from Trafalgar Ales and Meads based in Oakville, Ontario. It is described as a braggot style mead brewed with berries and honey from Lanark County in Eastern Ontario. The mead incorporates hops and barley making it a bit of a hybrid.

Blueberry Mead pours a clear berry colour with just a hint of head on the initial pour that quickly dissipates and slight carbonation. Very honeyed on the nose. First sips are sweet at the front of the palate then giving way to more complex tastes of roasted grain and liquor. The berry presence is more visual than flavourful imparting a slight earthy quality. There is a deep warming sensation as you drink probably due to the relatively high ABV of 8.5%. The finish is also pretty earthy so the description of terroir mead noted on the bottle seems fitting. Overall an interesting beer that blurs the lines on just what defines a craft brew.


Birthday Beer!

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I always like to save a special beer to commemorate this oh so special day.

No, I am not talking about Easter, though it does have its merits as a candy-fuelled holiday, I am talking about my birthday!

To mark this momentous occasion I celebrated with Cascade Brewing’s Apricot an oh so very sour brew for this oh so sour beer-lovin’ gal.

Apricot ale is a Northwest Style Sour Ale aged in oak barrels with apricots. Apricot pours a bright gold colour, slightly opaque, with lots of bubbles and very little white head. Sweet dried fruit on the nose and just the slightest hint of funkiness. Now I love sour, the tarter the better, but hang on to your beer glasses fellow geeks because this beer is Sour (with a capital S nonetheless). Lots of apricot flavour, a bit of citrus, some earthy character, medium body and a dry finish. The sour finish lingers and lingers. This beer just never let’s up. It was so tart it made the back of my cheek pucker as I drank it but as sour lovers know this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Overall a great beer. At this point I feel like such a groupie that I am not sure Cascade Brewing is capable of making a bad beer. Happy Birthday to me indeed…


They say I’m the Great Beer Blender

Pint of Delight

 

Well no one actually says that but I thought it made for a clever post title.

During my recent visit to Seattle I stopped into the Taphouse Grill to sample from their extensive (160 tap) beer menu. While there were no standouts in my bartender selected sampler tray there was a standout in the dessert section of the menu dessert beer!

 

Taphouse Grill Menu

 

These beers were not the high ABV barley wines or hefty espresso laden stouts that spring to mind when you think of dessert beer, rather dessert beers are wondrous blends of several different beers that marry well to create an memorable end to your evening.

We tried the Pint of Delight a blend of Rogue Hazelnut Brown, Rogue Mocha Porter, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout all topped off with a Lindeman’s framboise and yes, it did taste as good as it sounds.

 

The nose was all raspberry buried in a mountain of airy mocha coloured head. When you sip you first get a burst of berry, which is thick and foamy followed by rich coffee, chocolate and nut flavours. It is kind of like a layer cake comprised of beer. The flavours are distinct but complimentary with none of the beers being so heavy that they detract from their compatriots. By the time you get to the finish you are left with the denser dark beers that leave you with a subtly bitter finish.

 

Obviously I had to recreate this at home for myself.

My version was pretty much the same minus the Rogue Mocha Porter, which I subbed for an Elysian Split Shot Stout and minus the Lindeman’s, which I subbed for Liefmans. Not entirely sure of there ratio I poured equal amounts of the dark beers and topped the glass off with the Liefmans.

In appearance my dessert beer was virtually indistinguishable from the Taphouse Grill version perhaps with a bit less head (their beers were on tap after all). Flavour wise it turns out I was pretty much bang on there as well perhaps erring a bit heavier on the dark beer side and a little less on the fruitiness.

 

I love to blend beers. Whenever I am faced with samples that I am so-so on or when a beer is too heavy or too one dimensional I mix it up to see what happens, This four beer creation has only inspired me to step up my game!

 

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Out of the Cellar: Dogfish Head Fort 2009

New Years Eve seemed like the perfect night to delve into the ol’ cellar for that oh so big beer you cannot figure out when exactly to drink.

In my cellar that beer is one of my oldest residents a 2009 bottling of Fort from Dogfish Head Brewery, a strong ale brewed with raspberries.

Fort

Fort pours a crystal clear rose gold colour with minimal white head that almost immediately turns to a thin lacing. All rotten raspberry on the nose, think overripe berries left in the sun not a bad smell just sweet with a touch of funk, and just a whiff of alcohol eluding to things to come. First sip is over the top liquor (in retrospect this one probably needs a bigger glass to breathe) with the vapours hitting you in the back of the throat before you swallow. After the initial shock this beer gives way to big fruit flavour, a slightly viscous mouthfeel and a warming finish. Fort is most definitely a sipper more in common with cordial than either beer or wine.

I have also had this beer sans aging and it still packed quite the punch even then. Do I regret aging my Fort? No, I think it adds character to this beer toning down the berry and bringing forward (and up) the alcohol content. Would I drink this on a regular basis? Hell no. Fort is special occasion only for me.


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


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


Raspberry vs Blackberry – It’s Gonna Get Fruity in Beer

Steamworks Brewing Company Frambozen

Steamworks? In Bottles? Oh yes, you read that correctly. For those days when you just don’t want to haul your growler to Gastown for a refill, you can now pop into your favourite craft beer retailer and pick up a 650ml.

 

Here is a bit of information from the press release:

“Available for purchase August 27, 2012, Steamworks Pale Ale and the Steamworks Pilsner aim to bring the brewpub experience home with their refreshing and crisp craft brews. On a seasonal basis, Steamworks Brewing Company will also be releasing limited edition beers in 650mL bottles, including popular Frambozen, Wheat Ale, Heroica Oatmeal Stout and its highly coveted Pumpkin Ale.”

 

 

As any review of Steamworks new bottled brews would be amiss if it did not give recognition to their incredible label (or no-label) design work, here is a bit more from the press release:

“Adding to the excitement, Steamworks Brewing Company also enters the market as the first beer to feature the design of esteemed creative team, Laurie Millotte and Bernie Hadley-Beauregard of Brandever, one of the country’s most irreverent and popular wine label designers. Brandever’s work includes designs for Blasted Church winery, Monster Vineyards and Laughing Stock. In stores this week, Steamworks bottles feature whimsical and stylized Steampunk inspired images combined with Vancouver landmarks, brewery nuances and of course, steam.”

As an aside, I think I am going to make these bottles into Christmas lights -they are just that cool!

 

 

Oh yeah and there is beer in the bottles as well so let’s get our fruit on…

Frambozen pours a brilliant red colour with golden tones and very little head, which quickly departs. It is all about the berry on the nose, it is very light bodied, clean to drink with just the slightest hint of bitterness on the finish. Like the nose, raspberry really dominates everything else palate wise. I wish there had been more body to this beer and some tartness from the berries. Somehow the raspberry takes on an almost artificial quality, like raspberry flavour instead of real berry taste, but that’s an issue I have with lots of fruit beers. I had tried Frambozen at the Great Canadian Beer Festival and I really liked it so I assumed I would still enjoy it but somehow the bottled experience did not quite live up to the freshly tapped keg. Overall not a bad beer, a good summer sipper, but I would probably try it on draught over bottle.

 

Townsite Brewing Blackberry Festivale

So what is the new brewer on the block bringing to the table? A Blackberry Wheat Beer called Blackberry Festivale.

For those of you in self-imposed beer exile, Townsite Brewing Inc. is located in a historic building in the beautiful town of Powell River, British Columbia. The inaugural keg tapped on March of this year. They have four core beers in their line-up a Porter, a Wheat, an IPA and a Golden Blonde with seasonal offerings like the Blackberry reviewed below. According to their (fantastic) website the people behind Townsite are committed to:

1. Brew world-class beers
2. Promote beer culture and the responsible enjoyment of beer
3. Use sustainable business practices
4. Promote local economy and regional self-reliance
5. Support environmental stewardship and social responsibility
6. Kindle social, environmental and cultural change

 

 

First up, I have to give Townsite kudos for their vintage, art nouveau-esque label that incorporates lots of fun elements, nice fonts and an image of the historic building where the brewery is located. I love that all the newbies popping up throughout BC have made an effort to brew great beer and package it in great bottles. For me, this berry rumble almost became a battle of bottle aesthetics but I am easily distracted by pretty colours.

Blackberry Festivale comes in a 650ml and weighs in at 5.5% ABV. It is a wheat beer at heart. Festivale pours a cloudy amber gold with tons of white head (and I mean REALLY white head, like unearthly, glow-in-the-dark, Hollywood actress teeth white) that never really wants to leave. You get the requisite wheat beer nose with lots of yeast and spicy notes. Flavour wise you still are pretty much solidly in the wheat beer realm with this cloying sweetness that must be the blackberry influence; however, my entourage all agreed that this is a ‘barely berry’ beer. By this I mean unless I saw the raining blackberries on the label I might have missed the fact it was a fruit beer and I definitely could not discern blackberry as the fruit involved. Yeasty on the finish. Not bad as a wheat beer but I am not feeling this ‘just add fruit’ mantra since I find the wheat character often overpowers other elements.

 

Ding, ding, ding, our winner is…

If you feel the need to go berry, I have to give my recommendation to Steamworks Frambozen.


Can You Taste the Freshness?

As all good beer geeks know some beers can be aged to bring out the flavours while other beers are meant to be drunk right away. Generally light beers like lagers, fruity beers and hop heavy beers like IPA’s need to be consumed as close to the bottling date as possible to preserve the best possible taste. But can you really tell the difference? How long is too long to leave your favourite light summer beer?

 

 

In order to put the ‘fresh is best’ affirmation to the test I did a blind tasting with two bottles of Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, one bottled in May and one bottled in July.

Here are my thoughts on drinking the two side by side:

Pliny the Elder (May) – Bright gold, effervescent with a minimal amount of white head. Lots of piney hop notes on the nose, resiny flavours and a bitter finish. Light-bodied and smooth.

Pliny the Elder (June) – Bright gold, effervescent with white head. Lots of piney hop on the nose, resiny and strong bitter finish. Light-bodied with a dry finish.

In terms of appearance these beers were almost identical with the fresher Pliny having slightly more head that seemed to stick around a bit longer. The hops on the nose were too close to tell for me but my beer drinking partner thought the July Pliny had more hop character on the nose. The older Pliny seemed less bitter and a bit smoother overall.

 

 

Two months are not a huge amount of time but the taste differences are discernible if subtle. Handed either of these Pliny’s on their own, I would say they were both very drinkable and I had no sense that one had been sitting on the shelf for a longer period. But I definitely think finding the freshest beer you can only enhance the experience and give the drinker the truest sense of what the brewer intended.

Check your labels people, ensure your beer has not been taking up real estate at the local liqour store, and if the bottle is dusty think twice!


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