Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Natural Selections 6-Pack, Volume 2--Raven Cream Ale

Raven Cream Ale is born at the R & B Brewing Company in Vancouver, British Columbia. It comes in a 341mL bottle with a very bust, but pretty cool label. It's a tad understrength at 4.8% and pours a muddy, bloody brown. It was much darker and murkier than I expected for a cream ale. It also features a luscious head that doesn't last long.

Raven has a rounded, malt nose with notes of toffee and fruitcake, though neither comes through in an over-sweet fashion. The flavour debuts with raisin notes atop a malty platform and eventually leads to a slightly hoppy finish that contains a barely tangy fruit element alongside still more malt.

I haven't had much experience with cream ales, other than a number of prominent macros, both out of Canada and the UK, and a couple of nice local micros. This beer amounted to a sizable departure from my previous cream ale forays, and I really liked it. Though it didn't taste anemic, the 4.8% could probably be improved upon.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Natural Selections 6-Pack, Volume 2--Elsinore

Elsinore is brewed in Victoria, British Columbia by the Phillips Brewing Company. It contains 5% alcohol and comes in 341mL bottles that have dashing, old world labels that indicate that the beer is dry-hopped, but not its style. However, I'm pretty confident that it's a pale lager, since it does mention that the brew is cold fermented. In fact, given its light golden colour, I'd call this a very pale pale lager. It's amply carbonated and just a teensy bit hazy. It has a bright ivory head that rose thickly but faded fast.

There is a modestly sweet, grainy aroma. It's a refreshing and crisp brew, but it doesn't have much by way of flavour. It tastes mildly of grain and grass, and there is a feeble dusting of bitterness near the finish. For a dry-hopped beer, this stuff has very little pop.

Sure, I enjoyed it alright, but I certainly won't be in a rush to revisit this stuff. I've enjoyed most everything that I have sampled from Phillips. While this beer wasn't exactly a disappointment, it certainly didn't leave me feeling satisfied.

Rating: 6.0 out of 10.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Natural Selections 6-Pack, Volume 2--Steamworks Pilsner

Steamworks Pilsner is my second brush with Vancouver, British Columbia's Steamworks Brewing Co.; the first being the very enjoyable Steamworks Pale Ale. The Pilsner is sold in vaguely psychedelic 355mL bottles. It contains 5% alcohol and a modestly burly (for a pilsner at least) 30 IBUs.

S.P. is a pale straw coloured lager. It's slightly cloudy and has a thick and fluffy white head. Surprisingly, there isn't a lot of carbonation. Its pushy grain aroma is grassy, but leaves room for a little bit of citrus hops in ts wake. The flavour evokes a newly mown lawn and has a pastoral, agricultural feel. The 30 IBUs are hidden well, only showing their hoppy little heads near the finish to provide a dryness that contributes to a crisp mouthfeel.

While this stuff wasn't quite as endearing as Steamworks' Pale Ale, it is definitely a quality pilsner that I could believe hails from Prague instead of Western Canada.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Natural Selections 6-Pack, Volume 2

Some of my most popular posts of the last year were my reviews of the Natural Selections 6-Pack, a variety pack of six different beers from six different breweries put together by the BC Craft Brewers Guild, a brewer's organization that can claim some of Canada's finest breweries as its members.

I was thrilled when I walked into my favourite LCBO and found an all new Natural Selections 6-Pack on the shelf. This new pack contained six more beers that I'd never tried, though there were a couple of repeat breweries.

Stay tuned to the Bitter World for the next couple of weeks and I'll give you my thoughts on a new round of West Coast brews.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Blue Buck

Blue Buck is a pale ale from the excellent Phillips Brewing Company, a solid brewery out of Victoria, British Columbia. I had a 341mL bottle on a downtown Vancouver patio while waiting for a lamb souvlaki plate. Blue Buck contains 5% alcohol. It's a clear, copper ale topped with an initially thick, but quickly thinning off-white head. It's nose has bready malts and a stream of metallic bitterness. This beer is fantastically drinkable, with a mellow, approachable flavour. There are some subtle fruity notes, as well as biscuit, caramel, and later, some modest bitterness.

This is not an earth-changing beer. It's not particularly memorable or unique. However, it's quietly satisfying. These are the kind of suds that I'd buy a case of to offer less adventurous beer-drinking guests.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Triple Bogey Premium Lager

Triple Bogey Premium Lager comes from Toronto, Ontario's Triple Bogey Brewing Co. It contains a standard 5% alcohol and comes in loud, fluorescent green cans (473mL) that almost had me expecting synthetic lime flavour.

This is a clear, straw gold brew. It's amply carbonated and pours with a bright white head that fades quickly to a thin disc. As you'd expect from a pale lager, there's a grainy, hay aroma with some starchy sweetness. The flavour tastes good enough--there's a reason that this style is the world's most popular--but it doesn't set itself apart. It just tastes like grassy grain and corn.

A definite "lawnmower lager", Triple Bogey is inoffensive, inoccuous, and uninspired. It's fairly crisp and undeniably refreshing, but it really doesn't add anything to a market that is already overcrowded with indistinguishable pale lagers. There isn't really anything special here; it isn't organic, there isn't a focus on local ingredients, etc. This is a fine beer, but you've basically had it before.

Rating: 6.0 out of 10.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Karma Citra IPA

Karma Citra IPA is another proud member of the Tank Ten Series from Toronto, Ontario's Great Lakes Brewery. It comes in an elegant 650mL bottle, contains 6.6% alcohol, and 65 IBUs. It's a soft, orange-gold ale topped with a white head worthy of a fog warming.

Heady bitterness and bold citrus elements greet the nose. This beer tastes less bitter than the 65 IBU listing, but not for want of hoppiness. It's easy to tell that this beer is amply hopped, but this was done in a way that emphasizes the citrus and tropical fruit notes. There is also considerable sweetness--this makes a 650mL serving the limit for a single session. Truthfully, I'd have liked a stitch more dryness and a twitch less boozy sugariness. It finishes softly for an India Pale Ale.

This stuff tastes like some of the fruitier IPAs that have been gaining steam lately--it's a style that I find quite engaging, but on that I hope won't supplant the badass, conventionally bitter ones.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Waterloo Grapefruit Radler

From Kitchener, Ontario comes the Waterloo Grapefruit Radler, built by the Waterloo Brewing Co. It contains a slight 3.1% alcohol and comes in a 473mL can that looks more like an "alco-pop" than a beer.

The Grapefruit Radler is a pale golden brew with an almost whitish tint and a hazy look. It poured with a fluffy white head that faded to practically nothing before I had time to snap a photo. The can indicates that this stuff contains concentrated grapefruit juice as well as concentrated grape juice and high fructose corn syrup.  Yum.

There's a hefty grapefruit aroma that walks the line between sweet and tart, but frequently stumbles over to the sweet side. As it smells, so does it taste: juicy. There aren't many "beer" elements in this drink. I suspect that a very pale, light lager is the base, but it provides little more than a carbonation platform.

Radlers have been big this summer, so I've tried a few and made a couple of my own. This one proved rather disappointing. Thin and light with little beer bounce. Waterloo also has a Lemonade Lager, that I liked much better.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Toronto Craft Brew Cruise

My wife and I snagged tickets for the first annual Toronto Craft Brew Cruise, so on Saturday, September 13, 2014, we climbed aboard the good ship River Gambler for a three hour spin around the Toronto harbour. There were actually two cruises going--one in the afternoon and one in the evening. We opted for the later option. The cruise was a part of Toronto Beer Week.

Our $40 tickets gained us passage on the party barge, as well as five tokens good for 4 oz. samples and a tiny plastic "commemorative mug". Additional tokens were also available on board for $1 a pop.

The missus and I were initially wary, since the weather forecast was calling for rain and gloom, but we actually lucked into a lovely crisp fall evening.

On board the ship was a pretty sizable crowd of craft beer enthusiasts. It was a relatively diverse bunch of folks (at least in terms of age and gender), though the majority seemed to be in their thirties.

There were representatives from 11 Ontario breweries as well as one cidery on board the Gambler. Some of the province's bigger microbreweries like Beau's, Great Lakes, and Wellington were on hand, as were some of the brighter lights amongst smaller brewers like Oast House, Kensington, and Side Launch, and new guys such as Underdog's and Barnstormer.

As for beers, the offerings available skewed pretty hard toward pale ales. There weren't a lot of things that I hadn't tried, though there were new to me pale ales from Junction and Left Field that really hit the spot, and a vanilla stout from Double Trouble that was absolutely delicious.

The boat was comfortable, though a bit cramped, and restroom facilities and chairs could have been more plentiful. Those of us lucky enough to be on board were treated to gorgeous views of Canada's largest city lit up at night. I've done a T.O. harbour cruise before, but never in the dark, and it added a pretty cool element.

The Toronto Craft Brew Cruise was a fantastic event. If it's offered again next year, get yourself on the boat.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Bison Organic Honey Basil Ale

Bison Brewery in Ukiah, California makes Organic Honey Basil Ale. Just as the name suggests, this stuff is brewed with basil and honey, and it's certified organic. According to the label, if you register on Bison's website, they'll buy you a carbon offset for a case of beer.  That's some cool, innovative, and progressive stuff. It's sold in 355mL bottles and contains a pretty solid 6% alcohol.

Organic Honey Basil Ale hazy, orange-copper brew topped with a thinnish, off-white head. A sweet, honeyed aroma leans toward the malt side of the spectrum. Similarly, the flavour is characterized by a sweet, malt body and a pleasant honey taste. Beneath that, there are some warm boozy notes, gentle toastiness, and a faint metallic bent.

There's not a lot of bitterness and I'd have liked a bit more basil emphasis. This stuff is too sweet to go back to the Honey Basil well more often than once in a session, but it's pretty tasty stuff.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Red on Red Collaboration Ale

Red on Red Collaboration Ale is a project between Barrie, Ontario's Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery and Surrey, British Columbia's Central City Brewers + Distillers. The label on the 750mL bottle nicely marries the Monkeys' and Central City's emblems (a winged monkey and a woman on a bicycle). At a liver-rattling 9.5% alcohol and 80 IBUs, Red on Red is billed as an "Imperial Double-Red". There's a lot on the label about this being an "East Meets West" venture. As someone who comes from one of Canada's Atlantic provinces, I have to object to Ontario being referred to as Eastern Canada. The Maritimes and Newfoundland exist, you guys. And Quebec is huge!

It's a very attractive not-quite-clear ale that falls somewhere between ruby and amber. It pours with a thick and loose layer of tan head. There is a sweet and malty nose that has some copper notes and a vivid hops tail.

This ale is definitely a slow sipper that tastes every bit as forte as its 9.5%. It moves from sweet, warm, and slightly metallic to fiercely bitter hops 'n' booze.

This stuff is easily the most substantial, full-bodied red ale that I've ever sampled. If you're into strong and bitter, but tired of Imperial I.P.A.s, Red to Red provides a really excellent alternative. I haven't got a single bad thing to say about this brute, except that it appears to have been a one time deal. Really excellent work from two strong Canadian breweries.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Darkside Black IPA

Darkside Black IPA comes from the Granite Brewery, in Toronto, Ontario. I had a pint of this 6.7% alcohol ale on tap at the glorious Bar Hop.

Darkside is a very dark. reddish brown ale. It arrived underneath a half-inch of off-white head. There was a spicy hop aroma that had an earthy, evergreen strain. Its flavour had generous, roasted malts on the front end. There was some nice, boozy warmth--for which I was quite grateful, given that my wife and I were sitting on the patio on a chilly, rainy afternoon. There's was also a good degree of bitterness, in a dank, woodsy configuration. There was a touch of sweetness, too, or rather, semi-sweetness, with a molasses nod.

Truthfully, this was not a very memorable black IPA, but a pretty good one all the same. It tastes well made. A very accessible BIPA.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

St-Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition

St-Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition is brewed by Castle Brewery Van Honsebrouck in Ingelmunser, Belgium. This lambic beer is sold in a foil topped 375mL green bottle and contains 5% alcohol. It's a brownish gold beer that has a quickly thinning layer of eggshell head.

Not surprisingly, the nose is very tart. There is a touch of fruit and some rowdy yeasts. Flavour-wise, this is a considerably sour brew. There are notes of lemon, apple, and, particularly, cranberry. I addition, there's a vaguely salty brine and a hearty yeast streak running through this stuff.

I'm still learning about lambics, gueuzes, and other sour ales, but compared to others that I've tried, Gueuze Fond Tradition rates well, though I'd have liked a bit more body and something different in the finish. If you feel compelled to try a sour beer, this is a pretty fair starting point. It's mouth-puckeringly tart and quite flavourful, without being completely inaccessible.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Six Pints Cascadian Dark IPA

Six Pints Cascadian Dark IPA is produced by the Six Pints Specialty Beer Co., in Toronto, Ontario. Six Pints is (I'm pretty certain) operated by Molson. It is housed in the Beer Academy.

This beer comes in a 625mL bottle. It contains 5.8% alcohol and 60 IBUs. It's a black IPA and it has a snazzy, if simple, label.

An alluringly dark beer, Cascadian Dark is topped with a lush tan head. There is an understated bitter aroma with evergreen notes. The flavour moves from malt to bitter. An earthy grain and dank malt overture is quickly swallowed by a hop heavy finish.

While the front end is a bit unexciting, the finish is really solid, with resinous notes and some foresty hops vibes. This was a pretty nice brew, though I expect more alcoholic bang from my black IPAs.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Hoppelganger India Pale Ale

Vancouver, British Columbia's R&B Brewing Co. produces Hoppelganger India Pale Ale, a clear golden ale topped with a quickly thinning off-white head. It's aroma kicks off with a dank, malty earthiness and builds to a bitter climax. There's a pretty swampy hop flavour. The initial taste isn't sweet exactly, but has some sugary malt elements and is quite full. This grows into a subterranean, hoppy finish. This isn't my favourite hop flavour, but it's a nice one to encounter once in a while.

Hoppelganger contains 6% alcohol and comes in 650mL bottles. The very cool label states "At more than 45 IBUs ...", which is oddly unspecific.

I found this to be an enjoyable enough beer, but not noteworthy or memorable.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.