Tag 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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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.

 


Firestone Walker, My First Time

For the longest time I would pass by Firestone Walker beers without giving them serious consideration. Much like my previous misconceptions about New Belgium Brewing, I pegged Firestone Walker in that faux-craft beer category unworthy of true beer geek appreciation, it looked a little too slick and seemed a little too available to really be craft, and therefore I remained blissfully unaware of just what I was missing out on.

 

To be fair Firestone Walker is not exactly a ‘mom and pop’ micro-brewery churning out two or three beer styles in the back room of some garage (though the brewery’s early days had some semblance to this picture).

Classed as a mid-size brewery, Firestone Walker Brewing Company heralds an impressive line-up of award winning pale ales, seasonal releases, barrel aged reserve beer and anniversary releases not to mention on-site exclusives.

In fact, their success with barrel-aging recently culminated in the opening of Barrelworks described on the Firestone website as a “7,000-square-foot facility now houses all of Firestone Walker’s barrel-aged wild beers while also showcasing the brewery’s classic barrel-aged strong ales.”

 

For a barrel-aged beer lover such as myself I am really not sure why I waited so long to start exploring this brewery’s offerings. To remedy the situation I brought home a Walker’s Reserve Porter and a Parabola Imperial Stout.

 

Walker's Reserve Porter

 

Here are my thoughts on Walker’s Reserve Porter:

Walker’s Reserve pours a deep black/brown colour with good clarity and a decent amount of carbonation. There is not much in the way of head on this beer and not much head retention but that is typical for a porter. Lots of cold coffee and roasted grain notes on the nose. First couple of sips, this is a porter with a lot of oakiness, cold coffee, chocolate and a burnt sweet flavour. It is fairly light bodied and not very alcoholy. The finish is very, very dry and the bitter/burnt notes linger long after you swallow. Personally, I find this one a bit too harsh for me as I like my porters fuller bodied with a touch of sweetness; you can chalk this up partially to me being a non-coffee drinker since my better half enjoyed what I term the cold coffee qualities a bit more than I did. Overall an interesting porter that is competitively priced.

 

A Couple of Other Brewery Tidbits

Firestone Walker beers are distributed widely throughout the US but sadly not in Canada (yet), and for inquiring minds, yes, one of the breweries co-founders is indeed part of that Firestone family and no, no tires were harmed in the brewing of their beer.


While Shepherds Watched their Bocks by Night

I open door number three to find…

Russell Brewing Company’s Naughty & Spiced Porter a 6.5% ABV beer that is “spiced with seasonal spices then aged on oak chips”.

 

Russell Naughty & Spiced

 

First things first I have to say I love their bottle design and beer name. Naughty & Spiced pours a deep reddish chestnut colour with some cream coloured head that has so-so retention. There is caramel and vanilla coming through on the nose. As it warms you get more of a cold coffee element. For a porter it is pretty light bodied and I expected more of the sweetness from the nose to come through in the flavour. There is a roasty bitterness to the finish and a slight earthiness that seems to come from the oaking. All in all a very drinkable porter but I am not bowled over by the Christmas-ness of this beer.

 

Naughty & Nice comes in at a six candy cane beer on my Christmas scale.

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The Dark Side of B.C. Beers

Still committed to my 100 mile (ish) beer diet, I am continuing to sample brews from my own backyard. This time around I tried three beers from the darker end of the spectrum, you know, the best end of the beer spectrum, sampling Dark Matter from Hoyne Brewing Co., Dark Chocolate Porter from Lighthouse Brewing Co., and the Extra Special Bitter From Salt Spring Island Ales.

Just to qualify my obvious bias for dark beers, in all fairness all the really cool flavours hang out on this end of the continuum; you never see light beers with descriptors like coffee, chocolate, molasses, dried fruit, bourbon, whisky, oatmeal, licorice, caramel, treacle etc. so in my defence I really have no choice but to embrace the dark side.

Dark Matter: Pours clear, deep reddish black and with a quickly diminishing caramel coloured head. Sweet caramel notes and roast coffee on the nose. Quite bitter in the mouthfeel, light to medium in body and a ton of roasted malt. The finish is slightly reminiscent of burnt coffee. Great interplay of sweet and bitter elements, which makes the beer highly drinkable. Love the label and reference to the Hadron Collider. Overall a 4/5

 

Dark Chocolate Porter: Deep brown/black in colour with ton of stiff ivory head and good clarity. Really nice roasted elements and chocolate on the nose. Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate at first taste but this beer mellows a bit too much as it warms losing the bitter edge that played so well off the sweet flavours. Label is a bit wanting in creativity. Overall 3.5/5

 

 

Extra Special Bitter: Pours a partly hazy amber with monumental white head. Floral hops on the nose with a bit of resin. Very hoppy for a bitter but sadly also a little off-flavour with an out-of-place medicinal taste. I can’t properly review this bottle but be assured it happens to the best of us. One of the hazards of drinking craft beer; however, I wouldn’t have it any other way  …doesn’t get any more “real”  ale than this.


A Bit About Stout and a Trip to Tokyo

One of my favourite beer styles has to be the stout. As a novice beer geek I tended to shy away from these heavy dark beers but the more I tried them the more I loved them and now I can’t imagine my beer cupboard without them. There is an amazing diversity to the beers that are classed as stouts so I thought I would delve a bit into the history and hallmarks of the style.

Stout beers, as we have come to know them, evolved from the Porter family. According to Mosher, the word stout, meaning a strong black beer, dates to 1630 where it was applied to “stout butt beers”. During the late seventeenth century the term stout was applied to any strong beer until almost a generation later when the term stout settled into its accepted definition as a strong porter. Porters and stouts share many similar elements such as, roasted malts and a deep brown/black colour but stouts differ due to their increased strength. Interestingly, in the past dark beer had a prominent hop quality but this is something that has diminished over time in almost all variations of the style.

Some of the stout sub-styles include Irish Dry Stouts – characterized by the use of roasted barley (think Guinness), Oatmeal Stouts – mmm… cookie (think St. Ambroise), Milk Stouts/Sweet Stouts – originally a drink for invalids (think Rogue Creamery), Extra Stout –fancy stout for export (think XXXXX Pike) and Imperial Stouts – loved by the Russians (think Old Rasputin).

What am I drinking?

 

Tokyo Intergalactic Fantastic Oak Aged Stout by BrewDog.

The wordsmiths at BrewDog more describe this beer as, “imperial stout brewed with copious amounts of speciality malts, jasmine and cranberries. After fermentation we then dry-hop this killer stout with a bucket load of our favourite hops before carefully aging the beer on French toasted oak chips. Everything in moderation, including moderation itself. What logically follows is that you must, from time [to time], have excess. This beer is for those times”.

I would sum this beer up as an 18.2% knock you over the head then kick you when you’re down, kind of stout. Tokyo pours a deep brown/black with zero clarity. There is so much sediment it looks like bubble tea before it settles down. The bottom of the bottle poured out like spent motor oil – a good sign yeah. Very little head retention. All malt and molasses on the nose with a bit of sweetness. Very creamy mouthfeel and very potent liquor taste. The flavours, much like the nose, are dominated with sweet roasted malt and that subtle sweetness imparted by the casking. Best sipped and served at room temperature. Fantastic occasion beer but not something I could drink all the time.


Winter Beer-Off 3: Snowmagedon

We had an unexpected (but not entirely unwanted) burst of cold weather out here on the West Coast so I thought I would sample a couple more winter beers in honour of this dip in temperature and increase in white stuff. This time around I am trying Belly the Mountain from Upright Brewing described as “A regular picturesque postcardy old ale”, and Winter Hum Bug’r from MacTarnahan’s Brewing Co. described as “A deceptively dark holiday ale” and “A rich holiday porter.” This is my first beer from Portland’s MacTarnahan’s Brewing Co. so I am curious to see what this brewer is like –price is certainly right barely breaking the three dollar mark for a 650ml!

Belly the Mountain: Great label depicting a night scene of the city ringed with mountains. This seasonal ale pours a deep reddish brown with lots of thick   head. It is very sedimenty; even with gentle pouring the glass took some time to settle. There is sweet malts on the nose. Medium bodied, rich malt taste in the mouth and a burnt finish. The finish does not linger as much as I would have hoped. Mellows really well as it warms to room temperature becoming even sweeter. Nice strength that really meets that winter warmer criteria of warming you up from the inside out.

Winter Hum Bug’r: Fun beer name but I am not really feeling the cartoonish label design. The porter pours deep black with good clarity. There is a ton of heavy mocha coloured head that lingers for quite a while eventually developing into some nice lacing on the glass.  There is a fruity element to the nose that I can’t quite place. The porter is light in body, clean to drink with a distinctive coffee taste in both the mouthfeel and finish. The finish has a bitter burnt quality. The coffee taste is a little overpowering for me since there is not much in the way of competing flavours to balance it out. Kind of an average porter for me.

The Winner? I have to give this one to Belly the Mountain from Upright Brewing.


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