Unibroue Blonde de Chambly

What surprises me is that in the five or so years that I've been a fan of Unibroue's Blonde de Chambly, I've never done a full review of the beer.. I have no idea why. Unibroue's Blonde de Chambly was my go-to beer from 2011 to 2013. I still like to drink the beer once in a while but there's too many new beers to check out so it's hard for me to come back to this at times! I've heard rumours that this beer is being discontinued in Manitoba due to sales but time will tell. Looking on MLCC's website, only a handful of stores have the beer still in stock, so once it's gone, it's possibly gone for good... or until a future Unibroue Sommelier taster pack.

Appearance: La Blonde de Chambly pours a heavy, hazy, sort of orange-yellow body with a hefty amount of off-white head on top. The foam is pretty much present during the entire time.

Aroma: A citrus forward saison with notes of lemongrass, a hint of pepper, a grainy/bready combination from the wheat malt, light floral hoppiness, hint of banana, clove, and a hint of coriander but not to the extent of what we see in la Blanche.

Taste: A pretty dry saison with a hint of pepper to give it a bit of spice, good amount of lemon, clove, a flower-like taste. It's clean and crisp, leaves a light sour aftertaste at the very end. Hint of banana and apple in the background. Light amount of earthiness.

Overall Thoughts: It isn't like most contemporary saisons/farmhouse ales that we all love now days - it doesn't have a barnyard funkiness to it nor does it have an overly yeasty presence either. Aside from that, this is a solid saison with a nice citrus zest, a hint of pepper and a dry finish to it. I'll miss this one but we'll see each other again! Actually, I'm expecting to see À Tout le Monde to make an appearance in the near future... HOPEFULLY.


Microbrasserie Le Castor - Le Moine Féral

I was lucky enough to visit Microbrasserie Le Castor during a bièrcation back in January 2016, I might post photos one day but I didn't really capture many photos that visit. Le Castor is highly regarded in the beer scene as making one of the best Canadian IPAs outside of the West Coast and also one of the best organic breweries in the world. I reviewed their Yakima IPA only about a year after they first opened and while I haven't been able to try many beers by Le Castor over the years, I've been satisfied with the few I've tried.
Today, we're checking out their Le Moine Féral, a blonde Belgian-style Abbey Ale brewed with Brett yeast. I'm not a fan of Brett-styled beers but since they're non existent in Manitoba, I'm actually now getting cravings for the danky, barnyard experimental yeast for some reason.

Appearance: Le Moine Féral pours a heavy, cloudy orange juice-like body, a sort of thick amount of frothy white head on top to start off with but eventually diminishes to a light-to-moderate amount of head mostly concentrated around the side of the glassware and a bit of beer foam skim everywhere else on top. As I got the beer out of the fridge I noticed a very liberal amount of yeast sticking to the bottom of bottle - unfortunately it didn't make its way into my glass.. even with a bit of um.. shaking.

Aroma: I'm finding this beer pretty complex as I'm getting a bunch of different flavours all hitting me all at once. The first thing that I noticed was a mild sourness from the Brett yeast which gave off a light presence of dill. I also got a bit of Dove soap in there, the typical barn yard ickiness we all love in a beer brewed with Brett. There's a good deal of citrus notes (lemon, orange peel) and a surprisingly floral hop presence which shocks me as I bought this back in June! Fairly bready, sweet and even a bit of earthiness popping out here.

Taste: The beer tastes starts off with a combination of the Brett yeast and the hops, giving off a moderate amount of barnyard flavours, a bit of woodiness and a nice amount of light floral hop presence. The Brett is pretty tame in this beer compared to just about every other beer I've tried with this yeast... perhaps it's because a lot of it is at the very bottom? Mild notes of lemongrass, a sweet caramel maltiness, surprisingly smooth and quite dry. Compared to many of the Belgian Abbeys I've drank over the course of the past few weeks, this one is surprisingly insanely smooth and easy to drink, no overly boozy bite in there and not much of a lingering aftertaste at the end.

Overall Thoughts: If I didn't know that this was a Blonde Belgian Abbey, I wouldn't have known. It does have a presence of your typical Belgian Abbey but smoother, not as heavy on the booziness and much drier than what I'm used to from this style - also the Brett makes a difference as subtle as it seems to be. I like this a lot! 8.0% ABV

Review: Samuel Adams Fresh as Helles Lager

Wow, it's been a while since I've reviewed a Boston Beer Co/Sam Adams product, in fact - my most recent Boston Beer Co review was of Coney Island Root Beer, and it's been nearly half a decade since I've reviewed a Samuel Adams beer.

I'm not a lager fan but I've been growing on Helles Lagers thanks to the awesome What the Helles lager by Torque Brewing. I was a big fan of Sam Adams around 2007-2010 when their beers weren't available in Manitoba but I've gotten bored of their beers for the most part. Now for my take on Samuel Adams' Fresh as Helles Lager!

Appearance: This helles pours a crisp, clear, golden straw lager with a great amount of carbonation. There's a few fingers worth of white head on top.. very frothy!

Aroma: This smells great! It's a citrusy lager with notes of lemongrass, a moderate amount of grassy hops, honey and a hint of graininess. This reminds me every so slightly of my old Sam Adams standby - Sam Adams Spring Lager (Alpine Lager).

Taste: Quite a sweet lager with notes of orange blossom, honey, a hint of pepper spiciness, a mild amount of floral hoppiness, biscuits. The beer is crisp and very easy to drink.

Overall Thoughts: Not your typical lager! I'm loving the sweet honey popping at every sniff n sip - it's a reminder that spring is just right around the corner. The hint of pepper is a real surprise but it doesn't come off intrusive but it adds a nice bite to it.. almost like cracked pepper Triscuits but nowhere near as strong. 5.4% ABV


Review: New Belgium Snapshot Ale

Review: Collective Arts IPA No 1 (Collective Project)

My current list of my go-to beers whenever I visit the local LC: Unibroue Lune de Miel, Torque Witty Belgian, Unibroue Trois Pistoles and Collective Arts' Ransack the Universe Hemisphere IPA. Those are my most common beer picks each and every time I visit the nearby LC. Why? Those beers keep me happy!

Collective Arts' Ransack the Universe Hemisphere IPA is by far my ABSOLUTE go-to IPA right now, beating out Driftwood's Fat Tug and Fuggles & Warlock's Destiny IPA.. though I still go out and regularly buy both IPAs! Something about Ransack the Hemisphere just tastes like pure joy to me. So.. when I discovered that the LC was bringing out a limited release of Collective Arts Collective Project: IPA No. 1, I was too excited so of course I had to go out and get it.

IPA No. 1 tops out at 7.1% ABV - a bit heavier in alcohol than most IPAs. 80 IBU and brewed with Nelson Sauvin, Simcoe and Citra hops.

Appearance: The IPA No. 1 pours a moderately cloudy orangey-yellow body with the ability to actually see through the glass near the bottom. There's a moderate amount of microcarbonation as well as a pretty moderate amount of off-white head at the beginning that gradually diminishes to film on the side of the glass and a light amount of head on the top of the beer.

Aroma: It's reminiscent to Ransack the Universe to me, it's a sweet, tropical IPA with notes of grapefruit, various sweet fruits such as apricot, kiwi and of course, grapefruit. There's a light candy/sugary like sweetness in there as well but the hops are overpowering just about everything else here.

Taste: Full on tropical. This is almost like an adult version Capri Sun - it's sweet with tropical flavours, enjoyable to drink every sip and I'm going to be sad when my last sip nears. The flavours I'm getting here are papaya, grapefruit, apricot and a hint of kiwi. There's a light amount of a bitter metallic aftertaste at the very end.

Overall Thoughts: This is the kind of IPA that has helped me deal with a super (horrible) cold, heck, this is the single beer that helped numb my pain/suffering while I was dealing with the super (horrible) cold (sans medication). Every time I drink this, whether or not I'm feeling sick or fine - it is like a party in my mouth. I love Collective Arts' artsy labels so I was disappointed that they only used one label for this beer.. but the artwork they did use was pretty awesome.


Review: Hop City Polly Want a Pilsner

I was planning on not trying this beer at all - skipping this beer completely.. but today I was walking around the liquor store across from my workplace (to avoid the windy, rainy stabby-stabby sleet). As I was looking at the minimal single serve craft beer they have on their shelves as they're a small store, I kept thinking "okay I've reviewed this, this, this, not this (because it's swill), this this and this.. I need to try something different." So that's how I ended up picking up a bottle of Hop City's Polly Want a Pilsner - I treated myself to a bottle of Unibroue Blonde de Chambly as an extra push to get me to write this review! Especially since pilsners are one of my least favourite styles of beer.

Appearance: Polly Want a Pilsner pours a pale light-yellow straw beer with a 1/3rd of a finger's worth of white foam on top, it has a bit of a light frothiness to it, slightly frothier than your typical pilsner.

Aroma: Notes of lemon, crackers, sweet malt profile to give it a bit of a honey biscuit flavour to it (but not really honey), wet.. grassy hay, hint of skunky vibe but not really. This is coming off as your typical every day pilsner for the most part. Not as skunky as the brewery owner Moosehead's staple beer.

Taste: Crisp, light, hint of lemon, quite grassy, a mild yet sharp hop bite that gives off a combination of fresh cut grass and a hint of pine bitterness. A hint of apple peel in the background and a light gritty barley bite hitting my palate at the end.

Overall Thoughts: A solid crafty take on a popular style. Not something I'd ever drink again but for the pilsner fans out there - you'll like this. It's crisp, fairly light but with a sharp hop bitterness that hits all of a sudden. Easy to drink, but too light for this guy's palate.


Fernie Brewing's Quite Rye't IPA

Originally posted in The Brandon Sun, May 8, 2015

This week’s beer is Quiet Rye’t Rye IPA by Fernie Brewing out of, you guessed it, Fernie BC! I find Fernie Brewing likes to bring out a new seasonal once every few weeks, to the point that I’m overwhelmed and can’t keep up. Here in Manitoba, they currently have their Quiet Rye’t, Lone Wolf IPA, Sap Sucker Maple Porter, Snowblind Belgian IPA and Kickstand Honey Kolsch available in single serve bottles - that’s more than the single serve products by Fort Garry and Half Pints combined! My favourite of theirs so far was What the Huck Huckleberry Wheat Ale, which was gifted to me by CBC Music’s Grant Lawrence - whose father actually grew up in the Onanole area!

Quiet Rye’t is part of Fernie’s Bucket List IPA series of beers, which is a series of one-off experimental IPAs ranging from bready yet sweet and citrusy to bitter and piney. Seeing Quiet Rye’t is brewed with a decent amount of rye malt, I expect this to be more of a moderate IPA rather than bitter.

Quiet Rye’t pours a fairly clear caramel amber ale, reminiscent to beers like Sleeman Honey Brown or Half Pints’ Bulldog Amber Ale, very reddish/caramel hue to it. Fairly decently carbonated with just a light amount of foam on top. The aroma has a nice sweet caramel sweetness to it, followed by fresh hops from the Pacific NorthWest, which gives it a very floral, parfumic yet bitter aroma to it - a bit of a pine aroma to it. A bit of a spicy, peppery aroma coming from the rye malt. Fairly bready. The taste starts off lightly spiced from the rye malt, giving it a bit of a hint of peppery bite to it, followed by a rich breadiness that can be best described as Winnipeg Rye Bread. The hops quickly make an appearance, giving it an earthy, floral, and somewhat bitter pine bite to it. There’s also a hint of caramel to give it a bit of a sweetness to top it all off. The thing that surprises me most is that it’s very easy on the palate, it’s very smooth, a bit creamy on the tongue and very easy to drink.

I’ve found Fernie’s beers to be hit or miss but they’ve improved a great deal since the first time I’ve tried their beers back in 2012. Lightly spiced, nice breadiness, not overwhelmingly bitter so I’d recommend this to beer geeks who aren’t a fan of “in your face” hoppy bitterness. 6.7% ABV and available in 650mL bottles at Liquormarts in Brandon for $6.50/bottle. Stock for BC beers are always limited in Brandon, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this is completely gone by mid next week. 4/5 pints


Garrison Winter Warmer

It's that time of year for me - I'm coming up with a bad cold. I've never really had bad bad colds compared to most people but usually I'll have a sore throat/aching nose/face for a bunch of days, nothing where I need to run to the bathroom to barf every 5 minutes.. thank goodness! Every time I take a swallow, it feels like sandpaper rubbing against my throat.. the only thing keeping me sane is beer even though my senses aren't up to norm at the moment.

Tonight's review is Garrison Brewing's Winter Warmer Ale. I really enjoy a good Winter Warmer alongside great Scotch Ales and Barley Wines, those boozey, caramelly treats are always a delight in middle of winter, especially when I'm coming up with a bad cold.. the alcohol numbs the pain for the slightest moment! ON TO THE BEER!

Appearance: Garrison's Winter Warmer pours a slightly cloudy ruby red ale with a light amount of beige foam on top. As I let the beer warm up, the head diminishes to a foam line close to the side of the glass.

Aroma: Notes of raisins, caramel, well spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, a hint of a booze burn on my nostrils and a hint of brown sugar. So far the beer's looking great!

Taste: The first thing I notice is a bit of the grain popping out giving it that farm yard taste to it. There's notes of sweet caramel, the spices turn up again (cinnamon, nutmeg), an earthy hop bitterness that leaves behind a light bitter sensation on the tongue, and there's a hint of booziness in there at a point.. it's only 7%!

Overall Thoughts: I would have preferred this more around Christmas time but hey.. it's still winter and I really like the nicely spiced flavours complimenting the caramel sweetness. Great style of beer for a chilly winter night like today. (Currently -17C)

Garrison Star Trek Golden Annivesary Ale (2016)

Fernie Brewing's The Real Peel Grapefruit IPA

Today I'm checking out The Reel Peel Grapefruit IPA by the folks over at Fernie Brewing out of Fernie, BC. I've reviewed a few of Fernie's beers out of their popular Bucket List IPA Series already.. for the most part the IPA series has been fairly decent, nothing overwhelming but still decent at least.

Oh crap.. apparently this IPA is pretty old but I recently bought it at an LC.. so I might as well still try to review it as I already put my time into it already!

Appearance: The Real Peel starts out very foamy as soon as the cap comes off, it gives off a lightly cloudy orangey appearance, good amount of carbonation and thick amount of off-white head that slowly diminishes to one finger's worth of head. A liberal amount of foam sticks to the side of the glass as the beer gradually goes down.

Aroma: Grapefruit seems to be the main aspect of the beer as I get a liberal dose of grapefruit. I get a bit of a light sour note in there - lemon and a very gritty yet sweet graininess that takes me back to all the brewery tours I've had over the years. Light perfumy.

Taste: Grainy to start off, followed by notes of grapefruit and grapefruit peels. There's a mild bitterness to it mostly diminishes a second or two after it hits the palate. Hint of lemon and caramel. Not overpowering, very easy to drink and only leaves a trace bitter aftertaste at the end.

Overall Thoughts: While I generally want more of a hop bite to it, the grapefruit comes out decently in this beer, as does the lemon and barley. Easy to drink.. in fact a bit too easy to drink. I probably won't buy this again unless if I forgot I had this in a few years time, it's decent but there's just too many IPAs out there for me to try right now.

Review: Parallel 49 Mystic Skull No. 5 Dark Lager

It's been quite a while since I last saw a Parallel 49 beer in a bigger, seasonal release bottle - so it's nice to see their beer selection increasing here in Manitoba! Tonight I'm checking out their Mystic Skull #5. Mystic Skull #5 is described as being a dark lager inspired by the Vienna Lagers brewed in Mexico, Mystic Skull No. 5 is light and crisp with bready, toasty malt flavour. Brewing this beer with traditional ingredients used in mole sauce give this cerveza its aromas of chili spice, cumin, cinnamon and chocolate.

Appearance: Mystic Skull pours a bright amber caramel red lager with a light amount of carbonation, a light amount of beige head on top but starts off with a whole finger's worth of head when pouring into the glass but diminishes into a light amount of head around the edge of the glass almost immediately.

Aroma: So when I was smelling from the bottle, I seriously couldn't smell anything. Once I poured it into the glass some of the scents finally popped out. I got a bit of a smell of caramel, raisins and wet paper. The malt aroma is sharp and not really enjoying it - I can't pinpoint exactly what I'm smelling. Some are saying it's the cumin but I'm not familiar with the spice so I'm not sure what it is. It almost reminds me of an oxidized amber ale.

Taste: Starts out with the taste of tortilla chips (without the salt), followed by a hint of saltiness (oddly enough), a hint of caramel malt and again, a bit of a wet paper taste in there. It's comparing itself to being inspired a bit by Mexican hot chocolate but this tastes nothing like Mexican hot chocolate. The only thing I'm actually liking about this beer is that there's an interesting spice presence (likely from the cumin) that warm up the back of my mouth ever so slightly. Not noticing even the faintest hint of chili spice, cinnamon or chocolate.

Overall Thoughts: Sure not worth $6.00 + taxes. There was a weird sharp taste in there that just rubbed me the wrong way. Not only that, I kept getting the taste of wet paper which shouldn't be happening.. I can't see this beer being in the MLCC warehouses for several months next to a radiator or anything. The reviews over at RateBeer.com seem to be agreeing with me. Maybe there's something I'm just missing in this beer? Let me know.

5.5% ABV

Review: Double Trouble French Press Vanilla Stout

It's been a while since I've reviewed a Double Trouble beer.. in fact.. it was back in 2015 when I last reviewed their beer, and it was for the Brandon Sun.

Double Trouble's French Press Vanilla Stout has been in my fridge before but an asshole roommate stole it so I was never able to even try it. I'm sad that their Fire in the Rye isn't available in Manitoba anymore.. but their collaboration lager with Trailer Park Boys should be coming to Manitoba sometime in the hopefully near future.

Today I'm finally checking out Double Trouble's French Press Vanilla Stout.

Appearance: Thick like motor oil, burnt caramel head, just a hint of a ruby red hue in there at the base.

Aroma: Notes of moderate roasted coffee with a great deal of fresh vanilla bean and a moderate amount of milk chocolate - not that bitter at all. Very easy on the nose.

Taste: Certainly stronger on the palate than what I saw in the aroma. The roasted coffee flavour comes out more here than in the aroma, rich dark chocolate, a nice vanilla bite that - combined with the chocolate flavours gives off a really rich and powerful vanilla/chocolate swirl to the tastebuds. Very creamy, light amount of bitter aftertaste but diminishes quickly.

Overall Thoughts: Great deal of vanilla in this stout, it works well with the chocolate and coffee notes in here quite well, make it reminiscent to a great, creamy mocha stout at some points.


Review: Farmery's Pink Lemonale

Review: Black Bridge Brewing's Smoked Porter

Review: Garún Icelandic Stout Nr. 19 (Borg Brugghús)

Originally posted in The Brandon Sun, July 24, 2015

If you have visited the 10th & Victoria Liquor Mart lately, you would have noticed that a lot of your favourite spirits have been moved around. They are currently adding more shelf space to accommodate a larger selection of rums, whiskies, wines and beers.
So for the beer fan like myself, this means that more of Canada’s best beers will be appearing at 10th & Victoria! For me, this means that hopefully I don’t have to travel all the way to Winnipeg to pick up a one-off product by Phillips or Red Racer. With the single serve beer area getting more space, I’ve noticed a few new beers popping up already including Central City's Mayor Kolsch Ale, Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Lemon Chifon Crueller Ale (which is over $20 per 750mL bottle - don’t buy it unless if you like the taste of lemon throat lozenges) and Garún Icelandic Stout.

Iceland isn’t well known for their beer but they make one of the best stouts I’ve ever tasted - Lava Smoked Stout. Lava is a perfect example of all things Icelandic - it’s smokey, sweet, dark and mysterious yet welcoming. Unfortunately Lava Stout hasn’t been available in Manitoba for three years now. Garún Icelandic Stout may not be a Lava Smoked Stout, but according to sites like RateBeer.com where it scored ratings as high as 98/100, I believe Garún will likely be a good replacement for Lava.

I honestly don’t remember the last time I had a stout because it’s summer! Summer is for all things citrusy, light and fruity! Garún tops out at 11.5% ABV so this is one of the strongest beers available in Manitoba, but since it’s in a 330mL bottle, I don’t think people are going to get drunk on it as easily as if it was in a 650mL bottle. Garún pours a thick, black beer with a cola brown hue to it.
The head is creamy, thick, frothy and yellowish-brown - reminiscent of cookie dough. The aroma is sweet, caramelly with notes of raisins, chocolate brownies, hint of roasted coffee beans and a hint of molasses. The chocolate brownie aroma is enough to make me want to dive in to the beer ASAP! When sipping on this, the first thing I notice is that the flavours are overwhelming and pungent, which I find a bit of a surprise because the aroma was fairly light for an Imperial Stout, but considering it’s 11.5%, the booze had to pop out somewheres!
The flavour has rich notes of roasted coffee beans, a strong malt presence that gives it the taste of toffee and raisins. Very sweet and boozey, almost reminiscent of a Barley Wine, in fact - the sweetness made me gag because I didn’t expect it. There’s also hints of dark chocolate, molasses, vanilla and a creamy mouthfeel.

So, was this a good alternative to Lava Stout? Of course! It’s easily one of the better Imperial Stouts I’ve had in my day. It’s strong, sweet, chocolatey and good amount of roasted coffee goodness. While it may not be a smoked stout like Lava, this is in its own category. With Gimli being New Iceland, I would love to see more products from Garún makers Borg Brugghús available in Manitoba. You can find this for $4.98 per 330mL bottle at the 10th & Victoria Liquor Mart. 11.5% ABV
4.5/5 Pints

Review: Epic Brewing's Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout

"Holy good!"
-Cody L. - October 3, 2014

That's all I had to say when I first tried Epic Brewing's Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout.. so it's got to be good! Unfortunately for me $19 CAD per 650mL bottle, Big Bad Baptist was a purchase that I couldn't justify paying because I'm simply just.. poor. Sure, if I cut down on my beer consumption and only had one or two beers a week instead of more than that, I could afford it.. but pft - I like some of my regular beers as well.

The cool thing about Epic's Big Bad Baptist is that on the bottom right corner of the label they tell you what batch number it is - which is great for those who plan on doing a vertical of various batches of Big Bad Baptist.. but those people are rich, lucky beer snobs! This batch of Big Bad Baptist is Release #73, which according on their website was brewed on October 12, 2015 and packaged on August 24, 2016, brewed in Salt Lake City, Utah. Malts: Maris Otter Malt, 2-Row Brewer Malt, Crystal, Light Munich Malt T1, 2-Row chocolate malt, 2-row black malt, roasted barley. Hops: Nugget, Chinook, Cascade. Spices: Blue Copper Coffee "Guatemalan Blend" and Cocoa Nibs... So it turns out every batch uses a different blend of malts, hops and spices.. huh, that's pretty damned cool!

Appearance: Pours a thick, dark as night stout with a very very light amount of burnt caramel head on top - there's a light amount of head mostly around the rim but in the middle it's mostly sporadic bubbles here and there.

Aroma: A well spiced stout.. spicier than I anticipated. I get notes of deep, rich roasted coffee, a hint of roasted pepper which gives off a mild/kind of liberal amount of heat on the nose. A hint of dark chocolate aaaand that's about it. Not noticing any barrel aging here but we'll likely see that coming up. The aroma makes me think that I'm going to have a bit of acid reflux later on.. but I'll live with that.

Taste: Would I call this "Holy good?" It's good, actually really good.. but I feel a bit disappointed for some reason. Perhaps it's the $19 price tag? Nah, I just need to pick this beer apart a bit more.

So for the flavour, the first thing I noticed was that it wasn't as intense and in your face like the aroma led me to believe.. thank goodness. In fact, the barrel aging does make its way into the taste. I get a great deal of the cocoa nibs up front on nearly every single sip with a light to moderate amount of roasted coffee flavour (yet not as strong as your typical Imperial Stout with coffee) and a subtle but certainly noticeable amount of barrel in the background which gives off that oaky goodness and that typical vanilla flavour that completely compliments the initial chocolatey goodness. Not overly bitter chocolate but bitter enough that for the aftertaste you know that you just had a bit of chocolate in your liquid barley diet.

Overall Thoughts: Would I buy this again? Hell yes I would! At $19 it's too pricey for now but I'd buy two more bottles - one to age and one to send to one of my beer buddies in Quebec. I'm surprised that the spiciness from the aroma didn't pop over in the flavour, but for those who don't like spiciness.. that's a good thing. As I keep drinking this.. the 12.7% ABV is really creeping up on my body.. so share this at a bottle share if you're an awesome friend.. or drink it on a night when you don't want to go out and just watch hockey on TV.


Photos: A visit to Hill Farmstead Brewery

Dogfish Head ApriHop IPA

Oh god.. I'm bad at hoarding beer - I do it too often. This is one of those beers.. I bought this during my bièrcation in Vermont last year but just remembered now that I had this in my fridge. 

I remember a few years back when Dogfish Head was regarded as the best of the best of American craft beer. Since then.. a bunch of breweries have taken over the position of being the best, according to RateBeer and Beer Advocate. Today I'm checking out their ApriHop American IPA - brewed with Pilsner and Crystal malts, massively hopped (Amarillo) and complimented by the addition of apricot juice.

Appearance: ApriHop pours a cloudy caramel amber ale, moderate amount of beige head and a light amount of foam lacing the side of the glass.

Aroma: Mostly bitter with a light touch of apricot sweetness to it. The bitterness gives off a heavy pine aroma, notes of grass and a hint of caramel malt. I was hoping for more fruity apricot popping out but it's alright.

Taste: The pine and grassy hops pop out first and foremost with a light amount of tropical apricot sweetness at the very end which ends up lingering for a few seconds and then disappearing completely. The hops have held up really well here but compared to your typical popular IPAs now days, this one is nowhere near as tropical as say.. Lawson's Sip of Sunshine.

Overall Thoughts: Fairly easy to drink, not as bitter as I'd expect (even when I first tried it), the apricot could be more dominant but it's only a secondary character in this beer. 

Review: Half Pints Le Temps Noir Batch Two

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, March 11, 2016

Ever since Gimli's Crown Royal Northern Harvest won the award of “World’s Best Whisky” according to a spirits author out of the UK, Northern Harvest has sold out almost immediately at almost every Liquor Mart. Is it the world’s best whisky in my opinion? No, Lot 40 Rye Whisky out of Ontario is even better, but with this being Manitoba and all - it’s great to see a made-in-Manitoba product selling off the shelves the second they arrive to stores. I finally picked up a bottle of Northern Harvest Rye last week upon hearing the news that the Gimli Crown Royal plant is going on strike, time to stock up! By the time you read this, the entire provincial supply of Northern Harvest has likely been completely depleted by now - again.

I wish people talked about beer like they would talk about whisky. I’ve had the pleasure of trying 20 of the 2015 RateBeer.com’s top 100 beers in the world and what I find surprising is that some of them were available here in Westman at one time including the Westvleteren 12, which is rated as the holy grail of beers to many beer geeks.

Back in 2013, Winnipeg’s Half Pints released a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout called “Le Temps Noir”. Brandon LCs got a few cases of it and it sold out almost immediately. I saved four bottles for myself to taste and age and sent one off to my beer buddies in Montreal. According to my beer buddies out of Montreal, Le Temps Noir was one of the best Imperial Stouts they ever tried, it was liquid gold to their taste buds. I laughed it off because, well.. Quebec’s beer scene is constantly rated the best beer scene in Canada. Well, in 2014, Half Pints’ Le Temps Noir was rated the Number 1 beer in Canada that wasn’t made in Quebec, according to the folks over at RateBeer.com. To this very day, Half Pints’ Le Temps Noir is rated as the 17th best beer in Canada, only getting defeated by ice ciders by La Face Cachée de la Pomme, Dieu du Ciel and a few other ice cideries. That shows you that we have amazing beer in our own neck of the woods.. let’s savour it!

In January, the Second Batch of Le Temps Noir was released with lots of fan fare. For myself, I bought an entire box of 12 pack (650mL) just so I could hopefully age it without roommates stealing it from me. Le Temps Noir, as said above, is a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout. Le Temps Noir tops out at 9.6% ABV, so it’s a boozy treat, so share with friends!

The appearance of Le Temps Noir is a rich dark chocolate stout with a hint of nutty brown for hue, there’s a minimal amount of carbonation and for the head on top, it’s a nice light burnt caramel brown head that’s simply clinging to the side of the glass. The aroma is a dessert in a bottle for me, the first thing that pops out for me is chocolate brownies!!!! Following the brownies is even more chocolate and a moderately rich and spicy American bourbon whisky that’s not anywhere near as strong as your typical bourbon aged ale, but it gives off a nice aroma of oak, vanilla and a hint of caramel malt. To me, the aroma simply reminds me of freshly baked brownies with a bourbon chocolate and caramel sauce on it, my goodness I love it! The taste itself is much more in-your-face than the aroma. The very first notes I get from the taste is a kick of Tennessee Bourbon, it’s immediately burning my throat, just like a strong whisky/bourbon would.. damn that’s strong! Following the Bourbon I’m getting a very buttery influenced butterscotch sweetness. Then there’s a roasted maltiness giving off a hint of caramel, freshly roasted coffee and dark chocolate. Here, the bourbon is the star of the game, especially as it warms up I’m getting more of the typical oak, vanilla, nutmeg and.. a lot of the bitterness that you typically get from a whisk(e)y. Oh, it’s strong and I like it that way!

For a price of $12.52 per 650mL bottle, it will seem excessive to those who tend to buy six-packs for that price, but this isn’t your Bud Light, this is Le Temps Noir: easily one of the best barrel aged beers that’s ever been sold in Manitoba. People don’t blink an eye at $20 bottles of wine, so why is a $12.52 bottle of barrel aged stout considered expensive? Well, the people who tend to think that it’s expensive in the first place would likely take one sip of Le Temps Noir, make a funny face and then pour the rest of the beer down the sink. This isn’t your father’s beer, this is the beer snob’s beer, the whisky, bourbon, scotch and even wine connoisseur’s beer. This is something that has to be shared with friends because at 9.6% ABV and in a 650mL bottle, it’s meant to be shared as a dessert beer. If your idea of an amazing stout is Guinness, you will be disappointed - but if your idea of an amazing stout is a roasted coffee stout aged in Kentucky Bourbon barrels, then you will be in for a serious treat!

You can find Half Pints’ Le Temps Noir at Liquor Marts in Brandon (10th & Victoria, Corral Centre, South End) for $12.52 per 650mL bottle. If the Corral Centre location is sold out, the South End location has the largest stock of Le Temps Noir outside Winnipeg.
9.6% ABV
5/5 Pints

I reviewed Le Temps Noir back in 2013 when it first came out as well, here's the original review.

Review: Parallel 49's Jerkface 9000 Wheat Ale

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, January 13, 2017

Next week will mark one year since I went to Vermont and Montreal for my craziest bièrcation yet. Right over the Quebec border in Winooski, Vermont is a bottle shop that boasts one of the best beer selections I have ever seen. Winooski’s Beverage Warehouse has an overwhelming selection of local, national and international beers that makes Manitoba Liquor Marts look like a corner store. The one thing I found interesting was seeing Canadian craft beer at the bottle shop - the bottle shop had your typical Molson and Moosehead products but as well as UnibroueTrou du Diable, Glutenberg and a few other Quebec beers. There were a few beers from Vancouver that I never knew that were in the US market as well including Central City (Red Racer) and Parallel 49. The bottle shop also showcased a “wall of fame” of random beer bottles from all over the world including a retro bottle of Manitoba’s own Half Pints’ Little Scrapper IPA!

Parallel 49 has some of the beer distribution out of all the Canadian craft breweries but lately I haven’t seen many of their products on the shelves at local Liquor Marts. Currently the only two beers Parallel 49 has available in Manitobe are Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale and Jerkface 9000 North West Wheat Ale, while I’d love to see their seasonal beers in stock - those two beers are pretty tasty. This week I’ll be taking a look at Jerkface 9000.

With a name like Jerkface 9000, either the name and label will appeal to you immediately or it will make you bypass it immediately - For me, I like an interesting name and label so it appeals to me! Jerkface 9000 is a North West-style wheat ale brewed with Mosaic hops. It is described as being juicy, citrus, tropical and floral with a flavourful hop punch and light refreshing body.

Jerkface pours a mildly cloudy, pale golden ale with a light amount of white head on top and a great amount of film from the remnants of foam on the side. The aroma is moderately hoppy with notes of pine, grapefruit, tropical fruity pineapple, nectarine and mango. There’s a light amount of bready aroma coming from the wheat. Jerkface 9000 tastes better than the name would lead you to believe, in fact - it’s delicious! The very first time I ever had Jerkface 9000, I blindly expected it to be an India Pale Ale and it does have flavours reminiscent to your typical North West IPA with a great deal of pine and grapefruit notes. This isn’t an IPA so you get a medley of other flavours on top of the hops as well, mostly tropical fruity flavours like pineapple, orange, nectarine and mango. At the very end, there’s a blunt bready flavour with a hint of pepper spiciness.

Does this beer match up with the brewer’s description? Yes, it does! The beer has a medley of flavours ranging from bitter hops to sweet tropical fruitiness that makes you want to be on a beach in Hawaii. In a way it’s a bit reminiscent to Maui’s Mana Wheat Ale that I reviewed last year but without a tonne of fruit juice added to it. I feel that this beer would be better suited in the summer time but I’m finding this is helping dealing with my winter blues a decent amount as it is. You can find Jerkface 9000 on tap at the Dock on Princess in Brandon as well as in cans at Liquor Marts in Brandon, Dauphin, Russell, and Virden for $3.05 per 473mL can. 5.0% ABV

4/5 Pints

Review: Little Brown Jug's 1919 Belgian Pale Ale

Until the next brewery opens up, Little Brown Jug will be the newest brewery in Manitoba. I checked out Little Brown Jug for the first time on Christmas Eve and was very surprised by the brewery's atmosphere/tasting room. LBJ was the first brewery where I've seen the brewing operation in the same room as the tasting room.. In fact - the only thing that separates the brewing equipment from the taproom is a rope! So if you're lucky enough to be visiting Little Brown Jug on one of their brewing days, you'll be able to watch them producing the beer as you're sipping on their only beer - 1919 Belgian Pale Ale with a side of charcuterie and Quebec cheeses.

I'm surprised that they only have the one beer.. but seeing that for four years, Neepawa's Farmery Brewing only had one beer until they released their Canadian Pale Ale, so it's not completely unreasonable for a small up-and-coming brewery to concentrate on only the one beer.

Appearance: The cool thing about Little Brown Jug is that unless if you're getting a typical growler re-fill, they sell their beer in little 750mL jugs.. which to me is the perfect "single serve" portion of beer. The 1919 Belgian Pale Ale pours a caramel amber with a moderate amount of carbonation and a good amount of white head to start off but diminishes to a few bubbles here and there. Being the Belgian ale snob I am, I was thinking that the beer looked too dark compared to most Belgian Pale Ales but actually it's pretty comparable to most of the Belgian Pale Ales (leave the strong Golden Strong Belgian Pale Ales) out there.

Aroma: Caramel malt, earthy hops, a hint of a peppery spice to it, mild dark fruitiness. Minimal Belgian yeast presence here but I do get a bit of a sweet doughy aroma in there. So far it's reminiscent a bit to Unibroue's Raftman before they turned it into a Smoked beer last year.

Taste: A lightly roasted wheat beer with a good deal of caramel sweetness as well as a bit of a light peppery flavour that meets a leafy yet earthy hop presence. Eventually I start to get a bit of a nuttiness in there as well as hints of juniper, but it doesn't really change its complexity as it warms up because it's mostly a fairly easy to drink pale ale during the entire time I drink this.

Overall Thoughts: Very easy to drink Belgian Pale Ale that wasn't what I was expected - for some reason I was expecting more of a lower ABV La Fin du Monde rather than an older recipe Raftman. This one has flavours and aromas of what I remember from Unibroue's Raftman from years ago before they turned it into a smoked beer. It's growing on me slowly so I'll be ordering this more and more once it's more available in Brandon. Very easy to drink and not discriminating on the palate so it's going to be a great beer for food pairings with friends.

Review: Beau's 80 Shilling Scottish-style Ale (Farm Table Series)

It's not every day that I get to try a product before it hits my market! Thanks to Jack over at Eclectic Beverages, he got me an early sample of Beau's All Natural's 80 Shilling Scottish-style Ale weeks before it's launching here in Manitoba! From the label, the story of 80 Shilling originates in the 1800s, Scottish ales were classified on a “shilling” scale based on their alcohol strength, typically ranging from 60 shilling (“light”) to 90 (“wee heavy”). In the midst of these extremes are 80 shilling ales (“export”), classic crowd-pleasers and a style that has stood the test of time. The tasting notes description: 80 Shilling pours a deep copper colour. The malt character is predominant, with a few esters, and just enough hops for balance. This classic Scottish ale possesses a toasted flavour and dry finish, with a mild-to-moderate caramel presence.

Appearance: 80 Shilling pours a reddish brown (burnt caramel) with a good amount of carbonation and a moderate amount of yellow-beige head on top - the head leaves behind a good amount of beige lacing - almost like as if the foam is gently painting the side of the glass.

Aroma: Fairly reminiscent to your typical Scottish ale - I get notes of caramel sweetness, a very earthy/dead leaf sort of hop presence to it, very bready and reminiscent to a box of fresh fried yeast donuts. A hint of mahogany woodiness in there somewheres.

Taste: Not as heavy as a wee heavy Scottish ale but it's somewhat getting there. It's a sweet caramel ale with appearances of peat, a grain storage bin, a hint of woody/earthy hop presence, lightly roasted but no burnt coffee/dark chocolate notes popping up in here.

Overall Thoughts: This isn't something I would go out and get at the LC for the most part but it's easy to drink, a nice brown ale with a caramel/woody presence to it that would be perfect for something like Robbie Burns Day. A good deal of nuttiness and pleasant to drink after a long evening of work - great for this time of the year if you want something a bit darker but aren't really wanting to go for a stout. Thanks Jack!


From the archives: Review of Double Trouble's Fire in the Rye Ale

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, November 25, 2015

It’s Grey Cup weekend and there’s a lot of new treats available in time for the Sunday evening kickoff by local breweries and distilleries! First off, Half Pints and Fort Garry Brewing teamed up to create a collaboration taster pack called the “Manitoba Social Pack” featuring the most popular beers by Half Pints and Fort Garry as well as a Route 90 Vienna-style lager that was brewed in collaboration with Half Pints and Fort Garry, this marks the very first time that Half Pints and Fort Garry have worked together to create a beer for public consumption. You can find the Manitoba Social 12-pack for $22.74 at Liquor Marts in Brandon (South End and 10th & Victoria) and Virden (somehow). The Manitoba Social Pack is easily one of the better beer variety packs I’ve seen available in Manitoba, so get it before it’s gone! Fort Garry has also released their latest version of Portage & Main IPA this week. Portage & Main is the first India Pale Ale to use Manitoba hops to give it its earthy, hoppy aroma and flavour. This year’s version is more mellowed down than previous years but I believe it will sell out completely within a few weeks. You can find Portage & Main at the Liquor Marts in Brandon (South End and 10th & Victoria).

You have likely already heard that Crown Royal's Northern Harvest won the title of “World’s Best Whisky” for 2015 in the Whisky Bible. Gimli’s Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Whisky is a Canadian whisky that contains 90% malted winter rye grain. I haven’t had a chance to try the Northern Harvest Rye Whisky yet as it is completely sold out province-wide and I’ve been putting off trying new whiskies for the past few months now. Talking to my whisky connoisseur friends, they were surprised how tasty the Northern Harvest Rye turned out, so that makes me want to try it more! In the coming days you will see Northern Harvest Rye back on shelves, and you may even see local restaurants and pubs starting to serve it. It’s great to see whisky distilled in our own province win such a prestigious award!

Speaking of rye, my favourite Rye Ale by Swift Current’s Black Bridge Brewing is surprisingly still in stock at the Keystone Motor Inn beer vendor. Black Bridge’s Rye Ale is a sweet, nutty, caramelly rye ale with a hint of roastiness and has a great balance of rye and amber ale. Pick up a few cans while it’s still around!

Lastly, on to the review! This week’s theme will continue to be about… rye! Double Trouble Brewing out of Guelph, Ontario has been one of my favourite up and coming Ontario breweries as they’ve consistently brought out solid products with great names and great labels such as Hops & Robbers India Pale Ale and Prison Breakout Pilsner. Their newest beer, Fire in the Rye Ale is now available in Manitoba. Fire in the Rye is described as being unfiltered and containing the smouldering aroma of rye with the floral notes of centennial hops. Who doesn’t love a great rye? How about a RPA (Rye Pale Ale)?!

Fire in the Rye pours a medium heaviness with a hazy nutty brown appearance, a hint of floating sediment throughout the glass, a good amount of micro-carbonation and a yellow to beige creamy head on top. The aroma certainly is reminiscent to rye for me as I’m getting a rich toasted grain scent followed by caramel, light amount of burnt wood chips, a slight peppery spciness and last but not least, well roasted grains. The spiciness from the rye reminds me of your typical Canadian rye whisky like Lot 40 by Corby Distillers, but don’t be fooled - even though that this is a rye ale, you’re not going to smell or taste whisky in this beer as a lot of the notes we associate with whisky are from the barrel aging process. The flavour is very similar to the aroma as you get a moderately spicy yet roasted rye graininess to it followed by a bit of sweet caramel. In this instance, my palate was believing it was getting fooled into drinking rye whisky rather than beer, so I had a bit of gagging at the beginning of sampling this beer.. but that’s over now! To compare this to another style would be difficult as the rye grain is what gives this beer the punch. It reminds me of an unfiltered red ale with moderate hop bitterness that gives off an earthy bite to it, but in all fairness - this is nothing like a red ale in my opinion. The closest thing I can compare this to is Unibroue Raftman, but wait.. that’s another Rye Ale! So all in all, I think this is more of an earthy ale than most ales on the market and it’s quite thick and almost chewy to the palate, perhaps it’s from the rye sediment? Who knows!

This is one of the more interesting beers I’ve tried here at First Draught. First off, it’s part of a style I’m not that familiar with, and secondly - it has lots of notes reminiscent of a solid rye whisky, but without the oak and vanilla that we know and love. I love the slight spiciness from the rye malt, the caramel sweetness and that this is something I could drink on a cold winter night like tonight. If you’re a rye connoisseur, this is certainly something I would suggest trying. You can find Double Trouble’s Fire in the Rye Ale at the 10th & Victoria Liquor Mart for $3.05 per 473mL can. 6.1% ABV

If you find any Crown Royal Northern Harvest Whisky between now and Grey Cup Sunday at your local Liquor Mart or rural liquor retailer, consider yourself lucky! Cheers!

4/5 Pints

Review: Surly Todd The Axe Man IPA

I reviewed Surly's famous Furious IPA a few hours ago, now it's time for my review of their Todd the Axe Man!

What is Todd the Axe Man? From the description: Our version of the West Coast Style IPA first brewed in collaboration with Amager Brewery in Denmark. Brewed with one malt, Golden Promise from the UK, with Citra and Mosaic hops. If you think Todd is a good brewer, you should hear him play his axe (guitar)! Named by Amager’s marketing director Henrik Papsø.

Appearance: Todd has your typical bright West Coast style IPA right off the bat with a nice cloudy orange body and a light to moderate amount of beige head on top - the head is absolutely glistening as I'm looking at it! There's a good deal of sediment in this beer but it's nothing I haven't experienced before.

Aroma: The first thing that comes to my mind is tropical fruitiness - notes of pineapple, grapefruit and a hint of cantaloupe. There's a good deal of hoppy bitterness in here such as a sharp pine aroma, a faint amount of sweet wet barley graininess but not really noticing a strong malt profile compared to Furious.

Taste: Until recently I've never heard of a beer being described as juicy, but after visiting RateBeer and BeerAdvocate more, I'm seeing that term used on a lot of IPAs like this... in fact, this is pretty damned juicy - It's a tropical fruit sweetness up front with pineapple, grapefruit and other various tropical notes. The hops are very prevalent in here giving off a bitter pine flavour to it but the sweet tropical fruits almost want to be the dominant flavour in this beer. A bit of a honey-like sweetness is popping up on my palate the more I'm drinking this.. but for the most part.

Overall Thoughts: The IPA reminds me of a combination of West Coast IPA meets Sip of Sunshine. I do notice a bit of a hop burn in my esophagus but nothing that's really irritating me so far. Very enjoyable IPA - I can never get enough of IPAs with a great tropical zestiness with a great bitter hop presence. I will be buying this again next time I'm in North Dakota. 7.2% ABV.

Review: Surly Furious IPA

Friends of mine have raved about Minnesota's Surly Brewing for a few years now - Heck, they're the brewery that single handedly changed Minnesota liquor laws to make it easier for the brewery to sell their own beer to the public. They've recently started selling their beer in North Dakota, making it easier for people like me who aren't planning on going to Minnesota anytime in the next 3-5 years to actually try the product. I usually end up picking up the beer in Minot and it's actually pretty easy to find at bottle shops and pubs alike. Later I'll be reviewing Surly's Todd the Axe Man but first off - it's time for me to review Surly's most popular beer, their Furious IPA!

Appearance: Surly's Furious pours a very thick, heavy opaque caramel brown with a light to moderate amount of beige head and a moderate amount of lacing on the side of the glass.

Aroma: I'm getting notes of very bitter hops right at the beginning, a bit of grapefruit, pine, floral notes, very sweet caramel, hints of citrus (lemon) pop up once in a while. The beer starts out furious to the nose at the beginning thanks to the beer's bitter hops, but it eventually makes way for the other notes here. Lastly, a hint of grass pops up at the very end.

Taste: As soon as it hits my palate, it gives off a bitterness from the hops reminiscent to a medley of pine and various teas. There's a light amount of lemon citrus following the hoppy bitterness and then a sweet burnt caramel flavour at the end. Very liberally hoppy but not as overly bitter as Alchemist's Heady Topper. It's hoppy and malty at the same time and doesn't leave a burning feeling on the esophagus.

Overall Thoughts: A very satisfying IPA, the kind of IPA that mellows you out after a stressful day of job searching. It's not overly bitter to the point that it hurts you but it's bitter enough for hop heads feeling satisfied. Good malt backbone that gives it a decent caramel sweetness and drinkable enough that I wish I had another four-pack of this beer. 6.6% ABV/100~ IBU


Three Beers for New Years

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, December 30, 2016

Review: Unibroue Lune de Miel

I've been waiting a few months for Unibroue's À Tout le Monde to come to Manitoba but at this point I don't think it will ever come out west. I heard about Unibroue's newest beer, Miel de Lune (Honey Moon) a few weeks ago and one of the liquor store employees said "you're going to want to buy this!" as I was looking for a beer just to savour last night. I knew the beer was going to come to Manitoba but seeing that the product isn't even listed yet on the Liquor Marts website, I didn't expect it yet. This isn't the first honey beer I've had by Unibroue, I've had their "U Miel" in the past but that one is a discount honey lager. Miel de Lune is a Belgian style amber ale inspired by the old tradition where father of the bride would give mead to his new son-in-law for the first month of marriage. Let's try out the beer!

Appearance: Lune de Miel pours a bright honey orange with a thick cloudy body to it, several lines of micro-carbonation are swimming from the bottom of the glass towards the top, reaching the head. The head itself is a very thick off-white frothy head, it gradually diminishes into the body but even after leaving the beer to settle for 10 or so minutes, there's still about two and a half fingers worth of foam still on top.

Aroma: You can't deny that this is a Unibroue product, it just has that smell to it. The aromas I'm getting remind me of a combination of Blonde de Chambly meets Don de Dieu, it's a somewhat pungent scent of lemon, Belgian yeast, a moderate amount of honey and a nice aroma of wildflowers - while this isn't in any way meady, there certainly are notes that remind me of various Manitoba wildflower meads I've had over the years. The beer is fairly sweet, a light to moderate grassy hop presence and a hint of peppery spice at the end.

Taste: The honey is the very first thing I can taste in this beer - Right as the beer initially hits my mouth I get a sweetness I don't tend to see in most Unibroue beers. The beer is dominated by the honey at first but then I get the notes of wildflower and then notes of your typical golden Unibroue beers such as bubble gum, a doughy Belgian yeastiness, lemon, coriander, a light hop bitterness that leaves a bit of a grassy aftertaste and a hint of pepper for spiciness. The mouthfeel is very smooth and silky, reminiscent to a good white mead. Somewhat boozey but really easy to drink.

Overall Thoughts: So.. what do I think? You already know that I'm likely one of the biggest Unibroue fans in the world so you should take this review with only a grain of salt but honestly.. I really really really really like this beer. It's a very sweet honey ale that is very easy to drink, has a great floral aspect from the wildflower honey. I would consider this both a dessert beer and a savouring beer. It's not overly sweet but it's certainly sweeter than most Unibroue beers (sans-Éphémère line). The aroma reminds me of Blonde de Chambly meets Don de Dieu but the taste itself is a beer of its own. At $6.99 per 750mL bottle, that's a great price.. but knowing Liquor Marts.. if this beer catches popularity, they'll likely up the price in a few months time.

Christmas and general gift ideas for your favourite beer geek

Review: Picaroons Blonde Ale

Until 6 months ago, the most popular review I've ever done at BeerCrank.ca was my review of Picaroons' Yippee IPA, now it's down to third most popular review on the website! I've tried a few Picaroons Traditional Ales' beers over the years and Yippee IPA is still my favourite, by far.. but everything I've had by the brewery has been incredibly solid and I love that they use 500mL bottles rather than 650/341mL bottles for the most part - 500mL is the perfect portion size for me. Today I'm checking out their Blonde Ale.

Appearance: The Blonde Ale pours cloudy orange with a light amount of carbonation, a good amount of beige head to begin with and diminishes to a half finger's worth of beer as the beer gradually gets savoured.

Aroma: The first thing I expected in the beer was that it was going to be a boring crisp golden ale (like Labatt 50, Molson Export) but it's actually pretty aggressive for a golden ale. The aroma is incredibly citrusy, hoppy and aromatic. There's notes of fresh cut alfalfa, a great deal of fruitiness that has fruits like banana, cantaloupe and lemons. Very parfumic.

Taste: I'm getting a bit of a soaked barley taste up front, which gives a very sweet, malt forward flavour with a great hop presence complimenting it. There's a great deal of fruitiness - the same fruits I noticed in the aroma, a hint of pine, a bit of bubblegum, light amount of bread and a hint of clove. Sweeter than your typical blonde ale and solid hop presence.

Overall Thoughts: Better than expected.. which is always a good thing. It's sweet with various fruity flavours, a hint of bitterness, mildly creamy for mouthfeel, somewhat acidic yet every easy to drink. Quite reminiscent to a summery wheat ale. I was expecting a crisp, light crafty Labatt 50 but was surprisingly impressed that it's not. I'll definitely drink this again.

Review: Beau's Tom Green Milk Stout

‟This is The Tom Green Beer, It’s not The Green Tom Beer, This is my favourite beer, Because it is my beer.” -Tom Green

Beau's and comedian Tom Green teamed up a few years back to create a Tom Green beer, a milk stout that tops out at 5%. Knowing Tom Green's humour from the 90s, I expected a really weird what the hell?! kind of beer but nope.. a straight forward milk stout! Not only that, it gets rave reviews from many of my friends out east!

Appearance: The Tom Green Beer pours a sorta heavy brown stout, nowhere near as thick and heavy as your typical stout or porter for the fact that I could see a bit of light through the beer easily. A bit of a burnt caramel hue, a very liberal amount of fizzy carbonation which was a surprise as I was expecting it to be more of a thick, creamy appearance. Minimal cookie dough yellow head that only goes to the side of the glass for the entire time the beer is in the glass.

Aroma: I'm noticing notes of roasted maltiness giving off a roasted coffee aroma with liberally sweet caramel, a hint of a herbal aroma that's reminiscent to green tea, definite notes of milk in there but it's fairly light, light graininess from the barley.

Taste: It's a sweet, slightly creamy milk stout with herbal tea notes starting out front followed by a moderate roasted coffee bean flavour, earthy hops - the herbal notes likely link back to the hops itself,  hint of burnt syrup, it's fairly watery for mouth feel and leaves a bit of a bitter/metallic aftertaste.

Overall Thoughts: An interesting milk stout but I was hoping the lactic side of the stout would have been more prolific like in Charlevoix's La Vache Folle but it is certainly perfect for the long winter nights right before bed. The herbal notes are what surprised me the most, but I love when something interesting pops up like that!


Review: Fernie Brewing's Rockpile Red IPA

Fernie Brewing's Rockpile Red IPA

This is a beer I've been wanting to review for a while now but for some reason I missed it when it was available in Brandon. Fernie's Fernie Brewing is readily available in Manitoba with I-can't-even-count-how-many products available. For the most part, their beer is alright.. nothing special but certainly drinkable and better than most macro products on the shelves.

Rockpile Red IPA was the first beer featured in their Bucket List IPA Series, I've previously reviewed a few of their Bucket List beers before here and in the Brandon Sun, such as their Eldorado Single Hop IPA. Rockpile IPA is 7.2% ABV.. stronger than most IPAs on the market.

Appearance: Pours a fairly nutty brown ale with a caramel red hue, thick yellow-beige head that eventually leaves behind a lot of beige lacing on the side of the glass.

Aroma: Caramel malt sweetness, a hint of booze burning the nostrils, a hint of gritty barley, some hop presence but I can't put my finger on it - it's bitter but not any specific hop aroma to me.

Taste: It's definitely a Red IPA but the hops are mostly just bitter for the sake of bitter with no other hop notes showing off here - no pine, grapefruit, etc. Notes of caramel, lots of barley graininess that has a taste reminiscent to straight up raw, wet barley. A bit of a metallic, bitter aftertaste.

Overall Thoughts: I'm not really a fan. It's possible that this is past its prime. The hoppiness gives off just a bitter taste with no real substance. It's easy to drink though and a hint of creaminess... not bad but not great.

Borg Brugghús Leifur Nordic Saison

It's hard to find Icelandic beer in Manitoba - the amazing Lava Stout hasn't been available in Manitoba for a few years now so for the most part. Seeing Manitoba has the largest Icelandic population outside Iceland, you would think we would have better access to Icelandic beers. Thankfully Borg Brugghús has their amazing Garún stout and now Leifur Nordic Saison Nr.32. The Leifur Nordic Saison tops out at 6.8% ABV, making it a bit stronger than your typical saison.

Appearance: Leifur pours a bright yet cloudy orange with a bit of microcarbonation, a thick amount of beige head that diminishes to a finger's worth of head. There's a decent amount of sediment at the bottom of the beer glass.

Aroma: Quite a bit citrusy with lemon, a bit of a sour fruitiness to it, yeast and a heat of orange.

Taste: This is reminiscent of your typical saison, it's a citrus-forward wheaty saison with a moderate amount of barnyard funk, notes of orange peel, bubble gum, honey, and a hint of herbs. It leaves a bit of an acidic/sour aftertaste with a hint of graininess.

Overall Thoughts: Awesome saison! I don't know why this isn't available at more liquor stores in Manitoba, it's worth the $5-ish price tag. It's citrusy, light fruitiness and a bit bready. I can't wait to have this again and again!

The beer is named in honour of Leifur Eiríksson (Leif Erikson), the first European explorer to discover North America.


Dieu du Ciel's Équinoxe du Printemps Scotch Ale à l'érable

As you can easily tell in my photo - it's not spring and spring will likely never happen at this point... so why am I drinking a "Spring Equinox" beer? Because I can, and because I love maple! Équinoxe du Printemps is a Maple Scotch Ale by the folks over at Dieu du Ciel. It tops out at 9.1% so it's going a bit buzzy for me!

Appearance: The beer pours a very muddy, thick brown ale with a great amount of microcarbonation, a decent amount of yellowish beige head that goes absolutely nowhere - except to leave a bit of film residue on the side of the glass.

Aroma: This really is a scotch ale. The first thing I notice about the aroma is a heavy caramel/scotch aroma, overly sweet and desserty - perfect for a snowed in kind of day like today. A bit of a metallic smell to it, earthy hops and just a touch of maple syrup.

Taste: Insanely boozey the second it hits my palate, it's a hit of alcohol burn followed by a combination of caramel and maple syrup sweetness. The sweetness quickly diminishes leaving behind a bit of a bitter roasted malt aftertaste. Not as thick on the mouthfeel as I would think, it's fairly light. It's reminiscent to soft caramel candies as well as tire sur neige. Hint of dark fruits such as plums and raisins.

Overall Thoughts: I'm a maple syrup connoisseur so I was hoping for more of a syrupy goodness from the maple but it's certainly noticeable. Solid scotch ale - it's been quite a while since I've last had a scotch ale. It's moderately sweet but leaves a bitter, roasty aftertaste.


Trou du Diable's The Four Surfers of the Apocalypso (Les Quatre Surfeurs de l'Apocalypso)

Originally posted in The Brandon Sun, August 21, 2015

After my annual bièrcation to Montreal in April, I got news that Shawinigan’s Trou du Diable was going to be coming to Manitoba by the end of the spring. Well, it’s nearly the end of August and the brew is finally here.

The first time I heard of Trou du Diable was when they first introduced their Shawinigan Handshake beer, a German-style Weizen bock depicting the former prime minister Jean Chretien choking the devil — giving him the ‘Shawinigan Handshake.’

A few years later, they came out with another version of the label that’s frequently seen in Quebec and British Columbia, depicting Chretien choking Don Cherry.

Beer brands in Quebec seem to be able to get away with just about anything on their beer labels, but this is part of the Quebec beer culture — the beer artwork is part of the identity as much as the liquid in the bottle is. I love it.

The first Trou du Diable beer available in Manitoba is The Four Surfers of the Apocalypso, a tropical strong beer.

What surprises me is that the entire beer label is in English. I’m used to breweries in Quebec having a description in English/French but retaining the name of the beer itself in French. However, in this case, they use the English translation rather than Les Quatre Surfeurs de L’Apocalypso.

I would rather ask for a “quatres surfeurs” at a bar or the Liquor Mart than a “four surfers” — it would be much more fun. But that’s just me.

OK, now on to what’s in the bottle itself. Four Surfers is a Belgian-style India Pale Ale, which means that you get tropical, fruity, citrusy and yeasty flavours and aroma — lots of fruit (as it is still the year of fruity beer) mixed with a liberal amount of bittering hops to give it a bit of a pine and metallic bitterness.

It pours a bright yellow straw to light orange with a thick amount of off-white creamy head on top. The foam quickly diminishes, leaving lots of residue on the glassware. It’s a very cloudy ale and there’s a bit of sediment floating throughout the beer.

The aroma reminds me of piña coladas and hops — there’s lots of tropical zest in the smell. There are notes of pineapple, a hint of grapefruit, lots of banana, and a light amount of Belgian yeastiness, followed up with fresh bitter hops that give it the aroma of pine, alfalfa, fresh-cut grass, and more hints of grapefruit.

The taste starts out very grainy, gritty and yeasty, with plenty of bread and lemon notes, a light amount of grapefruit, and a moderate amount of cascade hops to give it a nice pine bitterness.
I was expecting more banana and pineapple to make an appearance. It’s smooth and silky on the tongue, only leaving a light to moderate metallic bitterness from the hops for an aftertaste.
Belgian-style White India Pale Ales are a newer trend in the beer scene, and frankly, they’re hard to pull off because I find that the bitter hops and Belgian ales seem to clash. Four Surfers is no exception.

It’s certainly a great take on a Belgian Wheat Ale, but with the addition of an India Pale Ale to it? It just doesn’t work. The hops aren’t as bitter as I expected and some of the citrus notes we know and love in a Belgian ale just don’t pop out around the hops.

One thing is for sure — drinking this beer brings me back to relaxing on the patio over at Le Saint Bock brewpub in Montreal, with its distinct Quebec vibe.

At the time of writing, Four Surfers of the Apocalypso wasn’t listed on liquormarts.ca for stock availability, so it may be just rolling out in Manitoba right now.

I was able to find it at the Corral Centre Liquor Mart for $6.61 per 600mL bottle. You may be able to find it at the South End and 10th and Victoria Liquor Marts as well, but they didn’t have it in stock yet when I checked.

It packs a 6.5 per cent ABV punch.

3/5 Pints

Gainsbourg Bistro-Brasserie's Orange Tie Wrap IPA (Série Road Trip)

As a beer blogger, nobody should be taking me seriously right now - I regularly break the biggest rule of beer reviews - never age and review an IPA. Unfortunately I'm so stubborn that I end up accidentally aging beer in my fridge. Tonight I'm checking out Orange Tie Wrap IPA by Gainsbourg Bistro-Brasserie out of Gainsbourg (Gatineau), Quebec. I picked this bottle up during my trip back in June, so it's not like it's too too old.. but of course take my review as idiotic if you want.

When I saw the beer in my fridge, I thought it was a saison so I just thought to myself "nah, I'll review it later", but it turns out that the Orange Tie Wrap is actually kind of a saison as it's a saison IPA (saison tropicale à l'orange). I love saisons.. I love IPAs, so I'm excited!

Appearance: Orange Tie Wrap pours a very cloudy orange peel/orange juice with a thick, frothy white head. The foam goes down pretty gradually to leave behind a bit of residue on the glass.

Aroma: Wow, the very first whiff I got out of this beer was "wow, this is nicely hopped!" - but you have to remember by this time I hadn't yet even checked out the label to see that it was an IPA. The aromas I got out of the beer were a nice (fresh!!!!) pine aroma with a great deal of tropical fruit such as grapefruit and pineapple, a heavy amount of barnyard funk from the yeast and a hint of pepper for spice. I'm loving the medley of aromas here a lot!

Taste: An upfront galaxy hop-like citrus flavour is the very first thing that pops onto my palate - it gives off a great pineapple, orange and papaya sweetness that I could savour all day long. I also get a bit of a peppery spiciness to it that tingles to tongue every time I take a sip (yet no heat). There's a bit of barnyard funk that you come across in many saisons now days. The beer is only 25 IBU so has a nice hop presence compared to many 65 IBU beers I drink that seem to be missing hops completely. This is a very juicy saison.

Overall Thoughts: Sure sure.. this is likely best before its prime, but HOLY EFF.. this is an incredibly delicious Saison IPA as it has your typical yeasty, spiced yet sweet flavours as well as an abundant of various hops that simply compliment you and the beer on every sip. I'm going to put Gainsbourg on my list of breweries that I will look for more of their products when I'm in Quebec in February. 7.5% ABV - I thought it would be 5.5%ish.