Saturday, 31 May 2014

Natural Selections 6 Pack--Steamworks Pale Ale

To my mind, Steamworks Pale Ale was the class of the Natural Selections 6 pack. It comes from the Steamworks Brewing Co. out of Vancouver, British Columbia. It was housed in busy, but pretty awesome steam punk-style 355mL bottles, contained 5.2% alcohol, and 35 IBUs.

Steamworks was a stylish, clear, reddish-gold ale topped with a nearly white head, and displaying a decent degree of carbonation. Its aroma combined malt and bitterness, with a slight raisin note. I was surprised to see that this stuff was listed just at 35 IBUs, since it tasted much hoppier than that. It had a pretty dank, resinous bitterness. Underneath that, there was a faint squirt of fruitcakiness, with notes of raisin and fig. The finish was Leviathan-esque--dry, bitter, and short.

For some reason, I was expecting this pale ale from the West Coast to be a West Coast pale ale, but it didn't really have the citrus character. I found it to be both warmer and more subterranean than the typical West Coaster. Sure tasted pretty good to me.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Natural Selections 6 Pack--Paradise Valley Grapefruit Ale

Of the beers that came in this mixed six, I was definitely most excited about Paradise Valley Grapefruit Ale. It came in a really great looking 330mL bottle--it had a distinctive shape and a cool label featuring a pink grapefruit as a rising sun. Brewed in Whistler, British Columbia, by the Whistler Brewing Company, Paradise Valley Grapefruit Ale contains 5% alcohol. According to the label, these suds are brewed with grapefruit zest and coriander.

It was a hazy, rust coloured brew that poured with a thin, off-white head that faded quickly. There is a dose of (big surprise!) grapefruit in an otherwise mild aroma. This unique little beer blends honey sweetness with citrus tartness in an unusual, but oddly enjoyable melange.

Given the label, I was expecting the grapefruit flavour to be pretty heavy-handed; however, it was really used more as an effective accent. The downside is that the stuff is too sweet for this beer geek to sit down to regularly. It's tasty and modestly refreshing, but a bit to saccharine to be "easy-drinking".

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Natural Selections 6 Pack--Russell IP'eh!

Russell IP'eh! comes from Surrey, British Columbia's Russell Brewing Company. It's got a vaguely irritating name, comes in at 6.5% alcohol, and comes in mighty patriotic 341mL bottles that look somewhat like a Team Canada hockey jersey.

IP'eh! is a hazy auburn ale, moderately carbonated, that pours beneath a thin, off-white head. The aroma is slightly metallic, with caramel and dank hop notes. The flavour is quite malty for an India pale. There's a faint caramel sweetness that eases into a bitter finish. It's quite hoppy, in a resinous, basement-y kind of way. There's a pretty boozy streak running through the middle of this stuff which allows it to taste every bit as strong as it's 6.5%.

This is a full flavoured I.P.A. with an unusual taste profile. Russell IP'eh! is unique, though the flavour isn't among my personal favourites. Give it a try if you're interested in the different and cool tastes that can be imparted by a boat load of hops.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Natural Selections 6 Pack--Dead Frog Pale Ale

Dead Frog Pale Ale is an unappealingly named brew from Aldergrove, British Columbia. It's made by the Dead Frog Brewery and comes in clear 341mL bottles.  I don't usually like clear bottles, but I actually dug the effect of a cloudy, brownish-amber beer in a clear vessel--looks like a hearty grog. The bottle told me to "do it froggy style", which struck me as an odd request. This stuff has the conventional 5% alcohol.

Dead Frog pours with a ridiculously thick cloud of cream-coloured head that was bound and determined to never dissipate. This pale ale has a mild, fruity aroma underscored by a nice hop presence. I'd call this one a British-style pale ale. It starts malty and moves toward hoppy; from sweet to bitter. The finish is definitely the best feature. It's dry, hoppy, and slightly spicy, with some citrus verve.

The clear glass contains a brew that manages to be quite flavourful, given its meager 5% alcohol content. This was an above average pale ale--not exactly remarkable, but better than many.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Natural Selections 6 Pack--Sea Dog Amber Ale

Sea Dog Amber Ale comes from Victoria, British Columbia's Vancouver Island Brewery. It's nautically-themed label features a burly sailor and a naval vessel. It's a strikingly clear amber beer topped with a healthy head of off-white. It comes in a 341mL bottle and contains 5.2% alcohol.

On the good ship Sea Dog, the captain is malt and the first mates are brown sugar and molasses. It smells warmly of malt, and has some nice, toasted, sugary notes. There is also a faint but stalwart bitterness shoveling coal below decks. And it has a solid amount of roastiness throughout.

A well crafted amber ale, Sea Dog should appeal to drinkers who favour a robust, malty brew. I wouldn't complain if the hop profile were a bit crunchier. Despite the brown sugar notes, this stuff does a tremendous job of avoiding over-sweetness.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Natural Selections 6 Pack--Switch Back IPA

My first review from the BC Brewers Guild's Natural Selections 6 pack is for Switch Back IPA, a clear and highly carbonated golden ale that comes from Victoria, British Columbia's Lighthouse Brewing Co.

Switch Back has a healthy alcohol content, checking in at 6.5%. It is sold in 355mL bottles that feature a dude mountain biking on the label. It pours 'neath a cap of foamy white head, and has an aroma that has some sweet elements, but is primarily driven by citrus and resiny hops. A full-bodied flavour begins with dank malt notes before bitterness sweeps in to steal the spotlight. The hops flavour is slightly hempy, with some notes of citrus rind and a light kiss of peach. The finish is bitter and considerably dry.

This beer certainly didn't look as I expected it to. It was lighter in colour and more clear than many India pale ales. Also, I can't recall ever drinking an I.P.A. with quite so much carbonation. I foiund Switch Back to be flavourful and reasonably well balanced. I wouldn't have complained if the hop character was a bit more crisp and direct.  Still, this stuff marked an auspicious start to the mixed six.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Natural Selections 6 Pack

When I spotted the BC Craft Brewers Guild--Natural Selections 6 Pack at my local beer seller's, my little heart practically skipped a beat.  Here's the deal: it contains six different brews, none of which I had ever tried before, all coming out of British Columbia brewers.  There is a grapefruit ale, and amber ale, two pale ales, and two India pale ales.

Stay tuned to the Bitter World over the next twelve days to read my reviews of each of these brews.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Stolichnoe Export

The can really drew my to this beer.  It's a 500mL vessel that features a pretty rad looking cityscape and says "Brewed by Classic Technology" across the top.  How could I possibly resist picking up Stolichnoe Export?

Haling from Moscow, Russia, Stolichnoe is brewed by the Ochakovo Brewery. It contains a slightly underpowered 4.6% alcohol. It is an extremely clear and highly carbonated pale yellow lager that rocks a bright white head.

Stolichnoe Export has a grainy aroma with a slight floral quality. A thin mouthfeel and the low alcohol content make this a very guzzlable brew. Its flavour is slightly sweet and grassy, particularly in the early going, while the finish has vaguely bitter leanings. It's amazingly fizzy, but manages to have a fairly smooth, thin texture.

As is often my complaint with macro-brewed pale lagers, this stuff doesn't have quite enough flavour or character for my tastes. Still, I might by it again for summertime Saturday afternoon drinking.  I really dig the aesthetics of the can.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Thirsty Beaver Amber Ale

Thirsty Beaver comes from Tree Brewing Co. out of Kelowna, British Columbia. It's sold in 330mL bottles. The one that I had once had a cartoon beaver on the label, but by the time I snapped a photo, the bottle had been salvaged from a party in Brockville, and sadly, the Beave was no more. It contains the standard 5% alcohol and is a hazy copper brew. It pours with an off-white head that is quickly replaced by some scattered suds. The label calls this stuff a "smooth amber ale".

The nose contains bread, malt, and caramel notes. There is a coppery flavour that matches Thirsty Beaver's coppery colour. When you get past the penny, you find a reasonably full-bodied amber ale that travels from malty to bitter. There are notes of baking grain and a modest but respectable hop profile. There is also just the faintest touch of Christmas pudding near the finish, in the form of a buttery raisin note.

Somehow, Thirsty Beaver manages to taste stronger than its 5% alcohol.  If you like malt-driven English-style ales, this stuff is a fine example. I enjoyed this beer and I'd like some more.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Hogtown Ale

Hogtown Ale comes from Hogtown Brewers, out of Toronto, Ontario. It's a Kölsch-style ale that comes in a pretty snazzy 473mL can emblazoned with "Toronto's Neighbourhood Beer" around the top--a pretty bold statement, since there are a lot of neighbourhoods in this town. It contains 5% alcohol and pours a clear, pale, buttery golden colour.  It's crowned with a shock of white head and contains considerable carbonation.

I've had my eye on this stuff for a while and sampled it in a few different barrooms around town, but I had never managed to draw up a review until I saw it in the provincial liquor store the other day. It has a fresh, summery aroma with notes of grain and a faint whiff of toastiness, too. For a pale, golden brew, there's a good deal of flavour hanging out in this stuff. It is, at times, grainy, toasty, and, at the finish, respectably bitter. Additionally, there's a subtle butterscotch streak running through the middle, giving it an understated sweetness.

A really nice beer, I'm sure I'll be revisiting it from time to time.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Opa's Gose

Yet another interesting offering from Vankleek Hill, Ontario's Beau's All Natural Brewing Company, Opa's Gose is a part of the Wild Oats Series (No. 5). It contains 5% alcohol. Opa's' 600mL bottle comes with a small pouch of sea salt to be added to the brew to suit the drinker's taste. As a dutiful beer reviewer, I felt obliged to taste it first without any additional salt, and then again after mixing in a healthy dose.

It's a hazy, orange-gold concoction topped with a loose, bubbly, white head. The aroma has a salty brine to it, as well as a tart fruitiness reminiscent of sour cherries. According to the insert that accompanied the salt, Opa's is brewed with sea salt and coriander. It's a wheat beer and spiced beer combo.

Sans sel: Milder and less salty than suggested by the nose. The wheaty character comes out quite a bit, and there is a slight metallic spice. The aftertaste is faintly bitter and very dry.

Avec sel: This beer came with a 4g sack of sea salt. Seldom one to half-ass anything beer, I added the lot. Turns out I should probably have added it gradually--throwing in the whole bag caused a veritable eruption of white foam to flood over the top of my pint glass. Once the chemical reaction began to subside, I gave the mixture a stir and dove in. I found that the aroma was not much changed by the addition of the extra salt, though it was perhaps a touch more saline. The flavour, however, was hugely transformed. Sea salt went from being a faint additive to the headliner. This beer is briny! There is still a whisper of fruity tartness and a soupcon of dry bitterness, but salt clearly rules the day. Accordingly, this beer is not even remotely thirst-quenching.  What it is, though, is distinctive.

I've tried gose before, but never anything nearly this salty. It's not disagreeable, as drinking a pint of sea water would be. Instead, it's very flavourful, but ultimately too salty for me. Truth be told, though I enjoyed the stuff, I was glad to see the bottom of my glass. I'm glad that I tried Opa's, but it'll be a while before I try it again. Next time, maybe I'll limit the additional salt to 2g or so. I think I liked it better before I added dumped in all the salt.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, 9 May 2014

8-Ball Stout

From Eureka, California's Lost Coast Brewery comes 8-Ball Stout. At 5.8% alcohol, 8-Ball is billed as a "strong stout", though I don't know if that percentage is worthy of the name. It's a very dark, almost fully opaque, blackish ruby ale, topped with a lusty tan head. It came in a 650mL bottle.

This beer has an aroma that isn't forceful, but is very alluring. It has notes of cookies baking, alongside cocoa and coffee. The flavour voyages from malty to bitter. It's initially gentle, with tasty mocha and molasses qualities. It's rich, but mild up front, with a smooth mouthfeel. The back end has some hop punch, though not quite the unbridled bitterness that I was pulling for.

I found this beer to be fairly charming and well balanced; however, I object to a mild-tasting beer with 5.8% alcohol calling itself a "strong stout". I enjoyed this stuff, but I'd have preferred a bit more booze and a bit more body.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Captain's Reserve Imperial India Pale Ale

Sitting in a hip New York City beer bar with hundreds of brews to choose from, I selected a bottle of Captain's Reserve Imperial India Pale Ale, and I'm glad that I did. Born of the Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, out of Elmsford, New York. Captain's Reserve arrived in a spacious bottle bearing a pretty ugly label. The beer inside poured a murky golden orange, topped with a stunning cloud of almost white head.

This stuff has citrus nose to spare--it's like jamming your face in a hempy grapefruit! There is ample flavour with generous hop bombast. It's far on the grapefruit side of things, but with some boozy sweetness as well. The finish is bitter and takes a satisfying hop bite out of you throat on the way down. According to the beer list at the bar, Captain's Reserve contains a pretty mellow 8% alcohol.

This is a pretty substantial Imperial I.P.A.  It's flavourful and tastes well made. There is lower alcohol content than I usually look for in an Imperial, but it definitely satisfies.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Brooklyn Summer Ale

Brooklyn Summer Ale comes, perhaps not shockingly, from Brooklyn, New York.  It's a seasonal product of the outstanding Brooklyn Brewery.  At 5%, it is sold in 355mL bottles. BSA has a bright and cheery label, which it matches with a gently hazy, golden colour. It's amply carbonated and wears a white head that fades pretty quickly.

This summer ale has a sweet and grainy aroma that has considerable bread dough notes. It's a very mild and thirst-quenching beer--mild, but not without character. The flavour is soft and sweet, with a "bakery fresh" vibe. I know that doughy and bakery fresh aren't the type of adjectives that one would typically associate with a refreshing summer brew, but somehow this stuff works. It tastes like beer-ified warm rolls. There's a dusting of hops at the back end, though nothing worth writing home about.

A bit more body would have been nice, as would a touch more emphasis on the finish. It is, however, an interesting take on a summer beer.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Discovery American Style Pale Ale

All the way from scenic New Zealand comes Discovery American Style Pale Ale. It's produced by the excellent Renaissance Brewing Company out of Marlborough, though, as you'll see, I don't find this stuff particularly up to snuff. Ontario's provincially-run liquore stores have had a string of Renaissance products lately, and I'm gradually working my way through.

Discovery is sold in 500mL bottles and contains a woefully understrength 4.5% alcohol. It's a cloudy brew, the colour of tarnished brass. It has a thin, ivory head. When I opened this "American style" pale, I expected to get a snoot full of citrus zest.  However, what I ended up with was a toffee-focused nose with only an allusion to grapefruit. The flavour is more evenly distributed, walking a line between citrus hops and toffee malts. The label speaks of "lingering tangy resins".  This is a promise that is ably delivered--the finish is rich and resinous, easily Discovery's best feature.

This beer is reasonably flavourful, but not very full bodied. I found the mouthfeel disappointingly sparse. It was a pretty tasty beer, but I wanted more from it--more flavour, more head, more body, and, of course, more booze.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Innis & Gunn Rum Finish

Another product from Edinburgh, Scotland's Innis & Gunn, Rum Finish is sold in 330mL bottles and contains a hefty 6.8% alcohol. I happened to have a sixer of Innis & Gunn Original in the fridge, so I decided to review these beauties back-to-back. Rum Finish has a handsome, brownish red colour that is considerably darker than the I & G Original--more of a deep chestnut.  It pours with a thick and creamy off-white head.  According to the bottle, it's "matured over the finest rum-infused American oak hardwood" and it is aged for 57 days.

Rum Finish has a warm aroma with notes of molasses, honey, brown sugar, and raisin. It's a smooth-bodied brew with a rich flavour. There are some characteristics of a dark rum, but presented demurely and subtly. In addition, there are faint notes of dates.

While this stuff is dangerously easy-drinking, given its 6.8%, there is not a lot of hops to mention. I found it to be slightly bolder than the I&G Original, despite the fact that it's aged for 20 fewer days. Like the Original, this beer is slightly sweeter than I'd like.  However, there is an array of really interesting flavour notes.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.