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

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.


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.


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.

What is a Gose?


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.


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Review from the archives: Ožujsko Pivo

Before there was the Cranky Beer Blogger over at BeerCrank.ca, I did a 52 week beer review & photography project back in 2010. Enjoy!
Today's review from the archives is Ozujsko Pivo from Croatia, reviewed on March 10, 2010.

Hey everyone! I've been wanting to try out a Flickr 52/365 project for nearly two years now, but never had an idea what I should try out. Around Christmas I thought it would be a great idea to do a 52/365 project dedicated to beer. Since I don't want to seem like an alcoholic, and force myself to try a new beer each and every day, I decided that a 52 week project would be best. This way it would give me the ability to try A NEW (to me) beer each and every week! Ranging from beers I have never tried in my life to beers I may have not tasted in years.

The first beer in this 52 week project is a 500ml can of Ožujsko Pivo from Croatia. I've never heard of this beer, so I thought it would be perfect to be the first beer of the project.

A quick review, a beer that's similar to a North American styled golden lager, a very smooth tasting beer, it kind of reminds me of beer such as Molson Canadian, however the aroma is much more similar to Heineken or other European style lagers, but the taste is certainly more North American influenced, but that may just be me! As it being my first beer in the project, I was very pleased with how the photo turned out and how the beer tasted. Not a bad deal money wise, but it's not a beer I would have on a regular basis.

It is also 5.2% alc/volume

Monday, 1 September 2014

Review: Last Cast Summer IPA by Fernie Brewing

In the next 48 hours, BeerCrank.ca will have its 200,000th visitor. It's crazy! I started 'blogging' about beer in 2005, and 9 years later now I write for a local newspaper and get to talk about beer more than ever!

 Today's review is Last Cast Summer IPA by Fernie Brewing. I've had a few of Fernie's offerings in the past and for the most I've found their beers to be decent but lacking a bit of a punch. That being said, even if I don't find a beer to be a 5/5, I'll still try almost all their other offerings. I'm a big fan of Summer IPAs as they combine two of my favourite flavours - lemon & citrusy zestiness and piney hops. Heck, Muskoka's Detour is one of my absolute favourite India Pale Ale sessions out there. It's a beautiful sunny afternoon here in Manitoba, no sign of autumn yet but the weather is only going to get chillier from now on, so why not drink a Summer IPA while it's still summer, for now?!

Appearance: Last Cast pours a lightly hazy golden straw. Thick amount of off-white foam, a decent amount of foam is sticking to the side of the glass. Nice amount of micro carbonation, this, to me looks like what I think a summer IPA should look like.

Aroma: Mmm.. lemon zest, medium amount of pine & alfalfaesque hops to give it a nice bitterness to it. A decent amount of yeastiness to it, reminiscent of Belgian IPAs to a point.  Some tropical fruitiness to it like grapefruit.

Taste: Tropical fruits, lemon zest, piney hops to give it a nice hoppy balance. Quite a sweet IPA yet features a great deal of West Coast hops to give it a nice hoppy backing. Very smooth and creamy to the palate, yet a bit of a light bitter aftertaste that lingers for a bit.

Overall Thoughts: Solid Summer IPA. Reminiscent to Muskoka's Detour, but less tropical sweetness than Detour. I keep walking past this beer because I was broke for the past month, but now that I'm back to work after a few weeks off (and starting a new job), I just had to go out and splurge $6.50 for the 650mL bottle - $6.50 isn't bad at all for a solid citrusy summer friendly IPA. What really surprises me is that this is 6.7% ABV! I would have expected this to be 5.5% ABV tops as it's incredibly easy to drink and probably one of the better IPAs I've had this summer, especially when I'm not wanting a "boat load of bitter hops" in an IPA.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Cranky Cody is back

You know what grinds my gears? Twitter, but that's a story for another day.

I've been gone for a while, mainly because frankly - I don't have interest blogging on here anymore. 80% of my traffic is either people looking for reviews of Bud Light Mojito or bloggers wanting photos to rip for their blogs, so I'm not in the mood to really blog.

I'm also busy with work, starting a new position that's essentially my old position, so I haven't been able to find the time to actually review much.

That and I'm dealing with worst spout of depression since 2009 or so - some days I forget to take my medication and when I do forget - I get insanely painful spasms throughout my body that feels like a twitch through my nerves every 5-10 seconds, which make its way from my back to all the way to my head, and once it reaches my head, I get a bit of a quick ringing sound... like the tinnitus kind of ringing if you were at a loud concert or if it's absolutely dead quiet.. but only for a brief second every 5-10 seconds.

There's other reasons I'm not happy as well. Well, looking at photos of myself from two years ago, I looked good, I was losing weight, sure I was depressed as hell but I was vying to join the military, but now, I have no drive to lose weight anymore so I gained back every single pound of fat ever since, because I have 0 drive to lose weight again. Get a girl? No, I didn't date eff all when I was single anyways. Feel healthy? Meh, my diet hasn't really changed in years, in fact - I go days without eating which is NOT healthy.

Then there's the beer part that pisses me the fuck off. Ever since MLCC merged with Manitoba Lotteries, I've noticed at Liquormarts throughout Manitoba going downhill in quality. All in all it has to do with streamlining, what's happening is that the government wants to streamline operations of two departments that have nothing to do with each other either than being a sin tax. I've talked with Liquormart employees and managers around the province and what's happening for the beer scene is that it seems that head office is wanting to cut back on the amount of craft beer selection and you're really starting to see it. You're noticing LCs that had outstanding beer selections now only stocking the basics in the name of the all mighty dollar. With that, it's hurting craft beer growth in Manitoba. One such example is that Dieu du Ciel is FINALLY available in Manitoba, but you have to pay up the ass to get taste of it - at $28ish before tax, Aphrodisiaque is rated one of the best beers on the planet, but they want to make you pay for convenience. Not only that, a lot of LCs that were known for carrying a great selection of micros aren't carrying beers like Aphrodisiaque. But what's frustrating is not the lack of locations that carry it (ie 0 Brandon locations), but $28 is just a freaking rip-off. I can paypal a friend from Montreal the amount it costs AFTER taxes and deposit and they would be making a nice profit off it. I've regularly seen Aphrodisiaque on sale at places like IGA and Metro for $9.99-$11.99. To ship to Manitoba, it's generally around $15-17 including supplies. So in the end of the day, it's cheaper to paypal them plus give them a few dollar tip than it is to buy it from your local Liquormart.

Secondly, I generally end up putting my beer bottles in recycling. Yes, vendors are SUPPOSED to accept my Unibroue, Granville Island (650s) and Muskoka bottles as I've paid a deposit on at the local Liquormarts or beer vendors, but I find that the staff at a lot of vendors are generally cranky as fuck (just like me) and absolutely refuse to accept anything that isn't the standard Molson/Labatt/Sleeman because "it looks different". I've gotten told by beer vendor clerks "we don't take that here" and when I respond with "I'm not lugging this back with me", they tell me to take it because they aren't going to look after it. The only thing I can really do is contact MLCC about it, and sometimes one email to MLCC will fix it, but quite often some of the more sketchy vendors still refuse. With new "Social Responsibility" changes, prices in the "weird looking beers" have gone up as much as 10¢ per 650mL bottle, but these vendors are allowed to serve Lucky Extra til as late as 2:30AM on some nights?!

Thirdly and finally - Why can't we have private beer stores that AREN'T ATTACHED TO SKETCHY AS FUCK MOTELS?! I would like to see a beer boutique that caters to beer geeks. Look at Montreal, they're everywhere and the staff at locations like Dépanneur Peluso are insanely educated in everything to do with beer, while at the local LC I've been told "If you want an amazing beer, try Bud Light Lime", which made me cringe beyond belief. I think it's time for MLLC to allow for private beer stores to allow for growth of the craft beer scene as it seems Manitoba's craft beer scene is stagnated due to the lack of brewpubs and with the reduction of craft beer happening at some Liquormarts. I know lots of people are calling for a full on privatization of liquor sales in Manitoba, but what makes me laugh is that go to rural Manitoba and you can get beer and rye at the local Co-Op, but in urban places you have to buy your beer completely separately from your milk and cookies. Also, MLCC should be promoting our own local brands more. Farmery is getting a lot of PR at the small town Co-Ops and Liquormarts, but you never really see MLLC showing off Manitoban products, telling customers we have products made right here in Manitoba that are rated among some of the best in all of Canada. It's 2014 and I still know too few people who are familiar with the Half Pints brand.

Now that I'm done, the stress tick has calmed down just a tad. I know I shouldn't be in Manitoba, I belong in Quebec, I'm just a cranky born-in-Manitoba outsider here.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Review: Farnham 64 IPA Américaine

I'm in a bit of a bah humbug mood. Here in Brandon, we're experiencing the second one-in-300-year flood in 3 years, mosquitos are everywhere, tornados galore, monsoon rain, some of the weirdest weather I've ever seen. Plus the fact that my parents live in the tornado capital of Manitoba makes me uneasy. However, a good beer will help calm the nerves for a few minutes.

Let's try out Farnham Ale And Lager's IPA Américaine, which, as you probably guessed, is a take on American style IPAs, meant to be full on hops, sweet maltiness, light amount of citrus, and great for a patio quencher.

Appearance: I love Farnham's packaging as it reminds me of beer labels from the 1950s, very simple and straightforward yet incredibly catchy. The beer pours a light honey brown. Quite frothy, a creamy beige foam that slowly goes down.

Aroma: Notes of various hops including cascade, a bit of a brown sugar sweetness, light amount of citrus, a bit of pine sap and a hint of mint.

Taste: A bit of a watery mouth feel, not as bitter as most American-style IPAs. A bit of pine notes, sweet caramel malt, slightly nutty, light straw notes, not the best IPA I've had from Quebec unfortunately.

Overall Thoughts: It's alright, but not great, but at $2.99/can, you can't go wrong with that price. Much lighter than I expected, but very easy to drink, and still more bitter than a Keith's by far! 6.0% ABV.