Thursday, 27 August 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Review: Alexander Keith's Celeia Hop Ale

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Review: Howe Sound Super Jupiter Grapefruit ISA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Review: HopEra Trizo (HopEra Microbrasserie & Pizza)

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 10 August 2015

Review: Rigby Orchards' Mead Cassis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Review: Driftwood New Growth Pale Ale

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Review: Rough Draft Southern Triangle IPA

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

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

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

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

Link to the Winnipeg Free Press article

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Review: Red Racer Maple Bacon Ale

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Review from the archives: Mill Street 100th Meridian Organic Amber Lager

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun back in February.

Toronto’s Mill Street Brewing was one of the first breweries to ship their beer to Manitoba when the craft beer craze was slowly becoming popular back around 2007. For the past 8 years, it was fairly easy to find their Coffee Porter, Tankhouse Ale and Organic Lager at just about any local Liquormart or beer vendor. However, in that time, Mill Street has branched out into one of Canada’s most popular brands in the beer scene. They have a very popular chain of brewpubs in Ontario and the brewery itself brews more beer than most other breweries in Canada now. They’ve become a Canadian success story.

8 years is a long time to wait for a new product from an established brand to arrive in Manitoba. So when they brought in four new (to Manitoba) beers to Liquormart and beer vendor shelves, of course it’s a great time to try them all! The new arrivals include Cobblestone Stout, Lemon Tea Ale, Vanilla Porter and 100th Meridian Organic Amber Lager. Being in Brandon after all, a place that’s right along the edge of the 100th Meridian, it only made sense to try the 100th Meridian Organic Amber Lager. 

The first thing that caught my eye about the beer was the label, a painted label with a sketch of a golden fields, bright sky and a grain elevator popping up from nowhere, your typical prairie sight. 100th Meridian pours a colourful golden straw lager with a good amount of bubbly carbonation that’s quite reminiscent to your standard prairie influenced pilsners & lagers. There’s a tad bit of snowy froth on top that’s sticking to the side of the glassware, so this looks like your classic craft brewery take on a Canadian lager.

The aroma has notes of barley, lots of sweet malted barley, a bit of lemon peel, very lightly hopped with a hint of alfalfa aroma to give it a light bitterness in the profile. This is quite a grassy lager, which is comparable to most microbrewed lagers, pilsners out there like Farmery or Steam Whistle.

This is a sweet lager, with a taste of orange peel, a bit of a caramel maltiness showing up, notes of lightly toasted organic Canadian prairie barley, a light sprinkling of Cascade hops to give it a bit of a grassy alfalfa aftertaste to it, but not so much that it tastes like you’re drinking plants. A malt forward lager rather than a hop forward lager, which may be too much for some, but a welcome change for others. I like this as it’s very smooth on the tongue, a great balance of hops, toasty & sweet malted barley, an amount of graininess that reminds me of cleaning grain bins as a child and it doesn’t have a lingering corn taste to it, which a lot of the top lagers seem to have - in order to keep costs to a minimum.

I’m not a lager fan, but this was actually a very solid lager by the folks at Mill Street, and not only that - it’s an organic lager too! This isn’t Mill Street’s only organic beer available here either - they have an Original Organic Lager that’s been available here for several years now, though I found it a bit too skunky for my liking.  For a beer named after a geographic point that involves Brandon, this is the best “Brandon themed” beer I’ve had yet - Sorry, Big Rock’s Assiniboine Lager - you were pretty bad. 100th Meridian Amber Lager looks like your classic Canadian lager, but sure enough tastes more like an amber lager.