From the archives: Cycle up to a radler

Radlers are slowly becoming popular in Canada with several breweries all over Canada are mixing various juices (lemon, grapefruit or blood orange) with a wheat ale or pilsner. With this, it lowers the beer’s alcohol content to 1.5 to 3.5 percent ABV. It’s been said that the creation of the Radler dates back 90-some years when leisurely cycling became an increasingly popular pass-time in German. Over 13,000 cyclists descended down to a small town brewery and of course - they were thirsty. The brewmaster decided that there would be just enough beer for all the cyclists if he combined a 50/50 ratio of beer to sparkling lemon soda. This became an instant success, and even - the word Radler translated to English is Cyclist! 

Here’s three of the many Radlers that you can find in Manitoba:

Löwenbräu Radler with Lemonade - Labatt now brews the Löwenbräu lager line of beers for the Canadian market, so this includes Radler with Lemonade. The Radler with Lemonade tops out at 2.5% ABV. The beer pours a lightly watered down golden straw yellow, so a tad lighter than Bud Light but it’s incredibly fizzy & carbonated thanks to the sparkling lemonade they use for the beer. Its head starts off as a big fluffy white cloud but quickly diminishes into nothing. The aroma is a combination of sparkling lemonade, grapefruit juice, slightly grassy and a good amount of sugar. The taste starts off with sparkling lemonade, fizzy in my mouth, then there’s a bitterness of grapefruit popping on by and lastly, it’s followed by a combination of grass and lots of lemon to leave it on a sour note. I’ve had several product experts at the 10th & Victoria Liquormart suggest this beer as the general consensus was Löwenbräu was delicious. It was actually pretty tasty for being a Labatt product. It’s not overly sweet or syrupy though it does leave a bit of a filmy aftertaste on my tongue. 2.5% ABV.

Schöfferhofer Grapefruit - An unfiltered wheat ale straight out of Germany! This was the first Radler I ever tried.. back in 2006, and I didn’t particularly care for it because I don’t like grapefruits. Schöfferhofer Grapefruit pours a very murky orange with not much carbonation. There’s two-fingers-thick of of white-as-snow head on top - though it’s diminishing slowly as I write this stuff out. The aroma is a pungent grapefruit aroma - sour, a tad sweet and makes me cringe a bit! There’s notes of pepper spice, lemon, and slightly musky. After smelling the beer, I’m surprised the grapefruit isn’t as overpowering as it could have been. It’s actually pretty smooth - reminiscent of a beer mimosa. There’s notes of the German hefeweizen which gives off a bit of a bready yeastiness, a bit of banana and clove, followed by grapefruit juice and a squirt of lemon. Very easy to drink and it’s a classic for a reason. 2.5% ABV.

Waterloo Lemonade Radler - Ontario’s Brick Brewing has produced some of the most popular craft Radlers for the past few years, and now they’ve introduced a lemonade inspired Radler to the lineup as part of the Coast to Coaster event at select Liquormarts. The Lemonade Radler pours a light golden straw beer with a light amount of cloudiness to it. Very light carbonation - the foam is slowly going down while the beer is fizzing ever gently. The aroma has notes of lemon, sugar, a bit of a grassy profile, but for the most part - an over abundance of lemon. The taste is sour and tart - with an abundance of lemon and lemonade. I would have assumed it would be a bit sweeter, but it tastes more like biting into a lemon. Not anywhere near as carbonated the Löwenbräu as it’s more of an up front lemon sour bite instead. I find that Waterloo’s Lemonade Radler is slowly upsetting my stomach, the overly lemon aspect of the Radler may be a bit too much for me, but with that being said - it’s an awesome patio style beer. This is the strongest of the bunch at 3.1% ABV.

Review: Dead Frog Super Fearless Imperial IPA (Batch #3)

It's hard to catch up on beer reviews when I have a part time job and write about beer in Brandon Sun, but when I do have time - I feel like drinking beer and not writing about it.. but I have to keep myself preoccupied somehow!

I've tried many beers from Dead Frog Brewery over the years ranging from their Nut Brown Ale to their contract brewed version of Hops & Robbers IPA. Frankly, most of their beers have been lacklustre, but I still give them a shot because they're trying their best to make damned tasty beers. I have quite a few of their beers waiting for me to be sampled but tonight I'm going to only focus on Super Fearless Imperial IPA (Batch #3). Super Fearless appears to be an experimental Imperial IPA line of theirs where each year they come out with a new recipe for an Imperial IPA to make it better than the previous edition. I haven't had Batch 1 or 2 so I wouldn't be able to compare any notes to Batch 3.

Appearance: Pours a very light muddy brown, very murky, thick and a copper-brown hue to it. Thick amount of beige head - I really like it, it's creamy, whipped and lacing the side of the glass.. not going anywhere!

Aroma: Starts out fairly sweet with notes of caramel followed by grapefruit, a bit of pineapple. It's quite liberally hopped, which I like. Abundance of pine, fresh cut alfalfa and even a bit of a hint of dad's cologne. Very solid aroma.

Taste: I can taste the burn of the booze immediately! I'm getting flavours of pine, lemon, grapefruit and caramel. It leaves a bitter (somewhat metallic) hop aftertaste. Fairly sweet but certainly decent amount of hoppy bitterness in here.

Overall Thoughts: I really like it! It's exactly what I want out of an Imperial IPA, it has a liberal amount of hops to give it a great bitter finish, a moderate sweetness of caramel and a hint of grapefruit to give it some tropical vibes in it. The hops give off a fresh aroma which is certainly welcome and with every few sips I'm noticing different flavours pop out.. like tea right now. This is why I don't judge breweries on bad beers because wham - they end up coming out with something that I thoroughly enjoy! One thing I'm not looking forward to is the inevitable acid reflux the hops will give me in about twenty minutes time.

Review: Alexander Keith's Celeia Hop Ale

I really don't rush out and try new beers then it's an Alexander Keith's product, but many of my followers are your typical Canadian beer drinker who tends to drink lighter lager and ales yet are willing to try something new for the sake of experimenting a bit. I've reviewed just about every beer from Keith's Hop Series of ales, starting with Cascade, Hallertauer, Galaxy, and Saphir. Out of all the beers from Keith's Hop Series, the only one that I actually bought again was the Cascade, it wasn't bad - for once.. in fact, it was better than the standard Keith's "India Pale Ale." Now I'm checking out Keith's newest addition to the series, their Celeia Hop ale, which has been around for a few months now.. so as you can tell: I wasn't in a rush to go out and try it.

Appearance: The Celeia pours a golden burnt straw yellow with a bit of a caramel hue, half a finger of beige off-white foam. Lots of carbonation - reminiscent of a regular Alexander Keith's. Slightly darker in hue than a regular Keith's.

Aroma: Notes of pepper, lemon, straw, a faint breadiness in there, a light amount of sweetness.. possibly caramel. For the most part it's a bit more aromatic than your average Keith's, but meh.

Taste: Light fruitiness to it (possibly plum), a bit of a gritty barley taste, lots of the same notes from the aroma are also in the flavour. A light spiciness of pepper pops up - likely from the hops, light amount of caramel malt, bit of lemon. Not much really there.

Overall Thoughts: Fairly boring, but it's very easy to drink if you're a Keith's fan.. though it's a bit spicier than your typical Alexander Keith's. Has a bit of a faint floral vibe to it, but not much. Some cereal notes. Not overwhelming but it's pretty bland for someone like myself who wants a whack load of hops. Doesn't leave much of an aftertaste, which I appreciate.

Review: Howe Sound Super Jupiter Grapefruit ISA

I'm a big fan of Howe Sound, their 1L jugs are perfect size for a get-together and great for home brewing. Their King Heffy Imperial Wheat Ale is probably my favourite summertime treat. Right now they have something like 4 different beers available here in Manitoba, and I haven't had time to try them all.

Today's review is Howe Sound's Super Jupiter Grapefruit ISA. Super Jupiter tops out at 4.5% ABV, so I'm assuming the ISA = India Session Ale, which isn't a style at all.

Appearance: Super Jupiter pours a colourful caramel-amber, light hue of copper, somewhat cloudy. The head is beige and creamy, diminishes fairly quickly so I don't have to wait for it to die down to start sampling.

Aroma: Notes of grapefruit, pine, lemon pledge, doughy yeastiness, lots of tropical notes in there including more grapefruit, some pineapple and a bit of a syrupiness to it. Fairly sweet yet there's a decent amount of bitterness of pine in the hops.

Taste: It's a malt forward beer at the beginning as I'm noticing notes of caramel followed by a hint of grapefruit, pineapple and lemon. The hops give it a bitter and somewhat leafy flavour to it, notes of pine. I was expecting more of a bitter grapefruit flavour, but the grapefruit is rather mellow in this beer.

Overall Thoughts: Very easy to drink, a malt forward beer with compliments from the hops. For a beer with "grapefruit" right in the name, I was expecting more grapefruit zest.

Edit: Not to be confused with Super Jupiter Grapefruit India Pale, which I reviewed a few years back.

Review: HopEra Trizo (HopEra Microbrasserie & Pizza)

I've stated before, and I'll state again - I love the 500mL bottles that breweries in Québec and the Maritimes use instead of going for standard 341mL or 650mL. Today's beer review is HopEra Trizo by HopEra Microbrasserie & Pizza out of Jonquière, Québec. I thought that HopEra Trizo was going to be a Double/Imperial IPA, but actually, it's a well-hopped Belgian-style tripel using Magnum, Columbus and Chinook Hops and tops out at 100.1 IBU! DAAAAAMN!

Appearance: Pours a bright cloudy orange, reminiscent of a witbier. Insane amount of head - 1/3 of the glass was all head so it took a while to pour the beer.. but that's alright - my T5i battery needed to be charged for a few minutes anyways. Very thick, snow white head.

Aroma: Parfumic - it's a medley of hops, booziness and sweet citrusy goodness. Somewhat sugary, you can tell that it's freaking 10% ABV - it's very boozey. Light amount of grain-bin aroma, lemon, some herbal notes and a medium amount of floral hoppiness to compliment everything else.

Taste: Very sweet, quite a good deal of hops in here - it's giving me a bit of acid reflux almost immediately. Very boozey and stronger than your typical Belgian tripel, which is kind of a surprise because Belgian tripels are generally around 10% as it is. Some spiciness of pepper complimenting the hops. A hint of woodiness and a decent amount of various tropical fruits including lime, lemon and grapefruit. Lots of graininess to it and a bitter metallic aftertaste that really hits the tongue. Somewhat acidic for mouthfeel.

Overall Thoughts: This is not bad, a bit too boozey for me - as the booze really hits you.. so I'm glad this isn't a 650mL bottle. Strong on the flavours compared to many Canadian tripels I've had.. but it's a bit more aggressive than I'm used to. All that being said, I like it. The citrus flavours pop out, the hops are sure present and flavours are all over the place.

Review: Rigby Orchards' Mead Cassis

A few weeks ago, Half Pints released their first ever mead, Heidrun's Sweet Mead - which I've been able to sample a few times now and damn - it's a real treat. Half Pints isn't the first brewery or winery in Manitoba to make a mead, in fact - Killarney's Rigby Orchards has been making meads for many, many years now. They are also the only winery/brewery/spirits factory in all of Western Manitoba. I keep forgetting to try Rigby Orchards' products - mainly because I'm not a wine fan.. but after trying a few yummy meads out in Quebec over the past few years, meads are growing on me.. slowly.

Today I'm checking out Rigby Orchards' Mead Cassis. It's been a while since I've had cassis anything.. When I was living in Quebec City back in summer 2006, I visited a small family owned winery on île d'Orleans and fell in love with their cassis wine. Then for several years Unibroue had their Éphémère Cassis which was a real desserty treat of mine when I wanted a sweet & tart beer. So as you can tell, I'm a bit of a fan of cassis.

Appearance: The Mead Cassis is a very bright reddish-purple mead, almost like a combination of raspberry and grape juice.

Aroma: I'm noticing notes of cassis which is giving it off a tart aroma, a bit reminiscent of a red wine but not as strong. Notes of honey, something a bit floral and hints of vineyard.

Taste: I was expecting more of a tart almost-red wine taste to it. It's fairly mellow.. yet.. yeah, it's a bit tart. I don't mind it. It has the flavours of cassis that I love - a tarty yet sweet dark fruitiness in it. Rich notes of honey - quite sweet and leaves a bit of a sugary tingling sensation on the tongue. Notes of vanilla are also present in this mead.

Overall Thoughts: The main notes I'm getting from the Mead Cassis is the cassis itself, leaving a rich, tarty almost-like-a-red-wine but not dry as hell sensation on the palate. It's a bit creamy on the mouthfeel and leaves a bit of a grassy/leafy aftertaste. Decent mead that's a great 5-à-7 (Happy hour) alternative to wine.. and made in Western Manitoba! 10% ABV.

Review: Driftwood New Growth Pale Ale

Here we have New Growth Pale Ale.. another beer from Driftwood Brewery is now available in Manitoba.. but just not in Brandon. I picked this bottle up at a Winnipeg LC as I was heading out back to Manitoba. Driftwood's pretty decent, so I'm looking forward to trying this. 

Appearance: New Growth pours a rich cloudy orange ale, reminiscent of a witbier meets a tropical IPA. Decent amount of beige head at start, but now it's just glacing to the side of the glassware.

Aroma: The aroma has notes of mild hops to give it a medium amount of bitterness, fairly sweet - smells of lemon and a light hint of peaches. Lightly yeasted, so not really bready. A light hint of nuttiness.

Taste: Hmm.. the hops are much more noticeable here. There's notes of pine, a hint of nuttiness and a bit of a dish soap bitterness. Fairly watery on the palate yet a hint of acidity. Aftertaste has a bit of a tinniness to it.

Overall Thoughts: Really like the more medium amount of hops instead of a typical hop bomb. Light sweetness, medium amount of hops, and fairly easy to drink.

Review: Rough Draft Southern Triangle IPA

I've never heard of San Diego, California's Rough Draft Brewing until just now, when I picked up a bottle of their Southern Triangle IPA. Aside from Boulevard and the less-than-ethical it's been a long time since there were new American beers at the local LC. With a name like Rough Draft, you would almost think that the purchasers over at the LC brought it in just for me, as it would fit in with my First Draft column at the Brandon Sun.

Their Southern Triangle IPA is their first beer available here, and I mistakenly keep calling it Southern Tier IPA. Yikes.

Appearance: Southern Triangle pours like any normal West Coast India Pale Ale, it's a vibrant caramel-honey look with a minimal amount of carbonation, fairly clear and filtered, nice amount of thick creamy beige head on top that gently diminishes, leaving a nice crisp lacing on the side of the beer glass.

Aroma: A tad nutty, which is something I don't generally like in IPAs - but thankfully it's minimal at best. Notes of alfalfa, LOTS of alfalfa, notes of lightly sweet caramel malt, hint of tropical fruits including mango, pineapple and a smidge of grapefruit. Not that bitter for it being an IPA out of San Diego of all places.

Taste: The hops are more present in the taste: bit of a grassiness meets alfalfa to it. More of a sweet forward IPA with tropical notes of mango and pineapple popping up here again. Bit of caramel and a light tinny bitter aftertaste that lingers for a moment.

Overall Thoughts: I appreciate the tropical sweetness, but at nearly $7.00/bottle and it being from San Diego - I would expect it to be more of a hop bomb rather than a tropical sensation. It just lacks bitterness for me. The beer uses a combination of Nelson Sauvin, Moteuka and Galaxy hops, which is what explains for it having more of a tropical vibe to it. Very easy to drink and 6.5% ABV.

Link: The time I was interviewed by the Winnipeg Free Press

There's only two times I've ever been interviewed by the media about something I did. The first time was back in early 2000s was in the Deloraine newspaper when I won a literary contest through the Bank of Canada. More recently, an article in the Winnipeg Free Press about me being a beer blogger. I've written about beer for a very long time, mainly to keep me sane in periods of unemployment/stress, also as a reminder of what beers I've tried over the years.

I was interviewed back in February/March by Winnipeg Free Press' Bill Redekop and it was a blast - he reminded me of why I like writing about beer: People are overwhelmed by choice and don't know what to try.. and they want to try something that they think they will truly enjoy it. It's even overwhelming for me, being unemployed to keep seeing new beers being added to the Liquor store list while I can only try a few of them because either they end up stolen by sketchy friends of my roommate, or I simply can't afford it.

Link to the Winnipeg Free Press article

Review: Red Racer Maple Bacon Ale

Maple/Bacon beers are weird for me as they're hard to brew. With maple, I've found that either you end up brewing a beer that's way too sweet and over-the-top in maple or else the maple is too subtle where it could be just about any other "sweet" flavour - like caramel rather than actual maple syrup or smoked maple. Then there's bacon: most bacon beers don't have any notes that are in any way reminiscent to bacon. The closest thing to bacon I usually find in bacon beers is smokiness. With bacon flavoured beers - you don't want to piss off the vegetarians/vegans, because they will be very vocal about it not being a vegan friendly beer. The only maple beer I truly loved so far was Cannery Brewing's Maple Stout, which was an incredibly sweet and over-the-top stout, but it was amazing for dessert.. or breakfast.

Now: Central City's Red Racer Maple Bacon Ale has been in Manitoba for a while now, I haven't had the chance to try it out yet because I've been busy for the past few weeks and frankly.. it sold out within a few days at my local LCs. Central City is one of the most solid breweries in BC, so I know I'm drinking a quality beverage... but maple and bacon is still a bit weird for me for beers.

Appearance: The maple bacon ale pours a copper-caramel ale, clear, moderate amount of carbonation and a thin amount of beige head.

Aroma: Light smokiness, sweet caramel maltiness, moderate bready aromas and table pancake syrup. Only trace amounts of maple make its way in the beer, but it reminds me more of table syrup (non maple syrup) rather than maple.. so that's never a good thing for me. However, it's alright.. a bit reminiscent of a sweet amber ale.

Taste: The first thing I taste here is Hawkin's Cheezies.. minus the cheese powder. The flavour profiles are all over the place. There's a sweetness that's a combination of table pancake syrup and a hint of maple, a hint of smoky faux bacon taste that you would see in potato chips. Light nuttiness, slight saltiness. As it warms up, I'm noticing a light amount of spice warming up my tongue.. perhaps a bit of chipotle? The spiciness is intertwined with the smokiness. The maple is there, but it just tastes a bit off.

Overall Thoughts: Not one of Central City's better beers. If they advertised this as a Smoky Amber Ale rather than a Maple Bacon Ale, I'd believe it more. The maple is more reminiscent of table syrup than maple syrup, which is disappointing. Most of the maple I do notice comes later on in the aftertaste.. I just wish it was more prominent in the flavour itself. I do like the light smokiness as I love smoked beers. I'll pass on this the next time I see it in store.