Fruity beers!

Originally posted in The Brandon Sun - November 10, 2017

At $29.99/bottle, Surly’s 2016 edition of Darkness Imperial Stout hasn’t sold well here in Western Manitoba, I picked up a few bottles as a pre-Christmas gift to myself. I’ve been meaning to open up a bottle for nearly a month now, but I am waiting for the perfect opportunity to try it out - this is also the same reason why I have a rare bottle of Unibroue Quatre Centième Belgian Ale aging at my parents’ place for the past 9 years, as well as a bottle of Unibroue Trader Joes’ beer from the US from 2006 that’s just collecting dust and not getting sampled instead. I’m a beer hoarder, I like to see how beer ages over time, but now days I’m realizing that I’m likely never going to try these beers.. or I’m scared to see that these beers have well passed their best before dates. Beers like Unibroue (aside from Blanche de Chambly and À Tout le Monde) age really well, as do Imperial Stouts, so really - that $30 investment could pay off for your tastebuds down the road.

Surly’s Furious Black IPA was released yesterday at the 10th & Victoria Liquor Mart for $12.98 per 750mL bottle and 6.6% ABV. I’m absolutely happy to see Surly releasing several different beers here in Manitoba and I hope beer geeks here in Westman will eventually go out and try the beer. The biggest complaint I get is that it’s expensive - it’s not a cheap beer even down in Minot after dollar conversion and the $7.99 can of Todd the Axe Man will easily make my list of my top beers for 2017, it’s that good. If craft beer is going to ever become a trend here, we need to treat as it is, a premium product with premium ingredients (quite often using ingredients from right here) made in small batches. I feel that I shouldn’t have to defend expensive craft beer, but unfortunately everything is still being compared to the prices of lighter lagers. We need to stop comparing oranges to apples.. or small batch barrel aged stouts to large batch lagers. 

In this week’s First Draught, I’m feeling cooped up so I was wanting something a bit heavy.. but not in the stout category. Instead, I’ve chosen a duo of fruit beers that have worked well as winter warmers ever since I can remember.

First off, we have Früli Strawberry Beer out of Belgium. Früli tops out at 4.1% ABV, so this is your typical dessert beer. Pouring Früli, I get a very cloudy, opaque pinkish red bodied ale with a good deal of carbonation, and a full finger’s worth of frothy beige head on top. Früli has a sweet jam-like strawberry aroma to it: It’s sweet, sugary, full of strawberries, as well as notes of cream to give it a smooth “Strawberries & Crème” presence to it. The flavour is sweet yet very tart. This has a great presence of strawberries, sugar, and cream popping up throughout every sip.. but one thing that pops out at the end is a mild tart flavour that leaves a slight tart aftertaste at the end. The Strawberry in this beer is very much a faux syrup, but seeing this mixed with barley malt, it’s not as overly syrupy as if it was a typical liquor-based cooler. Considering how sweet this beer is, it’s only 4.1% ABV in a 330mL bottle. You can find this at Liquor Marts in Brandon and Virden for $3.43 each. This may not be one of the best Belgian beers, this is definitely a fruity beer worth drinking for dessert in a Manitoban winter. 3/5 Pints

The second beer of the night is from closer to home - Kenora, Ontario, so this is essentially a near-Manitoban beer. Kenora’s Lake of the Woods Brewing has a popular blueberry ale called Forgotten Lake. The beer tops out at 7.1% ABV, making it one of the stronger fruit beers in all of Canada. Forgotten Lake pours a hefty, cloudy caramel brown body with a light amount of yellowish/beige head on top. The aroma is a light aroma of blueberry juice and a hint of cereal from the barley malt. The taste is a sweet yet slightly tart blueberry ale with a light grassy hop presence to it, but that’s about it. Unfortunately for this beer, it’s pretty light and lacking in any real flavour profile aside from the sweet hint of blueberries I got. I’ve had this beer before and this just doesn’t compare with what I remember from this beer - it should have more fruit-forward notes, definite yeast and grain presence, as well as a hop presence that pops out. For this beer, I get a bit of a blueberry taste and that’s it, with this now being 7.1% ABV over 7.5%, perhaps they have changed the recipe for the beer, but 7.1% is still pretty excessive.. in fact, I’m getting an unneeded buzz from this.

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