Category Archives: Porter

Happy New Beers!

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Happy 2015 to all you beer aficionados out there. It promises to be another great year in the ever-expanding world of craft beer, cider and spirits and I am looking forward to seeing (and tasting) things to come.

As I begin 2015 there are many beer-related happenings I anticipate such as, continuing to discover new-to-me beers and breweries in Ontario and Quebec, following along with my hubby in his quest for the best gluten-free options for a former hardcore stout lover, heading stateside to explore what the Eastern US has to offer (hello other Portland you have a lot to live up too!), blogging the highs and lows of the years beer trends (let’s get some sour beer and cider happening here), getting to know a whole new community of beer geeks in the Ottawa area and continuing to write, drink, photograph, drink and drink some amazing beer.

To kick off my New Year’s I delved into my best of box from the now very local Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company. I sampled the Burnt Rock Vanilla Porter and the St. Luke’s Verse Lavender Gruit two very disparate but two very good beers from a veritable Ontario institution.

Burnt Rock is a light-bodied British style porter, think cold-coffee with just a hint of vanilla bean. The beer pours deep black brown with lots of mocha coloured head. A straight-forward porter; easy to drink at the low 5.6% ABV with no sickeningly sweet vanilla taste that some (no names) winter beers abundantly include. Thin and dry with roasted malt at the forefront giving way to subtle sweetness and a bittered finish. I liked this porter, while personally I prefer Baltic style porters, I can see why this is a fan favourite for the brewery.

St. Luke’s Verse is an entirely different animal. This beer is a Gruit, which is a herbal beer. Beau’s chose lavender giving it a challenging but ultimately pleasant flavour. Light gold in colour with airy white head a BIG floral nose and a slight effervescence. Nice served quite cold in a flute. Fairly light in body and, well, herbal tasting. That is too say there is a sweet, grassy kind of flavour. Finishes very clean. This beer really impressed me. I’ll admit at first I was skeptical about the inclusion of lavender but I am a convert.

Two more ‘best of’ beers to sample so stay tuned…

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Beer from the Rock

Growlers

Well as Murphy’s Law dictates if you plan to move at the end of any given month during the last week of said month a craft brewery will finally open within walking distance.

To further rub salt in the wound said brewery will be adjacent to your hairdresser so you will have been patiently biding your time, watching the slow progress as the brewery moved in equipment, put up a cryptic sign referencing beer, proceeded to paper all the windows all on your regular trips to the area while never knowing for sure when the doors would open.

White Rock Beach Beer Company

But enough whining on my end, the White Rock Beach Beer Company has finally opened its’ doors (door actually) and I paid them a first on their inaugural weekend.

The White Rock Beach Beer Company was started by a trio of fellows Rob Kwalheim (Brewmaster), Peter Adams and Bill Haddow (Marketing), a couple of whom were local teachers (can you think of any better motivator to lead you to beer?). While there is not a whole lot to describe about this tiny brewery, they do have some swag emblazoned with the brewery logo, growlers and half-growlers for fill, and a standing-room only tasting space. Personally, the brewery branding is not really my style I do like that they managed to incorporate that giant White Rock we are all so fond of …(cough, cough).

Beer on the Wall

One thing myself and my entourage noticed were the bricks in the wall, not in the anti-establishment kind of way but the tangible bricks bearing peoples names. Turns out when this brewery was a mere idea the proprietors shopped the concept around to people and got some of them to put their money where their mouth was so to speak and turn the dream of craft beer in White Rock into a reality. To honour those early supporters they get their names proudly displayed, swag AND they get dibs on some free growler fill-ups.

Oh, and  there are some interesting opening beers as well.

Menu

Menu

Currently there are three options on tap a pale ale, a nut brown ale and a porter, granted these are pretty safe choices but they are done well. I sampled all three at the brewery and me and the gang took a growler of the pale ale home for further dissection.

The East Beach Nut was in fact quite nutty, which sounds like I am being trite but in fact I often find the nut brown ales miss the mark by not keeping that nut flavour at the forefront. While I generally like this style for blending with other beers it is quite drinkable in its’ own right. The Border Porter was decent as well but I would really have needed a bigger pour to offer any fleshed out opinion.

The West Beach Fruit really surprised me because pale ales are so not my thing but I have to say I really enjoyed this beer. It was sessionable, well-balanced and like the nut brown kept the fruit character at the forefront. It was much more of a stone fruit taste and not an overt sweetness, there was a bit of hop character but nothing over-powering.

Beer Superfans

So if you find yourself at the Rock stop in for a growler before you hit the beach.

 


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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Ontario Craft Beer, As Advertised – Beer 8

Cameron’s Obsidian Rum Barrel Imperial Porter 9.2%

I was very impressed with the other beer I tried from Cameron’s Brewing so I was understandably excited to try their take on one of my favourite beer styles the barrel aged imperial porter, not to mention this was the last beer of my trip so I hoped to toast my send-off to Ontario in style!

Obsidian pours a deep black worthy of its’ namesake with lots of dense cream coloured head and nice lacing. Big molasses, chocolate malt nose with a sweet caramel overtones. Full bodied but not into stout territory with enough alcohol presence to consider this a winter warmer. Flavours include chocolate, dried fruits, tobacco (smoky notes), rich heavy malts and a nice earthy character reminding the drinker this one spent some time in the barrel. At the same time there is a bit of hop to this one making the finish seem like a dry bitter chocolate with some lingering alcoholiness. Overall a great porter and one I hope will find its’ way out to British Columbia.

Obsidian


Ontario Craft Beer, As Advertised – Beer 2

Vanilla Porter

 

On the other end of the porter spectrum from Les Trois Mousquetaries Porter Baltique we have Vanilla Porter Draught from Mill Street Brewery (5%). This porter pours a deep black brown with just a little skim of mocha coloured head. Lots of vanilla bean on the nose and a bit of cold coffee. A light bodied and airy beer very consistent with other draught cans (think Guinness) but veering close to the watery side of things. As I alluded, the vanilla presence is quite unmistakable in this one though personally I did not find it be an artificial extract-y taste. Flavour wise (aside from the vanilla) you get cold coffee and roasted malts, and this porter finishes dry and slightly sweet.

Overall not a bad porter if you are looking for something light and easy though it may be a tad sweet for some of you beer geeks out there …#beercandy.


Ontario Craft Beer, As Advertised – Beer 1

Continuing my craft beer adventures in Ontario I stocked up on unique (to me) bottles at every opportunity though I have to say Ontario you really do not make it easy for beer geeks. We have to settle for whatever the Beer Store or the LCBO chooses to stock and as we here in BC know all too well relying on the judgement of the provincial liqour stores can leave you woefully wanting.

Nonetheless I did manage to sample quite a few Ontario, Quebec and Eastern US craft beers and if there is a unifying theme to the beer I tried I would have to say it was as advertised.

What do I mean by this? Well when you try a flavoured beer say vanilla or rye you most definitely get what you expect i.e. there was no hunting for subtle essences of hints of spices. And to extend the branding when you try a beer style it really conforms to the standards.

 

For instance, Porter Baltique Grande Cuvee from Les Trois Mousquetaires (10%) Baltic Porter pours a deep opaque black brown with lots of mocha coloured head. A strong alcoholy nose big on peat, leather and dried fruit. This porter is big bodied, warming and rich. The smoky flavour carries through as does a slight sweetness and the roasted, almost burnt, malt character. The finish leaves a strong alcohol presence, definitely a sipper. Very robust for the style and I would liken it to Brew Dog’s Alice Porter, which is a very big compliment coming from me. If you were ever hesitant to sample what’s brewing in Quebec rest assured you will not be disappointed.

 

Stay tuned for a week of reviews on everything craft beer east…

Baltique Porter


New Brew Friday

Dawn Patrol

Dawn Patrol Coffee Porter from Tofino Brewing Company (6.5%)

A deep black brown porter that is opaque and still. This is very little mocha coloured head, which quickly dissipates leaving a light ring around the glass. Lots of cold coffee on the nose more on the roasted side than the bitter side of the coffee spectrum. Lots of coffee flavour but just the slightest hint of chocolate malts and not much in the way of sweetness. I get a slight astringent taste from this one as well. A light bodied beer that has a subtle dry bitter finish. I am not a coffee drinker but I enjoyed this one, which may mean its’ not potent enough for you coffee aficionados out there. Overall a somewhat middle-of-the-road porter, glad I tried it but not sure I’ll re-buy it.

 


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


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


Cali or Bust Part 4

Feeling a little disillusioned with my beer experiences thus far I assumed that I had wrapped up my brewery visits for this vacation. As such, we decided to take the scenic coast drive through Northern California on the way back home.

 

As we turned onto the highway at Paso Robles I spotted a large building adorned with the logo of Firestone Walker Brewing Company. One quick u-turn and we found ourselves on an unscheduled visit to the taproom of a rather impressive brewery – in size, in scale and in beer selection.

 

Firestone Walker Logo

 

Now Firestone Walker is no micro-brewery as such, when you visit be prepared for the full-treatment; huge taproom and restaurant, brewery on premise, complimentary brewery tours, visitor centre, bottles circling on a conveyor belt in the taproom and lots of swag.

 

Firestone Walker Taproom

 

We decided to focus on the taproom exclusives so we could sample from a diverse swath of their line-up – for those on an extended visit and with some cash to burn they also have a nice selection of vintage bottles for order.

 

Taproom Menu

 

Some of our favourites were the unfiltered DBA Double Barrel Ale (I liked this so much I brought some bottles of the regular DBA home), the Walker’s Reserve Porter, which was great for those who like their porters on the cold coffee side, the Double DBA, which was a big boozy barrel-aged version of the DBA and the Velvet Merlin, a nice clean oatmeal stout that is light bodied enough to be enjoyed in the California sunshine.

 

FW Tasteroom Tasters

 

An unplanned stop but a redemptive one that had me in much better beer spirits AND I brought home two really nice pils glasses to enjoy for the rest of summer!


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