Tuesday, April 28, 2009

De Dolle Brouwers Special Extra Export Stout

Speaking of beer, I'm in the mood to write a beer review, and this fascinating Belgian style stout, brewed at the behest of the Shelton Brothers Importers, is a great beer to write about. Strictly speaking this isn't a traditional Belgian style of beer, but was invented for the English market and re-invented for the US market. It's a remarkable combination of styles and De Dolle does a fantastic job here.

At 9% ABV this did not give off any overly alcoholic aromas or flavours. Rather this was metallic, herbal, and yeasty at the same time as having qualities similar to an oatmeal stout: roastedness and bitter chocolate and malts. The Belgian yeast strain used for this beer is clearly very good as the yeast elements are deep and complex. I also got candied fruits and raisins, but the bitter chocolate provided a great balance to those Belgian-like components. This is nicely carbonated and drinks great from around 54 degrees to 64 degrees. This is a wonderful and unique melding of styles and definitely the best Belgian style stout I've yet had.

Very Good+ to Excellent
$9/12oz at Healthy Spirits (SF)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Jolly Pumpkin Madrugada Obscura Dark Dawn Stout

One does not usually see a sour stout, so I was pretty excited to try this extremely dense brew. The first sip of this is very exciting - incredibly robust, deep and flavourful and yet unique. The sourness adds a simply wonderful edge to the otherwise dark roasty flavours of chocolate and coffee. The sourness cuts the heavyness that can weight down many stouts, and the much higher than average carbonation adds a great mouthfeel to this superbly crafted stout. A beer for the jaded palate.

$15 USD

Jolly Pumpkin La Roja

A perennial favourite of mine, La Roja is a flemish style red ale, but aged in oak. This is spicier and more hopppy than most Flemish ales, and distinctly on the woody over the fruity side of things. The nose is very rich, and the beer itself has great structured. As I mentioned, this is not at all sweet tasting and offers currants, lime and lemon zest with some secondary spice notes. This is a very tasty beer and pairs very well with chiles and Mexican food generally.

Very Good+ to Excellent
$10/22oz USD

Jolly Pumpkin Fuego del Otono

A fall/winter seasonal beer this is, brewed with chestnuts and spices. The nose is very much like an amber ale and is quite subtle. I didn't get any spices until the palate, which was mostly fruity with some twigs and dried indian spices like mustard seed and correander. The beer was on the bitter side, but still quite drinkable. In the end, though, this just is not as good as most of Jolly P's offerings.

Very Good
$15/22oz USD

Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca

I think wheat ales and sour flavours go absolutely fantastic together, and this is no exception. Very wit-like on the nose with spice, pepper and yeast, this is light on the palate and extremely refreshing. Correander, orange and lemon give this a tart and yet alive feeling on the palate. Smooth and balanced, this is a superb sour wit.

$12/22oz USD

Jolly Pumpkin Bam Noire Dark Farmhouse Ale

Very Belgian yeasty on the nose with banana, malts and caramel, this is distinctly in a dark farmhouse style, almost like a Belgian brown ale. Very sour on the palate, this has moderate bitterness and a nice mouthfeel. The smoky finish is pleasant. Overall a solid beer.

Very Good to Very Good+
$12/22oz USD

Dogfish Head Raison D'Extra

This is an extreme version of Dogfish Head's Raisin D'etre, a beer brewed with, yes, raisins. I've had both versions and am happy to report this is the better of the two. Almost like a barley wine, this is malty and sweet on the nose. The palate is distinctly raisin-y, but that adds quite a nice layer to the barley wine style body, with its strong alcohol. Well balanced, the alcohol is not dominating, even as it adds body. On a really basic level I enjoy this beer tremendously.

$9 USD

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Rogue Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale

This is certainly a unique brew. If you ever wondered what a cross between a Japanese extra-dry beer and an American medium malt ale tasted like, this is for you. While I wouldn't call this astonishing, it certainly has a crispness that I really appreciate as highly food friendly, especially for sushi and sashimi, while also possessing a deeper complexity than standard Japanese beer. The malts bring more depth of flavour to the uber dry soba, and overall the combination produces a nicely balanced beer. Recommended with the appropriate food, but less so as a sipper.

Very Good
$8 at Liberty

Rodenbach Grand Cru

Having had the Rodenbach red ale a couple weeks ago at City Beer, I had to try this very rare Grand Cru from them - same beer but aged in oak. And, wow was it good. Like the red ale, but with more complexity, roundness and balance. Aged in oak for 8 months, the palate was very smooth and full with apple, pomegranate, dragon fruit, and blueberry. Awesome!

Excellent to Excellent+
$12 a bottle

Russian River Damnation

Russian River is a sonoma brewery making a very nice quality range of distinctive and yet flavourful beer. The Damnation is in the style of a Belgian Wit, and had a great not-too-sweet palate of spices like cloves and pepper. Drinking very smoothly, this is a good Belgian for those who don't love Belgian sweet malts, but enjoy the yeastyness.

Very Good+
$3/pint at Happyhour (normally $4) at Toronados (San Francisco)
$8/22oz at the store

Port Brewing Older Viscocity Ale 2008

Old Viscosity is a super intense dark stout. Older viscosity is Old Viscosity aged in Bourbon barrells. mmmmm. Wow, what a great beer: vanilla, caramella, brown sugar/molasses on the palate - but less creamy and vanilla-intense than the Goose Island I reviewed earlier. There is also a very interesting herbaciousness on the thick and syrupy palate. At 12% abv, you've got to drink this slowly. But why would you want to do anything other than peacefully enjoy a sip here and there of this magnificently intense brew.

$20/bottle at Toronados (San Francisco)

Lindemans Cuvee Rene Gueuze Lambic

Gueuze lambic is a sour beer blended from aged and young lambic. Many people's familiarty with lambic will be with sweet fruity concoctions that taste nothing like beer. This particular lambic, as with any self-respecting lambic, is sour and a litte bretty. Here we had quite a yeasty complexion and a woody odour. However, disappointingly the malts used must have been cheap or crappy quality because this has an aftertaste similar to a commercial lager. Despite having layers of wood, earth and forest floor, the finish is frankly very unflattering. While certainly overall much better than a commercial beer, I have been fortunate to have many much better lambics.

$10/750ml at Whole Foods (San Francisco)

Heather Ale Ebulum Elderberry Black Ale

This is another of Heather Ale's traditional Scottish ales brewed with various alternatives to hops. The Scottish were not too fond of English brewing laws and decided to supplement their traditional alternatives to hops despite English laws to the contrary. Despite being just generally cool for their disobedience, the Scottish also create some pretty unique flavours with their hop alternatives.

For this particular beer, Elderberry is used instead of hops and produces quite a nice floral/fruity aroma. The beer is slightly smoky with moderately roasted malt flavours. There is a slight bitternes, but a lot less to traditional hops and it compliments the floralness nicely. This ale is a very unique combination of light and dark flavours and I think it's very tasty. Nevertheless, it might be a bit strange for some people and it was definitely too expensive where I got it. But if you are adventerous, like dark beers, and can find this for a better price than me, definitely give this one a whirl.

Very Good
$6 at Liberty

Heatherale Alba Scots Pine Ale

This is the second beer I tried from the Scottish ale sampler I bought from Liberty. This is a nicely coloured amber ale with a really nice pine and cedar fragrance in every sip and is very refreshing. Short, but smooth malty finish. Easy drinking and coming in at a surprising 7.5% alcohol for the lightness of the ale.

Very Good
$6 at Liberty

McEewan's Scotch Ale

On the trend of Scottish ale, this dark and strong ale is made in the malt-liquor style, meaning it is kind of cidery and sweet with a big dose of alcohol (8%). The ale consists of strong apple cider and molasses flavours built over a great deal of heat from the alcohol. It finishes with a slight bitterness that helps to temper the malt flavours. Overall this is pretty nice, although it is too sweet for my tastes. Ultimately I think it is over-priced for what it is and that there are much better beers available for the same price.

$16.99/6-pack at BCLDB

Young's Double Chocolate Stout

I hadn't had this in a while but felt like a stout tonight so I picked one up from my local BC liquor store. I forgot how tasty this was. Moderate roasted malts coupled with a nice creamy chocolatey flavour. The texture is great and this is very easy and very tasty drinking. Highly recommended as an every day tasty stout.

Very Good
$3.25 at BCLDB

Phillips "The Hammer" Imperial Stout

The first time I tried this beer I had it at room temperature, which tends to bring out the flavours a bit more in this style. It was very dark, chocolately, very roasted charcol-like flavours and also reasonably bitter. It wasn't my favourite Imperial Stout since I felt it lacked complexity and depth in the finish, despite being pretty well balanced.

However, when I drank another couple ounces of this cold it was quite a bit tastier and smoother, as the bitterness was tempered and the balance accentuated. So, while not a favourite of mine in this style, I think it might be a great place for someone new to heavier beers to start, given it is far more balanced and less alcoholic than many.Everybody raise a glass to getting better!

$7/650ml at Private Stores

Fuller's Vintage Ale 2007

I generally like Fuller's ales, and so when I saw this limited edition vintage ale at the local BC liquor store I was excited to give it a try. These are bottle fermeted and supposedly age well; however, I found this beer to be overly alcoholic and not balanced very well. Maybe with time the intense alcohol flavour will mellow, but this was very dissapointing and very overpriced.

$6.99 at BCLDB

J. W. Lees Harvest Ale Lagavulin Casks 2005

This beer defies a few preconceptions about what beer should be. Firstly, it is bottle conditioned and aged. Secondly, it is aged in Scotch barrels from Lagavulin. This is unlike any beer that a non-aficionado will have ever tasted.

The nose is very rich, very malty and caramelly. But this belies what lies underneath the barley wine-like nose. That is, when you take a sip you are confronted with intense scotch smokyness, a bit of peat, and a smooth and incredibly complex brew. While malty, this is more like drinking a cross between beer and scotch than anything else. Perhaps a bit too sweet for some (who should then consider Ola Dubh beer), but undeniably unique, complex, and a paradigm-shifter.

Excellent to Excellent+
$14/375ml at City Beer

De Hemel Nieuw Ligt Grand Cru 2003

Another paradigm killer, but even more profound than the J.W. Lees. This beer is also officially billed as a Barley Wine, but it couldn't be further from the basic formula than it is. A dark brown, cloudy colour in the glass, the nose brought out a holy *#$(* moment when it mimicked a high quality Sauternes with its profound candied pear, apple, and grapefruit notes.

The palate was, simply put, insanely complex and deep. Layers and layers of honey, grapefruit, pear, and nuts. This is a bastard child of Sauternes and posseses an incredible balance of acidity and sweetness. Pretty much not only the best Barley Wine I've ever had, but maybe the best beer I've ever had. Who would have thought a 6 year old beer could kill it so well.

$10 at the Toronado beer sale (totally unavailable now)

Mikkeller Black

This beer defies description. And it defies your palate too, at every step. No one would ever think this were beer if you never told them - it's that unique. With a smell that overwhelms with soy sauce and chocolate fondue reduced with fine spirits this gets ever bigger and weirder in the mouth. Pouring jet black, this is huge as hell, atom dense, and has the intensity of a pure shot of espresso, but a bigger more engulfing mouthfeel. Sweet up front with lots and lots and lots of malts, the finish is astringent and bitter. Finishes with a scotchy smokyness. Some will definitely like that component, though. Really a love it or hate it drink, this pretty much makes evaluation impossible. A paradox of a beer. And the kicker? This is 17.5% ABV. This will ruin your liver.

$20/12oz at City Beer

Mikkeller Black Hole

I suppose one should call this a stout, but Mikkeller does not do much by the books. Apparently this is their attempt at reproducing Alesmith's famed Speedway Stout, which I have not been fortunate enough to try yet (although there is some hope). Nonetheless, this is an awesome super flavourful chocolate and coffee bean mash up. The malts are deep and complex, and the palate is thick and viscous. A subtle tinge of caramel or toffee glides through the dessert like palate. This beer has an incredible robustness, depth and balance. And it is the best I've had from Mikkeller. Pair this with rich meats and you will be in heaven, or at least lost in a gravitational abyss.

Excellent to Excellent+
$13/375ml at City Beer (San Francisco)

Mikkeller Big Worse Barley Wine

It seems as though the Scandanavians are becoming a mini-powerhouse in the world of craft brewing. Mikkeller, which I believe is Danish, has built a pretty solid reputation for themselves here in the US with an embrace of the extreme beer style that has provided the reputation of such vaunted brewers as Dogfish Head, Hair of the Dog, etc.

This particular barley wine is made on the more traditional malty-side, with quite an intense malty thickness to the palate. Luckily this is coupled with a nice crisp dry finish that rounds out the structure to a relatively balanced equilibrium. With orange peel and general fruit cake notes in the palate, despite being 12% ABV this is smooth, balanced and drinks very well, albeit you'll want to keep this at a sipping pace. Not the best barley wine I've had, but a very good example, and tasty enough to prompt me to indulge in future brews by Mikkeller.

Very Good to Very Good+
$12 for 375ml bottle at City Beer (San Francisco)

Dieu du Ciel Rosee D'Hibiscus

A pink semi-sour beer brewed with Hibiscus. Sour, floral and nutty I found the malts to be a bit weird. Up front it is a pretty decent beer and drinks easily. Furthermore, it has a nice acidity and drinks somewhat like a white wine (I recommend sour beers for Sauvignon Blanc lovers) However, the finish was all disjointed and, honestly, boring. Nice try, but not so much.

$5 at Brewery Creek

Dieu du Ciel Peche Mortel

For those who don't speak French - this beer can be translated as "mortal sin", and is a very rich and intense coffee stout with heavily roasted malts. Very robust on the palate, with chocolate and dark roasted coffee, this was very smooth and lingered pleasantly in the mouth. Not too bitter or too sweet, this surpasses many Imperial style stouts by its better balance. A great winter warmer.

$5 at Brewery Creek

Dieu du Ciel Route D'Epices

Spice route - an awesome spiced beer. Pepper for sure, but also cloves, nutmeg and other exotic spices in a medium-dark ale. Medium bodied, but packs a brilliant spicey and layered punch in the mid-palate. A fantastic spiced beer - perhaps the best in the style I have tasted.

$5 at Brewery Creek

Unibroue 17

I have lost my taste for Canadian beer as of late. Once getting my hands on quality American and Belgian microbrews, it became difficult to appreciate their usually lesser-made Canadian cousins. This beer, however, is an exception. Made in a style similar to a Belgian Quadrupel, this 10% abv dark belgian-style ale is brought to us by Unibroue on the occasion of its 17th Birthday.

I tasted sweet foral and root notes on this, much like many Belgian-style dark beers. However, the complexity of the flavours was deeper than usual and the beer much better balanced than many. The alcohol level also did not detract from the subtlety of the flavours, was not readily apparent, but was also not just masked by sweetness. I had this with a wonderful mango curry lamb sausage: a fantastic combination.

Very Good+

$8 at BCLDB Signature stores

Avery The Beast Grand Cru, Batch 4 2008

In one word: Massive. 16.3% abv. This is malty, thick, syrupy with deep flavours of caramel, brown sugar, cigar, tobacco and popcorn. Incredibly deep and full, this is surprisingly well balanced. A remarkable beer in its own right, and certainly unique.

Very Good+
$11/12oz at City Beer

Avery Samael Oak Aged Ale Batch 3, April 2007

This smells like heavily buttered popcorn, likely due to the heavy oak aging. This is a mind boggler - unique, woody, buttery as hell, but tasty despite its incredibly intense oakyness. For some reason the intense oak works a lot better than with wine. Drinkable, despite its very high alcohol at 15%, this will get bourbon lovers into beer. You can't call this 'nuanced', but you can certainly call it ball busting, and utterly singular. I commend Avery for their daring-do.

Very Good+ to Excellent
$9/12oz at Liquid Bottleworks

Avery Mephistopheles Stout Batch #3 November 2007

A crazy big beer at 16% ABV. That said, don't discount this as overly alcoholic. Rather, this has the proper amount of age to smooth that out to perfect levels. The nose here is like a vanilla caramel sunday. Chocolate and vanilla are quite evident on the palate, but surprisingly there is an edge of minerals and metal, which is quite unique and does not clash with the sweeter flavours. Caramel arises again on the finish. This is very very tasty, but I wouldn't call it utterly complex. That said, there is layering of flavour that exposes itself as the beer warms up, and this is certainly one of the best Imperial Stouts I've had. This is the best of the three Avery beers I've sampled, and that is no small feat.

$9/12oz at Liquid Bottleworks

Ommegang Three Philosophers 2008

Ommegang are a bit hit and miss for me - but this is probably their most solid beer I've had to date. A Quadrupel in style, but fused lightly with cherries, this has a lot of complexity and density for an average priced bottle of microbrewed beer.

The nose was very nice and quite expressive - traditional heavy malts coupled with distinctive belgian yeast (banana, root beer, etc.) However, the cherries are not just a gimmick, but add a dimension of complexity that brings out more complexity in the malt profile. The palate continues the promise of the nose, with a great smoothness despite the high ABV at 9.8%. Yet, there is also a drawn back bitter component that keeps this from being one of those overly sweet Quads. They must have kept the Ph low enough so the cherries wouldn't make this too sweet. And, to cap it all off, this has a tremendously long finish for a beer.

$10/750ml at Various US Stores

Telegraph Winter Ale

Here we have a very solid California beer maker who has yet to dissapoint me. This beer is a left over from the 'winter' season, with a very spiced character of orange, cinamon, nut meg and a little pine. This is very balanced and smooth with beautiful carbonation. The spicing is done perfectly, which is actually quite a difficult feat as many lesser winter or xmas ales can attest to. Complex, unique, and a perfect seasonal treat - when that time comes around again!

Very Good+
$8/650ml at CityBeer

Green Flash Grand Cru 2008

Yet another San Diego brewer who I think does a really fantastic job with Belgian style ales (and you can get their stuff in Vancouver). This Grand Cru is basically made in a quadrupel style similar to St. Bernardus. This has a sweet banana malt nose with raisins and chocolate. Deep and robust on the palate, this is well carbonated but not over carbonated (Belgian beer drinkers should know what I mean).

Surprisingly layered, I picked up tropical fruits like banana and coconut, as well as chocolate and a subtle leafyness. I think that leafyness, which adds a touch of bitterness, actually makes this quite a deep and complex beer that otherwise would be overwhelmed with sweet malt flavour. Between the Rochefort 10 and the St. Bernardus in terms of style and quality. 9.1% abv.

$8/650ml at City Beer

Ballast Point Seamonster Stout

One of the myriad of top notch San Diego craft brewer, Ballast Point has built a reputation for this little Imperial Stout. High carbonation for a stout, with roasted chocolate malts, coffee, and a bitter creamyness. This is also a fairly sweet sout - sort of like a chocolate sunday with bitter coffee beans crumbled on top. Enjoyable, but for me, a bit unbalanced between sweetness and bitterness. I would prefer either a rich heavy roasted dark style or a sweeter style buoyed by some oak aging.

Very Good to Very Good+
$8/650ml Bottle at City Beer (San Francisco)

Lost Abbey Serpents Stout

don't blog about beer too often, mostly due to the fact I used to consume a lot more wine than beer. Being in the US, however, has provided me with access to an incredible array of microbrews and so I've been tasting through quite a bit of fantastic stuff. This often happens at some great beer joints in town, which I have blogged about before. A few choice selections made it home, however, with high hopes.

Lost Abbey is a pretty fantastic California brewery that specializes in Belgian ales. Their sister brewery, Port brewing, focuses on american styles. This particular beer, however, is billed as a Belgian style stout. I love Belgians and I love stout - so I had to pick this up. This is their first release of the beer as a winter seasonal.

Sitting at a heavy 11% abv, this is rich and malty, with a sweetness more in the Belgian style than in a traditional sweet stout like Guiness. The roasted malts give this a hint of bitterness and make it fairly robust. The carbonation is taken up a notch - likely due to the Belgian influence - and this adds a good crispness and layers the flavours well. In the end this is very solid, and one of the better stouts out there, even if I was expecting something a little more interesting.

Very Good to Very Good+
$11/650ml at City Beer (San Francisco)

Seattle International Beer Festival 2008

This weekend was host to one of the best festivals I have had the pleasure of attending. And fortunately for me, it was filled not only with a large number of beer swigging nerds, but also a huge range of exceptional and rare beers from around the world. I believe there were over 150 beers, and I probably managed to taste a third of those. So many beers in so little time meant it was difficult to rate each exactly. Thus we separated the beers into three categories: 1. those we liked; 2. those about which we held a neutral opinion, and; 3. those we disliked. These are the collaberative notes of myself and friends.

Those We Liked

Old Stock 2008 - North Coast - California - Barley Wine - 12.5%Notes: smooth and well balanced between hops and sweetness. Another winner from North Coast. Beer Advocate rating: 4.12.

Old Crustacean 2008 - Rogue - Oregon - Barley Wine - 11.5%Notes: a bitter but flavourful brew. Maybe slightly over-hopped, but still packs a flavour punch. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.02

Harvest Ale (Lagavulin) - J.W. Lees - Manchester, England - Barley Wine - 11.5%Notes: Firstly, this was only available for about 1 hour at the festival. Luckily I managed to snag a taste, and boy was it worth it. First of all, this is nothing like barley wine. Rather, this is like drinking a cross between beer and scotch. Poured out of a wooden cask, this beer was aged in lagavulin scotch barrels, which gave it a smoky, sweet and caramelly flavour highly reminiscent of a very good scotch. This was my beer of the show. I picked up a 300ml bottle (not the same as cask poured, but hey) at a specialty store in Seattle for $14!!! Probably the only beer I'd pay that much for. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.03.

BB10 Barley - Maracalagonis - Italy - Barley Wine - 10.0%Notes: Yet another barley, this rare beer sailed over from Italy for the show. This was good, and not too sweet, but not my favourite Barley Wine of the show. No beer advocate rating.

Malheur Dark Brut - De Landtsheer - Belgium - Bière Brut - 12.0%
Notes: A decent micro-bubbly wine somewhat similar to Deus. However, while spritely and fruity, this certainly isn't worth the $30 a bottle they ask for it. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.08

Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien - BFM - Switzerland - Bière de Garde - 11.0%
Notes: An oaky sour beer. You have to like the style in order to like this stuff, and I felt the La Folie (reviewed later) was a better sour beer. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.29.
Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock - Schneider - Germany - Bock - 12.0%
Notes: I very much like Aventinus, but had never tasted their Eisbock before. While not rare per-se, bocks are only made a certain time of year in Germany and so it was a pleasure to taste this not so easy to find and highly rated beer. Very banana heavy, this was sweetish and floral, but very well balanced. I would buy this for a special occasion given its $7 a 12oz bottle price tag. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.12.

Palo Santo Marron - Dogfish Head -Delaware - Brown Ale - 12.0%
Notes: One of the special pours of the festival and only available on a single day. This was a fantastic brown ale. Balanced, unique (brown sugar, caramelized flavours), but balanced between maltiness and hops. Just a tinge of sweetness. One of my top 5 of the show. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.21.

Ruination Ale - Stone - California - Double IPA - 7.7%
Notes: Despite being a double IPA, this was not over the top, which was the downfall of many of the extreme beers poured at the fest. Floral, foresty and perfectly hopped. An excellent brew and one to try even if you don't like IPA! Beer Advocate Rating: 4.29

XX Imperial Porter - Deschutes - Oregon - Imperial Porter - 10.3%
Notes: A quality full bodied porter with good roasted malt flavours and moderate hops. You can taste the bigness and alcohol in this beer, which can be a bit intense, though still enjoyable. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.28.

Top Sail (Bourbon Aged) - Full Sail - Oregon - Imperial Porter -9.9%
Notes: One of the best porters at the show, while strong this was very very tasty and balanced better than the XX from Deschutes. The imperial makes porter more full bodied, roasted and flavourful than regular porter. This is an excellent example of the 'genre'. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.20

Pêche Mortel - Dieu du Ciel - Montreal, Quebec - Imperial Stout - 9.5%
Notes: A coffee based stout that was full flavoured, intense, balanced, and all 'round plain great. Tasted subtle coffee and tobacco notes. One of my top 5 beers of the show. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.48.

Ola Dubh 30 Yr - Harviestoun - Scotland - Old Ale - 8.0%
Notes: Another super rare cask beer available for only 2 hours at the show. This one was aged in 30 year old scotch barrels and was dark, peaty and cigar-like. Less like scotch than the Harvest ale, this was still a very flavourful and unique brew. Another top 5 of the show. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.34.

La Folie - New Belgium - Fort Collins, Colorado - Red Ale - 6.0%
Notes: Crazy sour. Probably the sourest beer I've ever had. But, despite this, it had fantastic oaky and woody flavours that gave it a lot of character. Further, it was great for the heat and cut the palate perfectly after all the super-hopped beers. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.38.

Old Chub - Oskar Blues - Colorado - Scotch Ale - 8.0%
Notes: Considered by some the best Scottish ale around, I don't understand the hype. While good, this was standard Scottish ale made well. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.08.Pek & Veren (Tar and Feathers) - De Molen - Netherlands - Stout - 8.0%
Notes: A very good and unique Dutch stout. This just missed out on my top 5 list with its slightly sour but classic dark strong malt flavours and moderated alcohol. This is rare stuff and has no Beer Advocate rating.

Angel's Share - Lost Abbey - California - Strong Ale - 11.5%
Notes: This was perhaps the rarest beer of all at the festival. Only a few bottles were available and we only managed to get some after sweet talking one of the head beer police dudes running the show. You can only get this beer if you are on the Lost Abbey mailing list, and there is a wait list to get on that. I tasted caramel, oak, vanilla, and layers of complexity developing as you drink this fruity masterpiece. I found this to be structured over the full range from nose to mid-palate and finish - awesome stuff. This was my number 2 beer of the show, and thus fills the last spot in the top 5 of the show. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.55.

Double Bastard - Stone - California - Strong Ale - 10.0%
Notes: Very nicely done with a super creamy texture and great mouthfeel. The hops are insanely intense, however, and this may not be for everyone. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.32.

Oaked Arrogant Bastard - Stone - California - Strong Ale - 7.2%
Notes: Much more balanced than the double bastard, this was hoppy and floral with just a tinge of oakyness. The oak was used well here to add complexity to the hops by balancing out the bitterness. This is worth seeking out. Beer Advocate Rating 4.22.

Oro de Calabaza - Jolly Pumpkin - Michigan - Strong Ale (Gold) - 8.0%
Notes: Jolly Pumpkin is doing good things. A balanced ale that tastes different from most of what you get out there. I found this hard to describe so I would seek it out and try it yourself. Beer Advocate Rating 4.16.

Curieux - Allagash - Portland, Oregon - Tripel - 11.0%
Notes: Wow, a bloody good tripel. One of the best Belgian style beers at the show with coconut flavours coupled with a classic Belgian yeast nose. Strong and good. Beer Advocate Rating 4.16.

The Neutral Beers

Hop 15 - Lost Abbey - California - Double IPA - 9.7%
Notes: Not too hopped, but also a bit standard. Next! Beer Advocate Rating 4.33.

Imperial Stout - Nøgne Ø - Norway - Imperial Stout - 9.0%
Notes: I had high hopes for this but left feeling underwhelmed. Smoky and flavourful, this wasn't bad but also wasn't great. Beer Advocate Rating 4.20.

Cuvée de Noël - St. Feuillien - Belgium - Strong Ale (Dark) - 9.0%
Notes: Standard Christmas Beer. Boring. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.08.

Wit - St. Bernardus - Belgium - Wit - 5.5%
Notes: A decent wit with some complexity, but 2 out of 3 of us found this plain and boring. Beer Advocate Rating 4.03.

Those We Disliked

Old Ruffian - Great Divide - Colorado - Barley Wine - 11.0%
Notes: Great Divide had a poor showing at this show for some reason. I usually like these guys, but everything at the fest was way too hoppy. Yuk. Beer Advocate Rating 4.33.

Olde Gnarlywine - Lagunitas - California - Barley Wine - 9.7%
Notes: The opposite end of the spectrum. Just way too sweet. Unless you like your beers sugary, stay away. Beer Advocate Rating 4.12.

Asam Bock - Weltenburger - Germany - Bock - 6.9%
Notes: Generic and thin. Tastes like all bocks taste. Beer Advocate Rating 4.10.

Morimoto Imperial Pilsner - Rogue - Oregon - Imperial Pilsner - 8.7%
Notes: Tastes like a urinal cake. Beer Advocate Rating 4.12.

Yeti (Oak Aged) - Great Divide - Colorado - Imperial Stout - 9.5%
Notes: Nasty nasty hops. Which sucks since I remember liking this a lot. Maybe this batch was made poorly. Beer Advocate Rating 4.32.

Ten-FIDY - Oskar Blues - Colorado - Imperial Stout - 10.0%
Notes: Why people like Oskar Blues is beyond me. This was medicinal and sickly syrupy. Really really gross. Beer Advocate Rating 4.31.

Malheur 12 - De Landtsheer - Belgium - Quadrupel - 12.0%
Notes: A bad quadrupel? Strange but true. Just too sweet. Had a hint of maple, but I recommend sticking to the standards. Beer Advocate Rating 4.15.

Judgment Day - Lost Abbey - California - Quadrupel - 10.5%
Notes: Another quadrupel that was just too sweet. Unfortunate. Beer Advocate Rating 3.90.

And that ends the round up of 2 days of beer festing down in Seattle. We also hit the Elysian Brew Pub while there, but that will be the subject of a subsequent post. I highly recommend making the trip to Seattle if you are at all into beer. Cheers!

Port Brewing Old Viscosity Ale

10% ABV. This was aged in bourbon barrels and certainly brought vanillan action to the table. Thick, rich and deeply malty this strong port was a phenomenal example of how chocolatey richness can be brough by proper brewing rather than added chocolate.


Shmaltz Brewing Company Coney Island Albino Python

This spiced lager was lemony and very clove-like. A unique and successful take on lager that brings the unfortunately popular style into the realm of properly brewed beer.


North Coast Brewing 2008 Old Stock Ale

A properly made malty Barley Wine. The slight hops is well done but not overwhelming, which makes this eminently drinkable. Nothing exceptional to bring it to the next level, but very solid and very enjoyable.

Very Good+
$? (Bought in US)

Elysian Perseus Porter

This is one hell of a beer. Balanced and subtle with low alcohol levels for a porter (5.4% abv), this porter has an abundance of robust dark beer malty flavours without being over the top, unbalanced, or overly bitter. It's texture is fantastic and every sip suggests the next. This is hands down one of the best porters I've ever had.

$7/bottle at Brewery Creek

Elysian Dragonstooth Stout

This heady stout is dark and broody, creamy and delicious. It has great depth and concentration but wicked balance. This comes in around 7% abv, but you don't feel the alcohol as this is quite an easy drinking stout. Rarely do I taste stout of this level. Good job Elysian!

$7/bottle at Brewery Creek

Rogue Chocolate Stout

I've reviewed this beer before, and it certainly is tasty. However, next to the Elysians it doesn't quite hold up as well as it used to. Yet, this is still chocolate malty goodness in a glass with a beautiful silky texture. So, while not as subtle and well integrated as the Elysian, it's still a very tasty brew.

Very Good+
$8/bottle at Brewery Creek

Rogue Mocha Porter

The mocha porter is slightly bitter, but still reasonably balanced. It is fairly roasty and toasty with the malts, and has a nice length on the finish. The texture is creamy, but overall this beer lacks the complexity of the Elysian Perseus Porter and the sheer smooth chocolatey intensity of its brother the Chocolate Stout. So, while still a decent beer, this is my least favourite of the four.
Very Good
$8/bottle at Brewery Creek

Rodenbach Belgian Flemmish Red Ale

Classic balanced tartness with rich fermented raisins and apricots coming trough. This has a great mouthfeel With a very nice balance, this is the sort of beer that a wine geek will love: 25% aged in oak casks, 75% fresh beer.

$5 a bottle at City Beer (San Francisco)

Goose Island Beer Company Bourbon County Brand Stout 2008

This is a seriously serious stout, smashing in with 13% abv that demands slow sipping. However, this is one killer Bourbon-intense dark as night brew, with a super-intense nose of rich vanilla and oak. The palate expands to include tobacco and tar notes that make this a perfect after-dinner beer that will probably go well with cigars. Amazingly, this is drinking well now and is very smooth and silky in the mouth. A wonderful beer. Stout lovers will be blown away.

$6 a bottle at City Beer (San Francisco)

Binchoise Biere Speciale Belge

A little trip down to Brewery Creek beer and wine store on main street brought forth a bunch of beer that I have not seen elsewhere in Vancouver. I will have a special updated Pacific Northwest Beer tasting note within a week or so, but I thought I'd start off the reviews with this little Belgian beer from Binchoise. Now I've had many from Binchoise, including their tasty Speciale Noel ale, but I've never seen this anywhere before. As seems to be the trend in Vancouver, the beers the BCLDB doesn't carry are so much tastier! This was a great find.

The Biere Speciale Belge is very floral and slightly metalic in taste. It also has a strangely pleasant sea-shore like odour that is extremely subtle but also a nice level of complexity. This is a smooth and easy drinking Belgian and comes in at only 5% ABV. A tasty, although expensive, way to froth up the evenining.

Very Good+
$5 at Brewery Creek

Abbaye D'Aulne Triple Brune Special Brown Ale

This is a dark triple ale - and I think that's maybe what gives this its unique character and style. The Abbaye D'Aulne is a moderately sweet brown ale at 9% abv with slightly metalic floral aromas (although in a good way, at least for me). It's not as great as the Koningshoeven, but it is great for a basic brown ale - it's smooth and not overly carbonated - so it's easier drinking than many Belgians. I feel like this will be a love it/hate it type of brew since its flavour profile is pretty unique. But, for me, something unique and complex is usually what I'm looking for, so I find this to be quite a nice beer.

Very Good+
$10 / 750ml Bottle in Seattle

Koningshoeven Quadrupel Trappist Ale

I am a big fan of heavy-duty belgian style ales, especially those that are dark and have a high alcohol content. This Quadrupel, at 10% alcohol, pretty much fits that ideal and is a fantastic bottle of beer. Quadrupel refers to the number of times the beer has been fermented, so you can imagine that after 4 fermentations it's hard to keep the alcohol very low. Also, it is interesting to note that Dubbels and Quadrupels are generally dark beers while trippels are light. As far as I know there is no real reason for this - but maybe I am missing out on some nuance of belgian beer crafting. Koningshoeven is here clearly working in the tradition of great beers like St. Bernardus abt. 12 and Rochefort 10, and I think they did so pretty successfully while not quite reaching the level of those two beauties.

As with most heavier Belgians the Koningshoeven is quite carbonated, which may be to some people's distate as it forces you to sip rather than gulp the beer (which is a pretty good idea given it is 10% abv) unless you want to fill your belly with a lot of air :). There are excellent root flavours, vanilla, and a little spicy herbalness to the palate. The finish is quite nice and of a decent length (given this is beer after all). Overall I'm pretty impressed with this and it will definitely be added to my rotation of top heavy Belgian ales.

$6 / 280ml bottle in BC - ($10 for 750ml in California)

Binchoise Speciale Noel 2007

I always love the Christmas season, despite the horrid experience of law exams, for all the festiveness and especially for all the seasonal beers. I've always found Binchoise to produce good quality but not outstanding beers, but this special christmas beer is the best of theirs I've had. It's made in the Belgian Strong Beer style but it adds a nice layer of floral notes and a tempered mild fruitiness while staying away from the over-sweetness of lesser Belgians. I definitely recommend a taste if you can find any!

Very Good+
$3.25/bottle at BCLDB; $4-$5 at private stores

Gulden Draak 2007

The perennial Christmas favourite. While you can get this at other times of the year, Christmas brings a new batch of the frosty white bottle and nice low prices at the LDB (a good 30-40% lower than private as per usual). A darker Belgian Strong Ale that is probably the best of its kind you will find in BC. As I like to tell my friends: the all white bottle is already cool, but the golden liquid inside fills the belly with glee.

Very Good+ to Excellent (can be variable)
$3.25/bottle at BCLDB; $5+ at private stores

Monday, April 20, 2009