Wednesday, 31 May 2017

471 IPA

During an hour-long pit stop in the City Tavern in Dallas, TX, my second India Pale Ale was 471 IPA, out of Littleton, Colorado's Breckenridge Brewery. It packed a mighty 9.2% alcohol--a double IPA for sure. My pint showed up filled with clear copper suds under an ample off-white head. 471 had a nose that was both bitter and juicy, with some pleasant berry notes. The flavour proved to be a touch too sweet for my ideal, but it had a really interesting profile that ran from sweet and fruity to bitter and boozy.

471 was a pretty enjoyable little ale. Too saccharine and strong to be suitable for session drinking, but a single pint really hit the spot.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Hop Trapp IPA

The Bitter Wife and I spent a weekend in Dallas, Texas to check out the excellent Old 97's Country Fair. While there, we ducked into a little pub on Main Street called the City Tavern and I ordered myself a pint of Hop Trapp IPA. Hop Trapp comes from Lakewood Brewing Company in Garland, Texas. It contains 6.4% alcohol.

My pint arrived looking nice--slightly hazy, deep amber-hued with a thin layer of off-white head that could have had a bit more depth. It had an oddly yeasty aroma that had me questioning whether it was actually an IPA (after the fact, I googled it and learned that it is a Belgian-style IPA), but there was some hops pop in there too. The flavour continued to demonstrate a fair level of yeastiness.  Along that were faint peach notes and a hefty resinous hop display.

This wasn't the best IPA I've ever tried. Don't get me wrong, on a hot Saturday afternoon in downtown Dallas, it was seriously satisfying, but I found it lacked the desired hop crackle and astringency. I'm not likely to buy it again, mostly due to its yeastiness.

Rating: 6.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Brown Van Kölsch

Brown Van Brewing's Kölsch, or more appropriately their Kölsch-Style Ale is a 4.8%, 23 IBU number from Ottawa, Ontario. It's a crystal clear straw gold ale hat pours with a slim cover of white head.

This kölsch-style brew has the slightly sweet aroma of toasty grain. The flavour profile meanders from sweet and grainy opening notes toward the finish line: a short, dry, and unexpectedly bitter back end.

Because of the sweet to bitter progression and the curtness of the finish, this beer manages to have exemplary crispness without sacrificing much flavour. While perhaps not as style-typical as some of the classics from Cologne, I find Brown Van's version of the tricky little brew to be a novel and noteworthy take. A bit more booze would be nice, but with its current strength, clarity, and brightness, this is the kind of craft beer that might turn heads among the macro lager crowd.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10

Thursday, 25 May 2017


Runes is another in a long list of subtle India Pale concoctions from Toronto's Bellwoods Brewery. This particular mixture, according to the sticker on the 500mL bottle, owes its unique character to Mosaic and Citra hops, as well as Mosaic lupulin powder. The 6.7% IPA poured a very hazy dull orange-gold colour, with a disc of off-white head.

To my experienced but unskilled schnoz, this brew packed a heady tropical aroma into a cute little package. The flavour, too, proved fruitful and pleasing, with satsuma and passion fruit notes commanding the early stages, and a strident grapefruit bitterness in the finish.

While Runes wasn't as assertive or eye-popping as some of Bellwoods' other IPA offerings, and though it tasted a bit reminiscent of some of their Monogamy offerings, I definitely think it deserves a place in the BB pantheon because it tasted like a well-made brew with some quality cards up its sleeve. Very satisfying, not terribly strong, and quite fine.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Anderson IPA

A new to me Ontario IPA, Anderson IPA comes from London, ON, where it's brewed by Anderson Craft Ales. According to the almost impossibly basic 355mL cans, the ale contains 6.5% alcohol and 60 IBUs--although it tasted a lot more bitter to me.

The hazy, bright gold beer poured with a thick miasma of eggshell head. Through that fog, the aroma proved to be quite rich in fruit, as well as pretty sizably hoppy. The flavour was bitter first, but contained nuanced fruit elements--orange and grapefruit, chiefly. The finish came through as sweet in stages, but mostly curt and bitter.

Anderson IPA was an odd duck of an IPA. Its flavour didn't possess a lot of depth--rather, it was assertive and blunt, with a shortage of flair. However, for all of that, there was an undercurrent of complexity that made me really glad to have purchased a 4-pack of cans. By the end of my fourth can--spread over two nights--I was pretty much convinced that there was an intangible element that made this beer stand out in a crowded scene. I'd have enjoyed a bit more bombast and a bit more developed denouement, but it did have a certain quality that all but assures I'll revisit this little number.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Dawn of the Red

From Eugene, Oregon, Dawn of the Red is a Red IPA with a really cool aesthetic. The 12 oz bottles of the 7% brew feature a zombie motif on the label. The beer is made by Ninkasi Brewing Company. It has a slight reddish hue that runs through an otherwise golden body and it pours with a creamy off-white head.
DotR has a considerably bitter aroma that features a very pleasing tangerine note. Citrus elements permeate the flavour as well, with quality West Coast bitterness well represented.

A very nice ale from a reliable brewery in one of the craft beering-est states in the Union, DotR seemed like a can't miss brew when I put it in the cart, and that prediction proved accurate.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, 19 May 2017

The Barn Raiser Country Ale

My good pal W.F.M. recently remarked to me that The Barn Raiser Country Ale by Oast House Brewers was currently his fave Ontario brew. He was chagrined that I hadn't reviewed it yet, so I rushed out and bought a 473mL can of the 5% alcohol ale from Niagara-on-the-Lake. According to the Oast House website, what I had in my hands was an American Pale Ale.

A clear, brassy brew, The Barn Raiser poured with a lovely but brief off-white head. My nose was greeted by a faint but enticing aroma that balanced fresh grains against a slight fruit flush. I found the beer to be crisp and refreshing, with a dry, hoppy character. Its flavour was grainy and bitter, with a clever yeastiness.

While I might not rank The Barn Raiser as my favourite Ontario beer, it was certainly one that I enjoyed quite a bit. It tasted fresh and was pleasantly refreshing, while managing a decent hops crackle.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Farmed & Dangerous

Farmed & Dangerous is a funky little Belgian-style farmhouse ale from Toronto's Bandit Brewery. This 6% alcohol saison-style brew comes in 500mL bottles with really spiffy labels featuring a dapper, fanged hop-dude. Inside, the beer proved to be dull orange and very hazy. It poured with a lovely cap of white head.

F&D's nose was yeasty, dry, tart, and fruity. It had a yeast-driven flavour profile, supplemented with some spice notes, green apple, and some earthy elements.

F&D tasted like an authentic farmhouse ale from Belgium or France. It was funky and complicated, with a bit of a wild side. At just 6%, it was a bit underproof for the style, but it had the flavour to almost make up for it.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Express India Session Lager

St. Thomas, Ontario is the home of Railway City Brewing Co. and the birthplace of Express India Session Lager. At 4.8% alcohol, the strength is right for a session beer, though at a mere 18 IBUs, a 473mL can of this brew is pretty light in the hop department for a beer brandishing the "India" moniker. The lager poured with a golden hue. It was clear and had a vibrant white cloud of foam.

To my nose, Express packed a nice aroma rich in citrus fruit and a suggestion of modest bitterness. The flavour proved crisp and easy-drinking, but lacked the bitter heft that I wanted it to possess. Far from brittle, the beer had a fairly engaging taste--fresh and fun, but with no more hoppiness than a modest pilsner. What bitterness it did have, however, did lean closer to that of a craft ale than to a typical lager--crunchy citrus notes lended a bit of value. The finish was short and dry.

Express India Session Lager was, at the same time, engaging and disappointing. It had a micro-brewed ale suggestion that spoke to me, but it lacked the grit packed into India Pale Lagers that I've tried. Some vigorous dry-hopping might have upped the ante a bit. It must be said, though, that the compact and arid finish was a boon--and the "session" in the name was well earned. A beer-sop like me could sink a dangerous number of these little guys and not struggle until too late.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Rodeo Monk

Rodeo Monk's label declares that it's "Brussels meets Boise, Idaho". A white IPA, the stuff is a hybrid of American IPA and Belgian witbier, brewed in Toronto, by Mill St. Brewery. RM clocks in at a respectable 7% alcohol and it's sold in stylish 750mL swingtop bottles that are sealed with wax. The wax seal calls for a quick word: generally, it's a needless luxury that causes lots of grief because wax seals are a pain in the ass to open; the use of wax on this one is still a needless luxury, but because of the swingtop design of the bottle, it opens like a dream. I was genuinely pleased by the ease with which the bottle popped open. Kudos.

As for the beer within, it is a cloudy gold ale; not nearly as "white" as most witbiers, but definitely possessed of some yeastiness. It pours with a manageably thick white head through which comes a very interesting aroma: wild yeast tinged with raspberry and cranberry tartness and the suggestion of hops. Unlike its nose, Rodeo Monk's flavour didn't quite manage to achieve uniqueness, but it was certainly tasty enough, with sourdough notes providing the base, some fruit esters the frame, and a decently hoppy end note the finishing touches.

On reflection, this beer proved to be quite memorable for me. I've done the white IPA thing enough times that it's no real mystery to me, and I've quaffed a fair few Belgian-style-American-style hybrids. What made this beer stand out was its bountiful berry-tinged nose and, to a lesser extent, its berry-kissed flavour. I love raspberries, and a beer that can allude to that beautiful fruit without going overboard is a winner in my books.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Oskar Blues' IPA

Whenever my girl KC comes to visit, I'm thrilled. She's a brilliant human and a lot of fun ... plus she always brings me a couple of cans of beer from the US of A (though I'd always be glad to see her, even if she arrived empty-handed). This past visit was no exception, and one of the brews I came away with was Oskar Blues' IPA. From Brevard, NC's Oskar Blues Brewery come the 355mL cans of this 6.43% alcohol IPA. The beer inside is a hazy straw gold, and it pours with a loose off-white head.

OB's IPA has a big, resinous nose with lots of bitter, swampy notes. However, it's flavour proved a bit more restrained. There were some resin elements, certainly, but these were outshone by tangerine notes and a vague metallic flavour.

Having tried and enjoyed several of Oskar Blues' brews in the past, I'd put this one right in the middle of the pack: not as sessionable and playful as Dale's Pale Ale or as dominant as Ten Fidy, but with a bit more approachability that G'Night or Death by Coconut. All told, a fine edition to the family, and a beer that, if I lived in America, would frequently come home with me.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Jelly King

A dry hopped sour ale, Jelly King comes from Toronto, Ontario, where it's brewed by Bellwoods Brewery. At 5.6%, the milky yellow brew has a bit of heft, but not too much. It's sold in 500mL bottles with a spiffy kaleidoscope label. It pours with a decent layer of white head.

Jelly King has a playful and tart aroma with a nice lemon burst and the suggestion of some hoppy dryness. The flavour blends lemon and grapefruit into a tangy melange, built atop a faintly hoppy finish. 

The weak spot of this beer is its mouthfeel--a bit on the brittle side. However, with a genuinely sour flavour and quality fruit elements, there is a lot to appreciate. I'd definitely buy it again.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Green Island New England IPA

Another juicy and fruity IPA from Fredericton's TrailWay Brewing Co. is Green Island New England IPA (which I took to be a Vermont-style IPA), a 6% alcohol brew billed as having "pungent tropical fruit". Sold in 473mL cans, I found Green Island to be, in many respects, very similar to Hu Jon Hops and Rype, two other TrailWay beers that I reviewed while in Fredericton for a funeral. All three had a similar look--hazy and milky orange-gold with a white head--and all three packed nice and assertive fruit-forward noses. While I enjoyed all three, if I were a creative at TrailWay, I'd be trying to diversify the portfolio a bit more.

I found Green Island to have a somewhat resinous strand to its flavour, as well as citrus and pineapple notes. The finish has some pretty nice hoppy elements, but I also found it to have a faintly chemical air that left me a bit nonplussed.

While Green Planet proved quite similar to two of its other TrailWay Brewing siblings, I found that compared to Rype and Hu Jon, it was the least compelling and well-crafted. Not a bad beer, but not the one TrailWay should be crowing loudest about.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Steamworks Jasmine IPA

Steamworks Jasmine IPA comes from Vancouver, British Columbia--born of the Steamworks Brewing Co. I bought a 650mL bottle of the 6.5% alcohol nectar at my local shop--the weirdo steampunk/Japanese label made it an easy purchase. According to the specs, it's brewed with jasmine flowers and clocks in at a vigourous 60 IBUs.

Jasmine IPA proved to be a slightly hazy golden ale under a sudsy off-white head. It has a slightly floral aroma that isn't all that potent. The flavour has considerably more ups, with a bitter trend that splits between citrus and floral elements. As well, the taste seems boozier than one might expect from the 6.5% figure. The finish is dry and enjoyably brittle.

This was an enjoyable IPA. I'd have called for a slightly richer nose and a slightly higher percentage, but the beer I got was compelling enough, and entirely pleasant. It's cleverly sold in large format bottles, since I'd thirstily down 650mL of the stuff, but a sixer might be a bit too much.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Stone Imperial Russian Stout

Stone Imperial Russian Stout is a bruiser of an ale from Escondido, California, Stone Brewing Co. At 10.8%, a one pint six ounce bottle of this stuff can make your head spin. The beer is an opaque black liquid. It pours with a thin cover of off-white head.

It has a punchy aroma that blends smokiness and big malt body, with some licorice elements and a mellow mocha tail. The flavour is heavy--lots of sweetness and booze--as well as java, roasted malt, and molasses notes. Over all of that, there is a faint plume of woodsmoke. The finish remains sweet and malty, but adds a touch of leather to the equation. The mouthfeel is calamitously thick and syrupy.

Stone's take on the Imperial Russian Stout is a fine interpretation of the hearty and potent style. It's a very filling and complicated ale that I'd gladly revisit. It was a touch too sweet for me, but it was rich and raucous.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Fursty Ferret

All the way from Blandford, Dorset, UK comes the cutely named Fursty Ferret. An amber ale, this little brew is put together by Badger Ales, and brewed by Hall & Woodhouse. At a meek 4.4% alcohol, there isn't a lot of heft to this brew. It's sold in 500mL bottles adorned with the cutesy rodents swilling beer from a cask, and a very brief anecdote about curious ferrets wetting their whistle at a Dorset pub.

The beer is a barely hazy light brown ale. It pours under a decent coating of off-white head and has a malty, baked goods aroma. The flavour starts sweetly, with a malt backbone, and underlies by a faint raisin quality. The label told me to anticipate Seville oranges, but citrus wasn't immediately evident to my much abused palate. The finish has a pretty fair hops profile, though, which made this a little more memorable than the average English ale, nor was it overly metallic.

Fursty Ferret had a saccharine name, but the actual beer was pretty solid. Flavour was quite full for 4.4%, it was sweet, but not too sweet, and had an engaging finish. Obviously, I'd have liked a bit more boozy weight, but it still tasted nice. Because of the silly packaging and name, I assumed I wasn't going to like this beer, but t proved me wrong.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.