Tasting the Bell’s Two Hearted Ale

October 5, 2010

The American India Pale Ale, or American-Style India Pale Ale has become one of the most popular, widespread, and brewed beers in North America. The rich pale malt backbone found in the depths of an aromatically bitter and hop-crisp beer has enchanted people all across the continent. There is only one problem with this – there are probably close to 1,800 breweries in NA, and there are probably about 2,000 different Pale Ales! The Pale Ale craze is becoming a bit overwhelming; whether it is an IPA, Pale Ale, American version or a hybrid, there are just too many pale ales out there.

So what’s a beer lover to do!? Well, obviously taste them all and find your favorites. Because that may take to long, I’m going to start you off in the right direction with one of the most well rounded and best constructed American IPA’s on the planet. The Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. Too many pales are either one sided, to aggressively hopped, not hopped enough, or are poorly built. The Two Hearted Ale is at the top of my list because it hits all the right notes in perfect harmony. It doesn’t get carried away with this or that, it is just plain good. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Innis & Gunn Winter Beer, 2010

October 4, 2010

Its coming, and its just around the corner… This winter as the Christmas beers begin to flood the LCBO again; we will be getting back the Innis & Gunn Connoisseur’s pack, and in this years pack is the strongest Innis & Gunn ever made – the Winter Beer. My good friends at Innis have been chatting about this beer for a long time now. In the summer I had heard that Dougal (the founder and BrewMaster) was working on a spiced beer, one that he was more excited about than any other beer he has made. This definitely got me excited – I already love the sweet, creamy and caramel oaky flavors of the Innis Original – the idea of a spicier and stronger version for the winter sounded perfect!

We should expect the Connoisseur’s Pack to be made available late October to November for the Christmas Release; probably the best overall beer release at the LCBO. I was fortunate enough to get the Connoisseur’s pack ahead of time thanks to my good friends at Innis & Gunn, and I have been saving the Winter Beer since – until now. The time finally came. I had enjoyed the Original and the Rum Cask that came in the pack, but have been waiting for the right moment to test the Winter Beer on my palate. It was a calm Sunday afternoon, football filled my living room, but my Innis & Gunn glass was empty. Time to fill it! Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Muskoka Cottage Brewery Harvest Ale 2010

October 1, 2010

The Muskoka Cottage Brewery, located in Bracebridge Ontario (pure cottage country) has a slogan that states “The taste of cottage country”. Not only is that their motto, but it is also the idea behind their newest seasonal beer, the Harvest Ale. This could actually be the first of its kind from Ontario; all the malts and hops used in this brew were grown here in Ontario. I love the idea. This is the second year that Muskoka has released the Harvest, and this version comes in a very handsome 750ml swing cap bottle.

It is now floating through LCBO locations and will be available while supplies last at select pubs and restaurants. Muskoka has designed a richly hoppy and bitter pale ale at 6.4%. Right now it is probably the biggest, and most bitter pale ale offering available from Ontario in LCBO locations. It offers up different flavors than that of the typical American Style Pale ale, which I expect Muskoka would like to say is uniquely Canadian. I’m not sure what Ontario’s hop farms are like, but I do hope that this inspired more brewers to create seasonal beers sourced locally – everyone benefits. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Brooklyn Lager

September 30, 2010

In the 1800’s Brooklyn New York was a haven for brewing in America, sadly though, prohibition and time destroyed a once vibrant community. We are lucky today though because the Brooklyn Brewery has brought revitalization to the heart of New York by brewing new and innovative beers, and exception traditional beers which pay homage to their predecessors.

The Brooklyn Brewery’s flagship beer is the Brooklyn Lager, an award winning Vienna Style lager brewed traditionally as would have been done in 1890. It is available at almost all LCBO locations all year round, and is distributed all across the United States and is beginning to float across the globe.

This is all for very good reason too; Brooklyn has brought back to us a fantastic example of the Vienna Lager, a purely refreshing, versatile and meaty beer which fits many situations all too perfectly. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Founders Dirty Bastard

September 24, 2010

The Dirty Bastard is a big Scotch Ale, also known as a Wee Heavy. It is one of Founders Brewing’s year round, and flagship beers. Founders has been brewing since 1997 in Grand Rapids, Michigan – very close to several other great American Craft Breweries. And I’ve always been impressed with their beers, especially the bigger ones. But so what it a big Scotch Ale? Well its 8.5% abv, 50 IBUs (which is higher than the normal style, but typical in the US), and malt focused. Scottish Ales show a big, sweet, malty center with classic toffee, caramel and roasted malt sensations. They are thick and rich in both mouthfeel and flavor, and are best served at cellar temperature.

So given the style, and my experience with Founders, I was expecting a good beer. Scotch Ales are some of my favorite, so I was definitely excited to try this Dirty Bastard. But really you never know what you are going to get from a classic style brewed by the Americans. Will be it over hopped, too rich, unbalanced, or hugely alcoholic? It could be sublime, soft, balanced and elegant on the other hand too. It really doesn’t matter where on the spectrum it lies, because the key is that wherever it is, I can almost guarantee that it is well done. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the BrewDog & Stone Bashah

September 23, 2010

The Bashah is a collaboration brew between two of the worlds most influential breweries, the Stone Brewing Co. in California, and BrewDog from Scotland. It barely even matters what the beer in the bottle is, if you put these two names on it I’ll buy it out of sheer faith in its quality and predictably fantastic flavor. Each of these breweries have embarked on an incredible beer journey on their own, each creating unique and no-holds-barred beers in their own style. Put them together then, and what do you get? A Black Belgian Style Double India Pale Ale.

Firstly, this is a Double IPA, so it should be robustly hoppy with fresh, earthy and citrus bitter flavors that pack a decent punch. It should be both higher in alcohol and in bitterness (IBUs). Next, it is a Belgian Style Double IPA. This could mean a few things, but most typically it means that it was fermented with a Belgian yeast strain rather then an Californian one, thus giving it bigger body, a fruiter, more malty character, and a more lively carbonation. And Finally, it is black. This indicates the color, and therefore usage of dark, chocolate, or roasted malts in the brew; those flavors should come through subtly in the beer finally creating a unique and exciting beer. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Mongozo Coconut

September 22, 2010

A lot of old men at the bar give me flack anytime I order this beer – but why should I care? And more importantly, why are they living in a world of stereotypes and preconceptions of beer. They may as well be drinking Bud Light as far as I am concerned. Why can’t beer be sweet? Or Fruity? Or low in alcohol? Or anything for that matter? Beer can be whatever you want it to be. And every once in a while I want it to be a cool coconut on a hot beach. And that it what the Mongozo Coconut delivers!

I first tried the Mongozo about 4 years ago at the Beer Bistro with some friends, and it instantly won me over. I love real flavors, and I love coconut. Why shouldn’t I love this beer – it is undeniably unique, and extremely delicious. But since then it had vanished off the menu. I had heard rumors that it would never come back, and others that it has been on order for years. The beer menu for so long has exclaimed that it is “coming soon”, but by now, I had no idea when soon would be. Finally, I was in the Bistro yesterday and decided to ask about the Mongozo, just in case. “Oh yeah, we’ve got it” said Greg, in a non nonchalant manner. I slammed the menu closed in excitement, and waited for one to appear in front of me! Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Birrifico Le Baladin Xyauyu; Reserva Teo Musso

September 21, 2010

There is a great deal of intrigue and excitement floating around this beer. First of all its shape, unique label dated 2005, unpronounceable name,  and its corrugated cardboard box are totally unfamiliar to me. There is no cap, but rather a cork. It is 13% abv. And it was also $40 for the small, but beautiful bottle. What is this Italian work of art? It is exactly that, and Italian work of art. Birrifico Baladin, an Italian Craft Brewery lead by Teo Musso had originally thought of creating an oxidized beer to resemble a Madeira in 1996, but finally made the dream come true in 2003.

This is one of my favorite types of beer, and I don’t mean the beer style. But rather this beer can show the world how wide and far the boundaries of beer can really stretch. There is no limit to your creative ability, just your imagination. Musso Named this beer Xyauyu after his daughter’s imaginary friend; he also describes the beer a an “Italian-style barlywine.” I would put it squarely in that category where it should remain the front runner and definition of the style. This beer is remarkable. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Cannery Brewery Blackberry Porter

September 20, 2010

Its now Fall, one of the best beer seasons that there is. I know it may seem counter intuitive; most people consider the summer to be beer season. But when the fall comes breweries begin to produce more richly flavored, robust beers with a wide range of ingredients. Spices, pumpkin, berries and more get added into the brew and the beers become unique and warming. I love it.

It is also when the LCBO brings in the best selection of new beers. In this year’s Autumn release came the Cannery Brewing Blackberry Porter, a 6.5% traditional style porter with blackberry flavor added for a hint of sweet complexity. The Cannery has been brewing since 2000 in Penticton BC, and is one of many west coast breweries which I have been excited to try for a long time. The 650ml bottle plainly depicts blackberries front and center on the purple label, so I was expecting at very least a reasonable rush of blackberry in this beer. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Alpine Beer Company’s Nelson

September 17, 2010

I don’t know about you, but I love San Diego. Not just for Ron Burgundy, but for its amazing breweries! There is a slew of big name craft brewers whose beers are flooding the U.S. market right now, but recently I got the chance to enjoy a smaller, more local brewery’s beer – the brewery is Alpine Beer Company – and the beer was Nelson. Yes, Nelson is a man, and a beer. A Rye India Pale Ale to be precise.

The name is representative of the hop variety primarily used in this brew; from New Zealand comes a citrusy and spicy hop called Nelson Sauvin. It is used in both the brewing and dry hopping for this beer, as well rye malt is used to add a smooth, uniquely malty character to the beer. I really had no clue what to expect; I had never heard of Alpine, nor was there much detail of the beer on the bottle. But I knew that this was a west coast IPA at 7% abv with 60 IBUs. How bad can it possibly be? Or better yet, how good could this be? Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Wychwood Hobgoblin

September 16, 2010

In Oxfordshire UK, lies a classic British Brewery, one which we are lucky enough to enjoy distribution of several of their beers in Ontario and across North America. Many people will recognize them by the fiendish goblin on the bottle lable, or by their winter beer called Bah Humbug. Quirky, and effective. But there is more to the beer than just the label. The Wychwood Brewery produced high quality ales that are distinctly British in  flavor, composition, and feeling.

This is a quality which I greatly appreciate right now when many beers from across the world seem to be migrating to the heavily hopped, or outrageously styled brews that were made popular by the American Craft Brewers. Classic British Ale is delicate, soothing, calm and delicious. Its biscuit and bready notes show you exactly what malted barley can do, and you end up with the perfect pint for the end of a hard day, or the beginning of a wild night. The Hobgoblin is no exception. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Breckenridge Remarkable Vanilla Porter

September 15, 2010

“A vanilla kiss in a rich, dark sea” is how the Breckenridge Brewery describes their Remarkable Vanilla Porter. For several years I have heard, and read great things about this Colorado brewery – with so many other amazing beers being produced in Colorado it was easy to believe the hype. But I had never had any of their beers, sadly. During my last trip to the United States I saw a classically branded bottle of beer blatantly staring at me with the word Vanilla. That is an easy way to my heart, and when I recognized that it was a Breckenridge beer I saw the perfect opportunity to score!

So lets break this down… Vanilla and Porter. A porter is a dark ale with soft favors of roast, nut, cocoa and sometimes coffee. It is not as dry or roasty as a stout, and is often mild in strength. Sweetness can come by way of caramel, malt, nuts, or vanilla. Then add vanilla beans from Madagascar – more vanilla! This porter is not to boisterous, it is just 4.7%, so I am expecting smooth, creamy, lightly warming, but gentle. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel

September 14, 2010

What is a Weissbier Dunkel? A Weissbier is a German Wheat beer; a classic beer style brewed with 25% or more malted or unmalted wheat. These beers are typically very refreshing, effervescent, lightly fruity with a wheaty fresh aroma and flavor. So what’s the Dunkel all about? Come the colder months of the fall and winter the German people wanted a beer with greater depth, something that would reflect the season a bit better than a quenching summer weisse. Thus was born the Dunkel, a Weissbier brewed with a portion of darker caramelized malts.

What you get is the fresh feeling of a Weissbier, with an added touch of spice, malt, dark aromas and caramel. The authentic versions of this beer style, such as the Erdinger, which may be one of the most authentic, are all bottle conditioned, and medium in strength. The Erdinger is 5.6% abv, is bottle conditioned, and comes in a standard German 500ml bottle. It is available at the LCBO year round, and is a treat year round. Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Westvleteren 12, 2007

September 13, 2010

It is widely and arguably acknowledged as the best beer on the planet. It has had more heritage and prestige poured into its creation, more exclusivity surrounding its availability, and more debate about its worth than potentially any beer on earth. It is the Westvleteren 12. The bottles come exactly as shown here; no label, and nearly no branding wahtsoever. A thick bevel around the shoulder of the bottle claims Trappisten Bier, and the cap indicates that it is indeed a Westvleteren 12, at 10.2% abv, and thats it.

The Westy 12 is brewed at the St. Sixtus Abbey in the western corner of Belgium, home to the Westvleteren Trappist Brewery. It has been owned and operated by the monks since 1838. They only brew 3 beers, the Blond, 8, and this, this 12. All of their product are extraordinarily hard to come by, essentially none being sold commercially. The 12, their strongest is a Quadrupel, and has avoided me my entire life. Until now.

It is important to understand that this is not the best beer in the world, it is merely the highest rated beer on the planet. There is a difference.  Read the rest of this entry »

Tasting the Duvel

September 8, 2010

Duvel (pronounced Doo-vle) is a beers which is synonymous among beer aficionados. It is a reference point for brewers and a staple for beer drinkers. I’m very thankful that it is always available at the LCBO because about 8 or 9 times a year I develop a thirst that only the Duvel can quench – and it does quench oh so beautifully.

Literally though, without exaggeration, the Duvel has become the summit for Belgian Pale Ales and is mimicked all across the globe; especially in the United States where craft brewing has taken on new excitement and passion, breweries are creating beers witch will in many ways reflect the characteristics of a Duvel. Its golden straw color, majestic and massive pillow soft head, globally defined chalice, and irresistible flavor had been perfected for over 50 years from 1871 to 1923, and since then has remained unmodified.

It is a unique ale which takes 90 days to craft, and only one second to enjoy on so many levels. Read the rest of this entry »