Tag Archives: Rogue Ales

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!



It’s Lager Time!

Summer is great; more hours of sunshine, warmer temperatures, less clothing, BBQ dinners, nights on the patio, wearing sunglasses, eating gelato, going on holidays, swimming in the ocean, watching fireworks …need I continue?  With this advent of sunny weather, and the resultant increase in endorphins, comes an inevitable change in the beers we want to stock in our fridges. Out are the ‘winter warmers’,  the dark porters, strong barley wines and robust stouts that warm us from the inside out while providing a days’ worth of calories, and in are the fruit beers, the IPA’s and the lagers.

Lagers are probably the most common style of beer in the world in terms of sheer quantity. Quite arguably the quintessential summer drink, and long the staple of ballparks and stadiums, lagers range in colour, hopiness and strength but share the defining characteristic of being fermented and stored at cool temperatures. In its perfect form (to me anyway) lagers are light bodied, crisp and refreshing; something you can drink ice cold and something that is safe to consume in multiples.

As always, I would like to give some background so you can to get to know your lagers a little better.

Moving from Dark to Light…

According to Randy Mosher in Tasting Beer, the origin of lagers is somewhat murky but generally the story goes that brewers in Bavaria were perfecting their craft by fermenting beer in natural caves or cellars dug into the limestone hillsides. Gradually, a new yeast strain emerged adapted to this cold weather brewing process. Flash forward five hundred or so years and Bavaria style lagers, and brewing practices, were transported to the New World with German immigrants.

The first lagers being produced in North America were dark brown beers and probably had little resemblance to the straw gold brews we have come to know today. We have Anton Schwartz, a brewing scientist, to thank for developing the cooking technique in the 1870’s, which afforded the use of lightening ingredients such as corn and rice. Couple with this the development of machine bottling and refrigeration and the stage is set for the birth of the modern lager.

A Bit about the Style

In terms of taste, cold-temperature and long fermentation times means less (or no) fruity esters in the beer, which ideally produces a clean, crisp taste focusing solely on the malts and hops. One of the great things about lagers is this simplicity; with only the choice of malt and hop determining the flavour profile subtle characteristics can emerge in the beer from honey and caramel to mint and herb. Mosher suggests that for this style any hint of fruitiness may indicate a too-warm fermentation temperature but subtle sulphur or DMS notes may be acceptable.

Some of the styles falling under the lager umbrella include: Pilsners, American Lagers, Malt Liqour, Dunkel, Oktoberfest, Bocks, Rauchbier and many other variations within. When you think about the vast range of tastes and appearances represented in these styles it is pretty amazing to believe all these beers are classified as lagers, a style essentially defined by a couple of strains of cold-temperature tolerant yeast!

The Best of the Best

I guess it is only fair to warn you that due to the mass popularity of the style, there are a lot of bad lagers out there. In fact, while I was perusing Rate Beer’s 50 Worst Beers list I noticed a disproportionate number of the bottom feeders were in fact lagers. But be brave and be perseverant because there is gold in ‘dem dar hills. Some notable lagers include:

Rate Beer – Mikkeller The American Dream, Pretty Things Lovely Saint Winefride, Pilsner Urquell Kvasnicový, Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, Avery The Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest, Dogfish Head Liquor de Malt, Surly SurlyFest, The Bruery Humulus Lager.

Beer Advocate – Snoqualmie Summer Beer, Fort George 1811 Pre-Prohibition Lager, Rogue Morimoto Imperial Pilsner, Full Sail Session Lager, Anchor Steam Beer, Brooklyn Lager, La Trappe Bockbier, Samuel Smith’s Organically Produced Lager Beer

World Beer Awards (2011) – Samuel Adams Double Bock, Bernard Dark, Samuel Adams Double Bock, APU Borgio, SA Damm Keler 18, Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager, Egils Gull, International Breweries Australian Max, Hop City Barking Squirrel Lager, Eisenbahn Rauchbier

In my Fridge

Brooklyn Lager pours clear reddish gold with lots of off-white head that lingers. Slight carbonation in the glass. Sweet malt on the nose and citrus notes as well. Light bodied and very clean to drink. Taste wise there is some caramel and citrus with a bit of hoppy bitterness at the finish.

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 Counter Culture Roots of Craft Beer

In 1969 Sociologist Theodore Roszak wrote a seminal book called “The Making of a Counter Culture”. In his book Roszak develops the concept of a counter culture, which is roughly defined as the provocative, new and even radical creations of a generation of youth profoundly alienated from the parental generation. It is a questioning of the status quo as represented by the dominant world view and an undermining of the foundations of what Rosazak termed the “technocracy” (technological aristocracy)  – read industrialization, mass marketization and homogenization of all aspects of culture. Roszak goes on to propose the “myth of the objective consciousness” postulating that a culture, which subordinates or degrades the visionary commits the sin of diminishing our existence. The question facing us is not “How shall we know?” but “How shall we live?”

It seems to me that we have been embracing this rejection of the technocracy in many facets of culture ever since. We are increasingly concerned with the inequitable and unsustainable way in which we interact with the earth and with each other. There seems to be a genuine desire for change driving many of the ways we now choose to live our lives, and nowhere is this more obvious than in our ever evolving relationship with food.



The Rise of the Foodie Culture

To me, there has been a profound shift in our relationship with (to) the foods we eat and the beverages we consume. Whether you call it visionary or merely a re-discovery, we are embracing a simplicity and accessibility to the things we consume. Building upon the foundation laid (or re-asserted) by counter culture ideals, the slow food movement challenges (and rejects) almost all the prevalent attitudes towards food and eating held by our parents. Microwaves, T.V. dinners and fast food were novel uses of our technology but ultimately they severed any ties we have to what we are putting in our bodies.

Carlo Petrini, the Italian founder of Slow Food, suggests “Our century, which began and developed under the insignia of industrial civilization, first invented the machine and then took it as its life model.” The ‘slow’ in slow food is not simply a rate of change but a way of being that encourages the development of a careful, reflective, quality-over-quantity, intuitive and receptive connection with our food. This desire to understand the foods we consume has manifested itself in countless ways from the notion of a 100-mile diet, the embracing organic and whole foods, the proliferation of farmers markets, the locally-sourced term on restaurant menus, the creation of Farm Folk/City Folk and so on. Oft-mocked as ‘foodies’ there is a growing base of consumers willing to pay more for less in order to re-establish that connection.



The (re)Birth of Real Ale

‘But that was my father’s beer.’ Interestingly this idea has resonance for many people. If it was good enough for my parents then it is good enough for me, it is what they always drank, that brewery has been in business for over a hundred years how bad can it be? The continued popularity of the leading big three lagers, sanitized and pasteurized to the point of having no discernible taste, presents an interesting challenge for counter culture adherents. Fortunately the other side of this stick-with-what-you-know notion is a rejection of the same old same old in favour of actually knowing what goes into your beer, how it is made, who brewed it, and where it comes from. Counter culture ideals are manifest in our (re)introduction to the world of real ale.

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, began in Britain in the late 1960’s with the aim of preserving traditional beer, which was being threatened by the industrialized and mass-marketed ‘beers’ that had become so ubiquitous. Real ale is naturally carbonated cask beer, in other words it is a slow food – it takes time to brew, time to ferment, time to carbonate, time to transport, and time to serve. CAMRA has spawned chapters all over the world uniting brewers and consumers passionate about the craft. Indeed the ever-increasing popularity of craft beer and microbreweries is an amazing testament to our culture’s desire to return to quality over quantity. Brewers have sought out ancient recipes, ingredients and techniques (Dogfish Head), they incorporate local elements into traditional styles (Driftwood) or better yet they grow their own (Rogue).

But there is also a cautionary tale here because as craft beer finds its niche others, less dedicated to the ideals of preservation, find a profitable market. Much like the juggernaut that has become organic food, how to set parameters to ensure the craft remains in craft beer? I feel we can look to one of the principle tenets, if not the principle tenet, of slow food balance for our answer. Being able to successfully market quality product, to be able to sustain and grow your business, and to be able to make a living doing something you love is always the goal; however, when business sense overtakes passion we take the first tentative steps down a very slippery slope.



*Thanks to Theodore Roszak The Making of a Counter Culture, Randy Mosher Tasting Beer, and Carl Honore In Praise of Slow for content.

I Love Beer! I Love Chocolate! Chocolate Beer …I Love You


In case you missed the title, this post is all about the union of two of the best food groups in the world -beer and chocolate. To honour this joining, my sweetie and I attended Firefly Fine Wines and Ales beer and chocolate tasting and (over)indulged in a flight of eight beers paired with a trio of chocolates from Cocoa Nymph Chocolates & Confections.


Now wait a minute beer and chocolate? Together? Can that work? Survey says a resounding yes. If you stop and think about it beer and chocolate are not that dissimilar with their composition of sweet and bitter elements. Chocolates can be sweet and milky, bitter and roasty, enhanced with herbs and spices and this is equally true for beers. We already know how well chocolate works when it is brewed into robust stouts and coffee porters so it was fun to see what happens when you put the two together in a tasting session.



The Chocolate Line-Up

Classic Dark Nymph – 64% dark chocolate with a subtle bitterness.

Sea Nymph – 64% dark with fleur de sel and toffee.

Twilight Nymph – 45% creamy milk chocolate.

Urban Nymph – 45% milk chocolate with coffee and caramelized cocoa nibs.

Garden Nymph – Rich white chocolate with tart dried cherries



The Beer Line-Up

Coney Island’s Albino Python – Lager meets hefeweizen; strong notes of ginger and fennel balanced with malt.

Tin Whistle’s Chocolate Cherry Porter – Light bodied Porter with lots of fruit on the nose.

Mort Subite Framboise –Bright, sweet lambic with a hint of tartness.

Youngs Double Chocolate – Rich chocolate nose and roast flavour with a bitter finish.

La Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout – Lots of malt and yeastiness on the nose with a creamy mouthfeel.

Rogue Hazelnut Nutbrown Ale –Ton of nuttiness on the nose, clean and sweet to drink.

Cannery Brewing Maple Stout – Way too syrupy for the amount of body. Intensely sweet.

R&B Brewing Spirit Coffee Porter – Subtle coffee nose, tepid with a bit of a bitter finish.



Each taster glass was sampled with three pieces of chocolate chosen to draw attention to how different qualities in the beer are altered when paired with chocolates. At times I had difficulty discerning whether I did not like the taste of a particular beer or particular chocolate or the combination of the two but through some trial and error I perfected the technique of sipping the beer, then water, a bit of chocolate, then water, and finally the two together. It was hard work but someone had to step up!


Some of the pairings that worked particularly well include: Chocolate Cherry Porter and the Urban Nymph, Albino Python and Twilight Nymph, Mort Subite Framboise and Garden Nymph, Youngs Double Chocolate and Urban Nymph, Imperial Milk Stout and Twilight Nymph, and Hazelnut Nutbrown Ale and Twilight. A notable few that did NOT work well include: Spirit Coffee Porter and Garden Nymph, Hazelnut Nutbrown Ale and Urban Nymph, and Albino Python and Garden Nymph.



Overall thoughts on the evening: Some beers like the lambic and the maple stout are so flavourful that pairing is challenging since the beer can completely dominate the chocolate. White chocolate was particularly tough to pair successfully while the dark chocolate went well with everything but did little to enhance any of the beers. When pairing beer and chocolate complementary elements seemed to work best as opposed to drawing out bitterness with sweetness. The heavier the beer the more amicable it was to various pairings while the flavours in the lager were noticeably altered by each chocolate. Some pairings just did not work diminishing the tasting experience of both the beer and the chocolate but when it worked it was fantastic.


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.

You can never drink the same beer twice

Beer Craft?

So another year ends marked by yet another trip to my favourite beer city Portland, Oregon. I visit so often that I worry one day I will become bored with the beer scene but this is just not the case and let me try to tell you why.

The adage goes “you can never step into the same river twice” and I like to think this outlook applies to craft beer drinking as well. Just like a river is always changing you will never drink the same beer twice for any number of reasons. On the most superficial of levels brew pubs are forever mixing up their menus bringing in the new, running dry of the old, changing equipment etc., and new breweries and tap houses are always emerging onto the scene. Looking at this truism from another perspective brewers, well craft brewers anyways, pride themselves on their inability to recreate the same ale over and over. Any number of external variants can affect the final taste of beer and this is a good thing. Like wine some beers have good years and they have less-than-stellar years. Tried and true beers often form the basis of a new flavoured ale, a casked ale or even a collaboration between breweries. If you want to get really philosophical you can also approach this as you will never be the same person at two different points in your life; your tastes will change, your circumstances will change, your worldview will change and so forth – I know I am not the same person I was when I started drinking craft beer so why would I prefer the same brews. What does all this rhetoric mean in real life? Well when I go to Beervana I visit the new and revisit the old to make the most of my beer-cation. Here are some of my Portland highlights:


The Belmont Station Bier Café had both Don the Younger and Pliny the Elder from Russian River on tap. Don the Younger was especially exciting since it was brewed exclusively for the 35th Anniversary of the Horse Brass Pub. Don the Younger is a hoppy, lemony American Bitter with pine on the nose, large white head, lots of carbonation, sweet lemon mouthfeel and bitter aftertaste. Finding Pliny the Elders to take home in the adjacent Belmont Station  Beer Store was equally exciting.


Visiting the Horse Brass Pub for the first time. Not the greatest menu unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool Brit (bangers and mash anyone?) but definitely a pub that knows their beer. Our server seemed shocked that we could even contemplate drinking in taster glasses (beer comes in something other than pint glasses?). Our server used to be a brewer himself so despite the many changes in beer availability he could offer a myriad of alternatives based on your taste preferences. Did I mention more Russian River on tap?



Beer Shopping. There are so many beer stores here but I swear there seems to be variation between them all. Loading up the trunk with a selection of hard to find (or impossible to find) ales to reinforce my beer stockpile is incredibly fulfilling. Stone and Russian River always top the shopping list but I also found a number of Oregon-unique ales like Hopworks Kolsch, Full Sail Imperial Porter and Rogue Double Chocolate Stout that made their way back across the border. Stone Levitation Ale and Stone/Dogfish/Victory Saison du Buff didn’t make it past the hotel room bar fridge.



Drinking through a sampler tray at the BridgePort Brew Pub. Not my favourite beers of the trip but an amazing lively atmosphere at the brew pub, beautiful location in a brick heritage building in the Pearl District, and tons of inventive pub grub options at super reasonable prices especially during happy hour -tofu fries with spicy cashew dipping sauce? Vegan perfection.


(Re)visiting Deschutes Brew Pub for consistently good beer and good food. The folks at Deschutes are constantly mixing it up in the beer front and this time around I got to sample their new Red Chair Ale (casked and regular), Orange Cream Ale, Menagerie Sour, Chainbreaker and Hop-u-py. The casked version of the Red Chair was the clear favourite of the night. Another great environment to drink in, always bustling, great location and incredible service. Here I first came across the concept of “nitro” beers; beers that change up the usual gas used for dispensing draft. Not sure I could tell the difference but the server swore it gave the beer a smoother taste. Bonus for the cool holiday decorations (see first picture in this post).


My New “Beers” Resolutions

  1. Relax and enjoy the act of drinking craft beer i.e. take a break from diligent note taking and photographing in order to actually savour the experience.
  2. Learn more about the ‘craft’ aspect of craft beer.
  3. Visit more of our local BC Breweries and tap houses.
  4. Be discerning in my beer purchasing habits i.e. stop buying bottles with cool labels and start cultivating a means of selection.
  5. Go to the Great American Beer Festival.
  6. Drink more beers on tap.
  7. Get out of my comfort zone with home brewing.
  8. Become a certified beer judge (I see this as working in conjunction with resolution 1 since I would have a designated venue for critical drinking).
  9. Make myself a beer calendar so I can keep on top of my inventory.
  10. Find additional ways to bake with craft beer.
  11. Do more blogging (posting and reading) to get to know more people in this amazing family of craft beer enthusiasts.
  12. Help my cat cut back on his drinking problem…

Merlyn and his Rogue Double Mocha Porter

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (for Beer!)

It is dark, cold and rainy in Vancouver and that can only mean good news for beer enthusiasts because the seasonal ales are finally here again. The fast approaching holiday season seems to bring out the kid in all of us -beer drinkers and brewers alike. That time when we want to spice things up, ramp up the roasted malts, kick up the ABV, lovingly cask our beers in winter spirits like rum and brandy, sprinkle in a little dried fruit and add a titch of vanilla to create those ever so wondrous winter ales. Not to mention the plethora of fantastic (and cheeky) beer names and labels that adorn these seasonal creations. To kick off a series of blog posts relating to the wonder that is winter beer I thought I would give my top twelve seasonal beer names (not to be confused with my top twelve stocking stuffers):

1)      Ridgeway Santa’s Butt Holiday Porter AND Lump of Coal Dark Holiday Stout AND Seriously Bad Elf (three-way tie from the creative folks at Ridgeway)

2)      BrewDog There is No Santa

3)      Full Sail Wassail

4)      Blue Ridge Snowball’s Chance Winter Ale

5)      Deschutes Jubelale

6)      Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve AND Yellow Snow

7)      Moylan’s White Christmas

8)      Boulder Never Summer Ale

9)      Odell Brewing Company’s Isolation Ale

10)   R&B Brewing Co. Iceholes Celebration Lager

11)   Leavenworth Snowblind

12)   Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig

*Honourable mention to the Hanukkah themed He’Brew Jewbelation

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All About Hops

An ode to the most humble hop

Who in fall its rhizome’s do drop

The cone from the vine

Adds grapefruit and pine

To give my pale ale bitter pop

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What exactly are hops?

The hop, Humulus Lupus, is a climbing plant in the Cannabacinae (nettle) family. Commonly referred to as a vine hops are actually a bine, which has a stout stem with stiff hairs to aid in climbing. These bines grow quickly, wrapping clockwise around anything within reach. Only the female plants are grown in hop fields to prevent the production of seeds by the male plant. The part of the plant useful in brewing is the cone (scientifically known as the catkin or strobile). Inside the cone is a stem surrounded by a waxy substance called lupulin, which contains the bitter resins and aromatic oils beloved by beer enthusiasts. The resins are divided into alpha and beta acids with the alpha acid being the measure of the hops bittering power (ranges from 2 to 20 percent). Recently high-alpha varieties have been developed in the unending quest for the hoppiest of the hopped beers. The oils have their own characteristics that can be described as floral, resiny, spicy and even minty. The differing aromas tend to be region specific; German hops are more herbal, English varieties tend to be spicy or fruity and American types, while quite diverse, lean towards piney-ness. In addition, there is a group of European hops termed ‘noble’ that are used for the distinctive aroma found in lager beers.

How and where are they grown?

Hops can be grown in both hemispheres between 35 and 55 degrees latitude. The hop plant is trained to grow up stings in a field called a hopfield, hop garden or hop yard. Hops are harvested in early fall and dried in an oast house. The majority of harvested hops are used in beer production; however, hops are also used in herbal medicines to treat anxiety and insomnia. In Europe and North America the most prized varieties of hops are tied to specific growing regions: for instance, the spicy saaz is grown in western Bohemia, the herbal Hallertau in northern Bavaria, the twangy green spiciness of the East Kent Golding grown in south-eastern London or the grapefruit happy Chinook and Columbus grown in the Pacific Northwest. Another unique varietals include Sorachi Ace the lemony hops grown in Japan. Locally, both Rogue (Oregon) and Driftwood (Vancouver Island) have brewed using their own locally sourced hops for some amazing, but transient, fresh hopped beers. Rogue Ales have a series of Grow Your Own (GYO) beers celebrating the use of local sourced hops.

The History

According to Mosher in Tasting Beer the first hopped beers appeared in Bremen, Germany at the start of the eleventh century. Many of the first brewers to use hops were ‘free’ cities that operated beyond the reach of the Church. At this time the Church mandated the use of gruit (a mix of seasonings), which was sold by the local Gruitrecht, which just happened to be controlled by said religious organizations. Gruit brewers were making amber or brown ales while the hop brewers were crafting ‘white’ beers, which contained a fair amount of wheat. It took about one hundred years for these hoppy ales to spread to Amsterdam and about five hundred years to make it to the English shores. So why did the addition of hops to beer endure? One of the many great qualities of the hop is its preservative properties, which lengthened the shelf-life of beer (from a few weeks to a few months). Despite the reservations of the English towards this new import beer eventually hopped beers became the norm and by the 1600’s all English ale contained some quantity of hops.

What do hops bring to the table?

To get the bittering quality from hops you must boil them vigorously but this causes the aromatic oils to be driven off. To achieve balance in this aroma/bitterness dichotomy hops are added at multiple stages of the brewing process. Adding hops to the boil facilitates isomerisation, the process by which hop alpha acids are chemically rearranged into a form that is more bitter and soluble. Each variety of hop has a certain amount of bittering substance, which varies by region and year. This information is provided with the shipment. Balance, of course, is something subjective so the brewer must take into account the appropriate ratios for each beer style as well as leaving room for their own creativity. It is not merely a balance between the malt and hop but the consideration of the subtle interplay between the differing qualities of roasted malts, the variety of hop and other spices/elements that will be added to your brew. Generally the ratio of Bittering Units (BU) to Gravity Units (GU) will get you started in your calculations.

How do I describe the hoppiness in my Beer?

Aroma – Comes from the aromatic oils extracted during the different stages of the brewing process. Described as hoppy, spicy, herbal, floral, lavender, piney, resiny, citrus, earthy and/or cat pee.

Taste – Comes from the isomerized alpha acids. Described as bitter, hoppiness (medium to high to very high).

IBU (International Bitterness Unit) – This is a measure (parts per million) of the actual bitterness of a beer as contributed by the dissolved alpha acids
from hops.

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The who, what, where, when, why, and how of B.C. craft beer

Freshfully Rad

Jesse Radonski's thoughts on videogames, food, craft beer, social media and more

The Great Canadian Beer Snob

Your guide to the wonderful world of beer!

Cambridge Park Beer Club

Coming together over craft beer.

Mike's Craft Beer

We review craft beer from around the world.


Mission : Leap Beer, 366 Beers in 366 Days


Old School Gamers Checking out New School Beers

The Parting Glass

For the Love of Great Beer