Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Review: Corps Mort vin d'orge by À l'abri de la tempête

Tonight’s my night of Barley Wines, after seeing Anchor Steam’s Old Foghorn Barley Wine available in Manitoba for the first time (at the low low price of $3.95/355mL bottle), I knew it was time for a Barley Wine party of one!

Back in 2012 I received a bottle of Corps Mort by À l’abri de la Tempête brewery from Îles de la Madeleine. The bottle intimidated me immediately, with a name like “Dead Body” and a graphic of a “dead body” scared me off. But that’s what makes a beer truly authentic. The actual scariest part for me is that the beer warns that there may be traces of Herring. Traces of Herring? In a Beer?! What the heck?! Apparently, with the brewery being on a small yet cozy island, they have their malt smoked in the same place as where the local fishermen smoke their Herring, so that kind of makes sense - Community pride!

À l’Abri de la Tempête is one of my favourite breweries. It’s hard to find, but when I visit Quebec, I buy a few bottles of anything I find. Their saison is possibly one of the best saisons in Quebec, if not - in Canada.

So here I am.. with a bottle of Corps Mort Barley Wine warming up and I’m just writing about it.. eventually I’m going to have to review this as I’m not one for being known to throw out perfectly good beer.

Appearance: The Corps Mort is incredibly heavy, a dark orange with lots of sediment and cloudiness to it. Seeing that this beer’s been aging for over two years, I’m not surprised in the slightest. As it’s poured, a nice amount of cloudy beige foam forms on top, but quickly makes its way to the sides of the beer glassware. Nice amount of carbonation, and a bit of a grapefruit hue to it.

Aroma: For it being a Barley Wine (vin d’orge), it has a very present smoked aroma to it - which I have never seen so far in a barley wine, a bit of a smoked woodiness to it. Notes of caramel, various cereals, nowhere near as sweet and syrupy as your standard Barley Wine - but there is a touch of caramel in there.

Taste: Thankfully I don’t taste Herring in this beer, phew! It’s a combination of a smoked beer meets a Barley Wine. I immediately get presence of charred wood, lots of smoke, but then there’s sweet caramel notes, flavours of dark fruits like raisins and finally a presence of a light syrupy taste to it. Out of all the Barley Wines I’ve ever had, this one is the most unique - yet. It also has flavours reminiscent of plain potato chips, hint of dill and another hint of caramel.

Overall Thoughts: Thankfully there’s no dead bodies in this beer, nor actual herring in this beer, but seeing that the barley is smoked and malted on l’îles de la Madeleine, this is quite a real treat for a beer geek like myself. It has a great combination of a typical barley wine, sweet, syrupy and dark fruits meets a rural Quebec fish/malt smoking hut. The smokiness reminds me of the first smoked beer I ever had - Lava Stout from Iceland. Visiting les Îles de la Madeleine is on my bucket list. I will do it, en fait, one friend told me about a job opportunity at this brewery several years back during my depressing & crankier unemployment phase, but unfortunately the job was already filled.. But Santé and Cheers to unique Canadian beers. 11.0% ABV, bottled July 2011 - Oh how life has changed since then!

http://www.alabridelatempete.com/Site/Bieres.html

Also: Visit les Îles de la Madeleine! (Youtube)

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Review: Blue Moon Proximity Ale (Brewed with Sauvignon blanc grapes)


It's not every day one finds an ale brewed with Sauvignon blanc grape juice or with grapes at all... because that's wine stuff! But the folks over at MolsonCoors' Blue Moon Brewing created just that, a wheat ale brewed with the juice of Sauvignon grapes for their limited edition beer, Proximity.

I don't consider myself a snob, so when I'm down in the States for a mini vacation, I sometimes pick up a case of Sam Adams or Blue Moon. In this case, when I saw the bottle, I just had to pick it up. At first glance, I thought this was a wine and frankly, I'm not a wine fan. But then I noticed it was in the beer section of the store. So of course, I picked up a bottle to try. Unfortunately for me, as a beer hoarder, I aged this one way past its best before date. I buy a lot of beer, drink a lot of beer, but also hoard beer because I'm waiting for the right timing.

Appearance: Proximity pours a clear golden straw yellow,  somewhat fizzy and carbonated and a light snow wheat head that diminishes quite quickly.

Aroma: Certainly has some white wine and Sauvignon notes to it. Hint of tartness, pretty faint and a bit of a scent of stale straw in it. The stale straw is probably my fault, but I'll blame Blue Moon! I like the Sauvignon aroma to it, it's nowhere near as strong and tart as in a wine, but in this beer, it gives it a nice aromatic profile to it.

Taste: Very much a wheat ale that is trying to be a white wine. It has the standard characteristics of a filtered pale wheat ale, some citrus notes, quite grassy and light bitterness from the hops. Then there's the Sauvignon appearance that gives it the typical tartness of a white wine, a bit of an acidic mouth feel and quite dry, some flavours reminiscent of 7-up - citrusy. Quite easy to drink, and not bad at all. Sweet, very much a beer and notes of wine juice.

Overall Thoughts: Smooth, not bad wheat ale with a decent amount of wine flavours in there. Quite a bit new to me as I've maybe only ever had two other beers that used grapes, and even then - it was more juice-like than wine. It was pricey at $10/750mL bottle, but incredibly smooth for 8.5% (and only 2-4 IBUs). I'd sure buy it again, but not at $10.

http://www.bluemoonbrewingcompany.com/OurBeers/Product/Proximity

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Review: Half Pints' Dead Ringer Belgian IPA


Tonight's newest review is Half Pints' Dead Ringer Belgian IPA, a beer that was only available for purchase at the beer garden for the Canadian Cyclocross Championship event, and now on tap at the growler stations at the brewery and a limited amount of Liquor Marts. I love Belgian ales and I love IPAs. So why not both?!

Appearance: Dead Ringer pours a hazy golden honey, very cloudy and a decent amount of creamy IPAlicious foam on top. Obviously the growler in the photo isn't a Half Pints' growler, but I had to make due with what I had (as I had my Souris River growler mugged from me!)

Aroma: notes of various hops including cascade, a bit of Belgian yeast, lemon, bubble gum, coriander.. And even notes that remind me of sorachi ace hops.

Taste: The yeast and hops hit the palate at the same time. Medium amount of bittering and floral hops with a Belgian yeastiness that gives a bit of a bite. A bit grainy, a hint of coriander and a smidge of lemon.

Overall Thoughts: Very solid Belgian IPA. Has great yeasty & citrus notes while containing great floral hoppiness to it. Not overpowering so it's the kind of IPA that is great with dinner. Not as near bitter as Little Scrapper. If this became a new seasonal from Half Pints, I'd buy up lots of it!


Saturday, 1 November 2014

Review: Alexander Keith's Saphir Hop ale



The hop series over at Alexander Keith's must be doing really well for Labatt, as this is the 4th beer in their Hop series of ales, too bad they didn't try brewing an actual India Pale Ale. The newest arrival is the Saphir hop - which isn't a hop I'm too familiar with.

Appearance: Saphir hop ale pours a golden honey, clear, pale and a decent amount of creamy beige head.

Aroma: Too light for me, a hint of peppery spice, a bit of lemon and bitterness of black tea.

Taste: Minimal maltiness, hint of bitter hops that gives it a profile similar to a watered down black tea. lemon, very grassy, hint of caramel. 

Overall thoughts: Underwhelming as we'd expect, there's sweet notes that are reminiscent to the Galaxy Hop ale, but this might be a bit sugary and black tea rather than a hoppy ale. Very easy to drink, light peppery aroma. Meh.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Review from the archives: Labatt Shock Top Raspberry White (2014)


Labatt has been really pushing their Shock Top brand across Canada lately, and their marketing agency had plans to advertise their beer as a craft beer, which is not in any shape or form, a craft beer. Shock Top has replaced Rickard's on tap at most pubs I frequent. A lot of pubs frankly don't have any craft beer offerings, so I would rely on Rickard's to get a beer fix, but now.. it's near impossible. Here's a review from the archives, Shock Top Raspberry White from April
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Appearance: Shock Top Raspberry White pours like a standard Belgian-style witbier, a very murky golden beer, as thick as the Assiniboine. As I pour the Assiniboine.. uh.. I mean the Raspberry Wheat Ale, it’s fizzing up like a can of ginger ale, which isn’t normal for most wheat ales but seeing that this likely has a fruit syrup concentrate, it makes more sense.

Aroma: Reminiscent of store bought raspberry jam, overly sweet, sugary, but the kind of raspberry jam that brings you back memories. There’s a vague malty sweetness coming from the wheat.. and honestly, that’s all I’m really noticing.

Taste: Fairly pale Belgianesque wheat ale with notes of raspberry. The flavour of raspberry honestly doesn’t do it for me, it reminds me of the fake raspberry flavour you see in gum and candy - a bit syrupy and overly sweet. There is a light amount of a bitterness coming off the wheat used, giving it a nice dense breadiness to it, but it’s mostly powered by the raspberry sweetness.

Overall Thoughts: Not bad, certainly drinkable but my problem is that the raspberry is way too sweet and faux syrupy, if it had a hint of coriander to it, it would be a bit better. Just over $3.00 per 473mL can.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Review: New beer by Unibroue! La Résolution

The other day I was checking out the Manitoba Liquormarts website for new products that are making its way to Manitoba. One of the products that was on the list was a beer called La Resolution by Unibroue, it didn't have any information about it except the cost and that it wasn't available yet.
I searched all over the interwebz and couldn't find any information about the beer.

I ended up sending a message to Unibroue Sommelier asking him details about it, it told me about the style and that it was going to be launched in Quebec on October 3rd. October 3rd comes around and my beer buddy Jovan iMessaged me a picture of La Résolution! The bottle reminded me of a wine bottle: simple, the name of the beer and the brewmaster's signature on it. Pretty bland for Unibroue standards. But up close I found out that it's a painted label, which is NOT cheap at all compared to simply using a paper label to it.

Unibroue's La Résolution's bottle notes state: La Résolution is a dark ale with spicy character inspired by a recipe our brewmaster Jerry Vietz created for his friends. At 10% alcohol, its spicy caramel aroma evolves on the palate into pleasant and complex notes of toffee with reminiscence of a tasty gingerbread. The perfect balance between spicy, caramel and roasted malt flavours is complemented by a nice roundness and persistent finish.

The first thing that came to mind about this beer was "is this possibly a beer created off of the success of Unibroue 17 but without all the aging in oak barrels?"

Appearance: La Résolution pours a thick dark black ale, akin to your standard Trois Pistoles or 17 Grande Réserve. Incredibly murky with a hint of a ruby red hue to it. The head is quite thick, creamy, beige and foamy, but by the time I was able to get one non-blurry photo - the head was all gone.

Aroma: Nice sweet dark notes to it. Very much a Unibroue beer through and through. Notes of burnt caramel, a bit of nutmeg, dark fruits like prunes, a bit parfumic, light buttery notes and a sprinkling of gingerbread. The flavour cold from a fridge vs warmed up is incredibly different. The dark fruits are more noticeable as it warms up, while I find the caramel and gingerbread is more present at colder temperatures.

Taste: A bit hard for me to drink when it's warm, which is rare for me as I can drink down a Unibroue pretty easily - the only beer I do have problems with drinking down is U17, so it's quite reminiscent of Unibroue 17 but this is its own beast. It has a creamy mouthfeel, a bit of a bitter alcohol bite to it, a light bitterness that's slightly reminiscent of oak - but it's more likely from the roasted malts more than anything, to give it off a hint of a roasted coffee bite. The creaminess I described before has a shot of ginger bread, reminiscent to the sweet & wintery stouts we see popping up starting in November, and even a bit reminiscent to the pumpkin ales that are all the rage right now. Other notes include dark fruits and a Belgian yeastiness.

Overall Thoughts: Perhaps this beer is influenced by Unibroue 17 in some way, as it has notes that remind me of it a great deal, the heaviness, the roastiness, the darkness, but this is a slightly different Belgian ale than what Unibroue usually does, the addition of notes like burnt caramel and gingerbread is a first for Unibroue to me. This beer likely won't be sticking around for that long, I special ordered a case of 12 to age - and aging I will be doing! This beer will easily age like a fine wine.. er like a fine Belgian ale!

As Unibroue's biggest fan, I approve! Lastly, I wish Unibroue would send me a free glass or coaster one day.. jeebus I don't even think they send out beer to anybody! Haha! I am sporting my new Unibroue hoodie with the weather getting chillier, while I was picking up a bunch of bottles at the Winnipeg City Place LC on the 3rd, the LC staff member thought I was a Unibroue rep.. ha.. if only.


http://www.unibroue.com/en/beers/55

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Review: Sierra Nevada Ovila Abbey Saison

What is an Abbey Saison anyways? When I picked up Sierra Nevada's Ovila Belgian Style Abbey Saison a few weeks back, I was expecting.. a saison!

According to Sierra Nevada, Ovila Abbey Saison is a rustic, complex and unique homage to Belgian monks who perfected some of the most unique and delicious styles of beers on the planet.

Ovila is a complex saison brewed with mandarin oranges, peppercorns, Belgian yeasts and herbs to give it a unique palate.

Appearance: Generally saisons are much lighter and more golden, this is more of an abbaye in appearance, medium brown, light beige head, very hazy yet no sediment floating around. 

Aroma: Quite complex, the peppercorns are really showing off in this beer. Quite a handful of peppercorn giving it a bit of a spicy complexion. Also notes of mandarin orange peels, a bit of coriander, Belgian yeast and a hint of straw to give it a unique one of a kind smell to it.

Taste: First time I tried this sans-glassware a few weeks back, the first thing I thought was "this doesn't taste like a saison at all" as it was much darker and heavier on the palate than your standard saison. It's quite a bit spicy from the peppercorns though nowhere near as peppery as Dieu du Ciel's Route des épices. Following the peppercorn - lingers a familiar flavour I haven't tasted in over 15 hours, the taste of saison! The familiarity of Belgian yeast, lemon peel, a dull wheatiness. The mandarin oranges don't really make much of an appearance unfortunately. The pepper overpowers the oranges by far.

Overall Thoughts: Interesting take on a saison, spiced with pepper, a bit herbal, backnotes of saisony goodness. Very unique and I think I'm going to have to age a bottle for a year to see how it turns out.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Review: Souris River Brewing's Ma Bel Belgian Strong Pale Ale


While BeerCrank.ca is a Canadian Beer Blog. However I found out that as of today - Americans make up the largest group of visitors who visit my site over Canadians. I love American beer as much as Canadian beer, sure I'm biased more pro-Canadian than anything, but the US has some amazing brews popping up all the time! Cheers to my American (and of course Canadian) visitors!

One thing that still frustrates me about living in Manitoba is the lack of brewpubs! It's understandable that Brandon may not have one as it's still a fairly small community at only 45-50K population, but it's pretty sucky that our largest city, Winnipeg, doesn't even have one! Some say that it's due to the liquor laws are still too archaic, others say that someone's waiting for someone with deep pockets to invest in one and as soon as they do, others will follow, others just say that Manitoban beer drinkers just wouldn't support it. Problem in Manitoba is that the pubs here tell beer drinkers what to drink by limiting selection, so that hinders growth of craft beer. That said, beer selection is changing rapidly at pubs (not so much at Liquormarts thanks to the merger with the Lotteries Commission - they're CUTTING craft beer selection now!) Also, education is becoming more key as people are searching for local, different tasting beers and even organic. The craft beer scene is a huge market, so someone needs to tap it - just like if someone opens up a Tim Horton's just about anywhere, they're guaranteed to make a fortune.

Souris River Brewing out of Minot, ND is essentially my go to local brewpub. It's 2 hours from my parents' farm, making it the closest brewery from home, three hours from Brandon, so it's not far of a drive, the border crossing is the most exhausting part of it. I like to go every time I'm in the city as they have great beers on tap and great food.. including a delicious poutine made with fresh North Dakotan fries, a thick southern style porter gravy and beer battered cheese curds that have a bit of spice to it - seriously amazing. Also, SRB is one of the only restaurants in the city that doesn't give me a wicked heart burn when I'm in town, so that's a huuuuge plus! HA!

This time around, I picked up a growler of SRB's Ma Bel Belgian Pale Ale. I've never had a brewpub's take of a Belgian Pale Ale (like a La Fin du Monde) before so it's going to be quite nice to try a non mass produced take on les pales ales belges.

Appearance: As I've had this 64oz bottle for over a month and half now, it's not as carbonated as as if it was fresh from the tap, but I was surprised to see a decent amount of carbonation take place as it is. A thin layer of head graces the side of the glass. It pours a rich, thick, orange - not transparent at all. Thicker than most Belgian Strong Pale Ales I've had like a Chimay or La Fin du Monde, but this unfiltered beauty reminds me what a Belgian beer should look like.

Aroma: The scents are banana, cloves, Belgian yeast, sweet maltiness, light amount of hoppy bitterness. Decently citrus and aromatic. The glass is still incredibly cold as I slowly review this, so I'm waiting for it to warm up a tad so I can pull out the flavours as Belgian Pale Ales tend to be much more complex warm than cold. I'm really digging the citrus aromas in this batch.

Taste: Usually growlered beer is best drank as soon as you get it, but this beer has kept very well. It's quite smooth on the palate, a bit of a light bitterness from the hops - a light nuttiness, flavours of bubble gum, coriander, a bit of lemon. The earthy nuttiness is a bit different from most Belgian Strong Pale Ales I'm used to.

Overall Thoughts: Nice, sweet, nutty, a light amount of creaminess on the palate. Glad I saved this for a review rather than drinking it on a hot summer day. It appears that summer is over here on the prairies, boo urns to that. 7.4% ABV - and it's available again for a limited time at Souris River Brewing, so get it while it's cold!

If you're ever down in Minot, check out Souris River Brewing at 32 3rd St NE, between the two grain elevators, can't get any more prairie than that! Also, while you're there - don't forget to check out Sweet & Flour Patisserie, easily one of the best patisseries around! The maple bacon donuts are heaven.

http://sourisriverbrewing.com/

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Review: Driftwood Gose-uh


How Gose it? Ha ha, get it?! I've never had a Gose-style wheat ale before, but being an aficionado of almost all kinds of wheat beers, it's due time to give it a try!

I got a bottle of Driftwood Brewing's Gose-uh from a trade last year, so it's due time to finally review it. In fact, this bottle was bottled on August 13, 2013, almost a year and a month ago.

Appearance: Gose-uh pours a murky yellowish orange peel appearance to it, a light copper hue to it, INCREDIBLY thick creamy beige head. The beige head is slowly evaporating, but even long after the beer is poured, the creamy thick head is showing its presence.

Aroma: Notes of lemon, wheat straw, hint of coriander, autumn forest morning dew, yeasty and quite reminiscent of several other wheat styles like Saisons and Hefeweizens, a bit thicker though.

Taste: Creamy mouthfeel, light bitterness from the yeast, notes of lemon, grass, light saltiness, herbal and overall quite a nice brew. A bit of a breadiness to it as it warms up. Slight sour notes.

Overall Thoughts: Gose is an interesting style, throughout the 20th century, there were decades when not a single brewery was brewing the style, leaving it to be nearly extinct. But now the style's more alive than ever. It's a nice creamy wheat beer that reminds me of German and Belgian wheat ales, but with some tweaks to make it its own, such as a bit of a saltiness, nice herbal backing notes. Overall, a very refreshing and great tasting wheat beer.

Links:
What is a Gose?

http://driftwoodbeer.com/beers/gose-uh/

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Review from the archives: Unibroue Éphémère Cassis



From October 2009:

750ML bottle of Éphémère Cassis (Black Currant) beer by Quebec brewery Unibroue. This is a new beer for Manitoba, and since I love Unibroue's beers, I had to try it. Cassis (Black Currant) based beverages are the rage in Quebec, but fairly non-existant here on the prairies.

The beer is a very carbonated beer, as are most Ephemeres, it reminds me of a 7-up or something when pouring it into a glass (at first) from all the fizz. It's a thick reddish colour, very similar to Grapefruit juice. The taste isn't great, very light on taste, I seem to taste more carbonation than anything. The éphémère pomme (apple) has much more of a zing to it than this beer, as does the Raspberry. Very very light in flavour. Probably won't buy it again, unless if I'm wanting a light fruity beer, but even then, I might stick with the other Éphémère beers. I just wish the Manitoba Liquor Commission would bring in more than just the Ephemeres for 750ml bottles from Quebec.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/codyrl/4031385252