Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Yukon Brewing--Brewery Tour

I found myself in Whitehorse this past week with my wife, many of my in-laws, and some old friends. We flew up to the Yukon for my brother-in-law's wedding, but a secondary purpose of mine was to check out Yukon Brewing, the Territory's premier craft brewery.

Tucked away in the northwest corner of downtown Whitehorse, Yukon Brewing is housed in an unassuming little structure. A handful of family members and friends joined me for the tour. We paid $10, which got us a twenty minute tour of the brewing facilities and then a tasting of YB's eight year-round beers.

The tour itself is similar to most that I've been on, in that it contained some information on the brewing, bottling/canning. and labeling processes, given while walking through the back-of-house space. As a fully operational brewery, there was a lot of work going on around us, which made for a pretty interesting experience. The tour was led by a reasonably knowledgeable and enthusiastic young woman who was happy to answer our questions and to elaborate as requested.

On top of the brewery facilities, we also got a little information about a vodka distillery on site and where Canadian whiskey is currently being made, but which is not yet ready for production.

YB uses all natural ingredients and no preservatives, which makes for a shorter shelf life, but, to my mind, a more interesting process. We sampled YB's Chilkoot Lager, Deadman Creek Cranberry Wheat Ale, Yukon Gold English Pale Ale (which I previously reviewed), Yukon Red, Bonanza Brown, Ice Fog IPA, Lead Dog Olde English Ale, and Midnight Sun Espresso Stout, the best of which I'll review over the next few days. Most were quite good, a few were ordinary, and there was one, Ice Fog, which really wasn't up to snuff. We also got to try a diluted sample of their vodka, distilled with raspberry, rose hips, and sage.

For ten bucks, I'd have liked more beer than the eight miniscule little tasters that we were given. However, everyone was tremendously friendly, and keen on beer. If you're in Whitehorse, you should definitely take this tour.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Shack Common

Shacklands Brewing Co., is an up and coming brewery out of Toronto, Ontario. According to my bartender at the estimable Bar Hop, Shacklands is a one-man operation that brews out of the Junction Craft Brewery.

I had a pint of Shack Common on tap. At 5.5%., this cloudy brassy brown beer topped with a seemingly immortal off-white head is listed as a "California Common/North American IPA Hybrid".

Nose is fresh, with sweet, malty leanings and a healthy hop background. It's mouthfeel is pretty mellow, though there is ample flavour. Tastes starts faintly sweetly, with toasty malt leanings and then climbs the hop ladder for a modestly, but undeniably bitter finish.  

This proved to be a thoroughly hopped, ably flavourful take on the California common style. It's got some toasty malt qualities, loads of booze (for a CC), and a dry, earthy and bitter finish.

I'm definitely going to be keeping my eye out for Shacklands' beers.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Dead Elephant India Pale Ale

I was searching through some old blog posts and was shocked and dismayed to learn that I'd omitted to review Railway City Brewing Company's excellent Dead Elephant India Pale Ale. A glaring omission I decided to remedy posthaste.

According to the 473mL can, Dead Elephant owes it's unusual and macabre name to the demise of Jumbo, PT Barnum's beloved elephant. Jumbo, it seems, left the world of the living in a train accident in St. Thomas, Ontario (home of Railway City Brewing) in 1885. The decidedly mortal pachyderm has been immortalized in this strong ale.

At 6.5%, Dead Elephant has a slightly low alcohol content for an IPA. It pours a dull orange colour, obscured by murky haze and topped with a creamy head.

It's aroma is bitter and resinous, with sweetish malt bracing. Unlike those IPAs that lean toward citrus or evergreen, Dead Elephant has fully embraced dank, sticky, earthy notes. At 6.5%, this stuff manages to taste much stronger than some of its boozier compatriots due to its hempen and bitter flavour.

There is a fair dose of sweetness in this stuff, but it in tough against the hop volume, which nearly drowns it out.

Dead Elephant is one of my go-to Ontario beers. It's got a dynamic flavour, a cool historical connection, and always satisfies. This beer is not the kind of IPA that I feel compelled to enjoy more than one in an evening though. It's full flavour makes a single can adequate.

9.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Dad's Little Helper Black IPA

Another brew from the fabulous Rogue Ales out of Newport, Oregon, Dad's Little Helper is a formidable black India Pale Ale. Formidable, but not overly strong--at 6.0% alcohol, Dad's isn't going to pickle too many livers--but at a piledriving 92 IBUs, there is some burly bitterness in this stuff. It's sold in 650mL bottles that features a dude wearing three neckties and has a little spiel about the founding of Father's Day.

Dad's is a dark mahogany ale that's topped with a thick fog of durable tan head. It has a pungent aroma that blends stanky, spicy hops with an earthy malt streak. It tastes much stronger than its 6%. This is a riotously bitter beer. Hops dominate the flavour, with spicy and resinous notes well displayed. The mouthfeel is both full and dry. There's a faintly sweet raisin stripe, and, in addition, I detected some notes of tobacco.

If you don't dig bitterness, you're going to hate this stuff. But if you worship the hop in all its sticky, swampy glory, Dad's Little Helper will earn your tick of approval. It has some charm, some subtext, and a loud clash of bitter. Another winner from Rogue, this beer isn't as special as Yellow Snow IPA, but it's certainly a worthy dark I.P.A.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Warka Strong

Warka Strong is a strong lager from Warka, Poland. It contains a hearty 6.5% alcohol and comes in a 500mL bottle. The label refers to "Excellent Composition with Roasted Malt". So there.

Warka Strong is a clear brew that is reasonably well carbonated and has an almost white head. It has a lovely golden amber colour. The aroma is malt focused, grainy, and a bit boozy. It's a very sweet, malty brew. There's a bit of honey flavour as well as some unapologetic boozy warmth. Warka has an almost syrupy mouthfeel that wasn't my favourite.

There are interesting elements to this strong lager, but overall, it's not my cup of tea.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Little Sumpin'-Sumpin' Ale

Little Sumpin'-Sumpin' Ale is brewed by The Lagunitas Brewing Company from Petaluma, California. According to the website, it's a "filtered pale wheat ale". It contains 7.5% alcohol and has a hearty 64.2 IBUs. The label on the 355mL bottle declares that "Life is uncertain. Don't sip."

It's an almost clear golden brew that is amply carbonated and pours with a nice white head. There is a hop-heavy citrus aroma. Sumpin' Ale has an unusual flavour that is undeniably bitter, but that also features unexpected notes of satsuma and a slightly floral bent. It's sweet in a boozy sort of way.

I'd really like to know what kind of hops they packed into this stuff. I thought it was pretty tasty.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Stranger American Pale Ale

Stranger American Pale Ale is a product from Longmont, Colorado's Left Hand Brewing Co. It's sold in very cool looking 355mL bottles and contains 5% alcohol. According to the label, this stuff is "[b]rewed on the banks of the mighty St. Vrain" and has a 'spicy rye foundation'.

Stranger APA is a dull gold brew, slightly cloudy, and topped with an off-white head. It has a sharp, citrusy aroma that I found quite delightful. This beer is a little wispy initially, but makes up for it with a really nice, bitter grapefruit finish.

This is the kind of brew that I'd love to take to a party. I feel like a sixer would go down nice and easy.  Don't drink and drive!

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Snapperhead IPA

Snapperhead IPA comes in snazzy, yellow 355mL cans that feature a dapper fish wearing shades and listening to some tunes. Inside, I found a swampy, dull gold coloured ale that poured with a loose, cream head.

This beer has a surprisingly mild aroma for an India Pale Ale--it has a slightly malty, caramel vibe. It has a malt to bitter progression. The initial taste is a little bit on the thin side, though the finish is nice and hoppy with a slight citrus lead.

Snapperfish is brewed by Butternuts Beer & Ale of Garrattsville, New York. The alcohol content isn't listed on the can, but the website saysit contains 6.3%.

This is only a decent I.P.A. It'd have taken a bit more character to set this stuff apart from the legion of other I.P.A.'s on the market.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Bob's Bearded Red Ale

Walking home from dinner with some pals, my wife and I got caught in a deluge. Instead of walking home in the rain like suckers, we opted to duck into a local pub for a drink. We went to Opera Bob's, a great little place around the corner from our apartment. On tap, they had Bob's Bearded Red Ale, which is brewed by Toronto's Mill Street Brewery.

B.B.R.A. made for a very attractive pint. It's a reasonably clear brew with a nice amber hue and tpped with an extremely dense cream head. It has a pub ale aroma of malt and copper and a satisfying, creamy mouthfeel. There's a classic malt to bitter flavour profile.  There's some caramel and breadiness at the front end, and a respectably bitter finish and some nuttiness in the finish.

I found Bob's Bearded Red to be an unmemorable beer, but an enjoyable one all the same. Its creamy mouthfeel is definitely the best feature.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Saison Dupump

Saison Dupump is a fall seasonal offering from Toronto, Ontario's Great Lakes Brewery. An entry from GLB's Tank Ten Series, S.D. is a pumpkin saison.  In 2012, I was utterly obsessed with pumpkin beers, to the point that I kinda overdid it. In 2013, I resolved to limit my consumption of pumpkin brews to interesting and unusual ones--a pumpkin saison certainly filled that requirement. It came in a 650mL bottle and clocked in at 5.2% alcohol.

Saison Dupump was a hazy golden brew topped with a thick layer of ecru head. It was well carbonated, but not quite as fizzy as many other farmhouse ales. It had a mild aroma--fresh and yeasty, with a dollop of pumpkin warmth and a dash of spice. It had a cheery, fizzy mouthfeel that was very dry for a pumpkin beer. It's flavour mirrored the aroma, with a strong yeasty base running with a pleasing pumpkin spice accent.

This was a cool and innovative beer. An interesting melange between the refreshing vigour of a farmhouse ale and the comfortable autumnal warmth of pumpkin. It made for an excellent transition from summer into fall. It hits an unusual but enjoyable note.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Kåååd Spring IPA

Kåååd Spring IPA is a Danish brew, born in Kastrup, to the Amager Bryghus. It comes in a 500mL bottle that features an oddly tarted up humanoid Easter Bunny character. The label has a charmingly bizarre story about a secret herd of cattle that is being fed on the spent grain and their joy about the prospect at being fed the leavings from Kååå. For all of this, it is, I think, noteworthy that the label doesn't really provide much insight into the actual beer.

Kåååd  apparently translates into "frisky", which is apt, given the playfully hoppy aroma that graces the nose and lends it grapefruit and apricot notes. The flavour is likewise joyful, with considerable fruity sweetness by way of introduction, a decidedly bitter climax, and a dry denouement.  The bitterness of this beautiful beer is citrus-y, hempen, and showcases a satsuma twist.

This is a golden orange beer topped with a firm, off-white head. I enjoyed a pint of this "Spring IPA" on a glorious May evening, and it was an absolute treat. At 6%, it's a little understrength for the style, but its admirable taste more than makes up for it. In fact, when drinking this brew, I was struck by the idea that it was the perfect beer for my mood on that particular evening. I'll have to revisit it at a later date to see whether I still find it as utterly satisfying.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Boundary Ale

Like me, Boundary Ale comes from New Brunswick, though that's about where the similarities end, since I was born in Fredericton, and this clear, copper ale was produced by Moosehead Breweries Ltd., in Saint John. The label of the 341mL bottle makes a big deal of the fact that this stuff is brewed with four varieties of hops and seven varieties of malt. It contains 5.3% alcohol.

Boundary pours with a healthy layer of ecru head and has a pretty fair amount of carbonation. It has a forceful aroma that is primarily malty-driven and features notes of raisin and something faintly metallic. It also smells mildly boozy and has a whisper of bitterness. B.A. has a smooth, creamy body. It tastes of roasty malts up front and has a subtly bitter finish.

This is actually pretty impressive pseudo-craft beer work from a national macrobrewery. It's sufficiently innocuous to have wide appeal, but there is some undeniable craft charm. Quite frankly, I enjoyed this beer a lot more than I thought I would. It's the kind of ale that I could sink happily over a couple of hours in a snug pub.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Dinner Jacket O'Red IPA

Dinner Jacket O'Red IPA is a dapper, well-dressed ale brewed by Arch Brewing Co., out of Guelph, Ontario. It's sold in 473mL cans, weighs in at 6.3% alcohol, and contains a stalwart 60 IBUs. The can raves about the virtues of a dinner jacket--an opinion that I wholly endorse.

It's a snazzy coppor-coloured brew. It's clear and pours with a loose, off-white head. Dinner Jacket has a tangy, hop-driven aroma; one that has a slightly metallic bent and a malty backbone. There is some malt focus early on, with some brown sugar notes. However, the real story behind this beer is its fulsome hop profile. This red India pale is strikingly dry and bitter. There are some evergreen notes and a nice understated blast of citrus rind.

If I had my way, Dinner Jacket would have a wee bit less sweetness at the front end, but the finish is just right. I really enjoyed the stuff, and I'll be sure to revisit it, as well as to keep an eye out for more offerings from Arch.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Hot Rod Rye

Hot Rod Rye is brewed in Healdsburg/Cloverdale, California, by the Bear Republic Brewing Co. According to the label on the 355mL bottle, this stuff is brewed with 18% rye. It contains a healthy 8% alcohol and pours the cloudy copper colour of an old penny.

Hot Rod has a layered and complicated aroma--there's a malty sweetness that is supplanted by a hearty hop profile and some boozy warmth. The flavour begins with a somewhat unexpected helping of sweetness, with some raisin notes. The back end has some rowdy hop crunch and a solid slap of toasty booze. Throughout, there's a nice rye spiciness.

This beer is at once textured and fierce. It's a rich and punchy rye ale.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.