Tag Archives: Phillips Brewing Company

Scotch Off – Round 1

Autumn Leaves

There is something about the onset of autumn that makes me want to reach for a different kind of beer. Gone are the fruit beers, the wheat beers and the pils and in come the browns, the porters and the scotch ales.

Ahhh, scotch ales those lovely beers that are just a little maltier, a little heavier and a little sweeter than your summer fare and, most importantly, THEY ARE NOT PUMPKIN BEERS!

Before we get down to our head-to-head beer off here is a bit of background on the style from a previous post.

 

Scotch or Scottish Ale can be a bit of a confusing term; does it refer to a brewing style unique to Scotland, a style of beer heavy on malt but light on hops, or a reference to ale casked in scotch whiskey barrels? Well to be honest it can be all of the above. Luckily, like all great mysteries, the answers can be found in books, so let’s get a bit of a history lesson to figure out what the heck is going on.

Scotland has a long (think 5000 years old) tradition of brewing ales and the first beers produced were not really that dissimilar from the pale ales being brewed by their English cousins. In fact, the traditional Scotch Ales would have more in common with India Pale Ales than the sweet, ruby brews now tagged with the term ‘scotch’. The quintessential Scottish elements we have come to know really had more to do with geography than with intentional stylistic roguery. Hops did not grow as well in the north, beers were fermented at cooler temperatures and peat may have been used to dry the malt and/or imparted through the water.

Interestingly, the Scottish brewers saw these elements as flaws to be corrected out of the beer while modern beer geeks have embraced these ‘flaws’ (smokiness, peatiness, maltiness) as flavours to be celebrated.

 

Now for your consideration I now present the contenders:

Renaissance Stonecutter Scotch Ale

 

Renaissance Stonecutter Scotch Ale weighing in at 7.1% ABV . Described by the brewery as follows “We use nine malts blended together to produce layers of caramel, toffee, liquorice, chocolate and roasty flavours. These layers are balanced by a tart, raisiny fruitiness that gradually gives way to give this dark beer a lingering dry finish. Rich, full bodied, warming and moreish…”

Renaissance pours a deep mahogany with very little head and no lacing. There is some opaqueness to this beer kind of like sweet tea. A big smoky sweet nose that gives way to a fairly light-bodied beer that has leather, butterscotch and caramel notes. Stoncutter is very tepid, no carbonation, giving it a liqour like viscosity. On the finish the smokiness comes back through.

vs.

 

Phillips Scotch Ale

 

Phillips Twisted Oak Stillage Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale weighing in at 6.8% ABV. Described by the brewery as “a rich, creamy strong ale, it is allowed to rest in wood barrels to mature and develop flavors slowly and naturally. The nose combines bourbon, American oak, and cotton candy aromas. Complex malt flavors framed in oak, with hints of vanilla, tobacco, and toffee.”

Phillips pours a dark copper colour with very little head and no lacing. The nose on Twisted Oak Scotch Ale is more earthy and a bit nutty while still belaying some caramel notes. Light to medium bodied and quite dry. As you drink the oaken character really comes through giving this one an almost sour tinge (maybe not the right term but a taste I can’t quite put my finger on). There is sweetness to this one and some richer butterscotch and even tobacco like notes.

 

The winner of this round…

Renaissance Stonecutter Scotch Ale by a peat.

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Great Canadian Beer Fest 2013

Smart advertising from Fernie

Smart advertising from Fernie

Well another Great Canadian Beer Festival has came and went and this year saw the participation of craft breweries from the east, the coming out party of some new local breweries, the increase in after-party events and the introduction of some new-to-us American craft beers into the Canadian market.

The GCBF has become a bona fide craft beer destination and it is exciting to see all the breweries, brew pubs and just craft beer culture in general flourishing here in Victoria, which is beginning to rival Vancouver for the mantle of Beervana North.

Beer from Powell Street

Beer from Powell Street

Chatting up 33 Acres

Chatting at 33 Acres

Now I have been to GCBF when it was too cold and I have been to GCBF when it was too hot but this year the beer gods chose to smile on us geeks and the weather was just right, a little cloudy to start off Friday’s festivities and perhaps a titch soggy but then the sun came out to shine over the remainder of the festival.

As usual there were sell-out crowds and long line-ups but things seemed to move more stream-lined than in years past. There was the traditional smattering of buskers, creatively dressed patrons and music to keep the crowds engaged as well as food tents to keep us all carb-loaded so we could fit in more beer.

Moon Under Water tapping the keg

Moon Under Water tapping the keg

Hoyne

Hoyne

For the first time at GCBF I came in early to join the media tour, which was a great way to check out the breweries’ set-ups and to hear from some of the new kids on the block like 33 Acres Brewing Company from Vancouver BC, Sound Brewery from Poulsbo WA and Powell Street Craft Brewery from Vancouver BC from before the flood gates opened (we even got to sneak in a few samples).

Being a bit of a marketing nerd I enjoyed the opportunity to check out everyone’s displays and to see what kind of swag the breweries were offering – never underestimate the drawing power of free beer mats and stick-on tattoos!

Saltspring's lovely set-up

Saltspring’s lovely set-up

As always I was prepped and ready with my beer list highlighting my must-haves and like every year I selected too many for one person to possible consume and like every year I forgot about following my list after about five samples in.

A couple missed opportunities for beers that never arrived, errant brewers and kegs that just refused to be tapped kept an element of spontaneity to my sampling selection.

No explanations needed...

No explanations needed…

Pouring at Muskoka

Pouring at Muskoka

Nonetheless I did manage to hit up quite a number of booths and here are some of my (and my entourages) beer highlights in no particular order:

Sound Brewing Humulo Nimbus Dbl IPA

Wolf Brewing Rannoch Scotch Ale

33 Acres of Life

Double Trouble Vanilla Bean Espresso Imperial Stout

Powell Street Old Jalopy Pale Ale

Hopworks Urban Brewery Survival Seven Grain Stout (a surprise but welcome appearance)

Whistler Brewing Mint Julep

Red Racer

Red Racer

Of course we tried many beers that in retrospect may have been good or may have been not so good but honestly by the end of a beer festival you are just happy if you can distinguish between flavours.

At the end of the day for those who had not quite got their fill, an added bonus was after-parties hosted by Beerthirst for the launch of New Belgium Brewing in BC and hosted by Copper & Theory for the Upright Brewing and Ninkasi tap take-overs .

Oddly enough for me, the highlight of the festival may have been the opportunity to sample the four stellar Lips of Faith beers from New Belgium at the Irish Times pub.

Driftwood swag

Driftwood swag


The Art of the Beer Label – BC Edition

I have decided to revisit one of my favourite blog topics, the art of the beer label, this time with an eye to what the creative brewers in British Columbia have chosen to adorn their bottles.

Not surprisingly there is a huge range of styles and themes chosen to represent the beer within. So let’s take a look at just a few of the bottles from our beautiful province and see if we can discover what the labels tell us about the brewery.

 

Phillips Brewing Company

Phillips Brewing Company seems to employ every style under the sun and every colour in the spectrum when it comes to their beer labels.  One thing with the Phillips labels, though artistic, they do not always feel reflective of the beer you are about to drink – Train Wreck for instance, with its’ Deco imagery, feels like it would be more at home on the cover of an Ayn Rand novel than a barley wine. Always inventive, if busy, I tend to feel like I love em’ or hate em’ when it comes to Phillips labels.

Phillips Trainwreck Barley Wine

Phillips Pandamonium Label

Mass-Extinction-Label-Ice-Barley-wine-proof-2

 

 

Driftwood Brewery

Driftwood Brewery tends to mix-it-up now and then with their labels moving from the naturalistic palette and colours employed in their standard lbeer line-up to more cheeky or edgy takes on their seasonal beers. Driftwood does a really good job of reflecting the beer style in the label. Personally, I think the Sartori harvest label is one of the nicest labels around.

Driftwood Sartori Harvest

oldcellardweller-label-medium1

driftwood_naughtyhildegard

 

 

R&B Brewing Co.

R&B Brewing Co. is another brewer that seems to employ a ‘do what you feel’ kind of attitude when it comes to their labels arguably with mixed results. One of the tough things for me is the colours and style of the R&B logo always seem at odds with the rest of the graphics. That being said I really like their seasonal Auld Nick label.

iceholes_lager1

East Side Bitt R&B

aulp_nick

 

 

Howe Sound Brewing

I have to admit I usually do not get what Howe Sound is going for with their labels aesthetically. I mean, I get the literal interpretation of the beer name, i.e. scotch ale on a tartan background, but I feel like their choice of labels lacks an overarching vision. That being said I think the Mega Destroyer label really nailed the spirit of the beer within.

Howe Sound Mega Destroyer

howesound_weebeastie

Howe Sound High Tide

 

 

Parallel 49 Brewing Company

Okay so personal preference here but Parallel 49’s whole cartoon-ish Sailor Jerry carnival theme just does not work for me; however, I can appreciate that they have obviously put some serious thought into the aesthetic they want to present to consumers. It feels very lighthearted like you should never take the beer inside too seriously.

parallel49_uglysweater

Ruby Parallel 49

parallel49_lostsouls

 

 

Hoyne Brewing

Far and away my favourite beer labels come from Hoyne Brewing Co. Artistic and playful but never derivative, Hoyne manages to walk that elusive balance between too much of any one thing while maintaining a core imagery that still lets the consumer know this is a Hoyne beer. The tie to the beer is subtle but present. Great colours, great lay outs, great use of fonts, great job!

label-honey-hefe

label-dark-matter

Hoyne Devil's Dream

 

 

Vancouver Island Brewery

Vancouver Island Brewery has one of those label campaigns that feels a bit like we’ve been there and done that in terms of the graphics (a little bit Driftwood and a little bit Phillips). At the same time I do like their layouts, colour choices and the way they provide information on the beer inside. VIB always employs colours that embody the beer within i.e. Marzen with rich, fall tones. The Christmas label still creeps me out though.

vancouverisland_ironplow_label

vancouverisland_flyingtanker

vib_DoughHead2012

 

 

Russell Brewing Company

Russell Brewing Company has often opted for the no-label label with their specialty and/or beers in a way that I think works very, very well. In particular, the Blood Alley Bitter and the Russian Imperial Stout are a couple of the best bottles out there showing a great use of font, placement and negative space to create memorable bottles. I feel like the aesthetic choices they make really marry the beer styles within.

Russell Black Death Porter Russell Blood Alley Bitter Russell Russian Imperial Stout


Pumpkin Beer Fourteen, Not so Keen

It is the two week mark into my pursuit for the pinnacle of pumpkin beers and either I am getting really sick of pumpkin or I have hit a dud. Sadly I think the latter is the case for Phillips Crooked Tooth Pumpkin Ale.

 

 

Crooked Tooth pours a very pale orange with some carbonation and sediment. There is little to no head on this beer. On the nose there is an yeasty aroma, which is a little off-putting. As you swirl the glass there are notes of pumpkin pie spices, mostly cinnamon, but they are pretty subtle. Crooked Tooth is the lightest bodied of all the pumpkin beers I have sampled and I do not get much in the way of a flavour profile from this beer. This one seems marked more by what it lacks than what it has going for it. There is no real finish to speak of.

 

I am pretty disappointed with this pumpkin offering so I am giving Phillips Crooked Tooth three candy corns out of a possible ten.


A Pumpkin (Beer) a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

 

Hallowe’en is one of my favourite holidays – dressing up as someone or something else, eating too much candy corn, watching cheesy horror movies and, of course, the arrival of pumpkin beers!

To honour this holiday in the best beer geek fashion I am going to do a series of blogs reviewing a different pumpkin beer everyday until Hallowe’en.

I have a pretty decent selection in the fridge but I will need some recommendations to meet my goal so feel free to add your favourites to the comments section…

 

Pumpkin Beers on Deck

Phillips Crooked Tooth Pumpkin Ale

Tree Brewing Co. Jumpin Jack Pumpkin Ale

Parallel 49 Lost Souls Chocolate Pumpkin Porter

Steamworks Pumpkin Ale

Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale

Fernie Brewing Co. Pumpkin Head Pumpkin Brown Ale

Parallel 49 Schadenfreude Pumpkin Oktoberfest

St. Ambroise The Great Pumpkin Ale

Epic Brewing Fermentation without Representation Imperial Pumpkin Porter

Two Beers Brewing Co. Pumpkin Spice Ale

Elysian Dark O’ the Moon Pumpkin Stout

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

Pike Brewing Co. Harlot’s Harvest Pike Pumpkin Ale

Southern Tier Pumking Ale


Hey, there’s Scotch in my Beer!

Scotch or Scottish Ale can be a bit of a confusing term; does it refer to a brewing style unique to Scotland, a style of beer heavy on malt but light on hops, or a reference to ale casked in scotch whiskey barrels? Well to be honest it can be all of the above. Luckily, like all great mysteries, the answers can be found in books, so let’s get a bit of a history lesson to figure out what the heck is going on.

Scotland has a long (think 5000 years old) tradition of brewing ales and the first beers produced were not really that dissimilar from the pale ales being brewed by their English cousins. In fact, the traditional Scotch Ales would have more in common with India Pale Ales than the sweet, ruby brews now tagged with the term ‘scotch’. The quintessential Scottish elements we have come to know really had more to do with geography than with intentional stylistic roguery. Hops did not grow as well in the north, beers were fermented at cooler temperatures and peat may have been used to dry the malt and/or imparted through the water.

Interestingly, the Scottish brewers saw these elements as flaws to be corrected out of the beer while modern beer geeks have embraced these ‘flaws’ (smokiness, peatiness, maltiness) as flavours to be celebrated.

Another interesting historical tidbit with regards to Scotch Ales is the nomenclature designating ale strength in shillings. The shilling categories were based on the price charged per hogshead (54 Imperial gallons). Stronger beers naturally cost more so Scotch Ales were labelled as Light (60/-), Heavy (70/-), Export (80/-) and Wee Heavy (120/-) – if you want to blow the minds of your beer geek friends ask for a pint of eighty bob! While the shilling terminology has fallen out of favour the strength designations live on to help us distinguish between the different types of Scotch Ale.

In order to try a cross-section of the style, I conducted a little mini blind taste test of three scotch ales; Rogue’s McRogue Scotch Ale XS (OR), not much description on the bottle but fyi I aged this for just over a year, Phillips Double Barrel Scotch Ale (BC), aged in Tennessee whiskey barrels and then in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, and Le Bilbouquet MacKroken Scotch Ale (QC) brewed with thistle and wildflower honey.

Thoughts on the Beers…

Rogue McRogue Scotch Ale XS

Beer Geek Girl: Deep orange with lots of sediment and some creamy coloured head. Sweet barley wine like nose and a strong sweet casked flavour. Lots of body, almost chewy but quite smooth to drink. Strong liqoury finish.

Beer Geek Boy: Cloudy with a sweet barley wine nose. Has an aged quality to it, and smooth to drink.

Phillips Double Barrel Scotch Ale

Beer Geek Girl: Deep orange and very clear with quickly dissipating head. Subtle sweetness on the nose. Quite light bodied with sweet mallet flavours and an ever so slightly bitter finish.

Beer Geek Boy: Nose and flavour fairly similar to an Extra Special Bitter (ESB). Very clear. A little sweet with mild hop flavours and an easy finish.

Le Bilboquet MacKroken Scotch Ale with Honey

Beer Geek Girl: Red, clear, carbonated with lots of creamy colour head that sticks around. Very sweet honeyed nose and a sweet floral flavour. Medium body, liqoury with a ton of caramel (burnt almost) notes.

Beer Geek Boy: Darkest colour of the three with some head. Has the appearance and nose of what I am familiar with for a Scotch Ale. Not a lot of nose but sweetness. Malty in flavour, heavy and strong.

*Thanks to Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer and the ever-informative Wikipedia for assistance (but not with the drinking part)


The Art of the Beer Label

I have a confession to make: when I am unsure about which new beer to try I often pick the one with the most creative label and conversely (and perhaps more detrimentally) I often avoid brewers with less-than-stellar aesthetic sensibilities. Despite how often we are plied with the euphemism to not judge a book by its cover we just darn go ahead and do it anyway. Part of this is necessity; if we were allowed to pour a sample glass before buying a bottle or can we could judge a beer using all of our available senses. But this is perhaps the fevered dream of an as-yet-unbuilt beer utopia… As such this post will be grounded in cold hard truths of reality and entirely devoted to some of my favourite beer labels.

Taste is subjective. What I appreciate in a beer label may not be what you enjoy, and this is good thing since brewers express themselves in a myriad of ways from the fairy-tale beauty of Pretty Things, to the adverserial taunting of Stone, to the medeival nerdiness of Russian River. So what do I like in beer labels? I am not sure I can put my finger on any unifying stylistic elements but I do admire many differing qualities including but not limited to simplicity, clean lines, creative use of colour, witty banter, historical references, an overarching theme and perhaps above all an effort to stand out from the (six) pack. What follows are some of my favourites in no particular order:


A Belgian on the West Coast

In Belgium the brewing process is considered artisanal and by extension the brewer is considered an artist.  Since the brewer is not bound by any sense of duty to conform to pre-existing beer styles there is a huge variety of strengths, colours and textures all defined as Belgian beer.  The one element that unites this class of beers is the distinctive yeast which imparts a unique flavour encouraged by high temperature fermentation.  In fact, you can take any wort ferment it with Belgian yeast and create a Belgian-tasting beer.

There are several sub-groups under the broad umbrella of Belgian Beer including Abbey ales, which are similar to Trappist beers but brewed by secular breweries instead of monasteries.  Abbey beers exist in greater numbers and tend to stick with the convention of brown Dubbel or Blond Tripel.  The Belgian Abbey Tripel originated in Westmalle Abbey in the 1930’s as a reaction to pale-ale trends.  The Tripel is characterized by a complex clean maltiness, spicy depth, a touch of sweetness, highly carbonated but dry with a clean finish.

 

Exportation has always been an important component of British Brewing but the really famous part of the export story starts in the middle of the eighteenth century.  During this period there were large contingents of British soldiers, traders and administrators in India who demanded a taste of home, namely beer.  In the early 1780’s, a London brewer named Hodgson started exporting casks of highly hopped ale designed for long-keeping; however, after forty years of success the relationship between Hodgson and the East India Company deteriorated largely due to greed.

Meanwhile brewers in Burton-on-Trent had been expanding their shipment routes into Russia trading their signature sweet, dark beer.  Once Hodgson’s relationship with India fell through and Russian tariffs curtailed exports the market was wide open for Burton to try it’s hand at creating their own version of an India Ale.  Burton’s Allsopp brewery worked out a recipe, in a teacup, to create pale, crisp, highly hopped ale.  At some point the local public caught on to this India Pale Ale and it was received with great acclaim replacing porter as the new fashionable beer.

Moving to the New World there is some disagreement out there about whether the American version of the IPA is a distinct variant or an offshoot of the British IPA style but this is not an area I feel qualified to weigh in on so I will just leave you with the following descriptor:  The IPA is characterized by fresh hops, bready maltiness and a clean, crisp, bitter finish.

 

So what do get when you cross a Belgian Tripel with a North West Coast style IPA?  Victoria-based Phillips Brewing’s Hoperation Tripel Cross. This is aggressively hopped golden ale that pours with minimal head and a pine like aroma.  A malty sweetness also comes through on the nose.  There is cloudiness to this beer largely due to the active sediment, which remains suspended throughout the glass.  In the mouth the beer has a somewhat sticky character and the strength of the Tripel comes through at the front.  The bitterness of the hops tends to linger after you swallow.  It is not quite as smooth as a Tripel to drink but the Belgian yeast imparts a unique element to yet another addition to the extensive IPA family.   The bottle is a large 650ml format with an ABV of 8%.  The label deserves its own blog entry; a cross between a war propaganda poster and an art deco advertisement the label depicts an old bomber plane soaring through the air dropping hop bombs all rendered in a deco-esque palette of reds, teals and greens.

 

Overall I would give this beer a 4 out 5.

 

*Mosher, Randy 2009 Tasting Beer An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink. Storey Publishing North Adams MA.


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