Saturday, 28 March 2015

Review: Cannery Brewing's Blackberry Porter

I lost my job this week, and then wham - today all Futureshop employees were let go - some will be able to re-apply for a job similar to their old job if their store is changing to a Best Buy. I don't ever want to work in a retail environment like that ever again. But chances are, I will.

Now I have time to review beers out of my big hoard that have been collecting dust, including this beer - Blackberry Porter by the folks over at Cannery Brewing out of Penticton, BC.

Appearance: The Blackberry Porter pours a dark dark beer, almost like an English dark ale. It has a bit of a caramelly brown head, which goes down fairly lightly. Overall, not quite 'almost pitch black' like a standard porter, but still looks nice and creamy.

Aroma: The aroma doesn't seem like much at the beginning as all I notice at the beginning is toasted barley, a bit of notes of grassiness and a hint of coffee. As the beer settles in the glass, I notice a big whiff of Okaganan fresh blackberries doing the cha-cha-cha into my nose. It's a sweet, dark fruity and tart combination. Reminiscent of raisins, cassis and black cherries. There's a bit of a syrupy sweetness to it that reminds me of jam filled danishes/croissants. Quite sweeter than your typical porter but then again, when I used to drink their Maple Stout, I thought of it as a breakfast in a bottle.

Taste: I'm really not expecting this to be in any shape a porter. Why? Fruitiness and porters don't usually go together. Fruitiness and wheat ales are more so what I'm used to. There's certainly a lot of blackberry in here. It's sweet, it's a tad tart like cranberries but it works in a porter or stout. There's a sweetness combination of fresh picked blackberries and a bit of a puréed syrupy sweetness to it. In the background, it's a light porter - notes of roasted malt to give it a bit of a hint of coffee and chocolate profile to it. As it warms up, the sweetness/bitterness ratio evens out. It's a nice beer to have when winter just won't simply end, it makes you look forward to picking fresh fruit.. though I'm not a fan of that.

Overall Thoughts: A nice porter that's a bit lighter than most for bitterness, it's more of a really heavy dark ale. There's a nice amount of blackberry all over with a hint of medley of other dark and tart fruits. Somewhat syrupy, but enjoyable. 6.5% ABV/650mL bottle. Cannery's Naramata Nut Brown is coming to Manitoba soon, watch out!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Review: Philips Raspberry Wheat Ale

One of the main beers I've had my eyes on was Phillips' Wheat King Hefe. Just imagine how popular it would be in Brandon if Phillips brought the beer to Manitoba. Wheat ales are pretty damned popular now days with Rickard's White Shock Top on tap at essentially every licensed establishment with draught in town.

I picked up a bottle of Phillips' Raspberry Wheat when I was job training back in the summer. I keep forgetting to review it - actually more like I prolonged reviewing it because I just wanted to drink it. Now's the time..

Appearance: The first thing you notice about this raspberry wheat ale is that it's overly ruby red. It's one of those beers you just know it's going to be a fruity beer. It's a ruby red with a mahogany brown hue to it. Minimal head glacing the side of the glass - a light beige at that.

Aroma: Raspberry juice, sugar - it reminds me more of Ocean Spray than a wheat ale. There's notes of yeast and bread, aaaand that's essentially it. I don't know if someone actually replaced the contents with Ocean Spray.

Taste: Sweet right at the beginning, reminiscent of raspberry juice. After the sweetness dies down, there's not much else other than that. There's a bit of a sugary lingering feeling on the tongue, some tartness. No noticeable taste of hops. Slightly grainy, not that yeasty or bready. Very much a raspberry centric wheat ale.

Overall Thoughts: If you're looking for a very yeast focused wheat ale, you'll be disappointed, but if you want a very fruity and desserty fruit ale, this is a great alternative to the cherry beers out there (such as the Krieks). I now remember I was going to review this against Bud's fruit themed -rita (right in the ass) beers. This one has a nice fresh juice flavour to it - it's hard to believe that this is an ale, which would be great for those who want a fruity beer but don't generally care for the taste of beer. Bud's -rita beers are incredibly sugary, fizzy, syrupy and taste horrible. Phillips' Raspberry Wheat is comparable with Unibroue's Éphémère line of beers. Nice for a treat. 5.0%

Review: Ommegang Hennepin Farmhouse Saison

J'aime les saisons! Yum yum! Who doesn't love saisons? Seriously! Time to review Brewery Ommegang's Hennepin Farmhouse Saison.

Appearance: Ommegang's saison pours a rich citrusy copper-orange, thick and opaque, minimal amount of snow white head on top. A hint of carbonated fizziness taking place.

Aroma: Ommegang went the whole nine yards for the aroma. It's a rich, zesty saison with lots of orange peel notes, a boat load of coriander, a bit of graininess, a hint of ginger, a squirt of lemon and that typical Belgian yeast aroma.. it's all right in your nose.

Taste: Big flavour of citrus right at the beginning - lots of orange peels followed by a rich breadiness coming from the yeast, a bit of an acidic aftertaste from lemons. Rich carbonation as it hits my tongue. A bit of a creamy yet lemony aftertaste to it. Very refreshing and absolutely love the amount of citrus zest is being used in here. Very easy to drink and fairly light on the palate making it not as heavy as some saisons.

Overall Thoughts: Very solid saison, rich in citrus zest, coriander and hits the senses immediately. At 7.7% ABV, it's a bit stronger than most saisons. Very yeasty and bready brew but lots of spices to make it a great Sunday afternoon brew snack. Very Belgian-inspired.!beer_hennepin

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Skunkworth's Barleyslime: Coors Altitude

Coors Altitude is described as: a contemporary lager brewed to 6.4% with a clean, smooth taste one has come to expect from Coors. The easy-drinking lager represents a strong expression of the other side of Coors, while maintaining the brewer's exceptional standard of quality. It's the perfect balance of strength & simplicity - primed for unforgettable nights.

To me, this is all jibberish. How I read the description: this is a beer for you and your bros to get drunk to on a Friday night. At 6.4%, if you guys like Bud Light Platinum, you're going to be in for a treat!

When I think of breweries coming out with higher-than-average ABV beers for the sake of just being higher alcohol content, to me it seems like they are brewing it for the 18-25 year old male partying crowd who wants a light tasting lager, but at the same time.. realllllly wants to get a buzz. This is exactly what Bud Light Platinum ended up being.

I didn't want to spend my hard earned money on Coors Altitude, but being a good beer geek, I believe I have to give every beer a fair shot, but also being me - it's time for Skunksworth's Barleyslime!

Coors Altitude costs $2.88 per 473mL aluminum can-bottle. Kind of a ripoff considering I can buy Red Racer IPA cans for 30¢/can cheaper and it's actual quality beverage.

Pouring the Altitude, I'm glad they didn't call this Coors Light Altitude because I frankly don't know how Labatt & AB-InBev got away with a 6.0% "Light" beer in first place. It's a pale yellow golden beer, typical of a classic higher ABV malt liquor beverage. There's notes of corn, way too much low grade malt and even more corn to give it more of a presence of booze.

The taste is reminiscent to Lucky Extra and Great Western Brewhouse Prime - it's all about the mullet, man! Business in front, party in the back! It tries to come off as an actual sophisticated beer, but in the end, it's just a beer that wants to be partied with. It really tastes like corn water and way too much malt to it. This beer reminds me of BAD hangovers caused by my roommates when they would feed me Lucky Extra or Brewhouse Prime, way too much sugar, corn water and low grade barley that would make even Norm from Cheers weep. There's a very tinny aftertaste followed by the aftertaste of mashed corn.

This is on par with as I said - Lucky Extra or Brewhouse Prime, but better tasting than Fort Garry's Stone Cold Draft. I want my $2.88 back.

Monday, 2 February 2015

From the archives: Anchor Steam Old Foghorn Barley Wine (2014)

Previously published in my weekly First Draught column in The Brandon Sun

Every winter I look forward to the various Barley Wines that pop up in time for the -50 windchills. It’s hard to find barley wines in Manitoba so I tend to send friends in Quebec and Vancouver some money to pick up some of North America’s best Barley Wines. Barley Wines are a winter tradition to me - they’re much sweeter, much more syrupy and quite high in alcohol content. My absolute favourite is À l’abri de la tempête’s Corps Mort from Les Îles de la Madeleine in Quebec - a very syrupy, sweet and roasted malty beer that has an allergy warning that it may contain herring.. yuck! Non merci! Thankfully, I haven’t tasted any fishy business in the beer.

I find Barley Wines to be incredibly complex, dark, syrupy and at times even sweet & fruity. When you try a Barley Wine for the first time, you can immediately taste a burning sensation from the high alcohol content as Barley Wines generally range from 8-12% ABV. The only Barley Wine available at local Liquormarts for now is Old Foghorn Barleywine style Ale from San Fransisco’s Anchor Steam Brewing. I had the pleasure to try this beer last Christmas as a good friend from Vancouver custom-made a beer advent calendar featuring beers he found during beer excursions in Oregon and Washington State. So seeing Old Foghorn available here in Manitoba for the first time is quite a treat.

Old Foghorn is actually considered one of the most influential Barley Wines in the United States, to the point that the beer itself helped rejuvenate the style for the masses, as it was previously a beverage enjoyed exclusively by upper class British elites in the late 18th century. Old Foghorn pours a rich nutty brown with a hue of caramel to it and a bit of a light cookie dough-like beige head on top. The aroma is all over the place, first off there’s the pungent smell of alcohol, then there’s the smell of raisins and prunes. Following that, there’s notes of caramel, a bit of an oak woodiness in there to give it a bit of a complex bitterness. Not much of a hop presence, though they do use Cascade hops exclusively throughout the brewing process which should give it a bit of an alfalfa or pine aroma to it, but I’m not noticing it. The flavour actually has the hops pop in, it has a bitterness - only a hint of pine or alfalfa to start off as it quickly diminishes into a bit of an acidic mouthfeel. There’s some roasted nuttiness making itself known, caramel and toffee, strong alcohol flavours, raisins and a bit of a dry finish to it.

Old Foghorn was a bit better last year as this year’s batch is missing the overly sweet syrupiness I know and love in Barley Wines. It has more of a bitterness from the hops than almost any other Barley Wine I’ve ever had. It’s good, but could be better. That being said, I find Barley Wines are a style of beer that are best enjoyed aged for two to three years as the flavours mature and become more complex. Perhaps the sweet candy-like syrupy taste would pop out after aging.. but who knows? However, I do know that my bottles of Half Pints’ Burly Wine only get more heavenly each and every year as it ages longer and longer. 

Friday, 30 January 2015

Review: Garrison Spruce Beer

Yay! Garrison Brewing's beer is back in Manitoba after a two year hiatus! Their newest beer in Manitoba is Spruce Beer, brewed in tribute to the troops that used to be stationed in Halifax that were quite fond of the spruce beers brewed there back in the 1700s. This is only the second spruce beer I've ever had: first being Half Pints' Spruce Tips beer from last year. The beer is brewed with spruce tips, fir tips, barley, water, molasses, hops and yeast.

Appearance: Pours rich dark brown with a ruby red hue. Minimal phone but there's a bit of a late creaminess 

Aroma: Notes of Spruce, Molasses a bit of sugar. Very sweet caramelly brown ale. Heavy on the malt and a light amount of bitterness from the spruce/fir tips and hops.

Taste: This is fairly hoppy and bitter from the hops and spruce tips, some sweet Molasses notes, brown sugar and candy. Reminiscent in ways to a doppelbock: dark fruit, raisiny and caramelly.. very sweet! Light earthiness and notes of pine.

Overall Thoughts: A very sweet beer, malt forward and bit bitter from the spruce and hops used. A bit reminiscent of a doppelbock - with spruce tips. I like it! 7.5% ABV

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Review: Red Racer Gingerhead Gingerbread Stout

This beer sold out near immediately when it arrived at the LC a month ago - it's winter, who doesn't
love stout and gingerbread?!

I only managed to pick up one bottle of Central City's Red Racer's Gingerhead Gingerbread Stout. So I have to savour it as much as I can.

Appearance: Gingerhead pours a very thick, dark chocolate & molassesy black. Decent amount of burnt caramel head. Bit of a foamy lacing to the side of the glass.

Aroma: This is very much a dessert beer, also - a winter themed beer. Smells of ginger bread, nutmeg, molasses and some dark chocolate.

Taste: Very much like the aroma - a sweet dessert beer. Lots of gingerbread pops its way in my mouth - so sweet. Lots of brown sugar, nutmeg, a bit of a nuttiness to it. Some dark chocolate, vanilla notes. Creamy mouth feel. 

Overall thoughts: This is a bit much for one person, as this is a very sweet and gingerbready stout. Good for sharing with friends after a dessert, but a bit much just for me. Very sweet and nutty. Is drink it again, but In a smaller format. 6% ABV

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Review: Unibroue 17 Grande Réserve 2014

Ever since 2012, my favourite rarity by Unibroue - 17 Grande Réserve has been an absolute treat
whenever it comes out. Now, it seems to have become a Christmasy tradition here in Manitoba. When I do see it in stock, I buy as many as possible.

Appearance: Very dark ale, a dark as black ale, with a bit of a burnt caramel hue to it, nice thick amount of creamy beige head that isn't diminishing at all. A bit of carbonation.

Aroma: Very oaky, notes of whisky, oak, vanilla, a hint of chocolate and unibroue yeast.

Taste: The barrels are more present in this year's batch than some other years. Rich notes of whisky - a bit boozey, oaky wordiness, and vanilla. Quite sweet and notes of Unibroue yeast.

Overall Thoughts: Quite boozey from the whiskyish oak barrels, fairly smooth on the palate, something that will age insanely well, and at 10% ABV - share this with a friend. The flavours change from fridge temperature to near room temp so let this beer warm up for a bit to get the most out of the aging notes. You can age this for up to 5 or so years. $8.71/750ml bottle. 10% ABV

Friday, 9 January 2015

Review: Lake of the Woods Bombed Blondeshell Blonde India Pale Ale

The biggest upside to my sister dating a guy from Northern Ontario is that whenever they go to Ontario, I can get them to pick me up a growler of Lake of the Woods beer. Their beer is available in Manitoba now, but their one offs and seasonals don't make it out here in Manitoba. One of the beers she brought back was Bombed Blondeshell IPA.

This is the first IPA I've ever had by Lake of the Woods, and only the 4thish growlered IPA I've ever had in my life, first non-Manitoban/North Dakotan.

Appearance: Bombed Blondeshell pours a caramel amber ale. A heaping amount of creamy yellowish beige foam, reminiscent of a more British style IPA, very reddish in hue and quite a beaut.

Aroma: A bit more different than I was expecting. I'm finding a lot of nutty notes in there, a hint of toasted coffee bean. More of a grassy hoppiness to it. Nowhere near as floral (alfalfa or pine) as you would see for a West Coast style IPA. So this has lots of notes of more of an East Coast/British IPA to me. A bit more sweet caramel malt forward.

Taste: A bit gritty - notes of a rich nuttiness. A bit spicy - without the heat, very earthy, notes of grassy hops though I'm noticing hints of light bitter hops making a cameo once in a while in this brew. A bit sweet of caramel. Overall - a very nutty IPA.

Overall Thoughts: More of a British style IPA in my mind. Not bad, quite nutty and a decent amount of caramel maltiness in it. Leaves a very mellow aftertaste to it of nuttiness and sweetness. I hope Lake of the Woods continues to experiment and branch out in new styles! 6.5% ABV

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

December 1 - Nøgne Ø God Advent (Craft Advent Calendar)

I'm behind on my beer advent calendar postings.. so so what. Plus I won't be adventing it up much after Thursday as I'll be in Jamaica!!

December 1st's beer from the Craft Beer Advent Calendar is Nøgne Ø God Advent. I've heard of Norway's Nøgne Ø before, but didn't really pay attention to them as none of their beers are generally available in Manitoba. However, as part of the Craft Advent Calendar, I get to try it!

Appearance: Pours a murky muddy brown with a bit of a reddish cherry wood hue in there. A lot of creamy burnt caramel foam is rising from the glass as I pour it, but quickly goes down.. immediately.

Aroma: Medium notes of roasted malt, giving it a bit of a coffee aroma to it. Dark chocolate, dark fruits, a bit of a woody finish and a hint of cream.

Taste: Nutty, dark, roasted maltiness to give it a flavour reminiscent of stouts or porters - good for winter time. A bit of a boozey background.. which is not surprising seeing that it's 9% ABV! Hints of dark fruits, a bit of an acidic aftertaste.

Overall Thoughts: For the first beer of the advent calendar, it's a good start - only 250mL, but while drinking this, it just seems like I'm actually drinking something 100mL more. Some dark fruitiness, a hint of grapes in the background, nuttiness, coffee and dark chocolate. De-cent.