Sunday, 31 August 2014

Main Street Brewing Company--Rye Saison with Saaz

While in Vancouver, I joined some pals for a couple of pints at the Main Street Brewing Company. Given that it was my second brewery of the day, I opted to review only one beer, lest my already questionable impartiality and objectivity slip too far toward loving everything.  I settled on Main Street's Rye Saison with Saaz and had a 12 oz pour. According to the board at the brewery, this stuff contains 6% alcohol and a solid 30 IBUs. It was also a cask ale--my first foray into cask saisons.

When it arrived, I was pleased to see a very cloudy golden ale. It was topped with a thinnish white head. This beer had a very unusual aroma--there was a cacophony featuring sweet hay, a grainy rye spiciness, and a touch of apple. There was a very mellow mouthfeel that somehow managed to be syrupy and thin at the same time. I was expecting a bit more carbonation and life. This beer was sweeter than I'd hoped for, but its flavour was oddly beguiling. There were apple and grape notes, as well as some gentle spice.

This was definitely not a beer ale at all, but I'm not sold on the idea that saisons are well suited to delivery via cask. I later had a pale ale that I didn't review, but which I enjoyed a lot more. I would eagerly return to Main Street, and encourage my readers to check it out.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Persephone American Pale Ale

The Persephone Brewing Company in Gibsons, British Columbia is the source of the Persephone American Pale Ale. I received a 650mL bottle of this 5.5% alcohol brew as a gift from the always charming and exuberant K.F.

P.A.P.A. is a glorious, mostly clear, copper colour, topped with a loose cream head. It has a jumbo hop aroma with a woodsy, evergreen vibe, and some faint citrus notes. The flavour has a decent malt backing, but leans toward bitter. There are notes of citrus and pine, with a soft passion fruit twist.

All in all, this is a fairly enjoyable beer. At 5.5%, it's a little understrength, but that allows it to have a soft, mellow, almost buttery mouthfeel. It's not quite as gritty, bitter, and boozy as I'm usually pulling for in a pale ale, but the pleasant flavour goes a long way toward picking up that slack to deliver some swell swill.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Break of Dawn

Black Oak Brewery, of Toronto, Ontario, is responsible for Break of Dawn, a beer that was described to me by my server at an East Toronto pizza pub as a "bright" and "hopped up" American Pale Ale. A hazy, sunny gold ale, my pint arrived with a quickly thinning eggshell head. It has a jumbo fruit aroma--it's replete with grapefruit hoppiness, but also has some juicy passion fruit goodness.  The alcohol content isn't listed, but based on what my server told me, it's something south of 5%. If that's the case (and I have no reason to doubt her expertise), then Black Oak has managed to cram a lot of flavour into a sessionable pale.

Very dry, hoppy mouthfeel makes for an alluring contrast to the  semi-sweet fruity flavours that make their home in this pint. Like the aroma, there are grapefruit and passion fruit fingerprints all over this stuff.

There's a heavy hop presence from sunrise to sunset, though with a beer called Break of Dawn, an allusion to the setting sun is likely out of place.

At first, a seemingly ruckus mess of fruit, hop, and dry, there is some definite method to Break of Dawn. This is a quality member of the new school of low-alcohol, high hops APAs that are de riguer in Ontario brewing right now. Enjoyed on tap, this stuff is a real treat. I'd love to see it sold in sixers at my local liquor store.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Maris* Pale Ale

Maris* Pale Ale is a tasty offering from Left Field Brewery, one of Toronto's up and coming breweries. Charmingly, Left Field incorporates baseball references, some of them tongue-in-cheek, into their beers. I particularly like the inclusion of an asterisk in the name of this brew, honouring baseball's untainted single-season home run king, Roger Maris. I had a pint on tap at The Only Cafe, one of Toronto's venerable beer drinking establishments.

Maris* arrived a surprisingly bright golden ale--clear and topped with a thick white cap of head. This stuff really puts the pale in pale ale. Extremely well carbonated. It's mild scent is quite floral, and hints at bitterness to come, but doesn't give the ending away.

This pale ale is gentle, but not meek. It's flavour starts slowly, with dry and flowery hop notes. However, by midway through the pint, Maris*' bitterness had started to compound beyond initial expectations. There is also a thin grapefruit quality and some grainy vibes.

This is a quality pale ale. A little low octane if you're looking for a full bodied pale, but it hits the spot if you want a hoppy and crisp session ale. According to the Left Field website, this cheeky little session beer contains 4.5% alcohol and 30 IBUs.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Torpedo Ale

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, California, is the proud parent of Torpedo Ale, a hefty beauty billed as an "Extra IPA". It contains 7.2% alcohol and came in a fat ass 710mL bottle. It's a clear, ruddy copper-coloured ale topped with a majestic, off-white foam that lasted to the duration. According to the label, this stuff is dry-hopped using Sierra Nevada's "Hop Torpedo".

Not a lot of aroma manages to make its way through the thick head, but what does is bitter, in a spicy evergreen direction. In spite of the innocuous nose, this beer has a pretty substantial American IPA flavour, with a focus on heaps of piney hops. There's also some nice booze warmth. Underneath the hops, there's a nice patina of sweet malt. As a neophyte craft beer enthusiast, Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale was one of my early favourites and Torpedo carries the mantle of my expectations nicely.

It's not as rich in character as some smaller market India pales, but this stuff is admirably bitter and entertaining, particularly considering that its a widely available, large scale craft ale. I would eagerly drink this stuff again.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Lawn Chair "Classic" Weisse

As a longtime fan of comically unnecessary quotation marks, I found myself instantly drawn to Hop City Brewing Co.'s Lawn Chair "Classic" Weisse. What is that punctuation supposed to suggest?

This beer hails from Brampton, Ontario. The 473mL can is Miami teal and is emblazoned with a "classic" lawn chair. Lawn Chair contains 5% alcohol. It's a bright golden brew--slightly hazy and pours with a thick, white head that faded quickly. I noticed some floaties, but these seemed to be spice particles. The very aggressive aroma has considerable spiciness, a hint of black pepper, and, as advertized on the can, a touch of clove. It's also accompanied by some chill fruit. The flavour begins very sweetly, with wheaty notes and loads of fruit esthers. There's a bit of spice to bring up the rear, but in a restrained fashion.

Lawn Chair is too sweet to be refreshing and it lacks the subtlety that makes for a truly excellent wheat beer. Still, it does have a modestly enjoyable flavour. Would I buy it again?  I imagine that I might. Should you? I guess. It's nice stuff on a hot day.

Rating: 6.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

All or Nothing

All or Nothing was my first experience with Underdog's Brewhouse, an up and coming new brewery from Oshawa, Ontario. I had a 16oz goblet on tap at Downtown Toronto's Bar Hop.

All or Nothing is listed as a hopfenweisse--a hops-driven wheat beer--and it contains 5.1% alcohol. It's a pleasingly hazy golden auburn brew. It arrived with a thin covering of off-white head. There was a unique aroma that blends citrus hops with peach, banana, spice, and a heavy yeast bill. My face was greeted with a pretty mellow mouthfeel. The flavour was high in yeast and compellingly fruity. On the back end, there was a hoppy, citrus and spruce swing as well as a saucy wheat closing.

I'll be eagerly keeping my eye out for other offerings from Underdog's, 'cause this stuff was really enjoyable.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Inertia 2

My second foray into Brassneck Brewery's offerings was their Interia 2, a barrel aged stout with a whopping 11% alcohol. For some context, I was with some pals at the brewery on a very sticky, hot Vancouver afternoon. Unfortunately, a boozy, sweet stout was not the right call for a hot day. Still, I'm an amateur professional, so I battled through by enjoying my 12oz. mug of draught like a champ.

Inertia 2 is an oil-black ale topped with a rather thin layer of tan head. Its extremely sweet aroma is full of alcohol, woodsy, and has a honey character. At first sniff, you can definitely tell that this stuff has known a barrel--my guess is bourbon was the previous occupant.

The flavour is syrupy sweet, particularly in the early stages. There is some molasses in there, as well as a grain alcohol streak and some vanilla bean bounce. It's a very warm, thick ale--way too heavy for July.  The finish has boozy tobacco notes and an understated, but enjoyable, bitter presence.

The 11% heat was great and the bourbon/vanilla combo was enjoyable. However, Inertia 2 was too sweet for this guy. Still, if you're in Van City and find yourself with a hankering for a sluggishly sweet dark mug of ale, this stuff is a fine option. I'd definitely revisit it one day--preferably near Xmas.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Passive Aggressive Dry-Hopped Pale Ale

While in Vancouver, I made it a top priority to visit a couple of the city's microbreweries. In Van City, it seems like breweries pop up like mushrooms after a rainstorm, which is as it should be. However, it made choosing which breweries to visit a difficult ordeal, particularly since beer tourism wasn't really the point of the trip. One of the places that we settled on was Brassneck Brewery. The tasting room at Brassneck was a pretty swank environment, in its own way. The space is filled with rough-hewn wood and a hempy hop aroma. It's clearly a hipster haven.

Passive Aggressive Dry-Hopped Pale Ale was the first beer that caught my interest. I had a 12oz. mug of the stuff, fresh from the source. It contains 7% alcohol. It has a hazy golden colour and a luxurious and durable off-white head. It also has a surprising amount of carbonation.

I found its nose to be quite charismatic, with curvacious notes of tropical fruit backed with a stalwart hop bass line. It's scent has a slightly candied quality. Passive Aggressive's mouthfeel is crisp, if perhaps a touch thin. Passionfruit and citrus swirl together with a nice bitterness to make this beer eminently drinkable for a strong ale. The finish is quite dry and has a short bitterness that is outlasted by the lingering fruit flavours.

Passive Aggressive Dry-Hopped Pale Ale tastes nowhere near its 7% alcohol content, which helps it go down with lightening pace. White a bit thin of body, this beer proved to be delightfully enjoyable. If I lived in Vancouver, growlers of this stuff could definitely become a regular in my fridge.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Secession Cascadian Dark Ale

Secession Cascadian Dark Ale comes from Portland, Oregon, where it is brewed by Hopworks Urban Brewery. I split a 650mL bottle with one of my best buddies shortly after arriving in Vancouver. It contains 6.5% alcohol and checks in at a hearty 70IBUs. It also has a very cool label.

Secession is a blackish brown ale. It pours with a thin layer of off-white head and has a malty, nutty scent. For a strong ale, the flavour is rather mellow--almost mild. There are notes of molasses and nuts at the outset. The finish, however, is where the beer really takes off. It has a pretty healthy dose of west coast hops in with the malts.

Final verdict? Not stellar, but satisfying.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Pistonhead Kustom Lager

Vårby, Sweden is the home of Brutal Brewing, the makers of Pistonhead Kustom Lager. Pistonhead is a pale lager that weighs in at a slightly underwhelming 4.6% alcohol. It is sold in 330mL cans that are definite hipster bait. They are matte black and emblazoned with a tattoo-style skull and banner.

This irritatingly misspelled "Kustom Lager" pours a nice, clear honey colour beneath a rakish white foam. It has a fairly assertive cereal aroma, though the flavour is a bit on the mild and predictable side, with grains dominating and just a smidge of hops asserting themselves at the back end. Actually, the mildly hopped finish is quite nice, and is easily this beer's strongest feature. It has a thinnish mouthfeel.

All told, I got pretty much what I expected--a mediocre pale lager, albeit one that finishes with a bit of verve.

It must also be mentioned that this is one of those unfortunate beers sold in sixers that come in those asinine plastic sleeves. I'd like to know who thinks that that shit is a good idea. It's total bullshit--awkward to carry and utterly useless.

Rating: 6.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA

Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA comes from Portland, Oregon's Alameda Brewing Company. It's sold in wildly unattractive 650mL bottles and contains a heady 8.2% alcohol. It's a murky orange-gold colour that pours beneath a luxuriously thick, off-white head.

Y.W. has a very boozy, swampy hop aroma. Similarly, above all, its taste is boozy. It begins with malty, raisin notes. The finish is reasonably hoppy, boozy, resinous, but also really not my style. The beer is very strong and very flavourful, but not, in my opinion, in a good way. I found it to be over-sweet and a little stanky. It lacks flavour and subtlety. It will, however, get you really drunk really quick.

Unfortunately, this is an Imperial IPA that I wouldn't revisit. I've subsequently read some favourable reviews online, but I just don't see it. I wanted citrus or pine, but didn't really get much of either. I do wonder, however, whether the beer might have been a little old or unfresh.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Yukon Red

In my opinion, Yukon Red is the cream of the Yukon Brewing crop. It's an amber ale from Whitehorse, Yukon. Sold in 341mL bottles and containing 5.5% alcohol, Yukon Red is a clear, penny-copper brew that poured with a small amount of cream head. I enjoyed a quick bottle while suiting up for my brother-in-law's wedding.

A warm, malty nose has brown sugar and caramel elements, as well as a shade of alcohol. The flavour is quite full, with caramel notes and a hearty roasted malt quality. The finish is relatively dry for an amber ale, and has a pretty fair hop presence.

This is a really enjoyable, well made beer. It's quite inviting and has lots of charm.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Deadman Creek Cranberry What Ale

Deadman Creak is a wheat ale, brewed using cranberries. It comes from Whitehorse, and is brewed by Yukon Brewing. It comes in a 341mL bottle and contains a light 4.7% alcohol. The label is really sharp, featuring misty coyotes.

It's a dull, golden ale. It's only slightly cloudy and pours with a healthy white head. It has a grainy, slightly sour aroma. The flavour is very mild. I was expecting to be overwhelmed by the cranberries used in brewing. However, the tart flavour was only mildly noticeable as a bitter accent in the back end. In fact, when I toured the brewery and we sampled this stuff, several of my fellow tour patrons couldn't taste the cranberry at all.

This beer is low on booze and quite light tasting. particularly in the early going. It definitely pick up a bit toward the end, though it does remain pretty thin.

Without the subtle cranberry essence, this would have been a rather forgettable wheat beer, but that tart twist gives is some charm that makes it well worth trying.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Bonanza Brown

Bonanza Brown is another offering from Whitehorse, Yukon's Yukon Brewing. I had a pint on tap at the saloon downstairs in the hotel where my wife and I were staying. It's a pretty, reddish-brown ale. It's clear and topped with a thin, off-white head. I'm not exactly sure what the percentage is, but I'd have guessed that it's about 5.

Bonanza has a slightly sweetish malt aroma that has some nuttiness and a tinge of molasses. All told, it's got a fairly mild nose. The flavour is also mild and quite light-tasting. It has a decent nuttiness and a whiff of sweetness.

I found this to be a serviceable ale, but not a particularly robust or exciting one. It's smooth and drinkable, but fairly low octane.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Midnight Sun Espresso Stout

Midnight Sun is an espresso stout brewed in Whitehorse, Yukon, by Yukon Brewing. It's brewed using coffee from Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters. It contains a respectable 6.2% alcohol and comes in 341mL bottles that feature a very cool coffee-munching raven. I enjoyed a bottle of this apparently caffeinated stuff in lieu of my morning coffee on my last day in Whitehorse.

It's a very dark brown ale topped with a tawny head. It actually looks quite a bit like black coffee. The aroma has notes of coffee grinds as well as a healthy layer of roasted malt. The underlying stout flavour is quite mild. It has substantial malt and a bit of sweetness early on and some soft hop kick at the finish. However, the addition of the coffee really amplifies the bitterness to give this beer a fuller and more dynamic flavour.

I've certainly had a few better coffee beers, but this stuff was no slouch. It was undeniably enjoyable and nicely made. Recommended.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.