Tag Archives: Sour Beer

There’s no taste like home

Recently I received a wonderful gift in the mail, three new beers from Steamworks Brewing Company. It is like somehow the beer gods knew I was feeling quite homesick and bestowed these three offerings upon me – also pretty sure the new Sales and Marketing coordinator may have had her hand in there as well.
The treasures in my mailbox included two limited releases the White Angel IPA and Tropical Tart Ale as well as one seasonal release YVR ISA. timely selections in light of the fact Ontario is in the midst of a heat wave, a tropical heat wave, the temperature is rising, it isn’t surprising that she can, really can-can …. Oops off on a bit of a digression there perhaps the heat has gotten to my brain. Thankfully though my palate has been spared.

YVR India Session Ale is a lightly hopped 4.4% session beer that pours clear straw gold colour with lots of bright white head. Big citrus hop nose, good carbonation and lots of flavour packed into a very accessible beer. All citrus and tropical notes at the front followed by a subtle bitter finish. Light bodied and perfect for a patio pint. I really love session styles, especially in the crazy humid days we have been having. If you think IPA’s are a bit too much this brew is a great segue. As always beautiful bottle artwork.

Tropical Tart Ale is as advertised a 4.9% ale with tons of passionfruit flavour. This beer pours a hazy gold with lots of airy head on the initial pour. Like the YVR, the nose on this beer is all about the tropical fruit, reminds me of papaya, but also a little bit of that sourness that kind of puckers the back of your cheek. Effervescent and a little too easy to sip, light sours are really one of the best summer options out there in my humble opinion. There is also some yeastiness on the finish giving it a subtle hefe quality. A very pleasant surprise. If this beer makes it easy I will be picking up some more.

White Angel IPA is a 6.9% hybrid of IPA meets Hefeweizen. Pours hazy straw gold with lots of thick white head that leaves nice legs on the glass. Lots of carbonation. Spicy almost funky nose, all hefe, with the IPA character coming through after a couple of sips. Not as hop forward as I thought it may have been. At first, White Angel seems like a fairly light beer but the strength really begins to come through the more you sip. Of the three I sampled this one is not my favourite but it is an interesting blend of styles and the slightly higher ABV lets the big flavours -spice and hop- come together nicely.

Thanks Steamworks Brewery for a little taste of home!


TFOB 2016 … I Love Swedish Beer

 

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This weekend was the 2016 Toronto Festival of Beer and as a belated Birthday present I was treated to the VIP Hoptomized treatment on Friday (a very good friend indeed).

If you have never been to this beer event I have to highly recommend going the VIP route, which buys your early entry, ten tokens, dinner, a private lounge area and the very best part? Access to indoor plumbing!

Seeing that it was pretty much 40 with the humidity every little perk was so appreciated.

It was my second year attending the festival and, truth be told, I was initially thinking it would pretty much be a repeat of the 2014 line-up, which had an awful lot of Big Beer presence and not nearly enough small brewery representation. While Big Beer did loom (with flashy displays, flashy lights and flashy swag) there was also an unequivocal gem …Sample Sweden.

Oh yes I said Sweden and beer festival. Not meatballs, not ABBA, not Volvo (though they were all represented) but Swedish beer! Move over Belgium there is a new beer powerhouse on the horizon and this upstart does beer very, very well. Not just the standards but the near-to-my-heart wild ales and farmhouse styles.

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I think it is fair to say, by now, I know my way around a craft beer and, as such, I really know what I like so much so that if I could only sip one style of beer for the rest of eternity it would be wild ale. In order to reach the insufferable heights of self-awareness, I have tried sours from many, many breweries and so when I say I was floored by the offerings from Swedish breweries Brekeriet, Omnipollo and Duggan that is high praise indeed my friends. Saisons, gose, wild ales, barrel aged sours …I was in beer geek heaven so much so that I may have effectively wrecked my palate for the next several weeks.

After my epic sour bender I was not even sure what I was tasting when I moved out of Sample Sweden to tip my glass at some of the other offerings.That is not to say I did not do my due diligence and sample widely just that maybe those post-sour breweries did not get the full attention of my tastebuds.

A few memorable non-sour offerings that stood out included this year’s Unibroue Ephmere Blueberry, Great Lake Brewery’s Imperial Stout and Collingwood’s ESB.

As for the festival itself it was very well organized. Situated at Bandshell Park with easy access to transit the location is pretty well perfect for a beer festival. Lots of trees, close to the water, tons of seating room, varied food options and space for breweries to set-up large displays. There was also live music in the evenings; Friday’s line-up included Jelleestone, Maestro and House of Pain.

For the nerdily inclined, such as myself, beer school was also in sessions offering beer pairings (beer with cheese and beer with chocolate) and beer education (know your colours of beer). Oh and for those easily seduced by swag, me again, you can come home with a goody back chock full of beer mats, temporary tats, sunglasses, key fobs etc.

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The not-so highlighty parts? Well, as I alluded to above there is no doubt Big Beer still rules Ontario and there is almost literally no way to get around them (anyone else see Budweiser city-block sized set up?). But maybe the best way to really drive home that craft is where its at is to have this kind of all-inclusive event showcasing the best and the less best that beer has to offer.

Also, painfully aware I am no longer a Left Coast resident when I went to grab my free food and the server asked why a vegetarian would come to beer fest lol – he seemed genuinely confused by my presence – so no fear that I would overeat with all that beer.

Overall an amazing day and now I am diligently sourcing out a Swedish beer connection…

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New Brew Friday: Beer from Friends

One of the best ways to acquire a new-to-you brew is to implore vacationing friends to pick you up ‘souvenirs’ in the form of interesting beer. Always preface this request with the advice ‘when in doubt ask the beer geek behind the counter/bar/tap’.

This sort of wisdom recently yielded delightful treats for both myself and my gluten-shy hubby. His in the form of Glutenberg IPA (more to come on this) and me in the form of Hors Serie from Les Trois Mousquetaires a very sessionable Gose.

Hors Serie is a 3.8% Gose described en bottle as a unusual style brewed with the sour mash technique, slightly salted water and coriander. So how does this come together? Well this is a different beer to be sure. Pours a cloudy and very sedimenty gold colour with just a bit of lingering white head. The nose is kind of off-putting a bit salty and a bit herbal. First few sips are salty (as advertised) with notes of lemon and apple. As you drink the beer becomes a bit more tart though I would still not really call this beer sour. The coriander and salt makes it seem like a savoury beer. The low ABV really lets the interesting flavours do the work. The body is almost creamy, it feels like there is a lot to this beer. The finish is quite lemony. Overall, I think I like this beer but I am not sure it would be the beer for everyone.

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Birthday Beer!

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

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

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

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

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


Strawberry Fields Forever

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There is something about that first truly gorgeous weekend of spring that just puts you in a great mood. The sun is shining, the cherry blossoms are blooming, there is a nice cool ocean breeze and I inadvertently got my first sunburn.

It sure is sweet.

To top off such a glorious day an equally glorious beer is called for. Thankfully when I called Strawberry Northwest Style Sour Ale from Cascade Brewing Company answered.

Strawberry is a blend of wheat ales aged in oak barrels and then aged again on strawberries. On first pour this beer is cloudy, dark gold in colour, with a slight ring of head. The nose is summer in a bottle, earthy, sweet and berry. Oh so very berry. Less tart than most of the Cascade beers but still bringing a nice touch of sour to offset the very prominent strawberry presence. Fairly light in body with a sweet and ever so slightly oaky finish. This ale is, like the majority of Cascades line-up, utterly amazing.

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Out of the Cellar: Deschutes Brewery The Dissident 2012 Reserve

To honour the out of the ordinary weather inversion we were having here in Vancouver I thought it was time to pull another beer from the cellar; an added bonus of the cold weather at low elevations was I could chill this beer on my back porch!

 

The Dissident, a Belgian-style brown ale, is a blend of 20% malt beverage aged in French oak wine and 80% malt beverage brewed with cherries. This 2012 version had a recommended best after date of 8/20/13 but I always like to give my beers a little longer to develop their full potential.

The Dissident pours a reddish maple syrup colour, with slight haziness, good carbonation and some light airy head on the initial pour. You are left with a nice ring of head around the glass after a few minutes. Big red wine character on the nose, dark fruit and leather, with lots of malt to boot. This beer has one of the most aromatic noses I have smelled on a beer. First few sips are viscous, lots of dried cherry flavour and syrupy caramel malt. This is a very warming beer that you can feel long after you swallow. As you continue to drink the oakiness comes through but malt and fruit are the key flavours competing for your attention. While I have heard this beer called a sour, more accurately it is a wild ale, there is no real tartness to speak of instead The Dissident reminds me of kirsch cherries, all boozy, rich and sweet.

Overall yet another great beer from a brewery known for delivering consistently great beer.

 

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New Brew Friday

Happy Holidays to all my fellow beer nerds, I hope Santa treated you well bringing a sack full of new and interesting beers for you to share with friends and family.

This new brew Friday is somewhat special for me because I finally got to drink a beer I have been looking forward to for quite some time now, Lustrum Wild Sour Ale from Driftwood Brewery.

Anyone who knows me or has ever read this blog will know that I am to sour beer what hop heads are to Double IPA’s. To find out that one of my favourite BC breweries was trying their hand at my most favouritest style was exciting.

Lustrum

Here is the description from Driftwood: “Aged for over a year in French Oak this blood red vinous beast holds depth of color, flavor and aroma unparalleled in any beer we have brewed thus far. Fermented with locally sourced wild yeast and a copious load of black currants, Lustrum will be enjoyed on many levels!”

And here is mine: Lustrum pour a beautiful deep plum red colour with tons of reddish tinged soapy head that really stuck around. Big dried fruit nose with an equal helping of funky yeastiness. Tart at the front then giving way to an oaky character and some sweetness. The currant really dominates giving this beer an almost lambic like quality meets red wine reminding me of Unibroue Cassis or Lindeman Cassis. A dry beer that finishes with some tartness but also a bitter quality. To me this beer tastes a bit young, like the flavours have not really blended together, and I think it could have benefited from further aging. I found the currant taste over-powering at times and also a bit cloying while the yeastiness seemed a bit too up front. Personally, I like my sours to be quite tart and very dry. Overall it felt like a bit too much was going on in this beer at once making it feel like a bit of an identity crisis.

Nonetheless to see BC brewers delving into sour/wild ale territory is quite exciting and hopefully this is the beginning of something big. #BCneedsabarrelhouse


Decoding Duchesse and Re-inventing Rodenbach

Let’s talk about Flemish Ale or Red Ale or Flanders Ale or Sour Brown Ale or Oud Bruin. Confused yet? Well I usually am when looking at this ‘family’ of beers so I thought I would do a little beer geek research and try to figure out just what defines this style.

For quite some time now I knew at least one thing for certain, I like Duchesse De Bourgogne.

Duchesse is described by the brewery as “Belgian top-fermented reddish-brown ale, a blend of 8 and 18 months old beers following the careful maturation in oak casks.” Sour? Check. Malty? Check. Carbonated? Check. Okay I’m on board.

The problem became how to find like-minded beers. Do I ask for a sour beer? A Belgian beer? A brown beer? A wild ale? A red ale? All of the above? Will the beer store clerk ridicule and mock my lack of knowledge?

In Tasting Beer Mosher describes sour brown ales as having two regional focal points. One in West Flanders and one in East Flanders. Like many great styles the defining hallmarks of these beers (oak aging and the blending of young and old beers) were merely common practice. As these beers fell out of general favour they became regional specialties.

In West Flanders the defining beer is ‘red’ Rodenbach and in East Flanders the defining beer is ‘brown’ Liefmans Goudenband. Each region using different methods to sour their beer and different processes for aging though not exclusively.

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Eventually, as all good beer styles do, these sour red-brown beers caught the eye of North American breweries who sought to reinvigorate and reintroduce this historical ale to an eager population of new world beer nerds.

New Belgium La Folie, Jolly Pumpkin La Roja, The Bruery Oude Tart, The Lost Abbey Red Poppy Ale, Deschutes The Dissident not to mention our very own Yaletown Brewing Co. Oud Bruin, are just a wee few of the examples.

 

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Purists, by which I mean hard-core beer geeks and style guide enthusiasts, proffer that the West Flanders/East Flanders divide marks two distinct styles the Flanders Red Ale and the Flanders Brown Ale/Oud Bruin. Is it starting to feel like this may escalate into some sort of gang-like allegiances? But in reality, my reality anyway, call them what you will these styles all fall under that most glorious and ever-expanding umbrella called sour beer. The old world variations were never hard and fast and the new incarnations of the style are neither. So red or brown what are you waiting for? Get on the bandwagon!


New Brew Friday

This beer had me written all over it.

I was down at Elizabeth Station browsing the seemingly endless beer options when I came across a lovely bottle called Lolita from Goose Island Brewing. Large format bottle with a nice label and not much in the way of a description of the contents …okay I’m intrigued. My faithful companion Beer Buddy let me know Lolita is a wild raspberry ale with enough positive feedback that I knew this little temptress would be hitching a ride back across the border.

Lolita

Lolita, like her name-sake, is an effervescent, seemingly sweet pink creation that hides a wicked tartness just below the surface. Lolita pours a uber-clear, earthy rose colour with so much carbonation you would think you poured a sparkling wine. Lots of sweet raspberry on the nose but not in that artificial kind of way more like fresh-picked barely ripe berries and also some funkiness. Light bodied but retaining lots of depth due to the Belgian character, which brings in some spiciness. As you drink the berry remains at the front of the palate but the tartness dominates the remainder of your swallow, oaky overtones remind you that this one spent some time in the wood. A very dry finish rounds this beer off.

Overall I really liked this one. A sour beer that is actually sour but at the same time not a one-trick-pony. There are many tastes going on in this beer that should satisfy just about ever beer geek out there but take warning Lolita will set you back around $20/bottle.


My Beer of the Year (so far)

The best beer.

Well as we all know best is a pretty subjective word and when it comes to beer, really what does it even mean? The best example of the style, the best for drink-ability, the best beer you can keep in regular rotation or the best extra-special extra-rare beer you try once in a lifetime? Does the best beer shift over time or is it the beer that can weather the latest craft beer fad?

In my time on this planet (while I was over drinking age of course) I have had the pleasure of trying many truly remarkable beers including Westvleteren 12, Pliny the Elder from Russian River, Red Poppy from The Lost Abbey, Bourbon Barrel-aged Fred from Hair of the Dog, The Abyss from Deschutes, Rochefort 10, Tactical Nuclear Penguin from BrewDog and many others that at the time I felt were viable contenders for the mantle o f ‘best beer’ for various reasons.

Needless to say after that many great beers a geek can become just a little picky and by extension a little hard to impress. Often I tend to fall back on the breweries I trust to not break my heart if I try something new.

So when I heard my friends would be passing through Portland OR on holidays I asked if they would pick me up a couple of bottles from just one of those steadfast breweries Cascade Brewing Barrel House.

Taking a quick peek at their availability I requested The Vine (a perennial favourite) and Manhattan (a beer I knew literally nothing about but figured what the hey).

When my non beer geek friends went into Cascade they were told Manhattan just happens to be the best beer in the house (finely honed my beer intuition is) and this assessment got me a little excited. I mean if the people at the brewery think this is the best then its’ got to be impressive.

Manhattan Love

Manhattan Love

So how was it?

Wow, just wow.

Okay I guess I can provide a bit more information but I worry my words will not do this beer justice so here is the official description. Manhattan NW 2011 project is “A blend of spiced Blond Quads, aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels on 150 pounds of sour pie cherries for five months before additionally aging on apricot noyaux for three months”.

…and here are my words. Manhattan pours a bright cherry brown colour with very good clarity and lots of light airy head that clings to the glass in rows of lacing. A liqoury and sweet nose with just a hint of cherry. Very smooth mouthfeel, no harshness from the strong alcohol, and a very still beer with no effervescence. Lots of flavours going on here dried fruit, rich caramel, bourbon, herbal notes and a bit of an underlying funkiness, It drinks like a cocktail, a Manhattan in fact. The sourness in this one is subtle just cutting through the beer’s richness and sweetness with a slightly tart finish. A warming beer that deserves to be sipped especially since the 11.5% ABV packs a very big wallop.

Overall I was beyond impressed, Manhattan is quite simply the best beer I have had this year.


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