Monday, 30 June 2014

Maredsous Brune 8

Maredsous Brune is, I think, a dubbel. It comes from Maredsous Abbaye, a Benedictine monastery in Belgium. I had a glass on tap at a Toronto beer bar that specializes in Belgian and Belgian-style ales. The hazy, ruddy brown brew topped with a thick tan head was served to me in abeautiful branded chalice. It contained a hearty 8% alcohol.  According to the tap list at the chill little pub, this beer is brewed according to the Benedictine monks' original recipe.

Great bar, but dark.

I found it to have a really powerful tart fruit aroma that really cleared my sinuses out. In contrast to the sharp aroma, the flavour and mouthfeel were really quite mellow for a strong beer. It's highly malty and undeniably fruit-driven. There are notes of pear and raisin. The finish has a tiny bump of hops, but overall, the stuff leans firmly toward malt. There is a dusting of tartness to wrap things up.

This was a sweet and strong beer--one that I really enjoyed and am glad to have tried, but one I won't be going back to anytime soon.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Sneaky Pete Imperial IPA

I don't know much about Idaho, and I know even less about Ponderay, Idaho, but I do know that this tiny Northwestern town is the home of Laughing Dog Brewery which gives life to Sneaky Pete Imperial IPA.

S.P. contains a mammoth 10% alcohol. It comes in a 355mL bottle that features a mischievous pooch on the label. It's a hazy, rich copper coloured ale. When I reviewed this powerful brew, I had a bit of a head cold, but I had no trouble smelling the pungent, boozy, and bitter aroma. Likewise, the flavour was not slowed by my sniffles. It starts sweetly, with a boozy malt profile. This shifts quickly to potent bitterness. It's very hoppy and considerable resinous.

Sneaky Pete Imperial IPA is a relatively tasty strong beer, but I found it to be a touch too sweet initially. It's amply bitter, but I really wanted it to be a bit sharper with notes of citrus or evergreen.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

White Rascal

From the Avery Brewing Co. in Boulder, Colorado comes White Rascal, billed as a "Belgian-style white ale" and as an "ale brewed with spices". It comes in a 355mL can that features some kind of white and red demon. W.R. contains a reputable 5.6& alcohol. According to the can, this stuff is brewed with coriander and cura
-->çao orange peel.
It has a whitish, straw coloured hue and is pretty cloudy. The Rascal pours with a substantial white head. The orange peel really comes through in the aroma. This beer has a thin body and mouthfeel, but makes up for it with considerable flavour. As expected, it's amply spiced, but there is also lots of sweetness and a juicy citrus quality. The finish has pleasant, slightly bitter orange peel notes.

This is a pretty nice white ale. I found it to be a touch too sweet, but I certainly enjoyed it. Pretty decent strength, too.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Le Sang D'Encre

Le Sang D'Encre is born of Shawinigan, Quebec's Le Trou du Diable. It comes in a beautiful 375mL bottle that features a giant squid battling some sea folk on the label, and is billed as an "epic stout". Epic it may be, but at only 5.1% alcohol, it could certainly be stronger.

This is a blackish brew with blood red highlights, and it lives beneath a thin tan head. It has a luxurious nose of cocoa, brown sugar, and malt, that leads into a flavour that begins with some sweet, mocha notes and a bit of molasses ooze. On the flip side, I was pleased to encounter a healthy wallop of bitterness running alongside some cocoa notes.

This beer tastes bigger than its 5.1%. It's warm, well balanced, flavourful, and it should definitely find a place in your fridge. Plus the bottle is amazing. My only real complaint is that I'd have liked it to be stronger--I feel like the honorific title "epic stout" should only be attached to a truly forceful brew.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Apocalypse Later

Apocalypse Later is a badass black I.P.A. built by Toronto, Ontario's Great Lakes Brewery. I had a 14oz. pour on tap at Bar Hop, one of the Big Smoke's primo beer drinking establishments. It contains an unyielding 9.9% alcohol, which came in handy for my afternoon drinking needs following a ballgame. It's a stout black brew topped with a nice tan head.

For a strong beer, Apocalypse Later has an aroma that is quite understated, with charming evergreen notes alongside resin and citrus. It's understated, but complicated. It has an enjoyably dank flavour that is resinous, grapefuit-y and fiercely hopped. There's even a tiny bit of porter-style espresso and molasses. While very flavourful, the substantial booze content of this stuff is deceptively cloaked--it's silent but deadly. The finish is extremely generously hopped, quite dry, and lingering.

For all of its muscle, after attending a Blue Jays game with the best brother a beer nerd could have (a 12-2 win, too), I found this brew to be wonderfully refreshing. I'd definitely revisit this little beauty.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Schneider Weisse Mein Nelson Sauvin

Schneider Weisse Mein Nelson Sauvin comes from Kelheim, Germany. It's a weizenbock brewed by Weisses Bräuhaus G. Schneider & Sohn. This little gem comes in a 750mL bottle that looks a lot like it should house wine (in fact, the dude at the liquor store asked me if I wanted my wine in a separate bag). It contains a liver-quivering 7.3% alcohol. The bottle notes that this stuff can be cellared for later enjoyment", but regular readers will know that cellaring beers ain't my jam--I haven't got the patience for that nonsense.

This is a cloudy, sunny gold wheat beer that's vigorously carbonated and topped with a thick fog of white head. The aroma is fruity and gently tart. The mouthfeel is pretty silky for a well carbonated beer. The flavour is both mild and rich. It starts quite sweetly, though there is some hop evidence on display near the finish. The label told me to expect "pleasant and fresh grape-like fruitiness." There are some bashful grape notes as well as some breadiness and a smidgeon of banana.

All told, this was a lovely and unusual wheat beer. I found that there was some tartness on the nose that was lacking in the flavour. It's got ample alcohol content and comes in a large bottle. Definitely worth a try.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10. 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Dale's Pale Ale

Dale's Pale Ale is a zesty little pale ale from Oskar Blues Brewery's Brevard, North Carolina location. It contains 6.5% alcohol. The 355mL can advises that cans are "infinitely recyclable" and that one should "pack it in, pack it out". Good advice. Dale's is billed as "mountain pale ale" and as a "huge, voluminously hopped mutha of a pale ale".

This is a cloudy, brown-gold pale ale, topped with a loose but durable foam of creamy head. It's pungent nose is amply hoppy, but also packs some dark fruit essence. There's a noteworthy malt profile, but it's dwarfed by a sizable bill of hops. This is bitter stuff--dank and resinous, with a glimmer of raisin.

With its excellent looking red, white, and blue cans, big flavour, significant gravity, and environmental leanings, Dale's is definitely the kind of beer that I'd bring along on a camping trip. Highly enjoyable beer!

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Dogfish Head Sixty-One

Oddly enough, I enjoyed a 355mL bottle of Dogfish Head Sixty-One during the same week that my father celebrated his 61st birthday. This handsome ale comes from Milton, Delaware, where it's brewed by the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.

According to the label, this 6.5% alcohol beer is "The continually-hopped India Pale Ale brewed with Syrah grape must". It's a hazy, copper-coloured ale that has a distinctly rosy hue when held to a light source and which wears a bright white hat of head. The nose is metallic and hoppy, with a glimmer of sweetness chilling on the front porch. Like all of the Dogfish Head brews that I've tried, this stuff is vehemently hoppy. If the label hadn't mentioned the Syrah grape must, I'm not convinced that I would have readily identified the fruity, slightly acidic notes as wine-like--I don't know if I can give my palate that much credit--but wine-like it is, and pleasantly so. Each sip leaves a little sweetness clinging to the lips.

This is a charming and innovative India Pale that is definitely worth tracking down.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Fire and Blood Red Ale

Back in April, I reviewed Iron Throne Blonde Ale in honour of the season four premier of HBO's utterly excellent and thrilling Game of Thrones. Today, I'm book-ending that post with a review of Fire and Blood Red Ale in honour of the GoT season finale tomorrow night.  Fire and Blood comes from Brewery Ommegang's Game of Thrones beer series. It's a Belgian-style red ale brewed in Cooperstown, New York. Sold in corked 750mL bottles, Fire and Blood features the image of a dragon on the label. It clocks in at 6.8% and, according to the label, is brewed with ancho chilies, and also uses rye and spelt malt.

The ruddy brown grog is very cloudy, surprisingly lively in the carbonation department, and pours with an endless, loose, off-white head. The nose is malty, but also considerably peppery, with some satisfying hops elements off in the distance. The flavour is big on yeast and malt in the early going. The rear guard has a reliably dry hop presence and some spice imparted by the chilies and the rye.  Actually, I found the chili notes to be admirably restrained--they don't colour everything about this beer, but provide a favourable uptick of heat on the aroma and on the back end.

Fire and Blood Red Ale is not the type of beer that I'd trot out on a regular basis, but it does make for an interesting occasional treat.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale

Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale is brewed in Vankleek Hill, Ontario--home of Beau's All Natural Brewing Co.  This stuff is brewed by the B-Side Brewing Label and Kissmeyer Beer. According to the promotional material, B-Side Brewing Label is "like a record label, for beer", and it's "a portfolio of international brands of excellence being produced fresh and locally for the Ontario market".  Seems like a pretty cool idea to me.

According to the label of the 600mL bottle, Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale contains 5.6% alcohol, not to mention maple syrup, heather flowers, sweet gale (aka bog myrtle--thanks Wikipedia), yarrow, and more.  Plus, it's certified organic.

This is a faintly hazy golden brew topped with a bright white head. The aroma has a fascinating blend of hops and unusual floral notes.  This curious little brew has a lot going on. There are considerable floral notes, a gentle lilt of sweetness, and a comfortable hop finish.

There isn't a whole lot of maple flavour, which suits me fine. I really enjoy the floral vibe, and the hoppy finish really seals the deal. A little more oomph on the front end would be nice, but this is a tasty brew. Well worth trying.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Don de Dieu

Don de Dieu comes from Chambly, Quebec. It's a triple white ale brewed by the incomparable Unibroue. I enjoyed a 341mL bottle at a tucked away and really excellent little Toronto gastropub called Hair of the Dog. The label has a beautiful image of Samuel de Champlain's ship, Le Don de Dieu, circa 1608. It's billed as an extra strong beer on lees and contains a hearty 9% alcohol.

The "Gift from God" is a cloudy golden brew that pours with a thick blanket of white head. An assertive yeastiness in the nose is accompanied by a malt-heavy fruitiness and a boozy kick. This is definitely the strongest white ale I've ever chanced upon.

Don de Dieu is very flavourful, with a Belgian-style yeast profile, a tart apple subtext, and a short malt and booze finish. It's a nice strong beer with some character.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Rail Ale Nut Brown

This was kind of a weird experience.  Weird, but pleasant.  I was sitting at home, minding my own business, watching a ball game, when I got a phone call from my dad.  Mum and dad were in Vancouver, British Columbia, enjoying some well deserved R&R. He'd decided to call me, because their hosts, being excellent hosts indeed, had provided an array of local craft beers for them to sample. My pops doesn't drink much or often, but he knows a thing or two about beer (he is my dad, after all) and he knows what he likes.

Dad was wondering whether he might dictate a telephone review. Since there was a lull in the baseball action, I said "why not?".

Remember, I'm trying to describe a beer that I have never actually sampled. My father is a good talker and a regular reader of the Bitter World, but he doesn't always have a beery vocabulary, so I've had to take some liberties with the review.

Of the beers he was offered, dad opted for Howe Sound Brewing Co.'s Rail Ale Nut Brown. Howe brews out of Squamish, British Columbia. Sold in 1L swing top bottles, Rail contains the classic 5% alcohol and has 19 IBUs. Apparently, the label declares that there are "three glasses of glory in every bottle". It was described to me as a hearty dark brown ale. It poured with a thick, light brown head that thinned quickly but refused to quit.

As for the nose, the adjective that Dad kept throwing around was chocolatey. Pushed for more detail, he revealed that it smelled like dark chocolate, with cocoa leanings. He described a full-bodied brew with a flavour that doesn't stick around too long. When asked for final impressions, the simple but poignant reply was that it was "a good beer to sit and sip".

Sounded to me like pretty good stuff.  I'll have to try it when I'm out in B.C. and see how my impressions contrast with my ol' man's.

Photo credit to the incomparable J.A., who I remember as a plucky seven-year-old, but who is now apparently in his 20s and has clearly developed pretty rad taste in beer.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Samuel Smith's Organic Pale Ale

Brewed at "the Old Brewery" in Tadcaster, UK, by Samuel Smith's Brewery, Samuel Smith's Organic Pale Ale is a clear, copper coloured brew that pours underneath an ecru head. It's sold in 550mL bottles (which is a swell, if unusual size for a beer) and contains 5% alcohol. The label has a USDA organic logo.

S.S.O.P.A. has a boisterous nose with elements of maltiness, sweet grains, bitterness, and something metallic. In the flavour, toasty, bready malts kick things off, but give way to a rich, coppery bitterness. According to the label, this stuff is "fermented in stone Yorkshire squares" and this somehow "creates a full-bodied rounded palate". Don't ask me how.

If I had my way, this beer would be a touch hoppier and have a healthier alcohol content. However, it's a flavourful and well balanced ale, and one that gets cool points for being organic.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout

The Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout comes from Farmville, North Carolina.  It's brewed by The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, sold in 355mL bottles, and doesn't have an alcohol percentage listed on the bottle. It pours a deep, dark brown and poured with a decent amount of tan head that faded quickly. It has a rich and powerful mocha aroma that's sweet, but has a slight hop kick. The flavour profile goes from sweet to bitter. It starts chocolaty, with some brown sugar and raisin notes. The finish is surprisingly bitter--I'd love to know the IBU count. It's hoppy with tobacco notes and just the faintest glimmer of cranberry. The mouthfeel is smooth, but with a bitter, crunchy speedbump.

According to the label, the Duck-Rabbit folks are "the dark beer specialists". If their milk stout is any indication, that might be a well deserved distinction. Nice stuff.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Hennepin Farmhouse Saison

Hennepin Farmhouse Saison is born in Cooperstown, New York to the Brewery Ommegang. I enjoyed a 355mL bottle outside on a beautiful, warm summer day. According to the label, Hennepin is named after Father Louis Hennepin, who has the distinction of being the first European to reach Niagara Falls. Also, the label proclaims that this yeasty saison is brewed with ginger, coriander, orange peel, and grains of paradise. A quick little search of the ol' Wikipedia taught me that grains of paradise are a spice from the ginger family and is also known as alligator pepper (cool). Hennepin contains a hearty 7.7% alcohol.

It's a cloudy ale, fiercely carbonated, and topped with a vigorous, bright white head. It has a nice, pale golden colour. Its has a pungent yeasty aroma that leans slightly toward citrus. Hennepin is a thin-bodied ale that has an enthusiastically fizzy mouthfeel. Its delicate but complex flavour sees citrus blend with dry, aromatic spice notes. It finishes with an orange rind bitterness.

This beer ain't what I'd describe as thirst quenching in the conventional sense, but it manages to be quite refreshing in its own way. It definitely does not taste like it has 7.7% alcohol--booze is brilliantly masked.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.